London marathon, 3 October, 2021

A rare cloudless weather window on Sunday during marathon day, 16 Celsius. Lucky us, we think. The rest of Western Europe has showers.

Henk, still happy.

Again happy after a big (!) dip.

Introduction

For Henk, the London marathon will be his 5th of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors. After a cancellation due to Corona SARS-CoV-12 in April 2020, he is keen to complete this one.

Henk was also on the short list for the Boston Marathon with TUI next week, but TUI got no BIB numbers as the number of participants was reduced from 40000 to 15000, all foreign participation cancelled. Traveling to the USA from Europe is currently not allowed due to corona, but this should change in November when the New York marathon is held. A sneak in route is to stay in Mexico for 10 days first, an attractive idea.

Henk is still on the short list of TUI for the Boston marathon next year on April 19th, fingers crossed.

Traveling to London in corona time

Don’t do it !

The list, mandatory until October 3rd:

  1. Fully vaccinated, with two of the same inoculations, so AstraZeneca with Pfizer is invalid. Luckily After getting AZ, I supplemented it with two of Pfizer, just lucky.

  2. PCR or antigen test at least 72 hours before arrival.

  3. Book the Day 2 PCR test two weeks in advance.

  4. Fill out the passenger locator form 48 hours in advance, here you need Day 2 PCR test booking code.

  5. For entering the Expo to retrieve a BIB number, ensure you have a PCR test 48 hours before entering or an English antigen test 24 hours before entering.

  6. Day 2 test on Saturday after arrival PCR test, also valid for returning home on Monday..

  7. An English antigen test on Saturday for admittance to the London Marathon. Available at no cost at a pharmacy.

Since October 4th, only (2) is dropped. No real improvement.

It is advised to print your certificates as thIs speeds up the checks. Certificates stored in E-mails on a mobile is unreliable due to dropping data connections, better to download the pdf’s.

Departure from Amsterdam

At Schiphol airport at 8:00 AM there was up big line up, some 500 m and this took 45 min. We circled around parallel lanes like fenced cows taken to be milked or pigs to the slaughterhouse, till we reached one of 20 check-in counters. For non-EU flights a normal check-in is still mandatory due to the corona certificate check, even after a check-in on-line.

A paper copy of the corona test certificate and the vaccination certificate is preferred, this is much faster. When we left the line up, it was extended by another 200 m, using two more lanes. Clever, this avoids a long line in the hall and controls the passengers.

At the gate there was another check for corona certificates, for UK flights only, so you better be in time, not on time.

Arrival in London

The passport check looked grim, a hall full of people cueing and few counters. We EU mainlanders were lucky, unlike the oversees passengers. We had automatic passport control with some 10 counters but the overseers are done manual with few counters active and the biggest line up.

Only 2 out of 3 automatic checks worked, strange, at Schiphol 100%. Must be spot checks, there was no sign of ethnic or other sort of profiling. I passed, happy, but Henk failed, a 10 minutes wait for the manual check.

Bus to the Expo

Our group was taken by chartered bus from the airport to the Expo to pick up the BIB number. It is a 1.5 hour slow ride through traffic congested London with numerous “stops and goes” caused by traffic lights and slow traffic. Reason we drove here is the "see London by bus", like Chinese do. “Marathon granny” gave us sightseeing highlights, like Harrods, Fortnum and Mason, the 16th century Tower of London, a nasty prison where several royals were executed, and the 19th Century Tower Bridge.

To enter the Expo you need a 24h antigen test or a 48h PCR test which we already took in Holland.

His second really nice car, is GS in London?

London, we are coming!

Boston still far away .... April 2022? Will I get them all six, from February 2016 to April 2022?

Got them all six, from April 2014 –to November 2018.

Medieval portrait

Medieval portrait, National Gallery.

Hotel

We booked a superior room at the Holiday Inn Kensington and indeed we could walk around the beds and even had a couch. The bathroom is again tiny. Normal rooms are even smaller! London hotels are like those in Tokyo, unclear why they are so stingy with space.

Day before

The day before the marathon is a reconnaissance day.

First you buy an Oyster card for the underground. A day card is to expensive.

We visited Big Ben and Downing Street 10, as we need to tell Boris something from a well-know song and daily broadcasted on the mainland.

Lyrics: “Streets of Europe”

Have you seen Boris Johnston

In 10 Downing Street

Kicking up the BrExit agreement papers

With his worn out shoes?

In his eyes, you see no pride

Hand held loosely at his side

Yesterday's BrExit papers

Telling yesterday's agreement

So, how Boris can you tell the EU that England is lonely

And say for you that the sun don't shine

Let the EU take you by the hand

And lead you through the streets of Europe

Show you something to make you change your mind

Downing Street 10, “Boris, we need to tell you something”.

When is the next cabinet meeting?

Passing the royal guards sitting on a horse, we enter St James Park.

Here is the Marathon Meet and Greet area, with alphabetical signs. Our pick up will be at “A”, at the exit to Trafalgar Square and a monument for fallen Royal Marines.

Brits are crazy about there fallen heroes during the many distant battles until 1920 to collect the riches from many colonies. The last, and most shocking one seems to be Gallipoli, with a remembrance day every year mid April. After Gallipoli, they finally got the message, give up distant territory, even when you can easily steal the riches.

We had lunch at a traditional English pub on Trafalgar Square, the Admiral. Normal pub food, triangular sandwiches with Belgian fries. Beer flows by the hectoliter, seems very old-fashioned for classy Londoners. You can order three half pints on a wooden plank in one go, puzzling why, different beers?

The weather forecast promised rain around two PM, but the London drizzle started already in the early morning.

Museums are overrun, line ups of hundreds of meters, and you need to have a reservation. Alas, we resort to shopping in Fortnum and Mason, for orange cookies, and Harrods, using the clean toilets. Why the man’s toilets are next to the ladies lingerie department beats me, not handy for us.

Finally we get the predicted 2 PM rain, the London drizzle changing into heavy rain, and, as the Victoria and Albert and natural history museums are overrun, we hide in the nearby Pain Quotidien for coffee and to buy snacks for after the Sunday marathon. The place is packed and we observe a typical, immigrant misunderstanding scene.

Misunderstanding

Two ladies in their thirties, typical mama age, well-dressed and each with a toddler, are waiting for a table of four. Most tables are for two persons, for typical big city clientèle. We get a table for two quickly.

After 10 minutes the two ladies take charge, and insist on seats at the big table, seats around 10 which is uncomfortable. After 5 minutes they want to change again, to a vacant table for four but the staff tells them it is already assigned. This started a 10 minute discussion with nearly all staff, the English looking (is she ?) starting politely, and the definitely Russian or Ukrainian (with an old-fashioned blond ponytail and short hairstyle that covers the width of the forehead, and very agitated) taking over, creating a scene, which all visitors ignored. It did not work, the target table was already occupied and they were already seated. They finally gave up.

Big city, rules of engagement, where opportunism does not seem to talk, at least not in this place.

Dinner at night and an umbrella fight

At night we tried to have an early lunch on nearby Kensington High Street, walking in the rain with only one umbrella. On our way we see two half-drunk Brits having an umbrella fight. One guy looses, his umbrella is ruined, he thinks.

With typical drunk British courage, he asks a passer-by, a non-native it seems, if he wants his umbrella for the rain. Of course he declines and is not pleased with the question.

I go up to him and tells him I would like to have it. Are you sure, he asks me, it is broken. No, I tell him, I am an engineer, I can fix anything. So he gives me the umbrella and walks off, in disbelieve.

And you guys must be in finance, I tell them. This causes an embarrassing big laugh from their side and they sprint for the metro.

Day two PCR test

At 18:00 h we need to take the Day 2 PCR test, mandatory in England, and also mandatory for the return flight on Monday. Henk has to take another test, an antigen test or lateral flow test, as they call it in England, to be able to participate on Sunday. This is a self test from the NHS, freely available at a pharmacist. You register the negative result on an NHS website and get a message confirming this. False statements carry a fine of £ 1000 and spot checks are done, they say, right.

Saturday night dinner

We have dinner at the semi posh Ivy restaurant, in a tent-covered garden area, heated by gas lamps. The tent has problems, the rain settles in certain areas but the tables are well positioned so you don't get the dripping water. Once in a while the head waiter with an inpeccable non-BBC accent (whch is the norm these days), has to use a broom to empty the water puddles settling on the canvas. Feels like of an old English mansion.

Big city, so two sharply dressed blond English (really, you never know in London with the influx from mainland Europe pretending to be so-English) women in their early 30’s are at the next table. One is wearing a big stylish head, during dinner (?), out of -lace, she is a bit nervous, hiding her face; the other one in a nice flowery dress with an even nicer open bosom, both still very marketable and still full on the market it seems which I fantasize. For them flirting in this restaurant is of no use, only much older English clientele today, definitely not rich.

An early sleep tonight, always a bit restless, as Henk will have to get up early, ready to roll at 7:30 h.

Marathon Day

Henk gets up a bit late, 6:30 h, and takes a routine shower. I never do this in the morning, not efficient. A shower at night keeps the bed much cleaner, the Japanese way.

When Henk leaves at 7:30 h, I am surprised to see him wearing my high compression socks. He hasn’t done that before but looks very professional. More on this later. I never liked them, no air cooling for the calves.

Compression socks? Are you sure?

After a relaxed breakfast I take the Circle Line to Trafalgar Square for the National Gallery.

A Dürer Exhibition starts late November, will miss it, one of the most famous artists from the late Middle Ages. His black and white drawings are very detailed. Van der Velden used a similar technique for 17th century sea battles.

At the Golden Jubilee Bridge crossing the marathon course, I hope to take a nice shot of Henk. I now realize I am an hour too early, I was still on CET. Watching the many runners at the bridge makes me dizzy, it also moves slightly as it is a suspension bridge, so I leave, going for the finish area to enjoy the nice weather, 18 Celsius and a blue sky, a hole between two very wet weather systems in Ireland and on the mainland.

Dry weather!!! Unusual, we had rain all day on Saturday

The finish

Henk, our tour leader, welcomes our runners after the finish but complains about the fierce sun as he is 100% bald. I offer him Clinique factor 50, the best their is …for ladies and so for us older men as well. I saved him a sunburn, he tells me.

Henk, our tour leader, an “old” marathon die-hard.

Henk, my marathon friend, has a half marathon time of 1:52 h, which would give a finishing time of 3:45 h !!! Is he trying a qualification for Boston, limit of 3:50 h minus a few minutes for his age group?

Still happy before the wall at 30 km

For the next hour, the estimated finishing time keeps on increasing with large jumps.

Tough after 30 km

Finally he arrives, finish time 4:18 h. His usual time is normally around 4:05 h, so just a bit late and their was a reason.

Henk arriving

Finish

Finish

Finish

At 30 km his calves stiffened up. Henk blames the long compression socks, no air cooling! First time he used them, looks professional but not for him or myself. Never liked them, too warm.

We have to walk 500 m, already to much for Henk, to find a taxi. The metro is too much effort. It is the usual, very long painful and slow walk after finishing. I go ahead, taxis are in high demand, and finally find one a few hundred meters further past Trafalgar Square.

We now have a comfortable ride back to the hotel, with Henk happy and complaining with a hoarse voice, how come the calves stiffened up so early? Our tip for the taxi was generous.

In 2015 I also took a taxi but right at the square, I was earlier, with a finishing time of 3:35 h. The £10 ride was worth a 100% tip.

Results Henk

The best recovery is an Italian pasta meal in the nearby San Pietro restaurant. The owner is from Napoli as well as most of his staff. A waiter complains about BrExit, cannot get the proper staff from the mainland and had to close a few days a week.

Ceremony at hight: Abbott World Marathon Majors yearly winners of the Wanda competition

All the six star finishers of the Wanda competition are invited to the yearly winners ceremony at the Hyatt Westminster bridge starting at 19:00 h., Simon tells me.

He proudly shows his medal to the group, he is the only one, during the 18:00 h reception in our hotel. I did the same in 2018 in New York, was also the only one, it feels special.

I try to get in by sending a mail to the organization and fortunately I get a quick response that as a six star finisher, in 2018, I am also invited.

With Simon and Henk we take a taxi to the hotel. Not sure how to get Henk in but I cannot find a website to buy a ticket, mandatory for guests.

At the entrance there is a scenic fountain and I take a picture of Simon. Here we meet a young American girl, “I am a Wanda runner !!!”, and she asked us also to take a picture.

We go down to basement with a big conference room, in an underground dug-out cellar with an area of 100 by 100 m, are we under The Thames? With a few 1000 people, entrance checks cannot be strict, welcoming staff is doing an informal meet and greet, and Simon and I are escorted to the desk. I tell Henk to move the side and wait for us.

My name is not found and the confirming e-mail is received with bewilderment. I think I did not qualify to get in but Judy waves me in. Spoke her in New York, Berlin and at the London Expo, she may remember me. Lucky me, naif or daring?

The venue is a big reception with good food catering from around the world. I just go for the desserts. Henk gets seconds.

One by one the male and female winners of the different age groups are announced and they get a standing ovation from the crowd. The older age groups get most attention, especially 80+., the men winner in 5:10 h and women in 5:12 h. With age, men and women seem to converge.

Wanda results for 80+

After the ceremony, the six star finishers like Simon are called to the podium for a picture.


Six star finishers, with Simon

At 21:30 it is Schluss, runners don’t drink much and go to bed early.

The day after

Henk is fine, calves recovered, and he makes a vow, never wear compression socks again.

Simon is in the local newspaper.

Simon in the local newspaper

Wanda runner, F55-59