Digested read: Hottest marathon on record? Kill me now, I’ve moved beyond maranoia now into complete panic. Trouble is, only one cure, getting to the end of the route on Sunday. Aaaaargh.
This is getting serious now.
It’s no longer maranoia that we can chuckle about conspiratorially, sort of masochistically relishing the range of symptoms that are common amongst runners facing their first (maybe even any) marathon, that are part of whole marathon experience and help make it real. What I’m now is experiencing full on panic! In addition to the standard marathon angst of being fearful that I’ve not trained enough; conjuring up random niggles; and the growing realisation that I have no innate athleticism gifted to me by my genetic inheritance I have added, super sized angst from the addition to the mix of the likely DLR strike over the marathon weekend and a forecast of a sudden heat wave on the Sunday which I’m completely unprepared for.
It looks likely that the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) planned strike action by the RMT union will affect services over a four-day period from 04:00 on Friday 20 April until 03:59 on Tuesday 24 April. As this line services the ExCel centre where the London Marathon expo is held, and every runner needs to visit, this is going to impact plenty of people. Even so, regarding the DLR strike, I’m actually (at the moment, could all change when I get there) reasonably philosophical about this. Workers do have the right to strike, and I’ve been on strike myself, so it would be inconsistent of me to object to others doing the same. Of course they have more leverage over the London marathon weekend, so who can blame them for upping the ante then. Funny how it’s always workers who get the blame for going ahead with a disruptive strike rather than employers for not addressing issues that have led to any dispute in a timely fashion. The DLR strike I can’t do anything about. It matters, because it will make getting to the Expo centre to register for the marathon a complete pain. However, in this instance there are tens of thousands of other runners in the same situation. Logically therefore, there must be some contingency plans in place. Indeed there is some talk of extra buses and some limited information on alternative routes. I wasn’t too impressed though with the advice:
We advise runners to register for the race at ExCeL before strike action takes effect where possible. The Expo is open from 11:00-20:00 on Wednesday 18 April and 10:00-20:00 on Thursday 19 April.
Not all that helpful if you don’t live in London and/ or have any kind of occupation or daily responsibilities. I get their point, but really? Bottom line, I can’t do anything about this beyond allowing time to find an alternative route and trusting the London public transport system to provide a solution. I’m glad though, that I’d already planned to go up Friday afternoon, as that does give me some extra lee way. So I’m conflicted. I say I’m philosophical about all of this… but actually, worrying about the logistics has left me crapping myself, which is not helpful for maintaining either electrolyte balance or dignity pre the event.
Not to worry, I am distracted from focusing exclusively on the transport challenges, by self-defeating trauma over the weather forecast for next Sunday. Pretty much all my training has been dogged by ice, snow and blooming freezing conditions. I’ve been in a constant battle to avoid hypothermia, and only in the last couple of weeks have I been able to run even without a jacket. Now, it seems likely that on Sunday, the weather forecast is not just in double figures, which I’ve not seen all year, but could even hit 25 degrees (depending on which weather forecast your believe). That’s crazy! It’s actually dipped down a little just now to a ‘mere’ 21 degrees on the BBC website, but even that is going to feel really, really tough. I’m rubbish in the heat at the best of times, but with zero opportunity to acclimatize, it’s not going to be pretty.
The problem is, that mantra ‘don’t do anything different on marathon day‘ is really, really important, and yet… if it’s really going to be 15 degrees hotter than I’m used to, and with sunshine, maybe I do need to think about electrolytes? Gels and sports drinks might be the ‘obvious’ answer, but I can’t tolerate those and haven’t used them in training. Obviously I’ve sweated a bit, but I think the highest temperature run I’ve done to date would be significantly under 10 degrees. Plus, running in the heat will slow me down, so I could well be out there for even longer than anticipated based on my training to date? What about a hat and sunglasses? I hate running with a hat, but that could be my best defence against the sun’s rays, similarly sun glasses, I can’t imagine running in them. Aaaargh. Whilst it is beyond my control to order the elements to deliver up better meteorological options, at least along the route, there are some precautionary measures I could take, but they all represent changes to kit, nutrition, hydration and pace, all things you really shouldn’t do pre a marathon and definitely not as a hat trick of variables to mess with all at once. Also, if it was within my power to control the elements and conjure up rain or clouds at will, then it is arguable I ought to harness those powers for the greater good. Some people, granted maybe non-runners on the whole – might argue that controlling the elements to reverse climate change or relieve drought might be a higher purpose. Tough call though, faced with the forecast for London. I like to think I’d do the right thing, but, having to choose between perfect weather for my first and only marathon or reverse climate change and save the world in perpetuity, well, let’s just agree it’s lucky I don’t have to choose!
Not to worry, there is plenty of advice on-line Runners’ World issued an article ‘what hot temperatures do to your running and how to cope‘. I’m sure it was a well-intentioned article, but it did nothing to reassure me. The key points seem to be to give yourself a week to ten days to acclimatize, and you will cope best if you weigh about 7 stone (spoiler alert, not applicable to me dear reader) and/or have high surface area to body mass ratio. Don’t be solidly built basically, bit late to do owt about that either. It also provided grades of awfulness of conditions, starting with anything about 10 degrees C as impacting negatively on performance, over 20 degrees, might as well lie down and die on the spot is the general gist I think. I am not feeling confident at all.
This post by Ben Parkes has a few more practical suggestions relating to running London in a heat wave. There are some showers en route. Note to self, find a place to stash dove shower lotion to make the most of these on the day.
I’ve done a few things in anticipation to try to help me to cope. I’m going to put electrolytes in my water bottles that I carry, so if desperate I can use that. I can’t tolerate gels or sports drinks, so daren’t risk suddenly switching to them. I’m also going to try to identify and carry some sort of salty snack – nuts maybe, as I think that would be OK. I’ve got a sun reflecting cap I bought to wear when I was working in Cambodia. Honestly, I never really got on with it, plus it’s deeply unflattering, but it is a running cap, and it’s light so could be a practical option. I’ve also bought sun block, as that’s an easy thing to sort, though of course I have to worry about sweat causing it to run into my eyes and blinding me en route. Oooh the angst, it’s unbelievable what I can find to stress about.
However, shallow as it is to take comfort in such things, I do console myself with the thought that at least I’m not running in a rhino costume. Or a the back-end of a camel. Or giant ostrich costume, or carrying the angel of the north. All of which just goes to show that a) I don’t know what the green dinosaur/gruffalo thing is and b) there is always someone worse off than yourself.
Geronimo is officially my running buddy, we are in it together, at least as a giraffe she, unlike me, should have some genetic adaptations to cope with the heat. Also, if I do fall to the pavement, she will cushion my fall. Also, it may yet be that the salty tears streaking down my face at the pain and horror of the heat might actually help, providing a cooling effect as they evaporate, and allowing me to lick them off my face in order to re-ingest the salt. Thinking about it, I wonder if that’s an acceptable alternative to carrying electrolytes? Just gathering up the tears of fellow runners in a vial under the pretext of offering them comfort, and using them to replenish my lost salts instead? I’m feeling more hopeful now. Perhaps there are some proactive steps I can take after all! We’ll fly round, just like at the Sheffield half, only for twice as long and with worse race photos at the end of it. That’s not so bad. As long as I make it round in time for the bling, that’s doable…
I’m also not feeling well. Sore throat, which has properly transitioned to shivers and sleepless nights. The only comfort I take is that I’ve still got a couple of days to go. Lovely Martin Yelling, who has been doing fortnightly marathon training pep talks has kept saying that this last week wont make too much – indeed any – difference in terms of fitness, so I probably gain more from rest and allowing my body to recover than from forcing myself out to try to ‘keep things ticking over’. I’ve lost hope that any part of my body will tick over properly ever again anyway. Right now, as of this moment, I couldn’t spring up to answer the front door, let alone spring round a marathon route. Even so, I tell myself that once I’m at the start, I’ll have to get to the end to pick up my stuff so might as well just put one foot in front of the other and get on with it. To be on the safe side I’ve googled ‘running marathon feeling ill’ and basically got loads of people saying they got round and it was horrible but that way no regrets.
Personally, given that I can’t defer again anyway, whatever the weather, however rough I feel, I can not, and will not let this opportunity pass me by. I am so grateful for this chance, and mindful of other talented runners who either missed out on the ballot, or, arguably worse, got knocked out in training by injury or illness. It’s hard to say why, ultimately it is only a run, and an inherently pointless activity. The thing is though I’ve watched this event on the telly for years and years thinking how amazing it would be to run London but with the sub-text ‘but I could never do that.’ Contrary to popular belief, I am not completely delusional, I know I am an unlikely candidate to get round a marathon. Nevertheless, I’ve trained, I’ll try, and if I can do this, it matters not whether the result is pretty, what matters is that it will be a minor victory for the underdog. If I can do this, then maybe it shows me and others too, that we can all do more than we think. We wont know what unless we plunge out of our comfort zone and give it our best shot, you only know your limits when you’ve tested them. There is no getting away from the symbolism of completing a marathon, it’s supposed to be testing, that’s sort of the whole point…. I suppose I was just kind of hoping the test would not involve running in heat like an ant trying to flee from the focused rays of a magnifying glass. That seems a little harsh. But hey, there’d be no point if it was easy would there? And think of the anecdotes? All will be well, or not. But we get to find out really soon now. Aaargh.
I need to keep it in perspective. To help me rationalise this, I made a little list to try to see my situation objectively. You should try it, it really helps, basically, I reckon the only things I really need to stress about are the following:
Angst (all variants); Boiling hot weather; Chafing (everywhere); Dehydration; Electrolytes (take/dont take; Fancy dress fails; General malaise; Hydration (over/under); Injury (pre/ during and post even); Just everything really; Knee niggles – why is it doing that wobbly thing NOW also KIT what to wear; Looking stupid if I don’t make it round (or looking stupid anyway) and/or Leaving Geronimo behind somewhere; Missing my supporters (if any) en route; Niggles; Over emotional (becoming); Precautionary pee opportunities; Queues (for loos/ start/ registration); Running; Sunburn, Strike, Socks choice, Shoe lace tightness and Sore throat; Temperature; Trainers, Timing device and Tomtom malfunctioning, Travel plans; Underwear (see chafing); Virgin London Marathon (being required to run it); Water stations – Where are they? Watch – will battery last; Xcel arena – how to get there; Yes, basically everything – Zikes, not quite what I was looking for in putting things in perspective!
The only real comfort is that this day is coming round ready or not. It will be what it will be, and being part of the adventure is going to be amazing. That part, I’m confident about.
I’ve been trying to distract myself by checking out other marathon stories. Mercifully this has been a feel good week marathon wise – unless you are talking about the Callum Hawkins at the commonwealth games which we wont. Apart from to say they were running in 30 degrees and it was a lot more humid but even so, seven out of the 24 runners did not complete the marathon. We need to treat the heat with respect at least! We wont look at this picture either, bad for morale:
Instead, let’s talk about the Boston marathon. There is much to celebrate there. First off, let’s have a whoop whoop for the runner-up. Sarah Sellers, who, despite working full-time as a nurse romped in to second place in only her second ever marathon. Now, I’m not saying that I’ll definitely do another marathon after London, but food for thought people, food for thought.
In a possibly even more pleasing result (I know, hard to imagine) the first place man was none other than Yuki Kawauchi, known to some from marathon talks, but shamefully not to me.
The important thing here, is that this man who will henceforth become a living legend in his own time because, get this
Yuki warmed up for the Boston Marathon by running in his home race, the Kuki half marathon, dressed as a panda. He had previously set an unofficial world record in the same race for 13.1miles in a three piece suit. In his panda costume, he ran 1hr 10min 03sec, finishing second, and beating his brother Yoshiki
70 minutes for a half marathon. In a panda suit. Genius. Faster than front runners at Sheffield half, just goes to show, fancy dress really helps you put a wiggle on, just saying.
I think race organisers are cottoning on to the fancy dress speed premium. That’s why one marathon at least has made it compulsory. Dear reader, I bring you the marathon du medoc. Fancy dress, and 23 wine and food stops along the way, according to this Guardian article so it must be true. The theme for 2018 is amusement park apparently, so ferris wheels and carousels at the ready everyone. Still time to enter, it’s September each year. It may no longer be a well-kept secret, but it does sound a hoot! There;s a little video about it here. Ooh, you know you want to people…
And you know what? Reading these accounts puts the joyousness of it all back centre stage. It’s going to be a great adventure. Everyone taking part, in whatever capacity, running, supporting, spectating, working will have their own micro adventure on the day. There is still something joyful and optimistic about 40,000 people, or thereabouts, launching themselves onto the streets of London, to stream past so many iconic landmarks and find out first hand what a marathon means to them. I still can’t quite believe I’ll be one amongst the masses too!
My biggest challenge is no longer will my legs and lungs hold out, but how will I manage with the heat. And the sun, I can’t bear being out in the sun, I think I’m part vampire somewhere along the genealogical line. I suppose that’s where the mental preparation comes in – or not. I’ll have to remember what I did to keep going on the long runs when it was cold and horrible, or I felt faint and queasy but dug deep and did it anyway. To be fair, often it was because there just wasn’t another option. I can find that mindset on Sunday too. Also, a fellow London marathoner, who sounds like she’s in the know, tells me that nice London people will give out ice pops en route! Maybe things are looking up… Plus, if it’s hot, then it’s going to be a slow one for everyone, at least I’m used to running slowly. I came across a blog from someone who collapsed at London in heat at mile 17, he shares his lessons from that experience, the main one being, just finish safely. That’s a good point well made!
So now, I just need to check and lay out my kit, again. And keep on fretting, because despite all advice to the contrary, I’m increasingly thinking that this is an unavoidable part of the marathon preparation process.
Oh, and two more things. There is an app available now, so people can track your lamentable progress on the day from the comfort of under a sun hat in their own gardens, and also an automatic Facebook page alert. I’ve signed up for this. It sends ‘real time’ messages, posting automatically on my Facebook page when I cross the start, half way point and the finish line. This seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I’m fearful my facebook friends will assume the technology has broken as the sloth like nature of my progress is flashed up for all to see. Oh well. I can only do what I can do. We shall see…
Probably be harder being Mo to be fair, he really has got some pressure on his shoulders. Setting out to break the British Record on Sunday, in all that heat, that’s real pressure.
Mind you, he doesn’t have to do it carrying a giraffe does he? Not comparing like with like are we. Just saying… I’ll still be too star struck to speak if I see him. Not that that’s very likely at the start to be fair, but maybe at the expo….
The course map is here by the way. Eek. And if you want to know the route from the ground, check out this video time-lapse of the London Marathon Course from the lead car. I’ve just watched it. Gulp. Seems an awfully long way, but on the plus side, you get to run through some tunnels! I’d forgotten about them, and I love running through tunnels.
You know what, with them predicting the hottest London marathon on record I’m truly scared, but I’m also pretty determined to do this. I’m afraid of course, but you know how it goes
But what if I fall?
Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?
Might be hope over experience, but I want to see if I can fly. Even if I’m a bit earth-bound, I’m relying on the gusts of good will from the London crowds to give me a bit of an uplift! I’ve heard it often enough that this will carry you round, I was just hoping for being carried a little bit more literally than I now understand is on offer. Oh well.
Ready or not.
Bring it on!
At least I’m not wearing the rhino suit. With apologies to those who are!