Oh London. London, London, London. It’s not really hard to say that the London Marathon is one of the best races in the world, it’s really quite an incredible experience. The noise, the crowd, the scale of it all. It’s almost a little, well, overwhelming if I’m honest. On Sunday I suffered a lot and I came out of it with a PB, a big smile and an even bigger medal. Before I go on to much to describe the day please sign up to do this event. Just once. It might not be the event for you, but seriously do it. You’ll never forget running this marathon.

It’s fair to say I was a little excited about this race. I was trying to keep it under control but the thing you forget is just how visible this race is. It’s on the radio, the TV, everyone knows it’s happening. This means you get a TON of support during the weekend from friends and family and twitter people and facebook people. It’s quite amazing. I love it.

I got to Blackheath good and early. I love pre-race build ups, so I just sat about and soaked up the atmosphere. I chatted to a few folk and spent a long time just lying about in the sun. I took a few pictures and generally had a fine time of it. After about an hour I strolled over to the pen and got chatting to a few folk in there. I knew it was going to be pretty warm, but looking around there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I’m ginger, the sun is not my friend. After a few minutes the pen moved forward, the gun went off and we were over the line. I remembered getting annoyed at this stage in 2012 due to falling behind my time, this time I was loving it because it means you don’t go off too fast. The first few miles flew by and the 3 – 5 mile zone from the blue start where you go downhill and the crowd builds up is so much fun. I felt good and fast and was really holding back. I was ticking along quite nicely here at just about 7:20 pace – pretty much exactly what I was aiming for.

Just after the two starts combined I said hello and good luck to Michael Owen – it’s that kind of race. About 500m further on I spotted a running outfit I remembered from Twitter. I think it was the zig zag socks but I instantly knew somehow it was @mia79gbr. So I ran up, said hello (although I’m never very comfortable meeting people by saying “oh hello is it ‘x’ from twitter? I’m Neil… Neily Wilko…“). Bumping into a running legend was lovely and as Sarah had a garmin malfunction I handed over my spare 3:30 pace band. I wished her luck carried on and got chatting to another bloke about times and targets – we were both going for 3:15 ish. I was loving life at this point! Lots of people have mental strategies, mine was just to enjoy it for as long as I could. It was working. Greenwich is something else on the route with the noise and I saw my awesome support crew at about 10 miles. It’s always special seeing your family and friends on route and this was no exception.

Tower bridge rolled around and I loved it! It just looked so beautiful in the sun and as I ran over it I was just looking around, trying to take it all in. I hated this point last time. I loved it on Sunday. Absolutely loved it. Onto the dual carriageway and the halfway point. My time was 1:37:36. My target was 1:37:30. Absolutely nailing it. Onto narrow street where I stopped last time and down through the Isle of Dogs. I was starting to hurt a little here, and the 3:15 guy I was talking to early caught me up and gave me a good talking to which I really needed.

My legs were starting to hurt quite a bit here and I was starting to feel pretty sick. If it wasn’t for the crowds I’m fairly sure I would have vom’d. I was going into a dark place here because this is exactly like previous years. It was pretty hot and I’m not sure if I drank too much or not enough, or overdid it with the gels (although I only had three by this point). Whatever it was I was feeling rough. By the time I started getting close to Canary Wharf I knew I’d have to walk. My legs were killing and every time I ran a bit I felt like throwing up. This marathon running is pretty glamorous! So 8 miles out and I resigned myself to running/walking/running/walking. It hurt.

I knew it would hurt at some point but I wasn’t expecting it so early. I kept trying, kept running, kept feeling sick and then walking.  Then kept trying running. If you are going for a goal time that matches a pace group there is nothing sadder than seeing that pace runner disappear gradually into the distance. I saw my excellent support team at mile 22 which was a huge lift as I thought I’d missed them. I kept plodding on taking in the crowd, saying thank you to everyone who cheered and generally trying to do it with a smile. I ran/hobbled most of the last two miles. The crowd here is just so loud you really can’t stop and when I saw the 800 meter sign I knew I wouldn’t. I crossed the line in 3:45:44.

To be honest, it’s not the time I wanted but I’m very happy with it, it’s the first time since 2009 I’ve been able to claim a marathon PB. After I crossed the line I could hardly stand up. It took me an hour and a half to be able to stand up and walk, during which time I fell asleep/zonked out flat out on my back the mall. Fun times! My vision was a bit on the wonk when I figured it was probably a lack of salt that was getting to me, one huge bag of crisps later and I was feeling much better! Note to self here, not meeting with your support crew feels like a good idea when you are feeling fine, when you can hardly move it’s a pretty lonely experience!

I honestly couldn’t have pushed myself harder. Sometimes you can fail in your goals and still feel like you won. On Sunday I won.