Anyone who knows me well or has read this before will know London is now an annual pilgrimage and a highlight each year.  This was my fourth consecutive year running the course and my tenth trip around the route.  It was also my second attempt at running it in fancy dress aiming for a Guinness World Record as a the fastest cowboy to run a marathon.  The weekend started with the train down and chatting to a couple of other marathon runners - one, Sarah, doing her first London marathon and second one ever for Victa. As London novices, I travelled with them to the Expo at ExCel to register - where I almost ended up on the wrong start (blue) as I presented my original starting number. (World Record attempts get transferred to the green start so they can interview you etc)  Problem solved and I grabbed some details of autumnal marathons and lunch before heading off to watch Norwich City at Fulham - sadly to see us lose 1-0 and lurch nearer relegation!  I hoped I didn't fair so badly the next day!
London Marathon 2014
As ever, on the day, my nerves were to the max as I woke and left my friend, James', flat in south London and headed for the start.  On route I chatted to other runners and even helped one put her timing chip on her shoe.  I took a  friend's advise (Alison) and followed a nice bum to the start (she had meant it for motivation as I ran but I saw no harm starting early!) - and was delighted on entering my start area to find four good friends from Beverley AC - Julie Donald (a World Record Holder as fastest book character as Where's Wenda in 2012), Jackie Hardman (To be thanked for helping me dress properly in my costume!), Debs Brant (Who'd flown back from Cyprus since moving out in January) and Sam Allen (Encouraging me as we talked time tactics and reasoned we should be together on course!).  I registered with Guinness and we had a picture taken as over 70 of us were attempting various World Records (including another cowboy challenger) and four ladies with a Warhorse to carry!  Having found a horse, I duly grabbed a picture, well aware if I rode it I'd be slower than running on this occasion!

There were plenty of cheers as David Weir and Shelley Woods were introduced and headed off on the Wheelchair races and for Richard Whitehead amongst others in various Paralympic marathon categories.  However, the loudest cheer I've ever heard to date when they introduced the elite runners was reserved for the Men's race and Britain's Mo Farah.  As a massive fan and having seen him win his 5,000 metre Olympic Gold first hand, I was gunning for him on his marathon debut.  With the sun out, it was gonna be a warm day in shorts and T-shirt, let alone jeans, shirt, neckerchief, waistcoat, belt, hat and carrying a lasso! 10am arrived and Olympic rowing Gold medallists, Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins fired the starting gun of both the 34th London Marathon and my 34th marathon.

It all started promisingly - if not too well as I headed off with Sam encouraged by the instant responses to the cowboy outfit - "Woody" being a common shout out as much as Lucas! Mile three went a bit too quick as I ran it in 7:06 - and wondered why I felt a bit like I was pushing it!  I knew I would regret it later but despite trying to slow my pace didn't seem to be able to - the crowds buoyed me along.  I had lost sight of Sam - who had disappeared ahead of me.  Once I had passed Cutty Sark I knew it was going to be a hard slog - I was getting very warm already and there was no sign of it cooling.  I passed Sarah Montgomery somewhere around here - though I didn't realise, just as I was oblivious to David Jones and Tony Dickinson around mile 8-9.  I also passed The Lowe family in this area - who got a picture as I ran away from them!  

At Bermondsey I missed Sandra and Aunt Val - it turned out Sandra ran alongside me for two minutes screaming my name!  Alas, with a lot of people cheering my name (from my top) I was oblivious!  I had already lost pace considerably, had a loo stop due to gut ache and was feeling generally shattered!  I do not normally feeling exhausted at this stage. I also have never walked in the first half before, so knew it was not going well! I had already given up the world record attempt by mile 10/11.  Get to half way and I would get round was my thought.  The Euphoria of Tower Bridge didn't lift me like normal which indicated this was just not gonna be my best run.  I discovered at the end that the other cowboy was ahead of me so perhaps good to know I didn't push myself to find I never got the record anyhow!
I headed down the Highway and passed the group from the train journey down (I was walking at that point!) and also a group from home who were down cheering on runners from a number of clubs in Kingston upon Hull and Beverley - not sure they saw me either!.  Julie and Jackie passed me as we headed round St Katherine's Docks into the Isle of Dogs - and despite Julie trying to keep me with her it wasn't happening.  I also had another club member, Andy Grainger, pass me - apparently I appeared very fed up when we spoke! A runner then tried to head round with me from mile 16 - aiming for 4 hours on his maiden marathon.  If only I had managed to keep his enthusiasm! Half a mile later we drifted apart.  Chris Dunn - another of the Beverley AC runners headed past me at mile 17ish - he had a Hull City cape being a massive fan of the club who would then go on to make their first ever FA Cup Final that afternoon with a 5-3 victory over Sheffield Utd.  On fact, a number of the fans were in the crowd with their flags.  (and a few Norwich fans too!)

Home

Registration at ExCel and a man running with a fridge on his back at the starting area.
Lucas runs tthrough Canary Wharf at 30km
Above - Alex and Liam - the former was unable to finish the race. Right - Liam who offered pain killers at mile 17-18
Lucas coming through mile 25 on the Embankment

As I hit the Canary Wharf section I headed for the first aid van as my shoulder was battering. (My legs were fine - the bio freeze was working wonders on my hamstring and glut!).  St John's had no pain killers etc but a lad, Liam, who was waiting for his mate, Alex, who was being treated, had some with him and kindly offered me some.  I bumped into Liam at the finish area and discovered that his friend had been unable to complete the course and he had been advised to head on. They were raising money for Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign and have raised over £2,300 to date - feel free to donate at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LiamEmbliss http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/AlexRidgwayRunsLondonMarathon


As I snaked around Canary Wharf I finally spotted Sandra and Aunt Val at the 30km point - and the crowds in the area did give me a bit of a lift. I headed on through 20 miles and even picked pace up for a mile when I ran it in under 10 minutes (only mile after half way run in sub 10 mins!).  With 10Km to go, I jostled with Captain America for sometime as we both ran/walked but opposite each other (I finally got the upper hand!) and at one point had a group chanting my name (Lucas not Woody!) as I was walking - and when I zoned in to it and started to run got a massive cheer.  I may have felt drained and hot but the crowds do not fail to get you round London - I am sure they were the biggest I have seen yet.  26.2 miles of cheering is a phenomenal experience - and why I will always enjoy London however rubbish my run is going.  They remind you of the thousands of inspirational journeys the other runners have and why we are there - to support so many worthy causes.


Jackie Lowe pictures Lucas near Rotherhithe

Above - At the start with Debs, Jackie, Julie and Sam
Below - Lucas with ladies carrying a warhorse around the course

As I headed along the final few miles onto the Embankment I spotted another Beverley runner - Paul Evans - before seeing Sandra and Aunt Val once more at mile 25.  The crowd continued to cheer - I was called Luca as much if not more than Lucas on the day as my S was obscured by my waist coat! I also had considered losing much of my gear that was making me so hot as the record was off the cards - but I figured the response from the crowds - the high fiving a cowboy - was reason enough to do the distance in the full gear.  As I headed down Bird Cage Walk I had my own moment of glory for 10-15 seconds as they changed the route where they have crossings so I was momentarily the first runner on my side.  I waved my arms up to acknowledge everyone and got a massive cheer - which was brilliant.  I somehow sprinted up The Mall - nothing to gain other than the relief of crossing the line and concluded marathon 34.  The news later that evening reminded me how vulnerable we are on the course when I heard of the sad news of a runners death after finishing the race.  


Julie found me at the finish - she was waiting her husband, Stuart, who was running his first ever marathon.  We chatted and hugged and saw Steve Hadley and Paul from the club.  According to my Garmin I had run 26.72 miles - half a mile too much !In bright sunshine, it had been an amazing day again.  As I battled through the crowds to meet Sandra and Aunt Val in Horse Guards parade I reflected on how the day is always such a positive in the British calendar.  To see police officers on duty cheering you, having unknown people chanting your name, kids high fiving you as you remind them of a favourite animated character and the noise is phenomenal.  My time of 4:40:50 - my slowest London course and second slowest marathon to date, didn't matter. I had shared the experience with thousands more once again and somewhere it felt different again.


Finally with my finishers medal and with Julie in the finish area

My day ended with the train home - still adorning my medal.  A fellow runner was sat opposite me having completed his first ever Marathon and his fiancée having managed the challenge of getting round London alone.  Matt had run for Action for Children - (formally NCH) - a charity I ran for in 2004 and 2006 and still support personally.  He too had not faired so well 16 miles onwards but was inspired by the crowds and has raised over £800 when going to print

With Sandra and Aunt Val after the run

Epilogue

On the Thursday I managed to find out who the other cowboy was.  A chap called Rik Vercoe had broken the cowboy record  - with a time of 3:09:09.  The good news is I hadn't therefore bust a gut to find I had still not got the record!  He has also run over 100 marathons so makes me look an amateur!    Congratulations to Rik.  I will not be attempting to beat him as I can't run that fast in shorts and t-shirt


(http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/mthomas86).  It made the journey home conclude the day on a positive - as well as the numerous messages from friends and family when I posted on Facebook and Twitter.  Bring on 2015!