Here's a more detailed report on my London Marathon trip - it's one of those iconic events, and I'm unlikely ever to do it again, so it warrants a detailed report.
Sue and I travelled down to London on Friday 1 October, taking five hours including breaks for the 206 mile journey. Whilst the carriageway going north was closed in a couple of places due to a breakdown and a rather dramatic vehicle fire, the only queue we encountered was right at the end of the journey, thanks probably to people wanting to fill their cars with petrol - a rare commodity in London. Wisely, we had filled up before setting off from Manchester.
Once installed in the Ibis Budget Hotel in Barking (£216 for three nights' B&B), we set off for the ExCel centre on the tube. Getting a 'ticket' was a new experience - you just have to touch in with your debit card, and touch out at your final destination. About half an hour's journey each way cost £3.20, though I didn't discover that until I got home and looked at my bank transactions.
We had both taken Covid lateral flow tests earlier in the day, and were required to show the NHS app's confirmation on our phones of a negative test before entering the centre, and on numerous other occasions during the course of the weekend. The London Marathon registration email that I'd printed off was also needed from time to time, as well as photo ID.
I hobbled through the massive centre to the hall where kitbags with any clothes you wanted at the end of the marathon had to be handed in. These had been sent by post to all runners, but mine hadn't arrived. A spare bag was soon found and my kitbag was left to have medals, t-shirt and some drinks inserted in it before being taken to the end to a location that would be indicated on my bib.
Next, bib collection in a different hall. There were lots of registration desks, with some for 'Good for Age' runners who receive two bibs (and thereby two timing chips) for the two events in which they are enrolled. I duly collected both my bibs - no safety pins provided, I'd brought my own - and we had a quick wander around the Running Show before getting the tube back from the Prince Regent (Docklands Light Railway) station to Barking.
It was about a 1 km walk from Barking Station to the Ibis, during which we stopped outside St Margaret's church for a photo of me proudly showing my two bibs.
Barking appears to be situated in a flood defence zone, with a canal like crossing near the hotel. We decided that it would be unwise to attempt to remove the wall.
My sore foot needed a rest, so Sue managed to source ingredients for a good meal from the Tesco store next door. Wisely she also bought some cutlery, though a cardboard quiche packet had to be converted into two plates.
The following day, Saturday, was free from Marathon commitments, so we went to Kew Gardens, an hour's journey on the District Line train from Barking. The return trip, we later discovered, cost just £5.80. I've put some photos up here
I'd spent rather longer than I'd wanted on my sore foot, so en route to the hotel we found a Mediterranean Cafe for dinner - for me, a massive helping of spaghetti carbonara.
On Sunday morning, the timings given on my Marathon registration form seemed excessively generous, so I defied instructions, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and set off to Barking station some time before 8 am.
Before doing so, Sue took a photo of me kitted up apart from a bumbag and my Montane waterproof. My old Nike cap, lost during a visit to the Lake District, had turned up under the passenger seat of our car, so my kit was the same as for all my marathons, plus the green long-sleeved top that I wore last year for the Virtual London Marathon. This being my sixth marathon, my trainers have also 'moved on'. I'd debated at length on Saturday night as to whether to wear my old Asics shoes or my brand new (and very much cheaper at £75) Brooks Ghosts. I chose the latter in the end, and don't regret that decision, though both pairs would probably been fine, but neither would remotely counter the heel pain.
After a couple of changes at tube stations, there was no trouble working out which way to go. I joined the throngs heading for the 'red' start, where an information board provided further guidance.
I was to set off in Wave 1, with the other 'Good for Age' competitors (in my case other runners aged 70-74 who had completed a marathon in under 5 hours after turning 70 - I'd done 4:27 in Manchester to easily qualify).
Though the pictures don't show it, lots of us were sitting or lying on the wet grass waiting to be directed through the 'gate' shown below, towards the start. Some would have had a long wait, but by the time I'd queued for a toilet and had a brief lie down, it was time to go, and my ancient ski pants that had kept me warm on the wet grass were consigned to a recycling bin.
In the next picture, the red start is just ahead, and there's a congregation of Good for Age runners who can be identified by the bibs on their backs. I was right at the back of this wave, with marshals holding back Wave 2, about two metres behind me. There's a very wide elephant towards the left of the picture below....
At the start, a deluge of faster runners from Wave 2 stormed past. I found the wide elephant very useful for a while, and I trotted along in his slipstream, with the overtaking runners needing to keep a wide berth.
Things soon settled down, though this marathon was the opposite in one respect to all the others I have run. Normally I start right at the back, so I don't encounter faster runners, and even in a field of say 6000, I'll overtake 1000 or more participants. This race was different; being in the first wave to set off I overtook virtually nobody and I saw thousands come past me. My niece, Ellie Jukes, set off an hour and eight minutes behind me and very nearly caught me up! Well done, Ellie.
My first 5 km was 32 minutes, faster than planned, partly due to following the elephant, who after about 3 km went on ahead at a faster pace than I could manage. I had to concentrate hard, as the gait that gave less foot pain involved me constantly nearly tripping up over my own feet. I think the old Asics trainers may have been my downfall in this respect had I chosen to wear them.
An assortment of animals and objects jogged past me, including:
Liz Rhino - a heavily armoured beast that I stayed near for a long time because she kept stopping to chat with people.
Several dragons and similar beasts, some substantial, some inflatable - only seen more than once after they had stopped to be interviewed.
A threesome that looked at first glance as if two people were rushing a third to hospital. At second glance, the 'casualty' was having to concentrate hard due due his feet being tightly tied to those of his two companions!
A full size telephone box that barged me out of the way. It was quite crowded, so no offence was taken, nor probably intended.
My camera stayed in a pocket until about half way, when we crossed Tower Bridge.
A while after that, Simon Jones, supporting his brother in law, spotted me before calling me in for a brief break and a chat. Thanks Simon, this was much appreciated, by now every step was hard work, though walking remained more painfuul than running, albeit at a walking pace.
Later - Lyn, Simon's wife, provided a correction:
"Simon was looking through his photos of Steve last night and realised that he
has a great pic of Martin… this was at mile 9…. Simon didn’t see Martin then as
he was looking for Steve (who is in the back of the photo!)… what a
So my actual encounter with Simon was a little further on...
A message from Sue told me to look out for her, Robert and Lyn, near the 20 mile mark, in docklands. Here I am, very happily eating a banana they kindly provided, but sadly I failed to take a picture of my supporters.
Sue, Robert and Lyn had positioned themselves next to a St John's Ambulance first aid point, and were entertained, if that's the right word, by people collapsing, tripping up, and needing other medical attention. A particular problem that was common, was that of men with bleeding nipples. Ouch! Always carry vaseline, or rub it on liberally before starting, is the lesson to be learnt!
Further on, I felt tired, so I found the excuse to take the next picture. There was lots of support all the way, though some bananas would have been nice. Anyway, Buxton Water appeared after every mile, and there were several places where Lucozade drinks were on offer, and very nice they were too, as well as Lucozade gels in a couple of places. I found I didn't need as much fuel as usual, due to the slow pace dictated by the pain in my foot rather than by the usual muscle tiredness. There were plenty of jelly babies and similar on offer from members of the public, as is customary. Also plenty of toilets, though my slowest ever marathon kilometre, 12.23, was probably due to a short wait for such facilities on Km 33.
Somewhere around here, Bill Strang was looking out for me. Had I been aware of this, I'd have looked out for him, but my head was down, with gritted teeth, for long periods. Thanks for trying, Bill, and thanks for your donation.
Meanwhile, Sue was making her way to the finish when she spotted this steam powered jacuzzi!
The last few miles were very hard. My left heel was not at all happy with life. However, with about 500 metres to go, I came across another 'Good for Age' 70-74 chap and I tried to encourage him on... "Can't go any faster" he said, as he stumbled along, "leg's gone!" There's always someone worse off. Having the 'Good for Age' bib on our backs meant that people could see some of the old folk (there weren't many of us) and numerous runners would turn and shout "Respect!" as they ran past us. Such comments, and the cameraderie between the old timers, were indeed motivating.
Towards the end, around 3 pm, a rogue rain shower surprised everyone. My blue Montane jacket that I'd been carrying around my waist saw action and was very handy in keeping the rain off for a few minutes.
I wasn't in any great hurry to finish, but after the next two photo stops I did manage to overcome the pain sufficient for a short sprint to the finish.
I was soon nobbled by a man from Abbott, who sponsor the Age Related World Marathon Majors (I get a world ranking after this). He wanted a picture of me with my Abbott medal. It was a long way to pick up my kitbag, and he tried to encourage me to take part in the other events - New York, Boston, Tokyo, Berlin and Chicago. Sadly, when we got to the kitbag, the London Marathon medal was there, but not the Abbott medal, so my new friend went away disappointed.
Sue and I then endeavoured to meet at the 'M' meeting point, which would have been easy if you knew where to go, but which was badly signposted, with a need to look behind yourself for information. But we finally met up at the correct place below a statue of Viscount Wolseley on his horse, where some bystanders took the header picture and Sue took pictures of me in Horse Guards Parade on the sunny afternoon after finishing.
I then hobbled off behind Sue to Embankment tube station and the District Line back to Barking, where the 1 km walk back to the hotel was a minor challenge for my unhappy foot. Luckily, we could source a pizza in the hotel, so my walking for the day was thankfully over!
For the sake of completeness, and you may have to click on the next two images to see them properly, here are a few final images.
The M25 on the way home. Busy!! (Not)
Modeling the t-shirt
The London Marathon Bib
The 'Abbott' Bib
That's enough for now, and I hope readers aren't having the same problem as Nick in Nuremberg, who can open the blog on his phone but is being denied access on his home laptop due to 'inappropriate content', the identity of which I have no idea. Somewhere amongst the 4120 postings here, someone must have found something they don't like.
A comment about my new Brooks Ghost running shoes...
Before the marathon they were in pristine condition, and very comfortable; afterwards a chunk had been taken out of the rubber.
Can you see the indentation on the left shoe below? That's where it was striking the right shoe as I adjusted my gait to minimise the pain. No wonder I continuously felt about to trip over my own feet!
The next picture shows the damage to both shoes. Still no running as I type this - nearly a month after the event.