I can also, hand on heart, tell them it did absolutely nothing for me, and wasn’t worth half the aggravation it involved.
Logistically it’s a complicated race to run. My usual race travel plans involve getting up at about 5am, driving for a couple of hours, running a marathon or ultra, and then driving back. Home for tea, no harm done. London involves being away at least two days, partly because you have to pick your number up in person in advance, but also because you can’t get into London on time on the day because it’s shut for the race. I’ll be honest, if I’m going to be away for two days, I’d rather run two marathons. Or 100 miles.
The atmosphere was ok I guess, I mean there were a lot of people, but it was pretty impersonal. Like “woo, running, yeah!” Imagine you were a footballer and the crowd only sang songs about how much they like football and how good being at a football match was, rather than cheering things that happened during the game, it felt a bit like that. There was too much going on for it to really mean anything.
Then the running. Three miles of trying really hard not to trip over people, twenty miles of trying quite hard not to trip over people, and then three miles of trying not to crash into the back of people just stopping or dropping to a walk. Woo-hoo. I ran pretty even splits, so for the last 10k or so I was maintaining my pace while a lot of people were slowing down and it was horrendous trying to avoid running into people. One guy even pushed me out of his way at about mile 23 so he could get past. I’d have punched him in the face but I was immediately distracted by someone else hitting me in the leg with a snot rocket. When I crossed the line two other people finished at the exact same time as me – to within 1/10th of a second. THAT’s how busy it was around me. I wasn’t in PB shape so I was pretty flexible about my target time of sub 3:30, but if I’d been trying to get a PB I’d have been even more frustrated.
I got my medal which was pretty neat, and then came the highlight of the race. Baggage reclaim. I’m not even joking, it was ace. One of things I’d been stressing about before the race was how I was going to get my overnight stuff, race gear, and clean clothes for the trip home, into the mandatory clear plastic kit bag. The only way to get your stuff transported from the start to the finish (other than carry it, which I did consider), was to put it in the bag they gave you, dump it on the numbered baggage lorry at the start, and then pick it up from the same lorry at the finish. It wasn’t a very big bag so I had to make some concessions on what I took to London with me (including going to the pub in my running gear on Saturday night), but picking it up after the race was super-easy. No queue, walked up to the lorry, they’d already clocked my number and handed me my bag as I got there. Perfect. Makes you wonder what the hell they were up to at Manchester this year that’s for sure.
Then there was the 3 mile walk to the tube station which was as slow and crowded as the race, and a two hour wait for my train and a three hour trip home.
I’ll be honest, I feel pretty bad for being so down on the race, especially as I haven’t read a single bad word about it from anyone else. Every blog or tweet or post I’ve seen is just gushing praise about how amazing it was, and that’s ok, I’m glad lots of people had a nice day.
I’ve been having a minor existential crisis since hitting 100 marathons and ultras last year, and spending a lot of time thinking about what’s important to me in terms of running and racing. I’m not going to say I won’t do it again, but at the moment the London Marathon just doesn’t really tick any of my boxes. I like running in beautiful places. I like to see where I’m going. I like checkpoints with cake. I prefer to have my eye caught by a scampering squirrel rather than a hipster on a roof in his pants. I prefer a quiet “looking good” and a nod from a marshal to a load of random shouting. I like to know I’ll see my mates at least at the start and the finish and it’ll be easy to catch up with people I only see at races. I like to finish at my car. But most of all, I like the snot on my leg to be mine.