The 2015 London Marathon was oddly emotional for me – which caught me slightly unawares. After being rejected in the ballot, I had decided to try the inaugural Ashford & District Marathon instead, but a serious, potentially life-threatening accident in January put pay to that.
The family watching place for the marathon is one of the quieter places on the course, close to the mile 8 marker in Deptford – as the road falls away slightly past the now redundant bridge over the former Grand Surrey Canal at what was Victoria Wharf. I have watched or run every year but one for the best part of 20 years.
The early BBC pre-race coverage, with its reporting of Paula Radcliffe’s last competitive race, had already brought a tear to my eye. We got to our vantage point around 5 minutes or so before the leading men, with nine in a group including the pre-race favourites – last year’s winner and course record holder, Wilson Kipsang, and world record holder Dennis Kimetto (who we have covered before on the blog) along with the eventual winner – Eliud Kipchoge.
A little bit further back was a group containing the evergreen Serhiy Lebid, who was European Cross Country Champion a staggering 9 times, with lower places on the podium on a further three ocassions. A minute or so back was a small group with the top British marathon runner Scott Overall.
The biggest cheer was for Paula though – like knowing that Mo Farrah was coming from a ‘Mexican wave of cheering’ when I was running along The Highway last year, this year there was a crescendo of noise as she approached us. While she had been telling anyone who would listen that she was just there to enjoy herself and savour the atmosphere, the competitor in her wouldn’t allow to plod around like mere mortals – there was no way she was going to be anything other than first woman in the non-elite race. She was only just behind top local runners John Gilbert from Kent AC and Dean Lacy from Cambridge Harriers as she passed.
My tear ducts opened as she passed and I was unable to cheer and encourage anyone for a few minutes, but it soon passed and I was back to my usual foghorn levels of encouragement – I managed to give myself a sore throat and ringing in the ears….
I saw a fair number of runners I knew in the crowded masses – including Beckenham’s Jim Addison who was 36th MV40 in 2:38, Clare Elms – 1st FV50 in 2:55, my old friend Dennis Williams, along with, I think, fellow blogger Neil from Go Feet blog – looking very relaxed with 18 miles to go.
Hopefully, I will get a place again for 2016, but I may be back at the same spot next year, without a place but encouraging other runners. But seeing nearly 38,000 others on their feet inspired me so much to slowly build my recovery and running fitness and get my body back to the shape it was in January so I could run the distance again, in a time I would be happy with.
Since my first run a couple of weeks ago, there have been a few setbacks – the run found an area that had become weakened by the long lay-off, my lower back, and I could barely move the next day. But some physio and a lot of strengthening and stretching has allowed me to re-start with more modest jogs of a mile or so and these have been just about pain free – three months after a serious accident and operation, it seems like progress.