Getting to London from Berlin was quite a nightmare. We read on social media that the airport lines were insane, and our friends recommended scheduling a time slot at the airport for security. Kim and I both
scheduled our time, but Reggie was not able to secure a time. We decided to get to the airport extra early to avoid missing our flight. We arrived at the airport 4 hours early, but to our surprise, the British Airways ticket counter was no where
to be found. Panic set in. Were we at the wrong terminal? Were we at the wrong airport? I went to the Information desk, and the woman indicated that British Airways was at the #3 location, and we were indeed in the correct terminal.
We walked over to #3 only to find there was no British Airways. We went back to the information counter and were told that they don’t open until 2 hours before the flight. So much for getting there early! We ended up
sitting at Starbucks until the check in counter opened. When it was close to 2 ½ hours before our flight, I walked back to see if British Airways displayed, and good news that it did, bad news, the lines were horrible. We grabbed our bags and
headed downstairs and began the first of 3 long lines. The first line to check (1 hour), the second was security (1 hour), and finally was the passport line. We had about 10 minutes to spare before the plane boarded so we hurried to the gate only
to realize that our flight was delayed. We finally arrived in London and headed to our AIRBNB.
The trains/subways in London were much easier to navigate than Berlin. The trip from Heathrow to our property was seamless. We arrived at the house
to find it was quite lovely, much better than the photos online and very close to the train station. I was also so relieved since the first property we secured, managed by a company called Veeve canceled 2 days before we left for Berlin. Their
resolution was money back or a property that was located too far away which only had 1 bedroom and 1 bath. We scrambled to find a place to stay, with very limited choices. By the way, they only refunded 1/3 of what I initially paid. Travel
tip: Don’t book through Veeve.
The Expo: When we arrived at the Expo, we were directed to get our bibs. I went to the line for the Wanda World Age Group Division runners to collect my bib. The person handed me a backpack
for the swag for this division and handed me 2 bibs. One to wear on my front, and the other for my back that identified me as one of their runners with my age group. My eyes welled up with tears as I walked away. Finally, I was able to run under
this division. Last year, I canceled my registration with fear I’d catch COVID and be stuck in London and miss running Boston. It was hard to believe that my dream of running London was finally happening. Next, I headed to the New Balance
merchandise and was beyond excited to see such an amazing selection of merchandise! I was able to get a London jacket! I missed out on any of the Berlin gear as everything in my size was already sold out.
Having your own kitchen sure makes your pre-race meal easy! We had salad, fresh sour dough bread, tortellini and chicken. I have to admit, the burger I had at lunch made me leery to eat the beef in the UK. It had a strange after taste, so I didn’t
want to risk eating red meat and having tummy issues on race day. After dinner we got our race stuff ready for the morning. The forecast turned and it looked like we were going to have a rainy race day. I packed an extra pair of sneakers
in case mine were soaked, socks, warm clothes for after, my NEW London jacket which I couldn’t wait to wear on the walk back!
Race morning: I had walked to a grocery store the day before and bought oatmeal, which is our “go-to”
pre-long run breakfast. I wanted to purchase cream or half-n-half for our coffee. London (and Germany) doesn’t have cream or half-n-half for coffee. They only have milk. I asked a woman in the store, and she said, “we use
cream for cooking, and we use milk for coffee”. I’ve notice that I got the same bewildered looks at most of the places that I’ve ordered coffee with extra cream. This must be a US thing. I bought pre-mixed oatmeal that just add
water. I heated milk, since that’s how I like it but when I took my first bite, I realized something was wrong as it tasted sour. I dumped it I the garbage and ended up eating a bagel with peanut butter. We left to catch the train to
the start. I was so nervous. Kim was in a different corral than me and there didn’t allow switching corrals. He had to take different train to get to the start. There was also a train strike so we weren’t quite sure what
the morning would be like. It was 8.5 miles to the start, and I certainly didn’t want to run there!
We finally arrived at our destination, and we followed signs directing use where to go. After a bit of confusion, we figured
out which section where we had to go. The Wanda Age Group had their own corral shared with the UK runners that had qualified to run. I saw what appeared to be a heated tent only to realize it was a tent with dressing rooms. I also noticed that
the port-o-lets in the UK are quite amazing as they actually flush! I was very impressed! Our corral also started first right behind the elite runners. There was no waiting to run, we just started to run. Let me tell you, I felt instantly
like I was with the wrong corral. The runners were passing me out! I was trying not to take off too fast, but it was hard not too with the excitement and adrenaline kicking in. I looked at my watch and it was showing a 7:40 projected pace.
I looked at my friend Peter and he told him our projected pace and he said, “that’s a bit spicy for me”. I replied “it’s a bit spicy for me too, and we slowed down. We were told by a woman in our corral that had run
London 9 times, to hold yourself back because the first 5K is downhill. She was right! My first few splits were around an 8-minute mile. I attempted to slow down but I only slowed down slightly. When we approached the 10K mark, I slowed down to
a decent pace that at that time felt good.
The crowd support in London can be compared to the NYC Marathon. The course was extremely forgiving with minimal long straight aways and constant cheering. The runners were quite aggressive too.
They reminded me of relay runners because out of nowhere they would come up behind you, and almost knock your over. I got tripped, elbowed and at one point some dude came up behind me and hit my foot, and as I started to fall, he grabbed my waist and
pulled me back up. I talked to a woman briefly that was next to me after I heard her swear at a runner that almost took her out. She told me that when she ran Berlin someone actually took her down.
Reggie and Angie told me that would
be at Cutty Sark to cheer for us. I spotted Reggie first and started screaming, "Reggie, Reggie Reggie"! She spotted me and started to scream my name. It gave me such a burst of energy. I started high-fiving little kids and was feeling amazing.
Instead of traditional cups for water, they handed out small plastic bottle filled with water with a lid that could be flipped opened that I held on to between water stops.
Suddenly, the fatigue of running Berlin started to kick in. My legs started
to feel heavy. I slowed my pace hoping that would be enough to get me though. At the water stops I started to pour water on them to numb the pain which would only alleviate it for a few minutes. Next, were stomach cramps. I couldn’t
tell if I was drinking too much water as I wasn’t used to having full bottled water to drink for hydration. They also had Lucorzade which is their version of Gatorade. It was so sweet! I only took it 1 time. I did keep my nutrition/salt
routine that I was used to.
Around mile 11, I looked up and my friend Kaitlin was right next to me! I screamed her name! I told her that I wasn’t feeling so good, and I was going to drop back. She smiled and said, “I’ll
run with you, it’s just nice to have a friend to run with”. I ran over the Tower Bridge with her and then I couldn’t keep up with her and slowly watched her pull away. When I get like this, I get quiet, and I would prefer to run
alone. I told Kaitlin to go ahead and that I would be fine.
The course had so much music consisting of drums, marching bands, DJ's and rock & roll that helped to distract my mind from the pain. I kept saying to myself “run with your
heart Jeanne, ignore the pain”. This helped what felt like only 30 seconds! I was confused with the course. Towards the end there were what looked like “out and backs” where we got to see the leaders run back in, but when
I got to the end of that what I thought was the turnaround point I didn’t ever see runners coming towards me. I was finally on mile 22. The crowds were relentless and cheering so loud. I really needed them to get me to the finish line.
Finally, I looked up and could see the London Eye! I knew I was so close. Again, I was confused thinking I was in a different location and had to run up an incline to finish. Someone yelled “you just have to run around the next corner
and your done”! This was all I needed to keep me going. There were a lot of runners walking at this point and some collapsed with cramps. I just kept chugging towards the finish. Finally, there it was! I put my arms up with
joy and crossed that finish line! They put my medal around my neck. Then I walked to the sign for the Wanda Age Group medal and when the woman put it on me, I almost started to cry. I’ve learned that at the end of marathons that I have
a hard time breathing. I have to keep walking and God forbid I cry, that makes it worse. It feels like I’m breathing through a straw. I saw Peter getting his t-shirt and he walked with me for a bit. He saw me struggling to breath and
asked if I wanted to go to the medical tent. I told him that I was okay and that it would pass. I called Kim and I was trying to locate him. Both Peter and I looked up when we spotted Kim and gasped. He didn’t look good.
Apparently, he had been trying to catch up with me, so he had the same experience with not a “negative split” but what I call a “positive split”, running much faster in the first half which make for a tough 2nd half.
You’d think after 90+ marathons that I would have learned my lesson!
Post-race: We walked what seemed forever to get to the subway station. The streets were congested with people and runners trying to get out
of there. We stopped at a convenience store to get a ginger ale to settle me stomach, but they only had Coke. I haven’t had a Coke in years, and it was the absolute best Coke I've ever had in my life!
There was a post-race reception
for the Wanda Age group that I was so excited to attend. They had a buffet sit down dinner with different food stations. I didn’t realize there were any other choices other than what was in our section. I took my first bite and I started
to sweat. I have never had Indian food and wasn’t quite used to the fire that I just swallowed. I headed out to look to see if there were other food stations. I was pleasantly surprised to see we had other choices. The dessert table
never had dessert presented for any length of time. People would quickly grab as much as they could leaving pretty much nothing for others. I did get a couple of cookies before the vultures grabbed everything. After dinner the award ceremony started.
They picked the top 3 runners from each division. The biggest treat was Kipchoge was there to give them their medals. Their times were so fast! I would possibly get a chance to win when I got to the 70–75-year-old division. Hopefully,
I am still running by then!
Would I run London again? Absolutely! LOVED IT! Next year I will be running Boston to London, so my lessons learned about the course will hopefully still be instilled my memory.
Kim and I both earned another
star towards our Abbot World Majors with only Tokyo left for possible 2024. Kim ran close to his Berlin time, only 19 seconds slower in London earning another BQ time. I ran about 10 minutes slower than Berlin, but I am so blessed to have run a
Boston qualifying time. What a great experience.