London Marathon 2024

A report by Ryan Talley


The London Marathon 2024 was my fourth and possibly final marathon. I entered via the charity route as my daughter was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in April 2023. The MS Society accepted my application and asked for £2000 to be raised. London is not ‘just another marathon’, everything about it (apart from the distance) is bigger and better than anything I’ve experienced before by a long way! When I got the call from the MS Society I was in a pub in Cornwall with my family and was shocked, excited and terrified in equal measure. I think the locals thought I’d won the lottery as we were all shouting ’oh my god! I can’t believe it!’ Once you’ve accepted your place with London marathon you start getting updates, advice, information about every aspect of marathon running from nutrition to training plans. I chose an improvers plan from the list which was 16 weeks long. I was determined to follow this to the letter as the year before, when training for Boston UK, I had lost three weeks to illness and consequently struggled on what was supposed to be the easiest, flattest marathon.

My training plan started on January 1st although my first run was delayed to the 2nd as I’d ’over enjoyed’ New Year’s Eve, my first off work for a number of years. The training plan went well and included a week of running on the beach in The Gambia whilst on holiday (not suggested by the training plan so don’t worry), a 3hr 40 minute run in Burgundy, France when I was visiting my father in law and a half marathon pb at Sheffield half as my last long run. It’s fair to say that I felt as fit as I’ve ever been so was buzzing for the day and frustrated with tapering.

We booked an Airbnb near King’s Cross station for the Saturday night and arrived in London at lunchtime the day before the race. I headed to ExCel centre to collect my race pack while my support team of wife Polly, daughter Hannah and Hannah’s boyfriend jack) checked out the local bars. The running show was nowhere near as busy as I expected and I was in and out in less than 30 minutes. I headed back to find the support team knocking back the beers, still they bought me one so all was good. After we’d eaten I started to prepare my gear for Sunday and had an early night.

After a breakfast of porridge and a banana I headed to the tube station and the Cutty Sark which to me looked like the best option. The weather was 8-12 degrees and overcast which for me was perfect although I hadn’t banked on the wind in Greenwich which brought the temperature down sharply. It’s not until you get to Greenwich Park that you fully realise the scale of the operation. As I passed the statue of James Wolfe I saw a massive area cordoned off with thousands of runners as well as hundreds of marshalls, first aid and information tents, rows of toilets 5 separate entrances to the pen all with 5 or 6 wave positions marked. This was just the red start area, there was yellow and blue further on which were equally huge. I was down for the blue start, wave 9 at 10.38-10.42.

I was really early and started wondering if I’d made a mistake. This was because it was freezing on top of the hill with no shelter anywhere. People were stood in small groups trying to keep out of the wind. I queued for the toilets which killed 30 minutes, found my wave point and started chatting to other runners. I chatted to an American woman who told me she ran Boston marathon a few years ago. ‘I ran it last year, although mine was in the original Boston’ I said. Not sure she fully understood me. We were then called through the wave point to our starting pen where I quizzed the 4hr 5 min pacer. Apparently they pace a steady race, they have to be 1 minute early to the half way mark and can’t be more than 30 seconds early and definitely not a second late. That seemed harsh but I guess it works for them.

The start was great! I definitely set off too quick again but was just loving the atmosphere. Having your name on your top really gets the crowd shouting and I spent the first few miles looking for my support team. They missed the start due to not knowing how to get there but headed to the Cutty Sark to cheer me on. I spotted them easily and breezed past with a daft grin on my face. Tower Bridge was amazing! So much support and so noisy, it felt like being in a stadium. We turned right after the bridge and headed to Canary Wharf passing earlier runners for a couple of miles. This was a good landmark as it marked 22.5 miles on the way back.

Canary Wharf however seemed to go on for ever! It’s 7 miles and well supported including a massive group from the MS Society who screamed my name and gave me a massive boost. Heading back towards Westminster took me under a number of bridges and tunnels that amplified the crowd noise massively, bands were playing all sorts of running related songs to keep me going. I missed the support team on the embankment as it was so busy and I was struggling. I’d definitely set off too quick again! Or maybe marathon is not my distance? I struggled from embankment to St James’s Park but rallied a bit on the Mall. I had done it! 26.2 miles, over 500 km in training and over £6000 raised for MS Society, a charity that means a huge amount to our family. I crossed the line in 4:34:08, not a pb but I’d completed London Marathon so I was happy. I didn’t see any Striders but I know others were there.

Now the real struggle began, getting out of St James’s Park! Every exit barred except one and tens of thousands of people trying to get out. I made it to the MS Society base and had a very welcome massage, some hot food and a drink before we sprinted (ok hobbled) to St Pancras for the train home which we got with 2 minutes to spare! Tips for future runners: Book accommodation early – check out Airbnb as for a group of people it’s cheaper. Book your pre-race meal if you’re having one as it gets really busy. It’s the only time you’ll get to chat to strangers on the tube without being seen as a nutter so make the most of it.  If you’re fundraising, start as soon as you have a place! I’d raised my target by September and that really takes the pressure off. Take an old top that you can give to the charity bins as you start, it’s cold and windy up there. You can fit a medium sized rucksack in the kitbag they give you which will be easier to carry at the end.  Don’t get giddy, I did and paid for it later. Agree with your supporters where they should cheer you on, it’s a great boost when you see them. I took water and gel but you don’t need to, there are loads of water stations. Avoid the Lucozade sport tablets! What a disgusting sticky mess that stuff made. Remember to try and look your best as you cross the line! They are filming and will offer the video with your photo package (don’t gurn like I did).  Above all, enjoy it and soak in the atmosphere.

There’s nothing quite like it!

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