Ah, where do I even begin? Five days after the event, I can still feel the buzz, the excitement, and the profound mix of emotions. Yup, it was that good.Well, at least for me : )
Anyway, I arrived in London on Friday evening. Didn't do much for the rest of the day though. But Saturday was a different story altogether. I went out very early in the morning, and from Edgware Road (where I was staying), I walked over to Marble Arch, Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus and all the way to Trafalgar Square to pick up the race pack.
A couple of learnings here: never do any major sightseeing a day before a running event, cos my legs were really, really wonky by the end of the day, and, Onitsuka Tigers weren't made for walking. Yup, somehow my highcut Onitsukas were really "eating" into my ankles, and I ended up in quite a bit of pain : (
And oh, it was also apparent that the London weather was going to make the event a rather wet one, if not a total washout. Temperature was around 15c. I had never ran in such conditions before, so I had to adjust my mental preparation (serious business, this).
I probably woke up at 4am on event day. Jetlagged, but I was also raring to go. At 6am, I went out to the nearby McDonald's to have some coffee and a bagel. Got back, took a shower and made myself some peanut butter sandwiches. THEN, I felt tired. Haha! Yup, all the travelling and walking were already taking a toll on me.
No matter. I suited up, and went out at 8am. Took the tube from Edgware Road and got out at Piccadilly Circus. Then, it was just a short walk downhill to Waterloo Place where the baggage bays were. The place was already buzzing, although not much different from any other local event.
I didn't bring any baggage as all I needed were in my SPIbelt, so I did what I usually do: find the mobile toilets to pee!
By that time, it was already gloomy and soon, it began to rain. And this led to a tactical mistake. Hah! I basically took shelter at one of the buildings nearby without realising that runners were already making their way to the Start line at Wellington Arch. And I was still loitering around at 9am, waiting for God knows what! When I realised it was time to make a move, I knew I had already been left far behind.
And as a result, and it took me 38 MINUTES to get to the Start line. Yes, 38 minutes! In fact, after 30 minutes the gun went off, the emcee said over the PA system: "For those still queueing to start, have a look at the big screens, some of the elite runners have already finished their run!" Haha. Funny.
But something even worse happened. Despite going twice before, I was bursting to pee, a few hundred metres from the Start line. I was in agony, but there was nowhere for me to go. I thought of wetting my compressions, but I didn't think people would be too amused.
So as I crossed the Start line, my mind was on looking for an alley, or a bush, for me to unload. BUT my pace was rather good. And instantly too I knew this event was different and special as we had spectators on both sides of the road to cheer us on.
After 2kms, there was still no luck for me as far as bushes-to-pee was concerned. We then passed Trafalgar Square and turned left into Embankment. That's where I saw this sign that said: "You Are Saving Lives". Wow, I almost shed a tear. I knew the sign was for some other charity runners, but as all participants also contribute to various charities through the fees, I felt a swelling sense of pride. What a Wow moment that was.
Then, I had my life saved, as I saw the toilets along Embankment on the left hand side! I zipped across, inserted one pound into the machine (and didn't even bother about the 50p change), and quickly found a urinal. Then... NOTHING HAPPENED! I had held it in too long that I just couldn't pee. Incredible. But I still stood there and teran-ed until I finally unloaded.
That pee break had taken me more than 2 minutes, and oh, it had also started to rain! Quite hard. To be honest, by that point, I hadn't even noticed the "scenic route". We were running along the River Thames past the London Eye, but I just had my head down, drenched, and just concentrating on my stride and breathing in the 15c temperature.
The dry fit tee and compression pants were getting a tad heavier as well. But I was still happy with my pace. We then got a respite as we ducked into a tunnel as we made our way up a flyover to make a u-turn. In fact, we made two u-turns.
Oh, it must be said that the water management on that day was superb, although everyone was given full bottles at every stop, so there might have been some wastage there.
Anyway, after the second u-turn which was after the 5km mark, we got back on the Embankment road, and before we got downhill, I finally took a good look at the River Thames and the surrounding area. Wow, I thought, I really am running in London.
It was a straight road ahead at Embankment but while my running was ok, the iPhone suddenly died! Oh, man. I was sure I was on pace for a personal best, so it was a major bummer if nothing was recorded at all. As it turned out, when I switched on the iPhone again later, it had in fact recorded all the data right up to that point. Phew!
I had passed 6.5km at that point, and I remember the sincere look of this woman as she handed me a water bottle and said: "Good job! Not too far now...". Thank you lady, whoever you are!
The Big Ben was within sight then as we turned left and on to the Westminster bridge. We ran three quarter of the bridge and made a u-turn. It marked the 8th km of the run. The temptation to walk then started to play with my mind, until I saw a sign near Westminster Abbey that said: "Don't stop, people are watching". Damn Brits.
But seriously, with the Nike+ Running app gone, I didn't have the aid of a distance guide and I could swear that the last 2kms were longer than just that! The 9km marker came at Victoria Street and I was just chugging along. Thought I had a final turbo boost somewhere, but apparently there was none.
But the cheers were louder that last km. I steadied myself and dashed to the Finish line at Whitehall in style (at least, in my own mind). I had done it. The rain, the cold, the long pee break, the technology breakdown; I got through them all to complete a mission 10,000kms away from home.
Then I felt a tinge of sadness. Spent and satisfied, there was no one for me to share it with. The phone had died and I couldn't even SMS home with the news. How I wished there was just one single person I could talk to at that point in time.
When I got back to the apartment later and switched on the iPhone, I discovered that I had done my Personal Best for 1km, 1mile and 5km. And the official time later on would confirm another Personal Best; 1hr 13.01mins for the whole 10km.
Overall, it was simply an experience that money can't buy for me. The event itself was well-organised, although I didn't quite enjoy the queue for the commemorative t-shirt.
I took the train back to the apartment; clothes already dried by this time. For a guy who started running last year, and who weighed 92.5kgs then, I hadn't done too bad, I thought.
The best moment of the event for me? It has to be that sign. "You Are Saving Lives"...