Well that was a scorcher.
I know we are lucky to usually run the London Marathon in quite temperate weather, and runners around the world have to deal with much hotter race days…however having trained all winter through snow, sleet, rain and hail, the 23 degrees took everyone by surprise.
With warnings from officials lining our inboxes all week with reminders to slow down, ditch the costumes and only take 1 water bottle at each aid station, I was very nervous about whether I was going to do a good job pacing.
I’d stepped into the pacing role about 4 weeks ago when someone else dropped out and so hadn’t had much chance to practice. Not to mention that we only got our kit on the Friday night before the race – no chance to test out running with the flag or test the rest of the kit before the big day. I opted to wear my tried and tested Lululemon running shorts to try to limit chafing.
Luckily most of the pacers were seasoned pros willing to share their advice with me at the expo and on marathon morning which helped calm my nerves slightly.
We met up with all the other pacers before the start, however some of the officials were a bit over official and wouldn’t let everyone through to our meeting spot. From our vantage point we watched the elites warm up and the nerves started to build. I had picked up a pace band at the marathon expo and charged two Garmins to take with me…however in my suncream panic I had forgotten to pick them up. Thank goodness for my back-up Garmin which saw me through! I also took photos of one of the other pacers 4.45 pace band which was a lifesaver, and I checked it every mile to make sure we were on track.
I LOVED having my pacer flag on in the start area as so many people came up to ask for advice, it was great and I felt so useful. Also so many friendly blog readers (I cannot tell you how much it meant to me to have people coming up to me mid-race to say hello or shouting ‘Runner beans’ from the sidelines!)
I started at the back of wave 8 in the Green start, which is the smallest of the starting areas, and very calm. it only took us 6 minutes after the official gun time to cross the start line and we were off…
I had a group around me at the start, and we all chatted excitedly. They would ask if I wanted water, collecting a bottle for me at the aid stations. With a 10.52 average pace for 4.45, I wanted to play it safe and so tried to run 10.40-10.50 min miles throughout.
We were running with a lady dressed as an ice-cream for the first 5 or so miles and the kids loved it. They were all shouting for her, and made us all desperate for an ice-cream in the rising temperatures.
One of the hardest things I found, other than constantly checking my watch, was trying not to weave. I had to ask people to move out of the way which was a little awkward.
Usually I’m the one looking for my spectators in the crowd, but this year, with a giant flag on my back, I was easy to spot. I saw my Mum and Step-dad at mile 9 – their fave spot!
In my group was a girl called Charlotte, running her first marathon, who we discovered went to school in Chiswick (round the corner from where I lived) and grew up in Henley (where we live now). It is such a small world, and I loved everyone shouting her name as it was also a boost for me- next time if I’m asked to pace again, I would have my name on my top too!
Running over Tower Bridge was epic, as always, and I saw Paul (the 4hr pacer for the red start). People around sometimes seemed a bit panicked to see me, or told me I was too fast, until I explained that I had started before them and was from a different wave!
We saw Tom with a big box of orange slices (my new Marathon obsession) just after Tower Bridge and a I grabbed a handful to give out to those around me. I find after the high of Tower Bridge, there is often a low as you see runners on the other side of the road heading for the finish. I explained this to my group to try to keep their spirits high and we celebrated as we crossed the halfway point.
I had told them that we had to stamp hard on the timing mats as that was the message going back to our spectators that we were doing well, which gave us all a little boost every time.
Heading out to Canary Wharf is my least favourite bit of the race, but this time I had my Mum, step-dad and Tom to look out for in these miles. What a difference that made. Also more oranges at the 30K mark were amazing. Tom said he was having to hold the now dwindling box of oranges out of the way of some of the runners as they were so popular. I grabbed another massive handful for my now much smaller group, and we kept trucking away.
My Mum was at mile 17, so I gave them a big wave. As a pacer, you can’t weave and therefore can’t go up to your friends and family to high five (although I thought that getting them oranges was part of pacing duties so made an exception!). I so appreciated them all coming out, and seeing so many familiar faces in the crowds.
At mile 21, the ladies still running with me began to struggle. It was so hard not to stay with them and drop the pace. I wish I could have, but I knew I had to keep on target pace for 4.45. I really hope they all finished safely and are proud of their races. They were so lovely, and I enjoyed chatting with them so much!
I was on my own for a bit from then, before picking up more runners – some of them had been in the green start too, others were just hanging on to a steady pace to get them to the end.
I really really needed the loo, but obviously couldn’t stop mid-race. I did hear that other pacers hand over their flags but I was too nervous to do that. I wanted to wee in my shorts but couldn’t, so just held on until the end. It made it a little uncomfortable I have to say!
The crowds down the embankment are always incredible and it is the best part of the marathon. You are so close to the finish. There were more people walking at this stage than I’ve ever seen before, with a lot of casualties at the road side. I felt so bad for those that had got so close, only to find themselves in the medical tent a mile from the finish. Huge thanks to all the St John’s Ambulance and medic volunteers for keeping people safe yesterday.
I knew I was under target time but didn’t want to slow down too much for those around me to get their best finish time.
Coming round into the final stretch, I told those around me to sprint for the finish!
I almost didn’t want it to end when I saw the 365 yard marker.
4.43.05 – a little under the 4.45 goal, but I’m pretty proud of it for my first ever pacing duty and am pleased to have kept pretty steady mileage.
HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who ran yesterday, that heat was no joke. Well done for those for sensibly adjusting their time goals, for those with PB’s and PWs. The Spirit of London was out in full force and it did not disappoint!
Read my 2012 and 2017 London Marathon Race Recaps here.
Fantastic work, I’m so impressed you managed to keep your pacing and what a selfless run! Well done!!
I am always in awe of the pacers- my splits are shocking! Am training for my first marathon, which is the Shakespeare Marathon in Stratford on Avon, and it is a small one with no pacers. I am really trying to concentrate on my pace during these last training runs, because I don’t want to go out too quickly and become a cropper. It has made me realise just how invaluable the pacers are, how experienced and what great runners they are, whatever time they are pacing. Well done! xx
Well done Charlie, it must have been a very different marathon experience as a pacer. I would have been very nervous. I’m sure the high was amazing helping people achieve their goals. You did a great job in such challenging conditions. I would like to read a blog on the background of being a pacer. Such as info you were provided, tips and tricks, don’t weave etc. or if they just gave you a flag and trusted you.
They gave me a flag on the Friday night and just trusted me! I was given the info not to weave or listen to music in a briefing doc but all other advice came from the other pacers!
Massive congrats! We met at a lululemom event in Brixton a couple years ago and I’ve been following your blog ever since! Enjoy the wave of excitement after finishing the marathon and being a pacer!! 🙂
Amazing work! You must feel so chuffed having helped all those people – and on such a difficult day, weather wise!
Fantastic job, I wish I was at your pace. I was impressed they still gave me a medal when I stumbled over the line at 8h45. The heat just smashed me, they talk about ‘The Wall’ but for me it was ‘The Sun’ that destroyed me!
Nicely done! Agree re: orange slices. My favorite finish lines feature fruit