Saturday, 6 May 2017

London Marathon 2017


Creating a Road Runner

Ohh, you like running?! Have you done London? Anyone who partakes in the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other sport called running knows the London question. For the record; the London Marathon is not actually any longer than any other marathon. Statistically, by average running times, London is probably the slowest flat marathon in the world. I have a Statistics degree so I am sure I could jiggle some numbers around to make that true. So I was never that interested in entering until I got sold on how many people would be out cheering. I love a good cheer. And the good for age time requirement for women is considerably more lenient than the men's so I got an automatic place and did not have to go through the ballot tragedy. I could have gone for a championship place but you had to be a member of a club and you could not run in costume. They were two sacrifices that I was not willing to make.

Then came the costume drama. With the encouragement of a friend; the idea of running as a three dimensional bird came about. Then life went a bit crazy and I did not decide to come back to the UK until the end of February which left little time to make a costume with my poor sewing skills. There were also the trips to Bologna, London and Iceland that were to hinder my weekend sewing availability (who cares about the actual running training)! So three dimensional went out, and bird stayed in. Initially it made sense to run as a Kiwi bird. However, the Kiwi is rather dull. Brown birds were then ruled out. My older sister has a long-standing disagreement with peacocks so they were out. I liked the idea of a flamingo but ultimately decided on Road Runner.

As a child I went to the USA and met Wile E Coyote himself. He foresaw my future as a Road Runner and drew up this plan to capture me back in in 1997.
After many Google searches and YouTube demonstrations I managed to make a tutu and weave in some ostrich feathers. I did not feel the desire to make a You Tube video of my own. So many talents, so little time. A client kindly donated the hat and Scott (the sewing power that he is) sewed on the eyes, beak and hat feather. I am sure friends thoroughly enjoyed the Snap Chat updates of my progress. The costume was taken for a test run at 6am one morning in Edinburgh. Scott assumed this meant running up a quiet street once or twice. I had other ideas; the gym or local park. No other runners batted an eyelid as I checked out the possible chaff areas in the costume as the sun rose. A lesson I learned was that I would need to Vaseline my arms to prevent tulle chaffage. Both meep meep and beep beep are down as official languages for Road Runner; I went with meep meep. See my Instagram @petitefeetrunaway for a video of the practice run.

Navigating London

Registration for the marathon was at Excel, in East London. The start line for the marathon is in Greenwich in  South East London. The finish line for the marathon is in Central London. We were staying in West London. Fortunately we opted for the 06:20am train from Edinburgh on the Saturday morning which gave us time to endure the nightmare that is mass registration. The week prior I had a minor panic when I realised that I had never been sent a registration letter, the very item you need to register. Fortunately, they got one in the post to me pronto and my costume making was not in vain. Hilariously, there was also a Games Convention on at the registration venue. It made for a nice game of what are they here for?

Avoid registering on the Saturday if you can (we couldn't) as it was rammed. Registration is like an arcade; flashing lights, terrible music and the feeling of being pinballed around the families who have decided to take their granny and young children there for a day out to pick up daddy's registration number.

The young girl scanning my racing chip was super friendly and efficient. Possibly too efficient as my chip did not end up working during the event!  

Riding the tube as Road Runner
Meep meep

To the Green Start

In classic London form, half of the tube stations were closed on the weekend. The marathon gave out brilliant instructions as to where each runner should go depending on their coloured race start. We changed somewhere for the Maze Hill train. We all played a wonderful game of sardines and I tickled other runners with my feathers. Hoards of red start runners got off at Greenwich station, leaving us greenies to take seats before getting off at Maze Hill and walking half the marathon route to the start line.

I won't pee but please provide the runners with more port-a-loos!


As I arrived into the Green Start the announcer was calling for us to put our kit bags into the trucks which were to be transported to the start. There were many people unable to fit on the train so I don't think they would have managed to get to the start in time for the bag drop. After accidently joining the urinal queue for some time I then spent another 40 minutes in the unisex toilet queue. With five minutes to start, I exited the port-a-loo and felt rather sorry for the huge queue still waiting.

Strategically the Green Start is the start for the z-list celebrities and the average good-for-age runners. The z-list celebrities get left alone on this start line as no club marathon runner has any idea who any of them are.

The shuffle for pens begins. I am supposed to be in pen three but none of the pen three runners are able to get to the elusive pen three. I imagined the pens to be in a line but instead they snake around. Pen four is the only pen guarded by marshals who won't let anyone through to access their pen. So pens 1, 2, 3 , 7, 8 and 9 are all hanging about next to the start with nowhere to go. Once the race starts we all clamber through the barriers. I suspect golden pen four was the last to cross the start amongst the chaos.

London Marathon Start Line

Running With a City

Despite the disorganised pens, the Green Start is not too large and it is easy enough to get across the line after a few minutes. I'm not worried about pace and just relax into the jog. Sandra Beattie comes floating past, having colour coordinated her outfit with mine. She's a gem like that. In an unprecedented move, I have a loose bun in today rather than the twin braids. A lesson learned during the costume trial run was that my long hair pushes my tail feathers to the side so I had to tie it up. This is why trying out your costume is so important before race day.

Whacking out a bunch of high fives to excited children (and adults) I don't worry about passing anyone and meep meep along. Ignoring runners shout at each other as they worry about being four seconds off their pace, I wave at all my fans who have gathered on the course and try and strike up conversations. Many running clubs have the name Road Runner in them. This excited me and initially I did a lot of road runner related cheering to them. Unfortunately, the club runners were all depressed during the event and failed to return the cheers. Potential research project; Depression in Club Runners During Fun Runs.

Runners, runners everywhere
The London Marathon takes about 46,000 runners. That is the same size as the city I grew up in. Yes, it is a city. It has a cathedral. So that is how that works. After three miles, the Greenies joined with the Blue Start. There was no drama in this and I was excited at the prospect of seeing more costumes as costumes were a bit thin on the ground at the Green Start.

As we run downhill on a straight bit of road, I can see a sea of runners ahead. All I can see are heads bobbing. It is amazing. I exclaim my thoughts out loud. The runners remain silent. Mostly I run on the edges so that I can wave to the crowd and high five all my dedicated supporters. Children yell things such as; go duck, quack quack, it's Donald, and go birdy! I wonder the last time Road Runner was on television. Women typically yelled love the tutu and go fairy! For some miles, I was surprised to find an actual fairy running behind me so perhaps I was not being cheered for at all. Mostly it was the men who recognised me for who I truly was and gave me a meep meep!

Scott was looking to give me a cheer at about the 10km mark but I knew it would be hard for either of us to spot each other. I am unaware that my tracking chip is not working so Scott waits here for hours as the London Marathon app shows me as not having started the race yet so he does not know that I have already run past. The crowds near the Cutty Sark were huge. I was going crazy, they were going crazy. Supporters offered water, sweets and oranges. Sarah is getting a load of cheers. The crowd loves Sarah. For miles, I ran near Sarah. What a popular lassie. It was a shame that Sarah did not love the crowd back as much. I passed that bad attitude.

A Garmin beeps. As Road Runner, I take this as bird speak and meep meep back. This was not appreciated. Ahead I can see a dinosaur. I get my phone ready for a selfie and try to get myself next to the dinosaur. There is a guy running next to dinosaur and he really needs to speed up his pace so I can get my photo. He needs to stop hogging dinosaur. Eventually I get my opportunity. Here's Gemma the dinosaur who was more than happy to partake in a selfie! Congratulations to Gemma the dinosaur who set the Guinness World Record by running under four hours dressed in a full dinosaur suit! The happiest costume runner I met.   

Gemma the record setting dinosaur

Big skyscrapers appear at the end of the street and then the course takes a right turn onto the London Bridge! I do hope that today is not the day that London Bridge falls down. Although I did eat a large pizza last night. And if that was not enough excitement, the course does an out-and-back and we can now see the elite men running towards us! I stick tight to the edge tape getting crazy excited for all the elite runners. A few others join me in whooping and clapping for the runners as they zoom past. I cannot stop smiling. Being ignored by the elite runners as they focused on their big money wins was probably the highlight of the event for me.

Runners start to slow down (or I start to speed up) before the half way mark. I pass a chef with a heavy-looking pot. I ask him if he could have carried a lighter one. He was not pleased. I pass a guy running his 50th marathon dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and matching shorts and pass on my congratulations. He's sweaty but happy. Then there is a cheerleader carrying pom poms that must be annoying by now. She is less than cheery. I pass a guy that seems to have a monkey's face near his crouch. Unusual. Some young boys are excited further up the course; they have just spotted a Spiderman. At one point the crowd start going wild; I think it is for me... only to get passed by Mr Tickle. We could have a tickle-off; my feathers and his arms but he seems on a mission.

Sign/banner highlights included;
  • Shortcut this way (arrow pointing in opposite direction).
  • You think you're tired, my arms are knackered (after marshalling at the Scottish 5km Championships on Friday night and having to hold my arm up for about three minutes, I do appreciate their pain.
By the halfway mark people are starting to pull up on the sides; cramp, stomach aches, setting off far too fast... On the Thursday night before the marathon I ran the Seven Hills in Edinburgh. It takes a few hours. My friend Keith took us off-piste down Arthur's Seat and I keep slipping. Initially I worried that I was going to break a leg before the marathon. Then I decided that the London Marathon would be a good one to do with a broken leg as you could do it on crutches and still probably not be last. So I do hope that the runners who have pulled up to the side decide to walk to the finish anyway.  There are possibly runners on the Red Start that are still waiting to cross the start line. 



The Jamaican bobsled team on their way to a world record


At about mile 17 I pass the Jamaican bobsled team. Two guys, one (fake) bobsled. Full lycra suits and helmets. The crowd loved them. They will go on to set a Guinness World Record but I'd rather not have them beat me. So after sneaking a pic, I swiftly pass them and put a bit of a kick in so that they do not pass me back. I feel sorry for the people who had those two sprinting past them in the finishing straight. Hassled forever by your mates when they look at that finishing photo. 

My crowd participation is interrupted briefly when I see Sandra ahead and swoop in for a quick chat. What was not discussed was that she was on for a flyer of a personal best! And then I hear my name yelled from the side lines! No, not chicken you fools; Antonia! It's my Kiwi turned London pal, Nicole! Whoop, whoop! And the way that it works is that once one person cheers for someone, it becomes contagious. So now I am getting screamed at all the way down the line. I am going wild with my arms waving about, expressing my thanks. Quite frankly though, I am struggling to keep on top of all these autographs that are being requested. 

Um, is that another nun in front of me? 

And now it is time for some weaving. I had been warned that I would spend trainer loads of energy weaving between runners for the first few miles. Because I was not trying to hit a certain pace, I didn't find myself weaving too much. But now that the runners are fading like a Borneo playground, I am am playing a game of dodge before you trip. The people that are walking are reasonably good at moving to the side (which is great but also cramps my crowd access for high fives). It is the runners who are now the problem. The majority do not realise how slow they are now going. Clear the space folks, this Road Runner is flying through on a London high. 

I give Lyndsey a holler as I pass. She's looking out for a barrier-jumping opportunity. She's got herself so thirsty, she's going to stop for a pint. I also pass the Blue 3:30 marker despite passing the Green 3:30 mile marker miles ago. So, were we late starting?! The balloon pace markers are a nightmare; runners unable to run a certain pass without all holding hands with balloon pace runner.

I am hoping that I am in a thousand photos. I am that runner waving to every television camera. That runner giving you the thumbs up. I posed so well for a photo another supporter I knew assumed I had seen them when they took the cracking photo below! And that is how I was posing for everyone. 
Mile 22 of the London Marathon

Then at 23 miles, I get a shout out from Ian Beattie. Whoop, whoop! A line of fans go insane. There is now a nun in front on me. And that fairy from earlier on. Sorry, have to pass, my tutu puts your tutu to shame. And it is a runner's birthday! He's put a wee note on the back of his running top! Which he had carried balloons too. I'm excited. He's obviously in for the celebration, that's why he's let others know of his special day. I give a loud cheer as I pass; I feel like it may even be my own birthday! It turns out, he's not up for the celebration any longer. Peaked too early perhaps? 

There are runners sitting and laying along the edges of the track. The medics and marshals are all over them. None look too serious thankfully. 

Finishing straight of the London Marathon!

With 600 metres to go, I get some cheers from my right. It's Scott and Nicole! Scott realised that there was something wrong with my tracker and once Nicole got in touch to say that I was running (and not still at the start line, trying to be the last over the line like I usually am). For the finishing straight, the runners are incredibly lacklustre. We are all going to finish with a clock time of 3:29. The crowd on the other hand are still creating a riot. Not an actual riot, although London does love one. I am cruising on in and I cannot help but pass the lot of them. This will not make for great television viewing. The viewers love a committed finish! One girl glances sideways as I come past. She is not a happy runner. Her finishing photo will be ruined when Road Runner appears coming past. Ohhh, speaking of photos, there's an official camera! Cheesy smile and double thumbs up... 

My finishing video now looks like a moving screen capture as I pull the same pose and fail to look up at the video camera. The online viewers did not get to see this however, as a z-list celebrity finished at the same time. The marshals are trying to help the girl who is devastated she got beaten by Road Runner. 

My face hurts from smiling too much. My legs are fine. Did I crowd surf the marathon?

Road Runner in Trafalgar Square
London Marathon medal

I've Done London

Scott informs me that he did not see too many costumes. However, there was a carrot who was absolutely storming it. Also, a lobster beat me by a good ten minutes. So runners, the majority of us can share that 'I got beaten by a (insert ridiculous costume here)' feeling. 

No, I did not get my medal handed to me by one of the royals. I had already finished a burger and had two pints before they bothered to show up and hand out five minutes of medals. I even wore my mental health charity headband that all runners were give. Sadly, some runners were too serious for this. I managed... and I already had a hat on!  

Thanks to everyone who stood for hours out on the course to cheer on their friends, family and strangers. in some ways the London Marathon is like a free ride; the cheers carry you so far you don't really need to put too much effort into the running!

My advice for running London would be; unless you are an elite athlete, it is a fun run. Enjoy yourself, don't stress about your time and weaving. I have also embraced the post-London thing. Scott and I rode the train back to Edinburgh on the Sunday evening after the marathon; I was dressed as Road Runner and still wearing my medal. I wouldn't do that after an ultra but people will offer their congratulations if you have run London so go for it!

And where was Wile E Coyote? Well, Scott realised that wearing a giant tube of dynamite on his back to support the London Marathon might get him arrested so decided against it! Costume ideas for next year welcome!

Road Runner playing on escalators with Nicole 

All the Funny Stats

I was given an official time of 3:25. It's no world record (or would it have been...)
The stats are funny;
  • In the first 32km I passed 4440 people and 365 passed me. Given that it only took me three minutes to get across the start line and I started earlier than I should have because my race entry time was much faster, soooo many people went off crazy fast!
  • In the last 7km I passed 788 people and eight passed me. Work out these stats by kilometre.
  • I beat 80% of men. Currently getting an ab workout from the laughter.
  • Overall I was 5461st out of 33933. All that tells us is that there were a lot of non starters or non finishers.
  • 4% of women were ahead of me. Go the ladies!! Assuming that was the entire elite field right?


Help, My Chip Didn't Work!

Never fear, I emailed them the same day and within a week they had not only given me a chip time but also a whole bunch of splits. Whether they were actually my splits, I didn't know as I did not run with a watch. But it didn't really matter, I just wanted an official time so I can get an automatic entry for next year! Interestingly, the put two chips on the important folk so chip failure must be common. 

If it happens to you, just email them with the following;
- your number
- start line
- finishing chute (left, middle, right etc.)
- clock finish time estimate
- any photos

I had a photo that I took before I crossed the start (because I was so excited) that showed the clock time and some photos that both myself and others had taken. If you zoomed in on the photos, you could see I was wearing my chip. 

A week later, I provided some quality support at the West Highland Fling race!

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