This is a guest post courtesy of Farid.
This year saw one of the biggest ever contingents of London City Runners taking on the mighty London Marathon, in what were the hottest and toughest conditions in the history of the race.
The day began in earnest as thousands of runners poured into Greenwich Park under warm, sunny blue skies to take part in what is quite simply “the greatest race in the world”- the 38th London Marathon. This year there was talk of a heat wave on the news; the forecast was for unseasonably hot conditions, possibly even record breaking temperatures. This, on the back of really cold temperatures that even brought snow from Siberia, caught many people (including myself) as a complete surprise.
Making my way to the start line on the train in the morning, I could see many anxious faces around me, from bucket-list enthusiasts to those running their 19th London Marathon! As I made my way to the start area, the enormous number of fellow runners taking part and the meticulous preparation that goes into organising the race really began to dawn on me. Within minutes, it was time to make my way over to the start area, as pictures of Her Majesty The Queen, gracefully making her way to press the button that would officially start the race, were beamed live on screens around the park. Moments of quiet stillness burst into a flurry of running and frantic dash to cross the start line.
Out in true City Runners fashion at Mile 12!
The first six miles were possibly the most enjoyable of the entire marathon. I found myself giving high-fives at every opportunity (last counting somewhere around 50 young spectators), after which I began counting down the miles to the London City Runners cheering point at mile 12. This was a great way to keep my mind off running and something to keep me occupied from thinking about the humid conditions. The crowds along Jamaica Road and leading up to mile 13 were simply spectacular. It was wonderful being cheered by friends, and even more so by our own special London City Runners cheering team. It definitely gave me tremendous boost of energy – something which was much needed for the second half of the race.
As the searing afternoon heat began to rise, it was clear that keeping up the pace from the first half was virtually impossible and I needed to slow my pace considerably down. Taking on water at every opportunity and making sure that I wasn’t massively dehydrated, whilst also drinking enough water so as to not need to go to the bathroom, became an ongoing, constant battle. As the marathon reached its most gruelling and toughest section of the course at Canary Wharf, it was immediately evident to me that this was going to be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. From around mile 16 onwards, I recall seeing faces of agony, despair and complete exhaustion. Setting one foot behind another took an enormous feat of willpower and courage, as all around I could see people succumbing to the heat and sheer fatigue. Once again, I found myself counting down the miles to the next London City Runners cheering point at mile 23.
A bird’s eye view to cheer on City Runners at mile 23
The final three miles of the marathon can be intensely gruelling and yet seething with thunderous chants of encouragement, and the finish line so deceptively in sight. The energy from the crowds lining the Embankment was truly overwhelming; it made the final few miles seem to whiz by. Crossing the finish line was the most joyous experience and I was utterly relieved that it was finally over. As I took the next step, my legs has suddenly turned into bricks and moving around took every ounce of energy. It was wonderful to be able to celebrate in the company of my fellow London City Runners, friends and family.
The saying that the last six miles of the marathon is much as a mental challenge as it is a physical one (in that it is about fighting those demons in your head that constantly tell you to stop and question why you ever signed up to do this in the first place) could not be closer to the truth. At some point in life, I am sure we have all either faced or will be faced with a difficult situation, which may be out of our control. It is how we adjust ourselves and how we arise to those challenges that truly define us. Which is why I often say that if you have completed a marathon, there is nothing that life can throw at you that you will not be able to handle.
Finally, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank everyone that took part on the day. You are all true heroes and made the day uniquely special. I feel extremely lucky to be surrounded by such a lovely, friendly group of people who are equally passionate about giving their time and effort to support each other, and making this a truly wonderful community to be a part of. If you were running, I hope you are on track to making a speedy recovery and if you were cheering, I hope your vocal cords and arms are fully back to their usual best.
About the Author
Farid first picked up running at primary school, running one-fifth of the Tuesday route on a Friday afternoon with his head teacher. He enjoyed several sports at school, including football, table tennis and rowing, having competed in the National Indoor Rowing Championships in 2008/09 and as runners-up in the London Schools Football competition in 2007. But, running was always what he enjoyed the most and fell in love with from a young age. Before joining the club, he had never run more than a 10K race and immediately found himself signing up for a marathon! So far this year, he’s run three half-marathons and a marathon, and is always looking to set himself new goals and challenges.