London Marathon Spectating as a Runner

Watching London Marathon in real life rather than on the television felt like rather a difference experience. Seeing it through a runner’s eyes probably made it different too. So I thought I would write up what the London Marathon is like Spectating as a Runner – as more of a reminder for myself in years to come.

A sea of runners at London Marathon including someone dressed as a spoon

First of all the time came around really quickly. I can’t imagine how long it feels like it takes for a runner to start because I have heard that you can be in your pen for a couple of hours before you even cross the line. To me that sounds like hell – not being able to go to the toilet, not being dressed as I would like and all those people so close to me for all that time (are they polite or do they push and shove?). But as a spectator it flew by. Having got up at silly o’clock to travel to and across London – we only just made mile 21 ½ in time for Mo Farah to fly past!

London Marathon showed me that there’s a lot of people who can run very fast for a very long time. If I really push myself I think I have seen maybe a 3 ½ minute mile as my best pace on my Garmin – which has been sustained for maybe about a second! I have no idea just how fast the elite were going but so many people had gone by before I saw my friend who finished in sub 3 hours – and that is FAST!

Club Elite members running the blue line at London Marathon 2019

But then crowds and crowds of runners went by – and they were still going much faster than I could. Some even in costume and oh my days a walking group (STILL much faster than I can run). Again not forgetting this was at mile 2 ½!!

I felt it must have been so hard for those running at mile 14 to see those at 21 ½ pass them the other way – especially those I consider to be going really fast (although they were excited to see Mo!). Although the highlight of my London Marathon Spectating was when a lady at 14 mile saw what I hope was her husband across the barrier on his 21 ½ mile and they kissed! As well as obviously seeing people I do know, and supporting club runners and their family.

spectating london marathon as a runner

A sea of people just went on and on – with no gap seeming to come – all of them just keep moving quickly. Some of the crowd seemed to really help as they told them to keep going or that they looked great. Some gently encouraging them along – “just a little jog?” Others I wasn’t so keen on – “only 5 miles to go!” and shouting like an army drill sergeant to keep going (when it was obvious they were injured). I do think it is great to wear your name if you really want encouragement though – it really did seem to help perk people up when the supporters could speak directly to them.

There became a lot of people walking and quite a few people seemed to either not be enjoying it or in terrible pain. Eventually a road sweeper came along cleaning the road and one runner at least seemed to be sprayed by all the water.

The biggest annoyance was trying to track runners on the app which was in kms. At the end of the race someone showed me how to add mile markers (but you had to set it that way every time you went in) and it was just infuriating as there was no indication of where we were in terms of kms. The app kept freezing, when it did load, and so I was sad to not be able to find my friend.

London Marathon runner dressed up  as a smiley face

I think that running for a charity with a cheer point is a great idea to help boost your morale and I enjoyed supporting the Wellchild runners and am tempted to run next year but I have so many unanswered questions – like is there a jumper recycling so that you can keep warm until the start? Are there loads of toilets around the way? There was a lot of rubbish thrown on the floor – is it really trick to get around? (I am sure I saw people throwing the bottles towards people too!) But mainly does it feel really claustrophobic? Both during the race and at the end – and is it better to head home or have a hotel nearby?

Have you run the London Marathon – what did you think, or can you answer any of my questions?

2 thoughts on “London Marathon Spectating as a Runner”

  1. It must have been amazing to watch and I think I would have been itching to join in! But all those things you said about the toilets, the crowds and getting the right clothing while you’re waiting around are the things that would slightly put me off London! My first marathon will be a lot more low key and that feels like a good place to start to me. I would never say never to London, but couldn’t cope with the fundraising required for an official charity place, so it would have to be a ballot place for me!

  2. Ok, stand by for some answers!

    Is there a jumper recycling so that you can keep warm until the start?

    Yes! You can wear your jumper until the start, then ditch it on the floor and they’ll recycle them all for good causes. I am far too tight for that nonsense, I just got cold!

    Are there loads of toilets around the way?

    Yes! Toilets every mile except for mile 3. Queues weren’t too bad for any of them, I stopped twice for a wee – once at mile one and once at mile 18 ish.

    There was a lot of rubbish thrown on the floor – is it really trick to get around?

    No, people tend to be quite good at throwing things to the sides because there are instructions in the pre-race brief to do so. Not only so they’re not in people’s way, but also so they can be easily collected and recycled. The only thing that annoyed me was that the floor was so sticky after every lucozade hydration point!

    But mainly does it feel really claustrophobic? Both during the race and at the end

    Surprisingly it doesn’t. Everyone is in such high spirits and after the start, people spread out enough for it not to be claustrophobic. The end is fine, no issue with too many people around although getting to the tube station after the finish is tough going! I would agree to meet people somewhere well away from the finish rather than try to meet right at the end.

    Is it better to head home or have a hotel nearby?

    Erm, I went home both this time and the last time I did it. The last time, I got the train home. Trains were cancelled back to Worcester and I literally couldn’t get further than oxford so just ended up jumping on a train to Oxford and asking someone to come and get me. This time, I met my husband and the kids near Uxbridge and my husband drove us all home. It was great to get home to my own bed but I think I would have been just as happy with a hotel bed as long as there was lots of food on hand and a nice bath!

    Hope that helps… I’ve entered next year’s ballot if you fancy joining me 😉



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