London Marathon - your thoughts?

It was my first time doing London this year (previously only run Chester Marathon) and I wanted to see if my experience was similar to others or I am just being very grumpy!

I started at the Green start in Pen 4, I had been hoping to follow the 3.30 pacers but they were in the 3 pen I think.  Found organisation great at the start, baggage drop etc.  So off we went - well to say I was squashed was an understatement, I must have run/tried to run under peoples armpits for about 8 miles, I found the constant weaving around people to try and get some space exhasting. I also found I was shoved a bit which wasn't a nice experience! 

Crowd support was brilliant but I didn't find people running very supportive nor friendly.  Total contrast to Chester.

I have also never been to a race where I have almost fell over about 10 times on plastic bottles.  Why do people just drop them where they are running?

So apart from that it was fine. image I did it in 3.35 which was ok but I am sure I would have had a better time if I didn't spend 8 miles weaving!

Finish was good and bag collection excellent.  Unfortunately I lost my family and they couldn't find me and so had to make my own way home like a hobbling loon!

So I now qualify for another good for age place but I just don't know whether to do it again or not.  Hopefully other peoples exepriences were better than mine!  Sorry to moan!



  • senidMsenidM ✭✭✭

    Ahhhh Nicola, welcome to the London.

    I too started at Green, although in pen6 as an old GFA, and, although I was trotting along too slowly to need to weave, I know what you mean. Its the London, its packed, you have to concentrate the whole way, watching out for all the stuff other runners drop - and you would think at your speed they were proper runners who would no better! Think again.

    Personally, I have come to dislike London (it may have taken me 18 previous to get to this point) because of the above, also I have strong reservations about the whole charity thing (If the London is so obsessed with it being such a massive charity fund raiser, why does every Golden Bond place cost the charity £500? and where does that money go?)

    So, for me, a quiet county marathon is so much nicer, Halstead here I come. image

  • Well the numbers ARE far greater in London than any other UK marathon - crowds are to be expected ?

    I didnt really notice the runners around me - I'm running flat out to get to the finish in London as I suspect a lot of people are - so there's not a lot of options to be cheery or enthusiastic. If you're running easier - maybe in a race that wasnt an A goal - then yes I think people will be friendlier.

    They have far more water stations too - just about every mile so far more chance of stepping on a bottle - but I agree - it's stupid to just drop it in the road - I throw all of mine clear.

    I do love the big occasion of London - I try to do it every year. Chester is far nearer to me - but I've only done that once - it was a nice marathon but nothing like the occasion that London is.

    Horses for courses innit - if you don't like London then I'd not bother with it. Plenty of more races out there to do.

    senidM - the London Marathon IS a charity - so that's where the money goes to.

    Didn't Channel 4 try to investigate it and they really couldnt come up with much apart from the British 10k organiser acting as their expert witness.......
  • And the good thing is if you get bored, just wait till you hit the Bridge then duck across the road and head back yourself an hour that way.

  • Nothing to add to the above other than to say well done for getting into London via a GFA time in you first marathon. That's good running. May I ask how long you've been running?

  • 2nd Marathon - I did Chester in 2013.  I have been running for a total of 3 years and am now the grand old age of 41!

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭

    Ive ran London from pen 4 and Pen 1 and hated pen 4. The last 2 years I have been in Pen 1 and its a much more enjoyable experience as people can actually run the time they have put on the entry form. As for chatting, most people with GFA times will be focusing on getting a good time so will be running at their limit.

    Regarding the bottles, you would expect people to know better. I had one dropped right in front of me, in the middle of the road this year. The offender was one of the Champs Women so really should know thats not how to act. She also didn`t give a toss when I pulled her up on it.

  • Keith LKeith L ✭✭✭

    I've run London 7 times from Pen 1-4 on Red and green - must say that whilst its crowded I have always been able to run the pace I wanted.

    The bottles are a mare. In Tokyo virtually everyone puts the cups in the bins provided its largely the western runners there who litter.  

  • senidMsenidM ✭✭✭

    Its a generalisation I know, but just because you're a fast runner doesn't mean you care much about camaraderie, lots I've seen are just head down and go for it, and good luck to them.

    Cougie: I know London is a charity, ? that occurs to me is ethics of raising your funds by charging other charities a fee. If there was a bit more clarity and financial openness I would be happier.

  • literatinliteratin ✭✭✭

    I'm happy enough to have a chat in the first half of a marathon; stops me from going too fast. In fact, last year felt like a massive party as I kept meeting people I knew en route or being introduced to people they knew (that was around 3 hour pace). And this year I bumped into so many friends in the finish area that I was half an hour late for lunch... I think there is camaraderie, but in such a huge race, it's in loads of smaller friendship groups - a bit like this site, where you've got loads of small communities built around longstanding threads.

  • rodeofliprodeoflip ✭✭✭

    This year was my third London marathon. It is really busy and in-your-face, with huge and very loud crowd support - some people (like me) like this, but I can easily see why lots wouldn't. This year seemed to me to be particularly busy, there seemed to be less space to run in and the crowds seemed even bigger. It was good that the stretch heading south on the Isle of Dogs towards Mudchute used the whole width of the road, not just the left side as in previous years, this created a little more space where it's been really congested before. Running through the bends immediately after Cutty Sark was like being a sardine - if you'd lifted your feet, i'm sure you could almost have been carried along!

    A cliche, but it is what it is - if it wasn't for the numbers and the crowds, it just wouldn't be the same, and wouldn't be the occasion it is. I loved (nearly) every second of it, but I honestly think if it gets any bigger, it will start to fall apart.

    The bottles thing is really unecessary - you look behind you and you chuck it the side where it won't affect anyone - I know there's an awful lot of bottles, but it's not difficult, is it? In Paris they had skips out with backboards like baskball nets have, (with targets on them and everything), and people were pretty good at trying to get their bottles in the skip - worked well (apart from the muppets who stood next to the skips and became cannon fodder).

    On the plus side, there can't be a more supportive crowd anywhere in the world, and I know that when I was struggling towards the end, lots of people tapped me on the back / shoulder and offered support. Beth with the orange vest on who grabbed me at 25 miles and made me run and worked the crowd up to cheer me on - thanks so much, I needed that! And I saw lots of other similar gestures, so there's lots of mutual respect and support going on out there.

  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭

    Bloody carnival. Too noisy. Crap course. Loads of hassle. Buggers up a whole years racing.

  •  How does it bugger up a whole year's racing?

  • Tim R2-T2Tim R2-T2 ✭✭✭
    I ran last year. Said I'd never do it again.

    Watching it on the TV on Sunday only reminded me why.

    If you don't like it I don't see a problem. There's an awful lot of hype and it's not for everyone. I did Paris this year. It was much less crowded even though there were more runners.

    But then, I prefer trail marathons where you don't see anyone for miles. So maybe I'm not the best person to comment. image
  • washwoodwashwood ✭✭✭

    Its one as a runner you want to tick off your bucket list. It was my first marathon and I was running to achieve a time not just to get round ! 

    Got frustrated as I was in the 4.30 pen and aiming for sub 4 and ass close to 3.45 as I could get .... I achieved the sub 4 but only just !  I got frustrated with not being able to get into my stride and run an even pace but I guess we all know its busy and its to be expected. Im used to club races to where you ten to have a bit more running ettiquette...........

    Crowds were amazing (before I zoned out !) and really heped me donw the embankment when I was struggling.

    WIll I do it again? Sunday night I said no as I felt a bit cheated from my best time but then I realised London is not about achieving your best time, its about taking part in one of the most renowned marathons and an event that inspires lots of people to buy their first pair of running shoes.....needless to say I am nopw looking for a second maratjon where I shall hopefully be nearer to the 3.45 time .... but given the chance yes I would run it again and will no doubtr be entering the ballot next week ..........image

  • NayanNayan ✭✭✭

    I was lucky enough to get in via the ballot and am delighted to have done it. I loved the crowd support. However the race itself was very crowded and the maelstrom of runners around any pacer plus the bottles does put me off. Thats the first and last time I run with a pace group.

    I daresay I will run London gain at some point, but having cross it off my bucket list Im in no rush. I am however running Abingdon again in October and am drawn back towards Manchester for a PB friendly spring 2016 effort. 

  • washwoodwashwood ✭✭✭

    Hey Granola! Im thinking about putting myself on waiting list for Abingdon and if that doesnt happen I was going for Manchester..... great minds and all that !

  • NayanNayan ✭✭✭

    I ran Abingdon last year and I totally get why it has such a cult following. Its a super race and very well organised. Obviously a very different experience to London. 

    Manchester is an interesting one. I gather that its first year post reboot was shambolic but it seemed like a fine event in 2014 when I ran it. about 7000 folks so it has a city marathon buzz but isn't as crazy as London. Plus its flat and fast so good for  PB. 


  • 15West15West ✭✭✭

    Paris has a staggered start where pens of runners aiming for various goals start at different times i.e. elites start at 9, sub3's start 9.05, sub3:15's start 9.10 (something like that)...seems to work pretty well with nearly 50k runners.


  • I ran London and Snowdonia last year and Manchester this year - with Abingdon to come this autumn.

    London was my first and I have to say that whilst I'm glad I did it, I can't say i'm going to go above and beyond to go back. There are too many runners for that course - end of. Berlin, Paris and New York have far more runners yet aren't as crowded. There's nothing essentially wrong with it of course but unless you're going sub 3 hours, it's just too crowded for anyone to run to their full potential. So as long as you don't mind that, no problem. I ran 3:40 last year and it didn't feel 'roomy' until mile 25. 

    Manchester was absolutely wonderful this year. Good organisation (except not enough toilets at the start) and the course is spirit-level flat. No up, now down, just flat. The odd quiet section aside it was generally a very nice course and certain sections were brilliant!

    Abingdon will now doubt be different from all three previous marathons I've done - can't wait!

    Re the Golden Bond places for charity - a relative of mine is the Chief Exec of an average sized charity which has 40+ runners every year in the VMLM. The Golden bond costs vary from charity to charity - largely based on size - but £500 is way below what her charity pays and nowhere near what the big hitters like NSPCC and Macmillan pay. They pay well over £1000 each.

  • I did London this year and didn't expect to enjoy it quite as much as I did. I entered it as bucket list thing (because everyone should do THE marathon at least once, right?), and fully expected to come away having ticked that box and not wanting to go back.

    However, I managed to get a GFA and, unless they move the GFA goalposts for 2016, will definitely be back to do it next year.

    I'm used to trail marathons really, where there's max 400 to 500 people running, and whilst I do still prefer these by far, London is just something different...totally different.

    Best things about London were the crowds, the organisation and the facilities on the course. Worse thing, as already said, was all the bloody bottles!!
  • NayanNayan ✭✭✭

    Since Abingdon keeps coming up - here's this year's thread for anyone who hasn't seen it.

  • I've done a little report - linky thing here

    But for anyone who thinks I'm spamming or just for anyone that can't be arsed reading it (and fair enough!) to summarise:

    I loved the experience of the day and it will stay with me forever.  However, I was really trying to race and go for an ambitious time and even starting at the front, I found it almost impossible.  It was stressful and mentally exhausting trying to race on that course.  I'd definitely come back and do London again, but next time I would go about the whole thing completely differently and enjoy it for what it is.

    Or I'd have to get a lot faster......

  • thanks everyone for your comments.  Seems a few people agree with my experience.  Was thinking about a autumn marathon but don't know which, loved Chester but its just so far away from me so will have to have a look down south to see what is available.  Paris bottle skips sound like a great idea.  Will do my first run today to see if the legs are working still image


  • Good blog and running there tinyrunner. I ran a very similar time to you but for me the only stressful thing was my lack of fitness that left me running so hard to get my time. There problems getting water or past people or up to pace for me. The distance you ran might just be GPS error too with all the tunnels and high buildings. The course measurer himself has said the blue line isn't the fastest path - it's just a guide from someone hanging out oof a car in traffic.
  • Cheers cougie.  Ah yes not trying to say that the course is long (and I know GPS watches aren't that accurate) but I think it's fairly common for people to run a further distance specifically at London due to all the weaving/taking the outside of the bends because of the congestion.  But I know we're all in the same boat, as it were.  I think I just found it much more stressful than I anticipated.  I am a worrier at heart, and all the near misses with the water bottles and people tripping freaked me out a little bit image.

  • senidMsenidM ✭✭✭

    Great blog Tiny, and congratulations on a great run, sub 3.15 (doesn't matter by how much) just wish I could say I'd run a 2 something, even if it was only a 59:59, but that will never happen now, image

    If you want a take on the opposite way to run London from someone who's not fond of it. Get your GFA time elsewhere, turn up to Green start, pick out a RWpacemaker 30min slower than your GFA time, and then just trot round with him and have just the easiest run. My last 5K was my quickest (pacer stopped for a pee so I ran on), negative half time, and finished soooo fresh.

  • Given that times are all done by chip now, it seems strange that London doesnt employ a New York-style wave system at the start. Firstly it would ease congestion on transport getting to the start if there was 20-30 minutes between waves, and more importantly, it would likely ease congestion on the course letting 12,000 go at a time rather than unleashing 36,000 in one go along some pretty narrow London streets.

  • NayanNayan ✭✭✭
    God always goes haywire on weekend long runs when I go round Canary wharf. Add tunnels into the mix and you get sime pretty odd splits at times. I didn't weave much and was rarely awY from the blue line yet still clocked 26.7 miles according to garmin.
  • It was my first ever marathon and I did enjoy the size and buzz of the whole thing (even though I enjoy peace and quiet in training).  I ran with a really nice guy who I met in the start pen and we both had the same goal time.

    I have to say though, I finished almost exactly where I wanted for time, and the start pen that I was in matched my finish time.  But I don;'t understand people who were ahead of me in the start pen stopped to walk after a mile?  Not just one or two either.  And the bottles thing is silly.  I spent a lot of time avoiding them so a better solution must be out there.  Targets skips are a great idea!

    Even with all of that I'm still tempted to apply by ballot for 2016 and will be applying for Asics 26.2 if they run that again!

  • NayanNayan ✭✭✭
    GPs gets autocorrected to 'God?'
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