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Record Times And Highest Smiling Rate
Report of my London Marathon weekend 2002


The Mall, The Finish, London Marathon

12/04/02 friday: arriving, spending money and London Transport

Our visit to London is stamped somewhat official this time. Thanks to the medium of Erich Bremm of Witten-Stockum, 5-time-London-runner, we are pleased to be guests of our twin town Barking-Dagenham, East London, and staying comfortably and low cost at the town's guesthouse. We arrive at early afternoon and decide to have a look at the exhibition today, making saturday more relaxing (and not boring our friend Richard while I do my usually time consuming shopping). 

At the arena I buy 3 running shirts (not that I really need them) and a towel. Then we stroll around and I collect brochures of Dublin, Stockholm and Chicago, marathons I set on my to-do-list. Four pouches of Lucozade go into my rucksack to get used to the sweetish taste until sunday.

The evening we spend strolling through Chelsea and having a delicious pub meal at The Front Page where we get two dishes for 10 pounds. In proper style and really cheap, as we should be able to compare later at the weekend. 

The return journey to Dagenham emerges to be an adventure. The bus drive through the city standing on an open platform is good fun. The tube jam caused by a robbery at Miles End is a first test of our patience. Back at Barking station we are looking for our car in vain. Panic! Luckily we unhopefully have another look at the next side road which lookes rather the same. There it is (did someone move it here?). Haggardly we make our way - to the next roundabout which has three gateways. We try the two wrong ones first what has some increasing influence on the way our dialogue developed. 

I slept quickly and well, only once I awake because I arrive too late at the marathon start.

Eastbury Manor House,
(photo: Barking-Dagenham.gov.uk)

The Front Page, Chelsea
(photo: Die schönsten Pubs von London)

13/04/02 saturday: the number, a boattrip and real friends from a virtual world

At 11am at the Arena again. Due to tactical reasons I need the help of our english friend Richard to collect my number. Just a short time to wait then I hold it in my hands and don't lose sight of it for the rest of the day.  I buy another 3 running shirts (honestly I had no one with a Union Jack before - now I have two). We leave for the new modern Tate Gallery. I have to admit the art is not of the highest interest to us. It is the cuisine the Tate cafe is known for. Unfortunately the queue at the panorama cafe at the top of the building turns out to be too long for runners' legs. So we have to stick to the 2nd floor. The lunch is really worth to recommend, for art dispraisers and vegetarians as well (as I am).

The queue at London Eye (the millennium wheel) is far too long for runners' legs. Instead we are walking along bank side to cross the "wobble bridge" - the millennium bridge which is now reopened and no longer wobbling - so it is less fun nowadays. A relaxing boattrip to St. Catherine's dock with a visit paid to Dickens Inn does not overstrain my legs. Far from it, they develop a prickle when crossing the blue line several times. Tomorrow legs will start to hurt about here. 

Richard leads us to New Burlington Street, where we have our dinner meeting at Strada Restaurant (advisable, italian), here we say good bye to him - with many thanks - until next year, hopefully, on 13/04/03. Entering the room we are very curious about what happens. Inside our internet friends are waiting for us. All of them have already arrived:  Mike of Peterborough (the reluctant runner – or as Pam called him: Mr. Brain Tumour),  Ian of Blisworth (breathless but fast), Pam and Chris of New Orleans, last not least Alina and Bassim of Aachen, Germany. Together with family or friends what makes a lively party which we enjoy very much. We are sitting together and talking like old friends. Virtually we knew each other quite intimate. It is a really special evening. Internet doesn't make one lonesome, nor does running.

London Arena, 
entrance to marathon exhibition

New Tate gallery

Dickens Inn, St. Catherine's Docks

14/04/02 sunday: the race, the happiness and the mayor

Planning the early morning journey from Dagenham to Blackheath has occupied myself for a rather long time, not just at night. The timetable  has been worked out in detail. To Barking station by car, then by train (06:58) to West Ham, changing for Jubilee Line (07:16) to London Bridge, here hopefully we would get the only Blackheath train which starts here (07:46). This turned out to be wise, according to Mike's report where is pointed out that the trains were already crowded at Charing Cross. In contrary to this, our train is just occupied by one half. We arrive on time and fairly (not really) relaxed at Blackheath station at 8:05am. 

The flush hour at the countless toilets has not started yet. And the provisioning is absolutely perfect with Vittel water, Lucozade and even tea and coffee. Regrettably the blue start is not as entertaining as the red one where all the costumed fantasy runners come together. Here at Blackheath runners take their race more seriously. I make my way to the kitbag lorry where I wait for Bassim in vain. Instead I am happy to spot Ian with his wife Jacqui. We wish ourselves good luck again, looking rather concentrated by now with minutes to the start. 

The starting process works perfectly. The pens are checked strictly and a few minutes before 9:45am we are allowed to move forward slowly. Finally when we can't move any further I find myself just about 50 yards behind the world elite. We are asked for a minute of silence to commemorate the recent death of Queen Mum. To decorate suitably we were given a black ribbon with our number. The mourning is so high that the organizers decided to turn down the traditional gunshot at the start. The afterwards burnt fireworks didn't seem to be impiously. Obviously a gunshot is a somewhat royal thing.  Instead we are started by the sound of a "klaxon". I didn't know what this was till I heard the horn. Within less than a minute I crossed the start line. Perfect.

I am running with a total come out, showing a sign "Uli" at the front and  "www.laufen-in-witten.de" at my back, both printed with a small german flag. Several times fellow runners appealed to me wishing good luck sometimes even in german. One runners reveals that he is from Liverpool asking if I might be from Leverkusen. He reports that he has been to Anfield road to see the match after what finally the german team got through. I try to comfort him pointing out that Leverskusen's team is not a German but a Brazilian one. We are running together for a few miles until his speed feels too quick for me. It's his 15th marathon, PB 3:22..

On leaving Greenwich I am looking for Angelika as agreed. In vain, she is standing on the other side of the road as I hear later. At least she was successful to spot me. As usual Greenwich is the first top highlight of the route with thousands of people watching and making noise like hell. However, even later on there is unbroken support from the crowds. I am counting the miles till Tower Bridge, my favourite spot of the race. Already before the right bend which brings the beloved place in sight I have a bright smile on my face. After hovering the bridge I take care to pose efficiently for the photographers but it seems they have missed me. Beside the Tower the crowds are thickest. I wonder if I am looking crazy with the broad happy grin on my face. 

13.1, half way. At 1:43 I perfectly stick to my schedule. Right as calculated the men's top runners are oncoming on the other side of the road. From far I can recognize them by the two low flying helicopters. The trio of Haile, Paul and Khalid flies by just two yards beside me. I shout a "Gooooo" over to them. Their edge of 50 yards to me at the start has expanded to 9 miles by now. A bit later I notice Antonio Pinto, already dropped behind.

At the drink stations british manners get obvious. There is no crush, nobody runs into the other's feet. At one case I indicate that I intend to move to the right verge. Promptly a fellow runner transfers the bottle he has just got over to me, running on to get another bottle for himself again. Always the neighbours are asked if they want to get the bottle before dropping a not emptied one. 

With a large bend we turn to enter the isle of dogs. This part of the route feels rather longish. The roads get narrower. The field of runners is pushed together. Very frequently the spectators offer small provisions like candies, cookies, bananas, pieces of fruit. Their happiness when somebody has taken anything reminds me on visitiors in a zoo who feed the animals. We are close to 30K now, and I still can keep the speed. We are on our way out of the Docklands and I experience another happiness attack. Such a high rate of smiling time I have never had in any race. On the other side of the road I spot a shark. He is 9 miles behind me. We are running animals in London Road Zoo. 

At St. Catherine’s Docks the route gets cramped again. Then we circle the Tower, applauded by Beefeaters. The cobbles and a short ascend torment us. We disappear in Blackfriars Tunnel which luckily brings us back to daylight without ascent. About 5 miles to go now. From now on the crowd will shout us to the finish. One leaves the tunnel and all you see is people. They are supporting me personally now though "Uli" is rather a word gamble for british tongues. "juli", "julei", "ulei" I can hear often and raise my arm to thank them (Uli is pronounced way of "ouleah").

I have watched my split times all the way. At every mile marker and additionally every 5K there are big digital clocks. Since one hour I know that it is a matter of seconds. Nonetheless I don't look at my stopwatch any more. I just try to keep my speed according to my feeling hoping it will suffice. I am still grinning, as I am quite certain now that the wall will not hit me this time. At my 3rd London Marathon I can enjoy the place for the first time till the very end, including embankment, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Birdcage Walk, Buckingham Palace. Turning at Victoria's well I can hear the speaker at the finish. He tries to motivate us to speed up as there are only seconds to 3:30. He talks of neighbours who will ask after our time and that 3:29 will sound much better. Two years ago I suffered a cramp on my end spurt so I refrained from sprinting. Furthermore the animator seems not to know about chiptimes. I have a look at my stopwatch and be assured that I am on time. Approaching the finish line I take my time to move to an empty channel to get a better photograph. 3:29:27. I keep on smiling, with a bit of a tear now. It's a pity my neighbours at home are not at all interested in running.

Once again I meet Ian, who finished his marathon debut 8 min ahead of me. We congratulate each other. To happy faces. Looking in his eyes one knows he's already planning his next race. Comparably twinkle-toed I walk to the tree we picked out in St. James Park on friday where Angelika is just arriving. We settle down for an hour and watch the lively scene, in proper style with a cup of tea. It's over already again. It's a pity, we can't enter right now for next year.

The evening becomes official. Erich and me are proud to receive congratulations by Pat Tworney, Mayor of our twin town Barking-Dagenham. We display our medals and pose for the camera. I savour some pints of bitter (which I missed the two nights before) and it gets late. Going to bed I enjoy feeling my legs. They remind me of a great day. I sleep quick and well. Probably smiling.

my race analysis with training plan  London-Marathon informations  

more stories (in german, sorry, try auto translater)

London Transport







Fotos: BBC


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