As I enter the ballot to see if I can be lucky enough to run it again next year I reflect on the experiences I have had with the event over the last year (and a bit); in 2018 I ran round two weeks after the Paris Marathon so it was a really tough day but a really rewarding one. This year I almost lost my voice supporting one of my good friends run it as his first marathon. Last year it was the hottest London Marathon on record so that presented its own challenge, one I’d not expected or trained for but equally it meant that the crowds were out and I suspect also presented a record number. This year it would have been far more pleasant running as it was cloudy and cool and at one point there was a refreshing drizzle of rain – but that’s the gamble you take when you sign up for an outdoor event in the UK!
So, how do I compare and contrast the two days – running it was obviously the more challenging, both physically and mentally but it was the first time I’d witnessed a marathon live without running it and it was far tougher and more tiring than I’d expected. My view of my friends that have been amazing support to me over the years is that they turn up, pick a spot and enjoy some food, beers and the atmosphere of the day. I was wrong. It was an emotional rollercoaster of a day seeing some people joyously running along have a great time and then the next batch all struggling and running with gritted teeth. Throw in the nervousness of missing the one person out of 42,000 that you want to see and you have a day where you’re walking miles, skipping meals, fighting crowds and are constantly on edge.
We watched from two vantage points; the first being at 20kms so most people were still fresh and feeling good and there was a certain buzz at this stage as the runners were about to cross the halfway point – my friend was beaming and stopped for a hug and a photo, whooping as he ran. The second viewing area was at 40kms so offered a very different feel and glints in the eyes and smiles on the faces of the runners had certainly dimmed somewhat. There was now in its place a look of sheer grit, determination and pain. All running technique had gone, all the training and buzz of the day seemed to have drained from them and it was merely trying to drag their bodies to the end…..only 2kms to go! The crowd however were unwavering and never let up. While running the marathon the previous year it was very difficult to enjoy the crowd. Whilst I was always aware they were there towards the end there were moments that their energy levels almost annoyed me – I certainly didn’t have any energy left for cheering an whooping.
Both offered unique experiences and both will remain with me for years to come, but which would I rather do? The answer is clear. I would rather run it than support it – the life of a marathon runner is a selfish one, choosing training runs over all else continues and I don’t think I’m anywhere ready to give up the challenge and elation of completing what is a phenomenal achievement. Either way it’s a great day and certainly one to remember….