Four times in a row I ran the London so far. Always the weather was fine,
last year it was even too warm. And this time again the deck chairs in the
Royal Parks are used frequently and our training runs on friday and
saturday are pure enjoyment. Particularly as we are allowed to jog along a
sunny Mall which is already closed for traffic on saturday morning.
However, as the forecast promised on race day things are going to be different. The sunday morning
welcomes us with a cold, constant drizzle. When starting at such
a big event as the London Marathon it is unavoidable to arrive early at the
venue. And that means we have to wait a long time for the start gun at 9.45am, hidden
in our yellow plastic bags to keep us dry more or less. Time is shortened
by the charity runners walking by and showing their colourful costumes.
Obviously it comes as a special pleasure for British minds when bareness at
private parts is simulated by plastic bodies. More than one of these
special models present themselves while my colleague Klaus and me seek for
cover under a tree and my small umbrella.
As usual the kit bag lorries stay open until start time and fortunately it
is no problem to wait till 20 minutes before the gun until we finally
enter our pen number 3 for runners who are about to finish under 3:30
hours. We are able to move fairly to the front of our box. Just our feet
are aready rather wet by now...
On my side are 3 runners of our travel agency group: Klaus, 50,
who wants to finish his 2nd marathon hopefully close to 3:30; Timo,
18, who is a rocket on shorter distances, but so far failed to keep a
consistent pace on the long run; Wilfried, 48, an experienced marathoner
who actually is too fast for us, but he feels unsure about his form after
recovering from a longish rest and wants to be slowed down by us.
A couple of minutes before 9.45am people in the pens are allowed to move
forward, we pass the parks gate and turn left onto the road where the
formal start line waits. Suddenly we hear the horn and off we go. Only 50
seconds does it take us to reach the chip mats.
Along the first two miles we keep to a cautious speed and avoid
overtaking. Here are few spectators but suddenly a confetti gun displodes
and gives a foretaste of what is waiting for us. Then the pacemaker's
group for 3:15 h overtakes. Timo is not able to overcome the temptation
and joins them - off he is and we are reduced to three. We didn't see him
again till the finish. Klaus still stays with us although I get a little
impatient over the next two miles and increase the speed slightly too
The first of the top highlights is in front of us: Greenwich and circling
the tea clipper Cutty Sark. High above our heads the BBC camera hovers
like it does every year. We are waving together with the running crowd. At
this point my fellow runners get their first impression of the London
Marathon supporters' enthusiasm. For Klaus our speed appears to be too
fast in the length of time, reasonably he prefers to drop back - and we
are reduced to two. Wilfried lets me find the speed and he looks very
Now it is the first time I run along the roadside close to the spectators.
Immediately I get their personal support: "Ullli" "Germany" "Uli-Uli-Uli". Wilfried
is amazed. "What does the sign on your chest say?" My nameplate is really
big this year and carries a Germany flag, too.
Wilfried turns off to the green for a pee. I follow him as nature has been calling since
the start. That is what follows when you have your last visit to the
toilet before changing instead of waiting until the final moment before
entering the start pen. We loose 30 seconds as the next mile split shows.
Exactly at 20K the certainly greatest moment of the whole race awaits. One
turns sharply to the right and suddenly the Tower Bridge is in front. The
atmosphere here cannot be described. You have to feel it. Thousands of
shouting spectators to both sides, the BBC tries to interview running
celebreties, photographers in the middle of the road do a busy job. We
can't help to slow down to take in the scene. Wilfried is looking for his
family in vain, the crowds are too big.
Then the top runners approach on the other side of the road. Rutto and Korir
are flying by. They are at mile 22, we at 13. All 4 of us are on schedule:
1:40. Our way is into the Docklands now. Below Canary Wharf Tower there
are the crowds again and from now on they stay with us. The roads gets
narrow and more impressions are to be taken in. Meanwhile the rain is
heavy and permanent. I concentrate on my running style and forget to make
use of my fuel belt. Logically I have to face a small crisis at 25K.
Scared about my mistake I pour in the missed drink and this brings me back
into the race fairly quick. We keep to our pace of 7:40min/mile (4:46min/K). Wilfried
now is my pacemaker. We don't force our speed, however it looks to me as
we are flying overtaking hundreds of fellow runners. Wilfried asks for the
time: On course for 3:22. "We should speed up a bit." But I don't have the
heart to agree. Anyway: " I never felt as good as today at 30K." Wilfried
seems to be enabriated as he waves to the crowdes.
Nearly nonstop I hear my name shouted: "Uli-Uli-Uli." To the right at the
Hotel are the supporters of a German travel group. They give me a hearty
cheer as well. To the left a beaming young lady offers a mars bar. "Uli – well done". I
answer with a bright smile and thumb up. But the mars bar stays for the
next runner. Now Wilfried vanishes in front of me. He still looks relaxed
while increasing the pace. I feel the water swashing in my trainers.
Along Embankment, where I had to experience so much discomfort in recent
years this time I walk on air. Smiling all the time I take the split time
at mile 24 being sure that this is going to be a personal best. But then
it is a small drop back as I realise that the next mile marker shows 40K
instead of the expected mile 25. Anyway I am still fast enough.
3:21:48. These was not only my fastest marathon, I never reached the
finish in such a good style. Relaxed and uprightly I receive my medal,
pose for the photo, get my kitbag still smiling and I am even able to get
off my shoes with elegance. More gain
than pain in the rain, I can just comment. Although later I have to count
five blue toe nails.
At the meeting point Achim and Kelvin are waiting with 120 cans of beer. I
let leave it with one, and it tastes great.
And how did the others do? Wilfried finished more than a minute in front
of me. Timo had to conced that the 3:15 pace group was too fast for
him. At some point I must have overtaken him without notice. He passed the
line at 3:31. Klaus was on schedule until 35K but then was tortured by
cramps in both thighs. He lost a lot of time but still finished at
respectable 3:50 for his 2nd marathon.
Hold on - I know what you are asking. „Isn't it enough after the 5th
London Marathon?" Let me quote a mail I got from a German runner: "... now
I can imagine why London is your favorite marathon since years ... perfect
organisation ... countless friendly marshals ... ran Berlin, Hamburg
and Cologne, London beats them all."
PS. To Wilfried: I am sorry we didn't meet at the finish.
Please take a big thank you for pacing me along the hardest part. I
wouldn't have made it like this on my own.
picture for enlargement)
Running The Mall:
Pleasant anticipation of reaching the finish
Just off the coach and already wet
Calmness before the great rush.
Spot the BBC camera high on the crane.
Our pen hosts runners from 3:16 to 3:30.
The correct entry is watched by guardsmen.
I overtook this buttock after 20 miles.
Klaus again meets his pickup from the tube..
The character "Mr. Man" represents the
"Children with Leukaemia".
The mass photo at mile 8 is synchronised
with the signal of your personal chip, so
that you will find yourself on the picture.
My pacemaker Wilfried and me
in high spirits on Tower Bridge.
also look up: all