5 Jun

Olympic Footsteps

London Olympics logo

In March this year I saw a message on my club website (writes Russell Whittington) looking for a group of 50 runners to test the proposed Olympic Marathon route for the 2012 games. I immediately volunteered my services for this unique opportunity and was delighted to be accepted.

The event was to take place on Bank Holiday Monday - May 30 so I headed down to London the day before. All the runners met for a pre-race briefing on Sunday night. At that we were told about the plan for the following morning which included a pre-run breakfast from 4am, followed by a bus to the start at 4.30 to be ready to start the run at 6am. The reason for the early start was because the run was scheduled on the same day as the BUPA 10,000 race which was started at 11am and covered much of the same route.

The runners that were taking part came from all over the UK and Ireland and it was great to swap stories with a great bunch of runners from different backgrounds. One of the runners that was doing the run was Chris Finill who has the unique achievement of having run each of the 31 London Marathons in under 3 hours.

I ensured that I was ready to go by packing my bag and leaving my kit ready to put on and then set my alarm for ten to four. I stopped short of sleeping in my kit to allow me a couple more minutes valuable sleep time.

The start of the run quickly came round and was immediately preceded by a final briefing and a moment's silence to remember Sammy Wanjiru, the defending Olympic marathon champion who tragically died recently.

The run started on The Mall with a small 2.2 mile loop followed by three eight mile loops. It takes in several of London's world famous attractions including St Paul's Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, The Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and The London Eye. It is a very flat course with a few twists and turns. On the whole it should be a fast course. As the course is over three loops there will be plenty of opportunities for spectators to see the Olympic athletes several times.

One of the main targets for the run was to run it at 3 hour pace so that we could get finished and out of the way before the 10k organisers could take over the course. It was left to a couple of nominated pace setters, Darran Bilton and Tim Doran, to try to control the pace. This wasn't the easiest job of the day with a bunch of competitive runners trying to keep a lid on their natural instinct to run the marathon as quickly as they can. They did a good job though and the we never got too far away from 3 hour pace. The group crossed the finish line in 2 hours 58 minutes and 40 seconds which was pretty much on the mark.

Overall I am very happy and proud that I had the opportunity to take part in this momentous occasion. I met some great runners and heard inspirational stories to enhance what has already been the greatest year of my running life.