So, I thought I wasn't nervous. But then I started talking to other excitable runners and went to the expo on Friday and all of a sudden the adrenaline and nerves were back. I should probably have spent more time wandering around the stands to take in the atmosphere. I'm not one of those who is at risk of walking too much on the expo - I get expo panic and end up getting out as fast as I can. I completely forgot to visit The Flying Runner, Running Heroes and Xempo / Marathon talk but did see BenFP for a pre-race nervous splurge and game planning chat.
I went to collect my number only to be told that I had a boy's number. Apparently a girl's number should have pink stripes behind it - nice work VMLM. One of the volunteers who guided me through getting a replacement number and double timing chip (apparently it's because there's money at stake in the championship race) asked which club I was part of and expressed surprise that I wasn't part of a "proper" club. Apparently the BBC running club isn't proper! I'll have you know that we have one of the few remaining "ever presents" as a member - Steve Wehrle.
Anyway. Onto the the race. No lasagne for tea this time (I still suspect it may be the magic bullet) but pre race dinner was nutritionist-friendly sweet potato and chicken stew. Mr B and I were staying with friends and I think it really helped being with marathon-agnostics the night before. It definitely helped get it in perspective. I'd decided to go out aiming for 6'45/mi pace and see how long I could hang in there and enjoy it for, then see what happened.
Morning of the race, breakfast was my standard 2 hrs pre-start large bowl of muesli made with water and a splash of milk plus half a cup of coffee and some water (in case you care!). Mr B dropped me off just near Blackheath train station and I walked up amidst the crowds. It was still a good 50 mins before kickoff so wasn't in a hurry. Championship start was a new experience and I was glad that I was going to be meeting a friend (Lucy from City of London Ravens) who had started from there last year and knew the process. Our bibs were checked front and back and ticked off by special marshalls who also checked that we didn't break any of the rules about advertising on our kit and that we were wearing our club vests. I had to explain to one that I wasn't advertising the BBC but it was the club I was running for. All the more reason to do our little club proud.
Before we knew it we were in the starting area and in a change from previous years (so I'm told) the fast good for age group were brought up behind us. This meant for a very busy start. I think it was easily as bad as last year's good for age start. Lucy and I had bumped into some other Ravens and we agreed to keep it steady at the start. We needn't have worried, it was too busy to do much else. In contrast to MCR I noticed the miles a bit more - by 6 I was started to think about ticking miles off. Perhaps this was fatigue or perhaps better placing of the markers. Being responsible for the pacing of others helped me though and made me grateful again to those who have paced me. Still, 40min flew by and I wasn't hanging out for a gel, which was a good sign.
I think there was less cheering than last year when it was Paula Radcliffe's last year and in parts of the route the crows were on the roads with no barriers which made it quite tight. One of the Raven girls got her shoe caught by a runner and had to stop and catch us up. We bumped into Ben Rajan from AR who was just back from Boston and soon after that Sorrell Walsh, who was really the first lady who made me believe that my own Sub3 quest was not complete insanity. We all fell into step for a while and as we rounded onto Tower Bridge I was glad to be running with Ben who whooped up the crowd a bit. I think Championship start is a bit more serious so I missed that aspect of the race and felt a bit out of place when I tried to do it.
We saw the elites coming the other way as we came off Tower Bridge but at this point the crowds of runners were still big and I got separated from the rest of our little group. Now I was on my own. The Isle of Dogs always feels interminable and I knew that I was going to have to dig in pretty soon - not physically yet, but mentally. Up ramps, through tunnels, past people at mile 17 shouting 'you're nearly there (ha!), another gel at 1hr 20, sips of water, moments of heat, moments of rain, moments of wind and the miles ticked by, not fast, but they went.