Got up at 5:15 AM to run the London Marathon course. I figure since I am here in London, I might as well experience the London Marathon course. It was below freezing as I ambled toward the Golders Green Tube station in North London. I forgot to bring any long tights or anything like that so I borrowed my father in laws chinese style knee warmers. They were long and brown and I had a nice gap between the top and my brooks running shorts making them look like some weird 1980's leg warmers. I was waiting with for the 5:35 AM subway to Bank station with a lot of other people but I looked out of place with my Chinese leg warmers in the below freezing morning. I managed to pick the wrong train that was heading to Charing Crossing instead of Bank station. Damn. So I had to get out at Camden Town and wait 15 minutes for the train to the DLR at Bank. Finally got there and missed the DLR by 15 seconds. So I had to sit there in my leg warmers waiting for the Docklands Light Rail. I boarded and 13 stops later and 90 minutes since I started I got to my destination, Greenwich, the start of the London Marathon. During the official marathon, thousands of people are swarming the tube, but I got it to myself. I had to ask a lot of people how to get to Grenwich park and I balked at the longish walk I had to the start. Nothing like a long walk to the beginning of a marathon. It got really cold as I walked through Greenwich park to the official start. I started solo a little after 7:00 AM at the corner of Greenwich Park and Charlton Road and took off at a pretty slow clip. I forgot how much harder it is to run with poor street signs and no idea where you are. I was constantly looking at my lousy directions and then finally pulled out the iPhone for support. The first few miles were pretty dull as I headed towards Woolwich. The route heads back to Greenwich and passes the Cutty Sark which I did not even see as I was focusing on the course. I passed a University and along along the Thames heading towards Tower Bridge. Greenwich of course is famous for giving its name to the Greenwich Meridian (0° longitude) and Greenwich Mean Time. I was wondering if my garmin would show 0 longitude and it acually hit 0.00007 as I passed through town.
I crossed this monument taking a few photos and headed towards the Docklands and Canary Wharf. I was at mile 14 or so when I realized running mainly on concrete was taking a lot out of me. I was in a decent amount of pain, but wanted to keep going. I hit what they call the Highway and ran through Whitechapel towards the Docklands and Canary Wharf. I got incredibly lost in the Docklands and ran a much longer route than I should have asking various people which way the London Marathon went and getting contradictory answers. Oh well. I did not pay for this and this was my sick idea to do this in these damn Chinese old man knee warmers. For once I did not mind being lost and just kept going. I finally escaped Canary Wharf and the dreaded docklands and got back to the East End near Whitechapel. I missed my turn but kept heading towards town. I was at mile 23 or so when I asked how to get the Mall, the end of the race. Little did I know that its pronunced Maaal here, not Mall, and nobody had a clue what I was asking for. I kept running down the Thames and past the Millenium Dome and finally hit Big Ben. I knew the end of this marathon was somewhere. I asked more people and was pointed in the proper direction. I had no spring left in my legs as I hobbled towards the Mall and Buckingham palace. Finally, I saw the end and ran under 8 minutes per mile for the last 500 feet or so. Sweet victory was mine. My time was 5:10, but I am pretty sure I ran a good ways longer than a normal marathon as I got pretty lost several times. I also added a few miles in at the beginning and end to make sure I was good and wrecked for a day or two afterwards.
While not an official finish, I think I will remember this more than if I had signed up and paid and did it straight. The next time I am in Paris, Tokyo, or New York and have a few hours, I might try this again. Its pretty fun, alot cheaper, and the memories are a slightly different than those that come from a traditional marathon. I have run enough of them to know what they feel like.