The social media scene has sprouted an online revolution enabling like minded individuals to communicate with each other in a way that had not been experienced before. It was on Facebook that I came across an unusual opportunity that made me say, ‘I’ve gotta do that’.I had been invited to a Facebook Group of runners that were going to run the London Marathon in reverse. That doesn’t mean running backwards it meant getting up in the middle of the night, traipsing up to London to meet fellow runners and then trace the London Marathon route in reverse aiming to finish as close to 0800 as possible. That way, some people would then be able to run the official London Marathon route later on.
What appealed was that I could then run home as well and be home in time for a late breakfast.
If you want low key then this was really low key. Turn up at the end of The Mall at any time from 0200 at half hourly slots and then run in a group. I envisaged a 4 hour marathon going really easy plus I had a few miles further to get home. So I chose a 0330 start.
It’s an interesting journey taking the train into London at 0200 and it’s not quiet at all. Obviously, there were a few drunks, there were a few tourists making connecting journeys and some shift workers making their way to work. There were even some people in London Marathon uniforms heading up to do their duty.
Exiting Victoria station and being in running gear made me conspicuous to another runner who asked me ‘are you doing the Reverse?’ We joined forces to jog over to The Mall. Now that was not as easy as it might seem. You see, there were lots of security guys out in their rain ponchos, because it was actually hammering it down, who were guarding the entrance to the finish line on the Mall. Clearly, security had been stepped up in the wake of Boston.
After a very circuitous route we got to the end of The Mall where a small group of runners were getting ready, aha so that is where we start. It was a bit like meeting up for a club run, some small talk, some stretching, checking gear and off we go. The 0330 start was a small group of around 9 people, but very shortly on another guy and myself found ourselves running at a similar pace and decided to just press on rather than loop back. Past Big Ben, Tower of London, out towards Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs where you were able to run in the road and follow the blue line. Back towards Tower Bridge and the mile markers kept clicking by. Of course there were no water or Lucozade stops so you need to make sure you are well equipped to last 26.2 miles under your own steam.
The interesting thing about this run was that first of all you run through the night and see dawn break which is always a magnificent feeling and secondly it’s a way to experience what goes on behind the scenes of a big city marathon. All the way round through the middle of the night there are hundreds of people setting up all sorts of stuff, advertising billboards, drink stands, the balloons across the road at each mile marker, lorries full of drinks dispensing their goods to the drink stations, security and police at various points along the course. It truly gives you a sense of the full scale and organisation that is required for these events, in a way the unsung heroes. But throughout that whole journey not one question to us about – why the hell are you running in the middle of the night?
Heading through Greenwich and running past the Cutty Sark and out towards Blackheath and the start and the setting up activity was at full speed. Blackheath was opening up as I ran down that famous start line towards the gates. I even threw my arms up in the air in celebration as I crossed the start line. I had done a loop back earlier on to make up for the lost section at the Mall but it was still not quite 26.2 miles at the start line. I continued my journey out of Blackheath and towards Lewisham where I picked up the trail that heads back to Croydon along the river through to Beckenham and past Croydon Arena. A great day out and still a chance to see the start of the London Marathon!
There is also an opportunity to do a reverse of Beachy Head in October if you can’t wait until next April.
All images copyright – Ian Campbell Photography