Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Tale of Two Marathons; The Second Marathon

Note:  This is a guest blog from Bridget Robinson. Bridget is the Race Director of The Mighty Point Douglas Run.  She recently ran The Paris Marathon and The London Marathon back-to-back.  This is part 2 of her story; The London Marathon (go here for part one).


London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.

London marathon has three different starts that converge before mile 3. At London Bridge station I blindly followed other runners and almost hopped aboard a train to the wrong start area before Lisa doubled checked and got us back on track. We had a long walk up a hill to the red start area but the gorgeous morning was full of promise and my hamstrings had unwound from the Paris marathon the week before. 

This was Lisa's 53rd marathon; she's running towards a 100 marathon club membership. Lisa puts the 'fan' in fancy dress for her runs and this was no exception. She sported a spiked yellow and green wig topped with Tiger ears and frangipanis and she wore an orange lei. The elastic armbands for her fairy wing were stretched so those were sadly abandoned beneath a chestnut tree. The evening before Lisa had gleefully unpacked a massive tickle trunk of assorted headgear and fancy, glitzy things from which I grudgingly chose the smallest wings, a sparkly waist scarf and a garland of flowers. After running several miles I was grateful that my wings were lined with downy feathers that didn't threaten to chaff the back of my neck. 

The start area sported some "female urinals" which peaked our interest but not enough to use them. We had a leisurely coffee and visited the first aid tent for two big plasters for my upper arms that were chaffed from Paris. It took 25 minutes to move to the start mat which gave us plenty of time to visit the porta-potties adjacent to the start area, one last time. 

At last we were off and carried along from start to finish on an enormous wave of crowd support. The streets were lined with cheering spectators who offered, gum drops, star bursts and other candies. Kids eagerly held their hands up for high fives and frequenters of the local pubs cheered raucously, shouting encouragement. It was a carnival atmosphere and for the first time I felt the supporters were truly as much a part of the event as the runners. Lisa had her name on her t-shirt (her number one marathon running tip) and at times "go Lisa" built into a crescendo of supporters chanting her name. Thanks to my wings, I got the occasional "go fairy" or "go angel", which lifted my spirits and feet.

It was an emotional run reading the t-shirts of the runners in support of charities and runners with pictures or words in honor of loved ones no longer with them. There was a glorious blue sky and the beaming sun was tempered by cooler temperatures and light refreshing breezes, the weather could not have been more perfect. Running down hill we occasionally had to move over to allow wheel chair participants to pass. A full marching band played heartily as they marched and we passed a couple, he in black and she in white with a veil, who had just married the previous day.

The Royal Observatory at Greenwich park was beautiful, we then ran by the Cutty Sark and later turned right to find Tower Bridge looming in all it's majesty above us. What a thrill to cross the Thames over that iconic bridge.

Lisa pointed out some "ever present" runners, people who'd run every London marathon since it's inception in 1981. We were endlessly entertained by a parade of creative costumes, including an Orca whale and calf, runners dressed as the Jamaican bobsled team, carrying a makeshift bobsled, and a hockey player with his stick.

This was the first marathon I've run which is part of the World Marathon Major series and the international participation was in evidence everywhere, from a large Canadian flag high on a balcony to a girl in USA flag tights holding a sign that read "26.2 looks awesome on you", to a large group of Kenyan supporters waving flags and beaming broadly.

There was a brief switch back between about 13 and 14 miles outbound and 21 and 22 miles inbound; Lisa enthusiastically cheered the runners on their homeward stretch.

Cursory thoughts of wariness were chased away by a Karaoke singer who sang with a rich, haunting, melodious voice as he ran. We went through a tunnel with bright lights extolling the following encouragement in large black print: "pain is temporary", "glory awaits", "you're so close".

The stretch along the Thames embankment was achingly beautiful, to see Big Ben through an arc of red balloons and the London eye is a memory I'll treasure always. The support along this stretch was deafening and brought to mind what a privilege it is to run in the footsteps of running heroes such as Wilson Kipsang who had run along this very route only hours before. The shortest distance is marked on the road with three blue stripes and I imagined the front runners following those earlier.

Wilson Kipsang, London Marathon 2014 (just slightly ahead of Bridget)
We ran by Buckingham palace and I wondered if our Queen was home, before we turned down the Union Jack and tree lined Mall to the finish. A friendly volunteer hung a stunning medal around my neck and I smiled grateful that I'd broken my "one marathon a year" tradition.

It's a good day to be alive.
Mike, with thanks to Bridget, Race Director of The Mighty Point Douglas Run.
September 20, 2014