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London Marathon, 26 April 2015

London marathon, never been so nervous in the preparation of a marathon, 100 persons know I am running, and of those, at least 50 will sponsor a time below 4 hours for a disability rehabilitation project in Nepal.

I must finish.

London marathon course map with the numerous “10 m hills”.

Introduction

In the London marathon, it is very common for runners to be sponsored – often for charities supporting medical and social projects.

See my pledge for a sponsorship [1], sent around before the marathon.

Sponsor run

Last year, on 21 April 2014, I ran the Boston marathon for Sponsortrek. This was a memorable run, one year after the well-known 2013 bomb attack. I completed the run in 3 hours and 42 minutes. It was a warm day, 20 degrees Celsius, and the terrain hilly.
We collected € 800 Euros for Sponsortrek and we thank all our sponsors for their donation.

See: http://www.treks.org/14boston.htm

Given last year's success, I thought of trying another Sponsortrek run during the London Marathon on 26 April.
This will be my 7th marathon and sponsoring would be an extra encouragement. At 30 km, hitting the infamous “wall”, legs turn to concrete, you feel like you are not even half way and you think you better give up.
A very good “push in the back” at 30 km would be a well-sponsored finishing time below 4 hours.

I asked 100 persons to sponsor the difference between 4 hours and the finishing time by allocating an amount per minute, e.g. € 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5. A fixed amount was also appreciated.
However, I told the sponsors to watch out, as my record from 2010 is 3 hours and 22 minutes from the Amsterdam marathon, one of the fastest marathons. London is slower.

Example of a sponsored finish time: Image I run 3:40 h and you sponsor € 1 for every minute, your donation will be € 20 for our projects.

50 persons promised to sponsor the run and donated a total of around € 2500, a great success.

When I made the pledge, the week before the run, I was unaware about was was going to happen in Nepal.

Earthquake

Kathmandu, 25 April, the day of the 7.8 earthquake.

On Saturday 25 April at 11:26 local time, a day before the marathon, a magnitude 7.8 earth quake located North-West of Kathmandu shook Nepal, see:

Some 5 million out of 30 million people are affected. At least 8500 people died and at least 20000 people were injured. 750000 people were made homeless.

For a month, people have been afraid to sleep inside for fear of aftershocks with magnitude 6.

On Tuesday May 12, another major earthquake with magnitude 7.3 affected Nepal, this one was North-East of Kathmandu and caused minor damage, see:

Sponsortrek projects

The heavy earthquake in Nepal on Saturday, one day before the run, has destroyed or badly damaged several of our projects, such as:

 Our medical post Keraunja Ganesh Himal, rebuild costs € 8000 - 10,000.

 Same for the health post in Gumda, rebuild costs € 8000 - 10000.

 Organization of a medical camp in the Ganesh Himal within a few months, costs € 3000.

 Water Network Keraunja, new well construction, costs € 3000 – 5000.

 Building for disabled children DRC Kathmandu is damaged and repairs about € 8000.

See: www.sponsortrek.nl, “Nieuws”, “Aardbeving 2015”.

The Run

London is typically 2-5 minutes slower compared to Berlin or Amsterdam. This is caused by the following, especially between 20 and 36 km:

Despite having 8 out of 10 of the world top runners, the 2015 time was, as predicted, about two minutes late, only 2 hours 4 minutes and 42 seconds. The current world record was run in Berlin in September 2014 and stands at 2 hours 2 minutes and 59 seconds.



Winner of the London marathon 2015.

Every marathon course is different and has its obstacles, either the course or the weather or both. Most marathons are organized in the spring or fall, to ensure temperatures between 10 and 18 Celsius.

Only the Berlin course seems perfect, usually no wind, but the temperature at the end of September could be high, 18-20 Celsius, whereas 10-15 Celsius is preferred.

A perfect day would be overcast, no wind, 10 Celsius and rain the night before. This is what we had on the 2015 London marathon, so no complaints.

The start area

The weather forecast the day before couldn't have been worse, temperatures of 8 Celsius and rain until the early afternoon, so during our entire run. Therefore, I bought an extra rain jacket on Oxford Street for £ 50 and was prepared to dump it if it was a hindrance.

From Euston Station, I took around 1.5 hours to reach the start of the blue zone, by metro to Embankment and by train to Blackheath, close to Greenwich Park. This morning was cold, 8 Celsius and rainy. It looked bleak, a typical grey and rainy London day.

We were suppose to wait outside for 1.5 hours as there were only two small tents for changing, one each for men and women. With a lot of British patience, holding our ground despite some impatient foreigners, French and Italian of course, , we finally managed to get inside the change tent and find a place to sit. It is very important to relax the muscles and to keep warm. Standing around for 1.5 hours in the cold misty London morning is not recommended and not my idea of a good preparation, to put it mildly. Women happily joined the men in our change room.

I warned my co-runners, Arie, Jaap and Sylvia to use the toilets right away at 8:45 AM as the line ups later on could be long. With 20000 people and 100 toilets only, the line up was indeed a 100 persons per toilet cabin at 10 PM, minutes before the start. Fortunately, there are toilets every few kms and these are clearly marked.

I decided to wear my Asics pants until the start and run the first few kms with the Nike jacket given the cold and damp weather, wasting € 100. Normally I use old pants but forgot to cut them in at the bottom, so I couldn't take them off without unlacing my shoes.

I normally take forever to lace my shoes properly. Feet expand after 15 kms, so lacing up should not be too tight, risking toe blisters, and not too loose, increasing the chance of foot sole blisters. A 1.5 cm lace loop seemed perfect for the past few weeks.

The weather got better, still overcast, but fortunately the typical misty London rain stopped and the grey clouds turned whiter.

A big plus was significant rain last night clearing the Saturday London smog, a relief.

Target time

I was told to take it easy, target time of 3:40, the 20 minutes below 4 hours as indicated in the pledge for sponsoring.

However, as I can run run 3:25 h on a flat course like Amsterdam, so I aimed for 3:35 h, but not faster. This would require a first half in no more than 1:45 h. It would also guarantee a minimum time of 3:40 h.

First 21 km

My start was perfect, I quickly sneaked forward and passed the start with only one minute delay from the mass start at 10:10 AM, also the men's elite group.

Still it was busy but we did fine, a bit slow as it was crowded, running only 12 km/h, just 0.5 km/h below the normal speed to reach an end time below 3.5 hours. After around 5 kms we finally got more space but during the entire run I was surrounded by runners.

I normally run with a clear view ahead, important to avoid obstacles. This was not easy as there were 6000 people in front of me (and 32000 behind), but the rough tarmac, numerous bottles at our “drinking holes” and speed bumps made this mandatory.

Also, don't look on your watch as I once did when you are about to hit a speed bump.

After 3 km I handed my running jacket to a surprised boy, “happy training for the marathon, maybe in 10 years”.

The first half to Tower Bridge went smoothly, only two bridges and the roads were reasonably straight. I rinsed my mouth at every water place, sometimes taking a single gulp. Rinsing the mouth frequently is highly recommended and even more important then drinking.

My heart rate monitor went up to over 200, so the heart reader was again faulty.

Despite managing to put a new battery in my Garmin 305, which is not easy, you need to cut it open, it still did not work. Better buy the latest, a Garmin 225, which has a built-in heart beat monitor avoiding the irritating heart monitor belt.

I almost threw out the heart rate belt out of frustration as I consider de heart rate more important than the speed.

Tower Bridge at 20 km


Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge is popular with the crowds, and the cheers even more deafening. I ignored the noise this time, appreciating the enthusiastic crowd, accepting a ring in my ears tonight.

I reached the half marathon in an excellent time, 1:43:43, more then a minute below my personal target. So far so good.

No blisters, no pains, just fine. May have been “adrenaline”, as we naive sports types call this sensation.

From Tower Bridge and back through docklands to Tower Hill: from 20 to 36 km

From Tower Bridge through Docklands and back I feared the numerous up and downs, and winding roads.

It was even worse, the tarmac was horrible, in a poor shape, often a patchwork, “we British like this” I guess, but the real killers were the numerous speed bumps and small water bottles at “drinking holes”. Now you really needed a free view which was not easy given the numerous runners in groups.

I almost tripped once on a speed bump, could have gone flat on my face, and my legs splashed with water due to someone stepping on a full water bottle.

At 25 and 30 km I took my gel and water while walking for 30 seconds. This really works for me, as the heart rate goes down and the legs relax. You only loose about 15 seconds each time but it is worth it.

Going back from 30 km to 36 km took forever, this is where you hit the infamous “wall”. The “10 m hilly” undulating road along the Thames increased the effort. I was prepared for this and slowed down from just below 12 km/h to just above 11 km/h.

From Tower Hill to the finish: from 36 to 42.190 km

Near the end: London-MSC 6 -London Eye, 40.5 km. Running with Rich, see below.

This stretch simply remains “too much”, and makes a marathon interesting as it scares most runners.

The original distance of the historic run from Marathon to Athens was 35 km but then it would have been less elitish, “and we like this” as such runs would be overcrowded.

I ran on my automatic pilot, a slow 11.1 km/u and could not appreciate the deafening music in a long tunnel around 38 km.

I simply got very tired and you get more intensive hearing senses. I was sure to get a ringing noise in my ears tonight.

Some runners take pain killers on the last 12 kms, dope, an ugly secret.

The last 2 km from Waterloo Bridge was worse, but this is normal, and London Eye around 40.5 km takes forever to appear.

However, this is counterbalanced by an incredible sensation, “I will complete on time and in one piece”, while passing many unfortunate runners, limping along. Fortunately, this never happened to me in all my 7 marathons.

The right turn at Big Ben around 41 km is a big relief and then finally, while stumbling along, you enter St James Park and the 800, 600, 400 and 200 m signs appear.

I saw Arie running some 70 meters ahead of me at the 800 m sign but did not think a second to try to finish together and definitely not trying to overtake, unethical. This would require an additional 10 % speed increase, from 10.8 km/h to 12 km/h. Too fast.

800 m, ... , 600 m, ....., 400 m, ....., Buckingham Palace, did not spot any royalty, 200 m, almost dropped dead before the finish (and some do faint as I once saw in the Boston marathon), and finally the finish.

Final time 3:35:34, only 34 second above target.

After a minute I discovered I did not switch off the timer so I did not have a personal timing.

Who cares, “we” finished in one piece!

After the finish

Found Arie quickly and he was also more dead than alive. Together we stumbled slowly to the bag area, a distance of some 400 m, walking like massively overweight old retired Americans.

At the “L” meeting area I got a free chair of a Jewish Support Group to finally sit down after 4 hours, thank you kindly for sitting, and changed. Four toe blisters were appearing so I needed to get home quickly to puncture them before they would get bigger. Next time I should carry a needle in my bag and puncture them right away.

Aries' wife wasn't there, Aries' last name starts with an L, so he went back looking for her in the crowd of some 10000 people, he never found her. I went to Charing Cross hauling a taxi, my bonus of the day. There were plenty looking for customers.

Never had such a comfortable 10 minute ride, for only £ 10, and gave the taxi driver a marathon bonus by doubling the amount.

Back in the hotel I had a double pasta, double soup and salad dinner plus a liter of water.

Thirst remained for the next few days, this is simply lack of salt. I should have carried an Oral Rehydration Sachet.

One by one, other runners came in the hotel. I looked up the time of some of the runners, see: Group member results

At 5:30 PM we (but not me) had drinks, not water or juice as you would expect but lots of beer, 5, 10, 15? I lost count.

After extreme social pressure, I gave in and offered to drink a small beer, the first one after by last Becks beer during the World Cup 2014 final to help Germany. Never got so thirsty after drinking a beer, this is simply the alcohol, so how do the beer drinkers quench their thirst, remains one of the great scientific mysteries.

Personal result, 3:35:34, only 34 seconds above target.


Course map, Tower Bridge is at mile 12.

Bib number

Truly marathon flowers, white barroc tulips, still going strong after 12 days.

The marathon running group after the run, Euston Thistle Hotel bar.

Earthquake damage, Sponsortrek news

Newsletter from Sponsortrek

Sponsorship projects

DRC House

Earth quake details

NRC, a Dutch newspaper, with a popular science explanation, in Dutch: [1]

25 April earth quake, scientific explanation USGS: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/us20002926#general_summary



Tectonic map of the Himalayas. With historic earthquakes (1900-2014), relative movements between the Indian and Eurasian plates at the main suture and major faults.


USGS Shake map during the 25 April earthquake. Note the peak velocity of the > 100 cm/s around the epicenter.




Ground movement, see: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-32708779

Damage in Keronja

Keronja after the earth quake. 90% of the houses are destroyed.

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Pictures from the New York Times

Pictures from the marathon

Tower Bridge, 20 km.

Tower Bridge, 20 km.

Past Tower Hill (?), 21 km.

London eye

London eye.

London eye.

Prince Harry?

Me and prince Harry?

Prince Harry and Rich

Prince Harry and Rich, past Big Ben.

Prince Harry, in St James Park.

Last few meters

Very good big boy.

Finish.

Finish.

Finish.

Finish.

Marathon Expo.

The group, reconnaissance run on the day before around the finish area.

Along the Thames near Metro Embankment.

Who could this be?

Who could this be?

Gallipoli Memorial Parade art Buckingham Palace, 25 april.

British Museum

Aboriginal Art

In shape for running a marathon?

Not in shape for running a marathon.

When are you going to return the Lord Elgin marbles to the parthenon of Greece? They were taken or salvaged after an earthquake destroyed half the building.

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Assyrian lion hunt

Assyrian lion hunt