Why marathon runners dislike Edward VII, where you can pee in a green box and dab the meridian with your foot, who gets Grandma's sweater and why is it better to mix strychnine with Yessentuki?

The history of the marathon

London Marathon is one of the most famous, prestigious and iconic. Besides the fact that it makes part of the Big Six, the marathon in London is renowned for the fact that namely here the distance of 42 195 meters was  established for the first time.

And that’s how it was:

Let’s start with the legend: Ancient Greece, the ancient Greeks once again are at war with the ancient Persians, this time near the town Marathon, win and send a messenger with good news to the capital. Poor guy rushes to Athens, reaches it and with the words “Rejoice, the Athenians, we won!” dies and becomes a legend. 

And already in 1896, the International Olympic Committee decides to measure the distance between Athens and Marathon – 34.5 km. And they came up with the competition – marathon. But the athletes, who were running that same marathon, surprisingly for the Committee leadership, were not dying like the legend says, so by the end of the XIX century, the distance of the marathon was added up to 40 km.

And already in 1908, at the Olympic Games in London, something strange happened.  Edward VII, who was the monarch at that time, decided not to go out of the house, but to watch the start of the marathon with his family right from his window at Windsor Palace. Oh, well, a monarch is a monarch – they moved the start under the palace windows, having  prolonged the distance by 2 km 195 meters.

As a result, in 1921, the distance increased to 42 km 195 m was adopted and made the official one. Probably, his children were delighted, but millions of marathon runners remember since Edik then with a bad word in the last two kilometers.

Here, now you may also remember this jolly guy:

By the way, that historic Marathon is remarkable for another interesting story:

One of the  marathon participants, the Italian confectioner Dorando Pietri, decided that cakes will not take him far, and came up with a cunning plan – brandy with strychnine (Strychnine? Are you serious, Dorando?). This infernal mixture has a stimulating effect in small doses. But he should have mixed strychnine with Essentuki, because the brandy has played a cruel joke with confectioner – went to his head. Being the first runner to reach the Stadium White City, where the finish line was, Dorando got lost, confused the direction and started running not to the finish line, but in the opposite direction.

He was shown the right direction, but 70 meters before the finish line Dorando Pietri fell unconscious. Confectioner-addict was brought to life and helped to get to the finish line.

At that time, there were no rules, prohibiting the use of performance-enhancing drugs. But the athlete did not get a medal, because he was disqualified for the use of outside assistance. The winner of the race was the American Johnny Hayes. Dorando Pietri spent a few days in a hospital bed, and even induced the sympathy of the British Queen Alexandra, which on her own initiative handed the athlete a “consolation prize” – a copy of the golden Olympic Cup, handed to the winner of the marathon in addition to the medal. This story happened in 1908, but the marathon in London, as it is now known by the entire world, was founded in 1981, two years after the New York one. And the route now looks like this:

In short, the London Marathon is the dream of every runner, so I was eager to get here for a long time, but let’s do everything in the right order …

How it all began

It all started with the fact that I spent two years in a row trying to get to the London Marathon, participating in the lottery. And I lost both times. So, this year I tweaked out and went through a charitable foundation, which cost quite a lot…

And so, when I bought the slot, the tickets and the hotel, and I was going to apply for a visa, it turned out that my documents will get to consideration only the day before my departure … It’s too late … Ahhhh, holy shit! Am I really going to lose it again?

But we never give up, so I started scribbling poems to the British Ambassador in Moldova, Phil Batson, asking him to help me with the visa. The universe once again smiled at me – Phil turned to be a runner, and even socially oriented, so he gladly helped.

We, in turn, supported his call – to take part in the charity event, the purpose of which was to help the center for children with disabilities “Phoenix Centre”, in the framework of the Second International Marathon in Chisinau. Interview

Thank you, Phil, for both the opportunity to run London and for the idea of a charity collector at the next Chisinau marathon.

A couple of weeks have passed, and here we are with Vadim Zhelyaskov (marathoner and half iron dude) in the Capital of Great Britain!

Greenwich

What associations do you have with this word? Perhaps, the “Greenwich Meridian”? “GMT”? Or maybe just “London”? I have one more. It turns out that there is a whole area with this name in London. We settled there. The name for the area was selected under the influence of the British pedantry and predictability – the zero or Greenwich meridian goes next to our house.

The choice of zero meridian has no physical meaning, as opposed to, for example, the equator, and is determined by the geographer at his own discretion. But the British, as always, decide for everyone. So while no one was opposed, they decided that the zero meridian passes through London. And that the marathon distance is 42 195 meters. And that’s that. For this I truly respect them, well done guys …

Time zones were also not left without their attention. The British decided that the rest of the world has to live by the time that takes the count from London. That’s right, I support you.

And now we always have GMT+2, i.e 2 hours more than in London. Although, it is not so bad compared with Nepal – GMT+5:45.

 EXPO

The Exhibition of Achievements of the National running establishment of England was located at the ExCeL exhibition center, next to the O2 arena, and we got there by the fashionable aerial lift Emirates AirLine across the Thames.

Registration is a huge red space, with no queues, everything is done in a friendly, quick and accurate way. Even if you want to cavil to something, you won’t find anything.

The only oddity is that I didn’t find a T-shirt in the pack. As it turned out later, they give it out later at the finish line. This is fair: if you managed to run – wear the finisher’s T-shirt, if you could not – wear the grandma’s sweater.

I accidentally noticed an error in the questionnaire – they fixed it in a couple of minutes and apologized. Cool.

I can write a lot about the Expo itself, but it is almost as usually: cool, crowded, much, bright, different and expensive.

Let’s better look through the photos:

Field survey

The next morning we went out to run and decided to run to the start area and check, how the works are going. The works were in full swing:

The fences are put, the banners are hung, toilets are ready to receive visitors, miles marks are rising over the highway, and the arch is about to become a starting place.

On a cold, rainy night, we had the oatmeal-party, an unsuccessful attempt to find a GOOD weather forecast for tomorrow, and a photo of the second-hand:

Race

Morning in London on April 24th was cloudy, cold and wet. Just like all the weather resources promised. On the one hand it’s crappy, on the other – still better than the 25 degree heat. Filling our mouths with crackers and marmalade, like Paddington, me and Vadim went to the start line.

The starting zone of the London Marathon is a huge field, divided into 3 zones: green, red and blue. A blimp is hanging above each area, so that all 50,000 people saw where to go.

Each area is enclosed by a large fence and has one enter and 5-6 exits (gates), like in an airport. If you enter a zone, the volunteers take photo of your number, and no longer allow you go back. There is everything you need inside – toilets, cloakroom, hot tea, photographers and other frozen marathoners.

Your paper number is the address in the “city”. BIB color is the color of the speed zone, and a small figure below is the number of the gate. Gates are also divided by speed. Generally, the logistics is flawless – it is impossible to get lost.

An interesting detail. For the first time, I saw here an alternative to the toilets – peeing areas, only for those, who need to quickly drain off. The queue is long, but it moves very quickly. Boys inside are relieving themselves in the green boxes. And how the girls do it – I’ll never know …

15 minutes before the start, you step out of your gate and go to the long sausage of your color. In fact, 3 colorful crowds start in different places, which merge into one only a couple of kilometers later.

And here comes the start, everyone drops down their warm clothes, I decide to run in the windbreaker and hat, it is still +5 and humid. Here we roll!

The location is chosen great – I can run without overtaking anyone in my right pace – 4:50 minutes per km. The task for today is to run from 3:30 and not to exceed the average heart rate of 159.

10 kilometers later, it got noticeably warmer both outside and inside, so I took off my jacket to Vadim and ran light-handed. When I run at speed, I have neither the time nor the inclination to take pictures and shoot videos, so the gallery from this race is not so rich.

I could take photos of tons of things. Firstly, it is the fans, there sooooo many of them. They were standing in three rows near the fences throughout the entire 42 km distance. And in this weather – it’s a straight world record.

They shout, cheer, have fun – crazy Londoners, thank you. I didn’t see a lot of costumes, perhaps it is due to the fact that I was running in a relatively quick group, where people are running on the result.

There were also not so many entertainers in the distance, but you could drown in all the water available in convenient bottles all over the place! There was so much of it, that it was even privatized by the local “entrepreneurs”.

I was eating, out of habit, a lot. On the 15th and the 20th km, I sucked on a gel, on the 25th km – bonbons, 30 km – a protein bar. Never eat bars, when you run with the pulse higher than 160. I was eat them well, when I was running at 140, but today – it’s just not the right race. The fucking bar is sticky, it is chewed slowly, I have no water, the breath is  straying, the heart rate increases, the speed drops, you’re swearing, with difficulty swallow a hefty lump and curse your own stupidity. I bearly manage to reach the water, drink a lot, eat bonbons to kill the taste.

I have lots of forces, I start looking around – and what I have around is London. Handsome, such a solid, serious and important… Here is the Big Ben, wow, gorgeous.

The last mile… At the finish line, people were standing so tightly that Vadim could not force his way through to pass me the flag. Well, I finish with a virtual flag:

Arch, 3:26, the medal, a package with the T-shirt, photos, coldness, hugs, jacket, subway.

In the evening, we go out for the women, drink whiskey and cider, smoke cigars, and take photos with other marathoners. Oh well, just as always :)

And here, for dessert, are some figures about the London Marathon:

Results

Well, that’s the end of my series of slow races. 4 marathons in two months: Tokyo, Jerusalem, Rome and London. I learned how to run on the low pulse, not to kill the legs, enjoy the four-hour run, and most importantly – I stopped worrying about how am I going to run 90 km at the ultra marathon Comrades in late May?..