Following my normal plan I went to the blue start for just after 9am with the familiar good luck banner for veggies & vegans. Rain had been forecast for early morning but it was heavier than expected. At least I had an umbrella but it made for a cold & uncomfortable start for the runners unless they took some precaution like Helen Watkinson (upmarket rainwear!).[ Not sure what happened to the item when the rain stopped and the start was less than 15 minutes away? Too good to just discard. A litter vehicle was going round sucking up everything left by the runners. A useful time for those charity bags! ]
Given the size of the field at the blue start and similarly the red start plus the restrictions for spectators, I was just pleased to find Verna Burgess who ran the 2008 event for VRUK, this time for her local club, Laurence Klein as he walked towards the start line after the gun, still trying to keep warm in his black bin bag and again Helen now ready to run. Suddenly after holding up the banner for what seem a long time, the many thousands of runners passing, some acknowledging the banner, now the road began to return to some normality apart from the runner’s litter.
I had my own bit of exercise / walking to Greenwich Park and down to the docklands station to travel onto Canary Wharf i.e. race ahead to about 18 miles and maybe see the leading elite women. As the light railway is parallel to the course for a mile or so, I could see the occasional elite woman, maybe the leader? This year I decided to go one further stop for my viewing point but was to cause confusion later when trying to find the Jubilee Line back to Central London. Vanessa Hudson had rang to say she was going to be in Birdcage Walk (wearing her VRUK vest!) looking out for our runners.
It seemed a long wait for the lead men but they were initially 45 mins behind the women. After that wait, camera crews / lead vehicles were blocking the view of the elite men to get a close-up picture so it was a bit disappointing. The following elite and fast men were nevertheless impressive and generally comfortable, not to forget the wheelchair athletes whose leaders had preceded the leading men. As a spectator it was a bit cold and cloudy at this stage but ideal for the runners. Unfortunately I did not choose the best side of the road with runners passing very close as some tried to take the shortest route. Looking back down the course I started developing a neck strain. Eventually saw Colin Braybrook pass on the far side looking comfortable, Colin had only just run the Paris Marathon the previous weekend but had a good winter and spring training period. After Colin I saw Keith Hammond & John Morris of the Vegetarian C&AC, both going well thereafter decided to move onto the finish if I could find the right way out of the maize of the Docklands basement shopping centre.
Arrived at the finish and our meeting point at the ‘NO’ tree at 1.15pm but may have already missed Colin Braybrook (time 3:02) although running for his local club as normal. Met the two VC&AC runners before Cedric David turned up looking refreshed as did our later runners. Cedric’s training had gone very well, the hilly 20 miler in and around Cardiff had done him good despite his protest and led Cedric to 3:46, a PB by over 30 mins. Chloe Vincent with the benefits of warm weather (training) in New Zealand in January achieved a more modest 4.05 by her standards and was quickly followed by Maria Hamilton who did have her eye on a possible sub-4 hours until a pit stop but 4.11 is still dare I say one of Maria’s better performances. Helen Watkinson’s training had also gone very well leading to a time of 4.10 and a PB by 45 mins! At this point our meet-up was at its height with Annette Herold (holding the banner) and other relatives in support. At this point Vanessa Hudson with James Millington was still in Birdcage Walk watching the runners but stuck in the middle of the road on the island. With the event at its height, there were just too many runners passing to block one side of the carriageway to allow supporters to cross.
At 4pm (6.25 hours after the start) as planned we decided to move onto our vegan buffet in Old Compton Street, hoping that Laurence Klein would still have the energy to make it or the thought of food would drive him there. Most of the VRUK group and supporters present were keen to visit the buffet and continue the social around the table. The finish area was still very busy with charities greeting their runners as we passed through and onto Trafalgar Square. We met Andrew Knight on the way who had planned to meet us after a work engagement. Amazingly, within minutes of arriving, Laurence (time 5:12) with Vanessa & James arrived. Our group was just too big for one table and there were no more spare tables large enough upstairs so one group went downstairs. In total there were if correct, 14 in our party, our largest & best post-London meal to date and Dave Arnold (kicked it off in 2006) missed it!
Our other runners who celebrated their achievement elsewhere but unfortunately did not make it through the crowds to our meeting point or the buffet include: Verna Burgess 3:49 (close to her time of 2 years ago) and Teressa Longhurst 5:27.