This year I enjoyed every minute – my blog on the 2014 London Marathon

All of us London Marathon finishers, waking up sore and drained the morning after the race day before, will have paused in silent thought at the news that a 42-year-old man collapsed and died at the finish line.

It was hot and draining out on the course in south and east London on Sunday. And this terrible news is a reminder that, for all the smiles and flags and novelty costumes, the marathon is a tough ordeal. All of us will have seen many runners laid out on the side of the course getting expert help. Thankfully, they all made it through the day OK. Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the man who didn’t.

Yesterday turned into a terrible tragedy for one family. It was a day of personal triumph for many thousands of others: hard training and determined fundraising, often in memory of a much-missed friend or family member or to back a cause close to their heart.

And the best thing is that all of us are full participants out on the pitch. The day before I stood in the crowd at Craven Cottage watching Fulham beat Norwich – 25,000 of us watching 22 striving athletes perform. But at the marathon it is as though all 25,000 of us and more walk down from the stands, pull on a shirt and join in.

It is such a privilege to be part of such a race. And then there are the cheering crowds of family, friends and spectators who yell and shout non-stop for 26.2 miles. It s uplifting, but it does make you feel a bit guilty. Yvette refers to the challenge of getting the kids round London with their “Go Ed” sign as her own “Spectator Marathon”. But after ages of waiting, us runners fly by in a moment. You want to stop and say hello rather than just wave. But if you stop, will you ever start again?

I had my normal array of memorable moments. Standing at the start jostling for position with giant bottles of Buxton water and Lucozade. Being brushed by a bare-bottomed mankini-wearer. A brief chat with the London Pride beer bottle before he sped off at mile five. And while many hundreds of people just shouted out “Ed Balls”, it was the woman who yelled out: “Oh look, it’s Ed Davey” that I will never forget.

For me, like so many others, the fundraising is a big and very personal part of the challenge. Running under the self-billing of “slowest MP but best fundraiser,” I am really proud to have raised more than £154,000 over three years for Action for Stammering Children and Whizz-Kidz.

But by the time I got to the race itself, Sunday was all about my time. It was a race against myself to meet a goal I had thought about over many many hours of training – to break the five-hour barrier for the first time.

At halfway, in 2hr 13min, I was well on track – but I knew the pace and heat would take its toll. And at mile 19, going through Canary Wharf, my head was dropping and energy draining. So my running partner Bev and I took a strategic decision. I knew I could finish strong and that we had time to play with. So we decided to walk for a mile or so to recuperate and regroup, squeezing my room for manoeuvre but lifting my mood and energy.

And it worked. From mile 22 I was back on track, passing runners, enjoying the crowds, and while the last mile was tough because of the pace, I knew I could do it. My goal was 4hr 59min 59sec. So to come in with over two minutes to spare at 4:57:40 felt like a total triumph.

But there’s the rub. Unlike my last two, I really enjoyed every minute of this London Marathon. Having finally met my two goals – less than five hours run, more than £150,000 raised – Yvette is now convinced I should quit while I’m ahead. She’s probably right. Probably …

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Posted April 14th, 2014 by Ed