Mike Clyne reports on his experience in the 2011 Virgin London Marathon
If you are reading this article then you are probably already a runner or a want-to-be runner. If you have never run a marathon but want to do so, then look again at this number. 98.3%.
This was the percentage of people who finished the Virgin London Marathon of those who started. 35,303 crossed the start line and as of 7pm on Sunday night (9+ hours after the start), 34,705 had finished. So what does this number say? I think that it shows that a combination of training and/or determination will get you through a marathon. Now clearly, relying only on determination will make it a very painful slow day whereas turning up with a lot of training but no determination will leave no margin if things get a little tough. I would tend to imagine that those who pulled out were either dropping out because of recurrent injuries; weren't doing well and wanted to save themselves for another day; were very under trained; or had serious dehydration issues.
So if you watched the Virgin London Marathon on Sunday and thought "I want to do that" the good news is that if you train well and have some determination, the odds are overwhelmingly in your favour to finish the race. Of course the initial hurdle is getting an entry into the event but that's a whole other story.
I ran my 21st marathon (12th London) yesterday and before the event friends were asking me whether I was nervous and whether I had a plan. The answer was not really and yes. I wasn't worried nervous but more excited. I told people that I had no worries about finishing but there were two variables that I couldn’t exactly predict. How long will it take and how much will it hurt. My plan was to aim for 4h30 of even paced running.
On the day I decided to follow the ten minute mile pacers who were planning to finish at 4h22. Other than the first few miles where congestion made pacing a little more tricky, we soon settled down to a very even ten minute mile pace, rarely varying by more than 15/20 seconds. As I passed halfway in just over 2.11, I felt reasonably good. I had been sipping water at every drinks station, was taking a steady supply of gels and was thoroughly enjoying the day. As we rounded the Isle of Dogs, I was becoming a little less fluid in my stride but stuck doggedly to the two pacers, but by the time we rounded the final turn in Canary Wharf and approached the 19 mile mark I was losing the battle. As the pacers gradually drifted away from me, I had to call on Plan B.
Plan B was to talk to myself to ensure I didn't give up. I allowed myself a 50 yard walk at each water station but spent the entire time before each one repeating out loud to myself "you cannot walk now. You must keep running. You have done this plenty of times before. Zip up your man-suit and don't give in to the pain. You told people you were aiming for 4.30. Why give in now, it's only a few miles" and so on. A few people glanced sideways at me overhearing my mutterings but no one said anything. They either thought I should be avoided or that I was only saying what they were thinking. I drew on the encouragement from the crowds by running on the side of the road so my 'Mike' t-shirt elicited more cries of support.
Photo: Mike Clyne finishing the 2010Virgin London Marathon with his friend Paul and before the 2011 race in his adidas t-shirt
As I got past the 23 mile mark, I saw another runner bent over on the shoulders of his wife with his kids looking on slightly bemused. I went over to see if he was okay but he looked wiped out. I put my hand on his shoulder and said "come on mate, run with me". He looked up and I took his arm. He shuffled alongside me and then thanked me as we ran for a minute with our arms around each other's shoulders. Bizarrely my helping him was giving me more energy as my pace picked up a little. Matt (from Ilfracombe who was running for RNLI) and I chatted away. He was a first time marathoner who despite being utterly shattered was loving it. As we passed the 25 mile mark, I saw my parents again and after I had gone across to see them, lost Matt in the crowd. I'm sure he will have finished and I hope he runs another marathon.
On reaching the Mall I quickly recapped the day to myself. For the first time ever, I was running in matching kit (adidas) rather than my usual mish mash of bad colour choices. The climacool shorts had not chafed at all and the t-shirt had performed well in the warm weather. I was a part of one of the best days in the UK sporting calendar. I was a part of a race that saw a new course record set at the front. Best of all I had pushed myself hard when it hurt. I had followed my own "10 ways to have a great day at the Marathon" and I did have a great day.
So, if you have never yet run a marathon. Have another think about it. And remember - 98.3%
Mike Clyne finished in a provisional time of 4:35:11
About the author: Mike Clyne is part of the adidas team at the 2011 Virgin London Marathon.
Inspired into running by the first London Marathon in 1981 Mike then trained for and completed a local 10 mile fun run in October 1982, his first half marathon in 1983 and then his first marathon (Abingdon) in May 1983, aged 16. He continued running and did his first London marathon in April 1985, in the days when the Isle of Dogs was very different and the finish was on Westminster Bridge.
To date Mike has completed 9 Ironmans, 12 Half Ironmans, 20 Marathons (of which 11 are Londons) and many half marathons. Mike has been a London Pacer for 11 min mile group in 2007 and 2009.
His aim for London 2011 is a steady 4h30 as part of his build up to Ironman Regensburg in August.
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