London Calling – Time for the London Marathon

It’s tapering time for the next three weeks before the London Marathon and that means it’s time to reflect on training and get ready for the race. The London Marathon will be my sixth marathon, 4/6 of the world major marathons, and my third international one. Though I’m still not completely sure they’ll actually let me in the country as there is still no deal for Brexit, I’m very excited for the race and to spend some time in one of my favorite cities.

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We’re also bringing the boys along, so my twins will get to see me run a marathon for the first time since we took them to Chicago two years ago when they were only six months old. I’m sure they’ll be more excited to see daddy running this time and I know seeing them along the route will give me a nice boost. It’ll be their first time to London, adding the UK as their fourth country visited. We’ve got perfect plans with them including a visit to the free British Museum for the dinosaurs, catching the changing of the guard – they’re very into bands right now – and a visit to Waterloo and Paddington Stations for their love of trains.

I’m also feeling pretty good about the run itself. My training hasn’t been as intense and by the book as previous marathons, but I was able to stay completely on schedule and did every single long run without much drama. Even two ski trips didn’t get me off schedule thanks to some advanced planning. My second one had me a bit worried because my legs were so dead after three full days of skiing that I needed a week and a half from running to recover, but I still managed to get back on track.

Even my long runs have gone well. Before Berlin last fall I had a series of dreadful long runs leading up to the race in which I had to bail early or walk the last several miles. It had me very worried about the marathon, though it turned out to be completely fine. This time, I made it through my 18, 20, and 21 mile runs without any major issues – save some of the worst blisters I’ve ever had – probably thanks to finally fueling up right and bringing plenty of water. I’d been doing more of my long runs in NYC – well from NJ to NYC – last year in the late summer, but this year found it easier to go for the runs around the paths of a park near my house.. The different options to loop around kept it more fresh.

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My weekday runs were a bit less consistent, thanks mostly to changing jobs in January and moving offices into the city. Whereas I had a nice loop that allowed for runs of any distance directly from my office in Newark, I couldn’t find similar options from my new one. I experimented with running at home first, though this put me on a later bus with way more traffic. I eventually joined Planet Fitness near my office and got in a half dozen runs there, but started losing motivation due to the lack of decent locker and shower facilities which always seemed to ruin a good run. I also found that I have a much harder time with longer runs on the treadmill these days than I did a few years ago when I could run 20 or more miles.

Instead, I discovered that the other Amazon building down the street has a locker room and showers which were far superior to Planet Fitness. I tried it out with two runs through the city to both the riverside paths on either side of the city. The facilities worked much better and I expect to continue with this approach. The running in the city is great once I get past all the lights at the cross streets. Regardless of which direction I go, there’s no avoiding at least eight street crossings and some of the busiest streets in the city during rush hour. If I’m lucky, I can make it through two or three, but still get stuck on the others as well as having to constantly dodge in and out of people on the streets, making the run less than relaxing. At least the paths along the rivers are great and don’t involve any stopping.

It’s a bit odd traveling to London now, with Brexit looming. In the next few days, another plan may get voted on, likely voted down, and then the “final” date will quickly approach. In the next week it’s possible the entire country basically shuts down, or at least enough to make customs and immigration at the airport a complete disaster. Especially with traveling with the boys, it’s going to be stressful. On top of that, we’re flying via Heathrow which is absolutely horrible with lines and for parents. Connecting through when we took the boys to Norway, we were routed through two sets of massive lines for passport control until a complete meltdown and tantrum from the boys at least got us bumped over into a shorter line from a staff member who bothered to notice. And all of that was before Brexit.

I’m really hoping things go smoothly at the airport so we can focus on exploring the city with the boys and getting ready for the marathon. Learning from Berlin last fall, I know to take the days before the run easy, though knowing us, we’ll probably end up walking nearly a marathon two days before while taking in the city. At least we’ll see a lot. I’m also equally excited for and frightened of the food there. I want to experience as much of the legitimate Indian food as possible there, but also realize that may not be the best idea before a marathon, nor is the Sri Lankan place I found. Once I finish running though, not only will I dive into the full culinary scene, but I’ll also end my self-imposed ban on alcohol and enjoy several of the city’s rooftop bars and the neighborhood known as the craft brew mile. There’s definitely going to be some pub lounging involved as well. After all, we have to fully immerse ourselves in the culture.

I’m feeling good about running London. With one of the best training results I’ve had before a marathon, relatively good health, and hopefully a strategy honed over five marathons, I think I should do well. After my success in finally beating my time goal in Berlin last fall, the pressure is off a bit too and I’m not aiming for a specific time goal and can just focus on finishing and enjoying the route. With the boys coming along, I know I’ll also have great support and that they are going to love London. No marathon is ever easy, and I’m prepared to gut it out, but I have high hopes for the run. Ah-ooooo, Werewolves of London!

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