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Race Reports

London Marathon Race Recap - Ashley Casano

April 22, 2018 saw the largest number of runners ever line up for the 38th edition of the London Marathon – more than 40,000 – and it also proved to the hottest London Marathon on record, with temperatures reaching above 24C. Despite the heat and the crowds, the 26.2 mile route did not disappoint as it wound its way past major London landmarks such as Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace.

As with most big marathons, registration required time at the Expo which also required lots of time on your feet! We were all glad we took care of this on Friday, as it was quite a long and exhausting day not only traveling to London but also getting to and from the Expo. Getting your number and chip was quick and efficient, but of course we had to spend time visiting the New Balance shop as well as the endless exhibitor booths, activities and presentations. If you like this sort of atmosphere, plan to spend several hours at the expo. You will walk away with plenty of free goodies!




On race morning, it took us about an hour and a half to get from our hotel in Chelsea to the start line, leaving only minutes to spare to check our bags in the gear check. Because of the sheer number of people travelling that day, trains are simply crowded and getting to the start takes both time and patience. By the time I had checked my bag and used the porta loo, I arrived in my start corral with about 20 minutes until the race start and having already walked over 5,000 steps that day! By this point it was apparent it would be a hot day, and people were sharing sunscreen, crowding in the shade, hydrating and dousing themselves with water as they waited for the race to begin. Promptly at 10am, the Queen officially started the race (via jumbotron), and I was across the start line about five minutes later. This was the first year the London Marathon used waved starts, based on your predicted finish time, and thankfully I was in wave two in the charity red start. This system seemed to work quite well, but as always there seemed to people in the wave that might have been a bit optimistic with their predicted time.

London Race

The course itself felt great underfoot. There is a slight downhill at the beginning, which you could feel. I think this helped keep the crowd moving as everyone tried to settle into their pace. After the downhill the course no doubt felt flat with just enough rolling to keep things interesting. I didn’t notice any awkward sections or footing, any paths too narrow or tight corners. The roads are quite wide, making it hard to run the shortest distance, and despite my best efforts to run the blue line (official marked path), my Garmin still registered 26.87 miles! I also think this has to do with the volume of people and the weaving that takes place as a result. According to race results, I passed 3,952 other runners (while only being passed by 888), so trying to get around slower runners and those who were stopping for walk breaks certainly added mileage and took energy.

The course loops back on itself around mile 13 and then again at mile 22. This was actually one of my favourite features of the course! It was great to see the elite runners and race leaders come through as I was at the halfway point. But then I found myself encouraged knowing that once I reached mile 22 and saw the runners on the other side, I would almost be finished. Miles 13-22 went extremely fast for me as I was anticipating reaching that point and it helped make the second half more mentally manageable.

As mentioned before, the marathon runs past many iconic features of London. Being somewhat unfamiliar with the layout of London, I wish I had done more previous research as to what landmarks to except and when exactly to expect them. You would think Buckingham Palace would be obvious when you run past it, but when you are focused on your race and getting to the finish, it’s amazing how much you can actually miss. At least two people saw me and cheered for me on course that I completely and totally missed simply because I was in the zone! I do wish I had taken in a bit more of my surroundings, but given the heat I found myself so determined to just manage the day in a successful way, and that seemed to take up all my attention.  


London Course

There is no doubt that London is one of the most enthusiastic, well supported marathons. Every other marathon I have done (this is my fifth!) included quiet stretches without much crowd support – even large marathons like Paris and Disney. Every single inch of the 26.2 miles (one exception would be the Embankment tunnel) had walls of spectators on either side cheering, playing music, ringing bells and simply celebrating every single runner out there. My one regret is not putting my name on my vest; bibs did not have names on them and therefore although I got lots of support, I never received personalized cheers. At one point I was running alongside an “Archie,” and I just pretended that the cheers for “Archie” for actually for “Ashley!” Spectators on course provided oranges, bananas, jelly babies, water, wine gums and even beer! The crowd certainly kept you motivated and provided a distraction from the heat which made the miles go much faster. Others have told me crowd support was even more sensational this year than others due to the warm weather (it was perfect for spectating!), but there is honestly nothing like the experience of being supported during the London Marathon.

I found logistics on course to be as well organized as they possibly could be given the number of participants. Water stops were more or less every mile 3-25, and Luzocade sports drink (orange flavor) was offered at 7, 11, 15, 19 and 23. Sports gels were offered at 14 and 21.5. There was always plenty of water available, and all but a few of the stops offered sports caps bottles, so you could carry it with you as long as you needed (although most of us chose to dump the extra down the back of our necks). Of course, as with most large marathons, water stations were always a bit chaotic with people stopping abruptly to walk and large amounts of debris (slippery gel wrappers!) on the ground. However, I’m not sure this can be avoided with so many runners! Showers were also available on course but did require significant running to the side and slowing down to get through the, so I opted to cool myself off by dousing. Pacers were available, obviously marked and enthusiastic to help runners meet their goals. Communication from the event in the weeks and days leading up to it was phenomenal. I felt very informed!

My plan was to go out at my goal race pace and re-evaluate at the 10k mark. I still felt okay at that point so I decided to push on, but by mile nine it was obvious the heat was getting to me and I knew I needed to slow down. It was then I decided to run by effort and I didn’t pay much attention to my watch until somewhere around mile 21-22. I was shocked at that point to see I was still pacing a PB, so that put a little bounce in my step as I just focused on reaching the finish. I was happy to finish in 3:51, an almost 4 minute PB, but this was quite a bit off from where I had originally hoped to be. But without any heat training, I am happy that I was able to adjust my plan, listen to my body and finish without having hit the wall or cramped.

The finish area was efficient and clearly marked, resulting in having my gear in a matter of minutes. Volunteers were all smiles and there were no shortages of “Congratulations!” as I walked toward the family meet area. In fact, every volunteer I passed at this point made me feel special in a way I have never experienced before at a race. Spacious changing tents were provided and it was easy to reconnect with friends in the finish area. Overall, the race did an exceptional job at organizing an extraordinary number of people (and their things!).


London Finish

There is no doubt that the London Marathon is a race worth running, no matter your level. Running across Tower Bridge will always be one of my most precious running memories! For me personally, London confirmed that I prefer smaller races for goal marathons, but I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to run it, especially to have had the time alongside so many good friends. Much of the experience turned out to not be about the race, but to be about the weekend and time together. And I can see why many people choose to participate in the London Marathon year after year – the crowd support, spirit and comradery is truly spectacular! 

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