Running nohtaraM nodnoL ehT (or the London Marathon route in reverse)

A “training run” then London marathon route out and back (plus getting lost) = 74 miles.  

I headed over to Maidstone on Friday night after work, taking with me my running pack and drybag full of stuff for the night. A few beers and fish and chips for the evening in prep for the run in the morning. Thanks to Michael and Monika for giving me a couch for the night so I could get started early in the morning.

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Morning came, a quick route planned around Maidstone and I met up with Marek for the run. Our plan was to do 17 miles at easy pace in a circular route to get back in time for heading up to London.

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We did a nice route, though for the first 3 miles I felt like I was struggling a little, particularly on the hills. I think it is still my body protesting after the 200 mile coastal run three weeks earlier.

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I enjoyed the run and finished off in Maidstone towncentre at McDonalds.

WP_20160423_10_43_46_Selfie.jpgGrabbed my favourite double sausage and egg mcmuffin meal and a coffee before meeting up with Michael, grabbing some provisions for the run in London, and then heading back to his to wait for Will.

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Will is an aspiring ultrarunner, and has his first ultra in a few weeks time. He was keen to do his first marathon distance and I was super pleased at getting the opportunity to run it with him.

We met up at Maidstone East station, and swapped some chit chat on the way to London on the train.

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When in London, we met up with my wife Susie before heading off on a train to Greenwich (sharing a busy carriage with some Brighton & Hove Albion supporters who were off to a football match in London).

Once in Greenwich, we headed up to the park and what would be the red start for some of the marathon runners the next day. We grabbed a photo, tee’d up the route on our GPS watches, and set off at a nice easy pace.

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Will planned to run 10 minutes and walk a minute. Though that soon went out of the window as he forgot to walk at points. Nevertheless, we did have a few breaks while we crossed roads, and we had to stop at points to remove or add items of clothing as the temperature rose and fell, and as we got warm during our run.

Most of the preparations for the London Marathon were going on as we ran. The mile gantry points were mostly assembled and welcomed our progress as we ran the course. We also spotted various advertising hoardings, and for most of the run the barriers had either been stacked at the side of the road, or already lined the route.

Soon enough we ran over Tower bridge – which marks roughly the half way point – before heading east towards Docklands.

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We passed the point where my club – Serpentine – would be standing to cheer on competitors the next day during the VLM. Soon I was in need of salt and another drink, so we stopped off at a shop in east London and a well needed break. I ate my favourite Pork Scratchings ( a great vehicle for salt!) and we took the opportunity to grab a photo.

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We soon entered Docklands, and made our way around, taking in some of the Thames Path (not strictly the route – but a bit more scenic) and then at some point we got muddled with the route. At around 17 miles Susie decided to stop and head home as she was developing backache (I think all part of getting over the 34 miles she ran with us along the coast a few weeks earlier). Me and Will carried on, covering the route as best we could, before heading back towards Tower Hill and then onto the final stretch.

We finally noticed a gantry with 23 miles on it – and both noted that it was only a park run left (we had already added a couple of extra miles on top of the official distance), and then we were soon on the final stretch on the embankment. We really picked up the pace, we could see 8’o’clock showing on the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament. I thought about how the competitors the next day would feel as they saw the clock the next day.

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Finally along Bird cage walk and then onto the Mall and towards the finish line. Garmin watches stopped and we asked a couple to take a photo of us. Turns out that the guy – Ian Keith was running the race the next day, so we had a chat and we told him that I was planning to have some food and run the route in reverse to get to the finish line before the official race started. Will did great – and accidentally (through getting lost) managed to run an ultra before he ran a marathon, and without a piece of bling or a t-shirt to show! That guy will go far – literally!

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Then to the pub. Grabbed a few beers, burger and chips and then waited for some other social ultra folk to arrive at the nearby McDonalds for the nohtaraM ehT to start.

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It is becoming a bit of a custom for some runners to do the route in reverse, some in fancy dress – taking as a theme the pictures used on the VLM rejection magazines. This year was Spiderman – so a handful of runners had spiderman outfits on!! We all sat around as various runners arrived and camped in McDonalds. Who knew there would be a queue to get into this fine restaurant at 1am on a Sunday morning!

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We eventually headed down to St James’s Park and the place that we would start. There are a range of pace groups – all planning to get to the start line in Greenwich before 8am. I decided to do the 2am start so that I had plenty of time, as I had already run over 45 miles already and didn’t want to push the pace.

A photo opportunity as we massed ahead of 2am, and eventually we were off.

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I soon had to stop to move my packet of peanut M&Ms from my backpack because they were rattling around and noise like that was both pissing everyone else off (no one ran closer to me than 50 metres!) and it was annoying the crap out of me. So, that meant that I needed to up the pace a little to catch up.

We made it up to near the underpass towards Tower Bridge and I had to take my jacket off. It was boiling.  But then as I started to run again, I realised my hands were cold and my gloves were in my jacket (now in my backpack).

Anyway, we headed past Tower Bridge and into East London. We spotted some toilets, and a pissoir – and many of us took advantage of the facilities before heading off again towards Docklands. On approaching Docklands we got a bit confused, (and as I had got lost when I ran it in the opposite direction I was keen not to make suggestions). So, we did our best, added a bit of mileage on top again, and eventually after running around Canary Wharf with various bemused security guards eyeing us suspiciously we ended up back in East London.

I’d been banging out pretty rapid mile splits up to around 12 miles, and eventually I slowed a bit and in the process losing Cat Woman and another chap as we headed out towards Limehouse. I was on my own then, but I could remember most of the route anyway, so I was relaxed. My legs were hurting a bit though, remember I was on around 60 miles at this point already within the previous 24 hours.

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I ran over Tower Bridge and then south of the Thames. Rich had promised cheese on sticks and some pringles – but I figured I was a bit fast through up to that point. I had some cola bottle sweets, and wine gums and mars bars so I was ok but really craving something savoury. Having foregone dropping by petrol stations and fast food joints for crisps or proper food, I ploughed on. Everything looks different in the dark and at points I had to check the route on my watch. The roads were still quite busy for the early hours of the morning, and I wondered when the road closures would kick in.

Eventually I was running around Surrey Quays and it really started to rain. I was hot, and cold at the same time, and I was also struggling because I needed a pee. Eventually after finding somewhere to go without being too anti-social (and this reminded me of why I much prefer trail running than road running), I carried on. One food in front of the other.

I forget where I reached (I guess I had about 8 miles to go) before I decided to chuck on some music. I had a few albums loaded up on my phone that I was able to listen to. The first song on was some lady screaming about needing a hero, then there was some dance music. Yes – it was some running hits album. It certainly worked though. It reduced my need to stop and walk so often and I just lost myself in the music.

The miles were soon tumbling aside and I eventually got into Greenwich, ran around the Cutty Sark, and was caught by a mate of mine Scott – and a lady who was running with him at that time. We stopped for a few minutes for a drink and something to eat, before heading off again. I was really struggling up to that point for the last few miles, but seeing a friendly face and having someone to talk to (I saw hardly anyone for ages), gave me some oomph.

We were soon knocking down the miles and after a brief stop at a convenience store for drink and food, we set off again. The end was surely coming. By this time, the roads were starting to close, drinks stations were in the process of being put together, and we were getting close to the end. I remembered the route, so it was just a case of trying to turn towards the “red start” at the correct point.

There were a couple of miles to go. I struggled up hills, but managed to run on the flats and downhills. Eventually we reached the 1 mile mark (so as we ran in reverse, we had only one mile to run), we put on a spurt and up the hill towards Greenwich park and the red start. We could see the end – we could see the red, blue and green balloons in the sky indicating the location of the various start points. Me (L) and Scott (R) headed towards the red start and grabbed a photo.

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I think the volunteers were wondering what on earth we were doing. I certainly looked in a bit of a state – and they were surely thinking that there is no way that I would be able to run a marathon! While I was walking from the park towards Greenwich I bumped into Jules – who instantly recognised me and we had a quick hug, and wished her luck for her race.

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A great day. I can thoroughly recommend it and it is a great way of getting to do the route – and also gives the opportunity to chat to other fellow nutters and to give money to charity too (there is a group charity page).

I met up with some of the other runners in Costa Coffee and had a chitchat. I had a couple of toasties, a pepsi and a coffee while I felt good to move on from Costa Coffee in Greenwich. As I was walking to the station, I bumped into Rich and (Chris?) before getting on the train.

Once home (via a bus replacement service for part of the route), I started watching the remainder of the Marathon highlights on TV, found Brighton Marathon on catchup – and after seeing the start I promptly fell asleep!

Tips.

  1. Take something savoury for the run. Sweet stuff really is too much even if doing 70-odd miles over 24 hours.
  2. Take more drink for the evening run (I didn’t fill up – I should have done!)
  3. Road shoes are absolutely fine – but make sure they are comfy – road running is really taxing!
  4. Watch out for cars turning in the early hours. Many drivers are not at their most alert, and I almost got taken out by some random car doing 40mph around the corner in East London.
  5. Dress up. I didn’t this year, but I would definitely do it next year. I hope there is a unicorn on the front of the “rejection” magazine from the Ballot.
  6. It can get blinking cold at night so best to have layers, gloves, arm warmers and tights. Easier you can remove these the better.
  7. Don’t have anything that makes too much noise in your backpack. It annoys the crap out of the world.
  8. No headtorch required. It is all streetlights. All fine. Don’t worry.
  9. Check out the route through Docklands. You WILL get lost. There are multi-levels and also building work.
  10. If you can, run with people of a similar pace. It’s more fun! After all, road running is pretty dull otherwise.

I’ve been raising money for Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) this year because they do such an amazing job under ridiculous and dangerous conditions. http://www.justgiving.com/hythetoIOW

 

 

 

 

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