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Athlete Focus: 'Marathon Jobs' by John Gilbert Part 1

TriBlogsby TriBlogsApr 3rd 2013

A blog series written by John Gilbert about two of his more unusual marathons....

My name is John Gilbert. I am a long distance runner who competes regularly for Kent AC, mainly specialising in cross country and marathon running. In the space of just over a year I was tasked with running 2 marathons, where the emphasis was not on a fast time or team result, but carrying out a specific job. This blog is about the first of those marathons.

Marathon 1 Â- Olympic test event

I was asked by a club mate who worked for LOCOG if I would be interested in helping test the London 2012 marathon route. This would involve 3 wheel chair athletes and 50 club runners running the entire course at just under 7 min per mile pace at 6am on Monday the 30th May 2011. This also involved a free nightÂ's stay in a London hotel and a free dinner. Needless to say I jumped at the chance!

The idea behind the test was basically a dry run for the Olympic marathon. Timing equipment, runnerÂ's chips, camera trucks and even different athlete number types (sticky or pinned) were to be given a try out before the big day. We would also be required to give feedback on the marathon route.

Due to the early start we were up and at breakfast for 3:30am. Trying to eat at that time was a bit of a mission but necessary to fuel the run ahead. After a couple of pieces of jam on toast, a banana, and a chocolate muffin I was piled onto a coach along with the other athletes and we were driven to the start area on the mall. It was fairly surreal being on the Mall at 4:30am. London was fairly quiet apart from a hive of activity around the starting area, getting things ready for both the test and the London 10k which was due to be run later that day. After fitting our timing chips and making sure the computers could pick up our correct names from the chips we began to warm up / mill around the start area waiting to begin.

At 6am we began the first small loop of the route. The excitedness of the runners meant the early pace was too quick at approx 6.30ish per mile, but this was soon rained in after a mile or so as the runners with Garmins helped control the pace. It was nice to be running along the deserted London streets at a fairly comftable pace. I chatted to other runners about the normal things runners chat about training / racing etc, as well as other none related running chats (I remember a discussion about which episode of the Wire is the best!).

Due to it being a Bank Holiday weekend the streets were fairly quiet apart from the occasional clubber still out from the night before making their way home. We did get the occasional cheers from these groups of people who to them we must have looked to be in an official race with our numbers, camera truck and helicopter circling overhead!

As we got further into the run it became apparent that the early start and strange time to eat breakfast was playing havoc with runners stomachs (myself included) as regulary a runner would leave the pack make a toilet stop in the portable toilets dotted around the course for the 10k later, and then quickly sprint back to catch up the group.

Throughout the run one topic of conversation that kept coming up was what are we going to do at the finish? A 200m burn up from the fountain outside Buckingham Palace seemed to be a popular idea at first, but then as the run progressed an idea that surfaced was to let a runner called Chris Finill cross the line first, with the rest of us crossing the line together. Chris is whatÂ's known as an Â"EverpresentÂ" which means he has run every single London Marathon since the race began, so it was decided that to let him finish first would be a cool idea, which it was! So we did just that Chris crossed the line with the remaining group of runners following. There were even some TV crews at the finish to record the end of the very first 2012 test event!
Athlete Focus: 'Marathon Jobs' by John Gilbert Part 1
After the run I went home ate a big breakfast and had a bit of a nap. I was back to normal training the next day.

(By the way the pinned numbers performed much better than the sticky ones!)

The second of John's marathon memories will follow in a future blog coming soon...
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