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Breaking the 4-hour Barrier at London by Gemma Scott

It’s safe to say the 2 weeks leading up to London Marathon were difficult for me. Training hadn’t been going to plan due to lack of energy and having to make some drastic changes to my diet ahead of the big day to combat this. I had to train less something I am not good at doing & It was touch and go whether I would actually run on the Sunday. I had decided it would be a see how you feel over that weekend decision.

London Marathon weekend is always so much fun. With Friday arriving we set off down to London and headed to the Excel to collect my number. There was a big gang of us and the excitement was pouring off us all. This would be my 5thLondon Marathon and I really wanted to break that sub 4 hour at London, something I had been so close to doing in 2015 but due to weaving around the course I actually ended up running 27 miles and missed out.

Once I’d picked my number up I made my mind up I was doing this marathon whether it would be a case of a training run or run to the best of my ability on the day. I knew the crowds would get me round and I had friends on the course there for moral support.

Saturday we had a nice stroll around the Olympic park, but generally had a relaxing chilled out day another thing I never do the day before a marathon. It’s hard to explain but even though you know rest is good for you, it’s hard to follow through with it.

Fast forward to race day, I woke up before my alarm feeling nervous, excited and unsure how my day was going to go. I kept telling myself “Just Run, no pressure”. I had my overnight oats, coffee and countless toilet visits as the nerves escalated, but once I put on my kit my race head took over and I began to get focussed for the task ahead. We made our way to the start, excitement brewing from all other runners and I just felt at home.

After dropping Craig, Aaron, Zoe & Shawnie off at their starts I headed to the Blue start with Glyn and John. Two toilet stops and bags dropped I headed to the start zones. We were in the middle of a field freezing. Both Zones 3 and 7 were merged together so there would be a lot slower runners in front of me. Not ideal but we can only control the controllable I can hear coach Clark in my head!

Gun goes and we slowly start moving towards the start line. It takes 15 minutes for us to get over the start line. First mile I need to stop for the loo, surprisingly I managed an 8:57 minute mile with a wee stop, get in!! Now I’m on my way my legs fall naturally into line, breathing is good and I am enjoying every minute.

The miles ticked off quickly and before I know it we’re at Cutty Sark, reduced to a jog as the road narrows and it’s very congested. The key here is to not get frustrated and use it as a breather traffic soon flows again.

Tower Bridge soon came into sight, such a welcoming sight I knew I was now nearly halfway and feeling strong. I came across the halfway point in 1:48 and to my right there was a big screen that showed Eliud Kipchoge heading down birdcage walk. I wasn’t quick enough to see him on the course, but it was amazing to see how effortless he was cruising to that finish line.

Heading towards Canary Wharf the crowds were unreal, to say the day was overcast and cold (my perfect running conditions) the crowds were bigger and better than in 2018. I cannot thank the crowds enough for the support it’s what makes London Marathon the most amazing experience you can have racing.

I keep on top of my hydration by sipping my Tailwind every half a mile and then ensuring I am having 3 mouthfuls of water at each water station. Before I know it I’m approaching mile 20, usually known as the Wall for most runners where your glycogen levels have depleted. I feel amazing, what is going on? I am not running slow my pace is not at my PB pace, but it’s faster than Barcelona Marathon I ran 6 weeks ago, and at this rate I’m going to go sub 3:40. Yes!!!

Ok so now is the game of keeping my mind focused and not allowing my head to drop. I know I’ll start seeing friends from mile 21 so if I keep smiling and plugging away I’ll be there in no time. I reach my friends who are pleased to see I’m smiling and still putting one foot in front of the other. Mile 22 more friends, feeling strong, buzzing with the crowd and the fact my pace is fairly consistent. Mile 23 I know my running buddies are up ahead, I have my second bottle of tailwind waiting for me & a big hug ahead. As I approach them I become so emotional but still strong both mentally and physically. After a quick hug I’m on my way home 2.5 miles of cheering and then the victory mile!! Glyn catches me up and we run together for a short while before my pace picks up.

Mile 24 I get a pain in my stomach. You know that feeling when your stomach wants to eat itself. This gives me the kick I need to get to the finish. I need food and my legs are starting to hurt now. I approach Big Ben and I know I’m nearly there. I pass a guy running as Big Ben (I later find out he got stuck up the finish line). Everyone is going wild for Big Ben and my skin begins to tingle with goose bumps from the noise.

I’m nearly there! I look at my watch & I can’t believe it…After 5 attempts I am finally going to go sub 4 hours at London, I’m going to get a Good for Age at London, I am going to go sub 3:40, I’m faster than I ran 6 weeks ago in Barcelona. Final 200 metres I give it everything I have left and push my body that last few metres.

3 hours 39 minutes and 32 seconds. I have gone 22 minutes faster than I have ever run at London Marathon and I am buzzing!! 2 weeks’ light training have not made me lose fitness and I am so much stronger than I thought I would be capable of. Thanks to my coach Steve for guiding me, now onto the next challenge…. Ironman UK 2019!!


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