London Marathon 2015 – A race report by Lloyd Richardson AKA Superman
The London Marathon. The big daddy of all marathons. At least it has been for me, even before I had my current level of interest in running.
As a kid I always saw the television and newspaper coverage and it ranked up there with the big sporting events. As I became more involved in running I promised myself that one day I would take part. For the past three years I have entered the ballot for a place and each time it has been met with a rejection.
Last year I volunteered to act as a marshall on the course. I had been to see the race on a few previous occasions, to cheer on a friend or to spectate, but while marshalling I got to get onto the course, get right up close to the race and interact with runners. That was a thoroughly rewarding experience and strengthened my resolve to run it one day. I told myself that I would keep trying in the ballot and then if that didn’t work after a few years then I might try the charity route.
So I was really thrilled late last year to find out that my volunteer stint gave me a second chance at a place and from our group of volunteers I was lucky enough to be pulled from the hat to get the golden ticket that was a place in the 2015 event. I was finally going to do it. The biggest race of them all.
By the time I found out I had a place I had already signed up for Brighton Marathon. This would be 2 weeks before London. I knew that lots of other Flyers were also taking part at Brighton so didn’t want to miss out. Right then, Brighton was going to be my ‘A’ race and London would be for the experience and I wanted to be able to enjoy it. And why not get into the spirit and adopt a bit of fancy dress too while I was at it?
I pondered what costume to wear. I knew it had to be easy to run in so anything elaborate, heavy or with fancy headgear was out. So I went for a superman costume. I checked some fancy dress shops and didn’t think the all-in-one outfits would be very easy to run in (or visit the toilet in). So I did a bit of a cheat with running shirt, red shorts, red calf guards, and a cape. Perfect, looks the part but also easy enough to run in. Even if I did look a bit silly for a 46-year-old – it was all part of the fun.
So to get training. I had just recorded a marathon PB of 3:40 in Amsterdam and set myself a tough training plan to try and improve on it. I received a spanner in the works when I injured my knee after Christmas and lost pretty much the whole month of January. Still I was able to build the miles up in February and March and hit Brighton in good shape but I hadn’t done much quality work and faded towards the end but recorded a very respectable 3:49.
Preparing for London in 2 weeks was then all about trying to balance the recovery from Brighton but keep ticking over before my 4th. LONDON! Wow, I was actually going to do it.
So how to approach it. I wanted to enjoy it. But my pride told me that I had never run a marathon in more than 4 hours so wanted to keep that record intact. I also have never walked in a marathon so I had to keep that up too.
I made my way to the red start in Greenwich and travelled with fellow Flyer Justin King and bumped into Steve MacDonald and some Pitsea runners on the way. Once at Greenwich we went to our separate starts and prepared for the race. I put my outfit together and emptied my bladder. I made 3 visits in an hour, surely I was empty now.
When I signed up I was fresh from my marathon PB so had put down an ambitious finish time. This put me in a forward pen right behind the Good For Age entrants. So where I was standing I could just see the start line area and could also see all the runners behind me going back for what looked like half a mile. This was it, it was happening for real, and after some announcements we were off!
My plan was to run even splits at about 8:45 mins/mile which allowed for an eventual fade and to interact with any supporters but creep in under 4 hours. I was looking forward to seeing my family and also hitting Poplar High Street where many Flyers would be marshalls.
The start was through the streets of south London. Already there was plenty of support and the course was really packed with runners. As I was running slower than my predicted time I was overtaken a lot but I was expecting that. I received loads and loads of shouts of ‘Hey it’s Superman’, ‘Go Superman’, and then it became ‘Oh it’s Superman again’ as I was passed by a couple of others with the same dress sense. Lots of high-5s with children who seemed dead pleased to get the attention back. I was absolutely loving it!
And then there was a period when I was running alongside a man in an elaborate Olaf the snowman costume and nobody noticed me for a while.
Highlights of the first half were the National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark interspersed between lots of residential areas. Just past mile 12 I saw my sister and her husband. High 5s all round and then I turned the corner onto Tower Bridge. That was just amazing and I really felt the goosebumps going through the famous arches across the road and at this point the support really ramped up. On the bridge the support was 5-6 people deep all the way across and the sound was huge. And that was mostly the way of it from that point forward.
On the bridge I felt a surge of energy and picked up the pace a little overtaking one of the other Supermen that had passed me earlier.
Then we were headed out to the east of London. The scenery then went a bit downhill after the buzz of Tower Bridge and the majesty of the Tower of London with the city skyscrapers behind. I was looking forward to the next bit though. After much deliberation I had advised my wife Donna and my 2 eldest girls to go to the Limehouse area to give me a cheer. We decided on Narrow Street which runs alongside the Thames just before Canary Wharf. I told her it would be busy so we agreed exactly where they should stand and which side of the road as they wouldn’t be able to cross back once the runners came through. This was a spot without barriers so I was looking forward to giving them all a hug to boost me for the rest of the run.
So I reached the agreed point, I scanned the crowd thick with faces but my loved ones were nowhere to be seen. Then, just when I think they are not there I get a call. They are on the wrong side of the road! – I’m on the other side and by now past them and swept along in a sea of runners. All we had was a quick wave. But never mind I would see them again at our next meet point at Poplar.
Next up was the Isle of Dogs with more residential streets and a wave and cheer from the Bristol Convocations Running Club – an on-line running group, nothing to do with Bristol (don’t ask) that I met at Paris Marathon that are spread across the country but come together for some events – and then we were in amongst the offices and towers of Canary Wharf. Still plenty of support and cheers and cries of ‘Come on Superman’ and then a shout from an old schoolfriend too.
Next up, Poplar High Street. By this time I have started to fade, my legs have run out of juice and I’m wanting it to be over. So I need a boost and I get it when I see some friendly faces from a number of Flyers in high-vis. A few shouts of encouragement and some more high-5s. This is also where Donna and the girls were going to be for point 2. I searched and searched but they didn’t appear. At all. They were stuck the wrong side of the road, couldn’t get to Poplar and had to go via Canary Wharf and so totally missed me. Boo. And they were distraught too.
So then it is Commercial Road. Still not very pretty but someone holds up a banner saying ‘only 2 parkruns to go’. And I know it is all one direction towards the palace and the finish line. By this time I’m in pain, my legs won’t go as fast as I’m urging them to and the stomach cramps I have had since mile 5 are really getting on my nerves.
Just when I need it up pops Ian Anthony in the crowd with some encouraging shouts. Right, I think, let’s do this. Then I turn a couple of corners and there goes another shout and it is Scotty, Ian and Paul holding their plastic pint glasses aloft. I’m still struggling but have to dodge and weave through the river of runners to get a high-5 from each.
4 miles to go. Time to grit my teeth and grind it out.
Then I get to mile 23. The Tower of London. The crowds are really deep and there is the biggest sound ever. At this point I grab a water bottle and do what I have never done in a marathon – I walk while I down the contents. I’ve already had a wee-stop and now I am walking. But it seemed to do the trick. I was back running after only about 30 seconds pause and I had a second-wind. By now I was getting ‘Superman’ shouts every 5 or 10 meters. And I was loving it again. Less than 3 miles to go and I knew I had to make sure I enjoyed it.
I pushed on. I wasn’t going to stop again. I even managed to speed up for the last mile and ran it at my quickest pace of the whole run.
And then I was finished. I got my medal. Dame Kelly Holmes was there and gave me a handshake.
I had run the biggest race there is, The London Marathon, and I had the medal and the t-shirt to prove it.
It was a truly memorable occasion and I’m very proud to have run it.
I finished in 4:02:02. A personal worst but my watch recorded it as 26.76 miles, over half a mile further than the official distance, I stopped for a wee and walked a bit. I paused for some high-5s. And only 2 weeks after my last marathon.
For this event the time doesn’t matter. I know plenty of people would be overjoyed with my time and many more would cherish the chance to run in the event.
Would I do it again? Of course! But not in any rush. The crowds were truly amazing but the scenery is, well, less than pretty for large sections. And it is a marathon so it is sooooo hard.
A bit like eating chocolate cake. One slice is delicious, 2 would be a treat. But eating the whole cake – that takes some serious training and hard work and can make you sick.
I think I might actually have enjoyed being a marshall more than running it!