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Gain In The Rain - London 2004
My 5th London Marathon appeared to be the happiest

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 high.

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 comfortable.

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 Tower Thistle 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."

I agree.

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.


 (click 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 my 41 photos

left to right: Klaus on Tower-Bridge, Wilfried at the finish, Timo along Embankment, Uli shows his 5th medal.
(photos above by actionphoto)

next London-Marathon:
Sunday, 17/04/2005
How to enter the ballot  from August 2004

the travel agency team: Uli - Achim - Kelvin

photos 2004  Report 2002  Report 2003  more stories

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