Race morning arrived with the athletes waking @ 6:00 to the unmistakable tune of Ron Goodwin’s ‘The Trap’ (aka the London Marathon Theme Tune). This was it. This was what the athletes had been waiting for. This was their opportunity to put all that training to use, in a bid to womble around London in a time notably within their expected ability. This was race day.
McCarthy promptly began to brew some warp factor 6 coffee to hopefully get the concrete bowels moving. Bagels and Honey for McCarthy – Porridge, Bagels and Honey for Simkiss; greedy sod. Breakfast done, showered and kitted up, the pair headed for the underground to get an anxious McCarthy to the start area with plenty of time (hours) to spare. A pit stop or two later and the lads were on the tube and via a change at bank and then onward to Greenwich DLR for a massive walk via a wee on a police station, the pair were greeted by the team GB flag bearer, who lead them to the championship start area. McCarthy had yet again delivered a seamless and timely transport solution for the project, one of the last things he would get right until he was safely in the pub after the race.
The Special Edition Kenilworth Runners/MCKEP hybrid vests passed scrutineering and were verified by the UKA officials; the athletes were now in the Championship holding pen. A quick toilet break and it was time to lube up with vast quantities of vaseline. Friends of MCKEP Stuart Hopkins (Kenilworth Runners), Jamie Langley (Leamington C&AC) and Rich Harper (also Leamington C&AC) were able to battle through the crowds to find McCarthy and Simkiss and the group began a gentle warmup. Simkiss was still a little tight – today it was around the IT band…but generally he was feeling better than he had been during the week. After the warmup he was found applying lashings of Volterol Gel in an attempt to see him through the marathon pain free. Bags were dropped and bowels were once again opened. The Sun was beginning to put his hat on and McCarthy already had concerns that everything was going to go wrong, Simkiss reminded him he was only aiming to run 90 seconds quicker than last year, when in fact he had run a massive negative split and had an absolute ball playing the crowds and enjoying the race, if only he knew how different it was going be this year.
The Championship athletes were called to the start – MCKEP gravitated towards their rightful place on line two of the start line alongside Mo Farah of the lesser known Nike Oregon Project. Rubbing shoulders with the worlds fastest athletes the mere presence of MCKEP was undoubtedly striking fear into the elites. Simkiss whispered words of wisdom to Mo but evidently the noise of the crowd drowned out Simkiss’ nuggets of knowledge as Mo failed to heed Simkiss’ advice on optimal pacing.
The MCKEP pair braced themselves, and before you could say ‘Quorn’, the race was underway. McCarthy and Simkiss were left standing as hundreds shot past within milliseconds; the duo had gone from being in around 10th position amongst the elite field to about 1000th . Quickly the pair gained composure and settled into a steady rhythm, although they struggled to keep the pace slow enough. The slight rise of Mile 1 was completed in 6:02 – 4 seconds ahead of target pace… This is where Simkiss’ moaning over pace began. Having fallen asleep last night lecturing McCarthy on the importance of maintaining an easy pace early on, and months of McCarthy sitting 2 yards off Simkiss’ shoulder on training runs – this would be day McCarthy decides to take the lead and dictate the pace come hell or high water.
More (very gentle) ascent on mile two – combined with Simkiss’ insistence on holding back saw the next mile split of 6:11 which would’ve put McCarthy into a panic if it weren’t for the knowledge that mile 3 is a quick’un – and that it was! 5:44 put the boys slightly ahead of schedule again, another ‘slow down’ reminder from Simkiss and a near perfect 6:04 mile. The boys were watching the splits and coming in a few seconds faster than planned on virtually every mile. By this point the boys were in the swing of things, Hi-fiving the crowd and taking on small amounts of water at most water stations – by mile 5 they were up by 31seconds against the target pace – through 10k, still 31seconds up – McCarthy and Simkiss began to prepare for the crowds in Greenwich around Cutty Sark.
Around the maritime monument they went aeroplaning from one side of the course to the another crossing paths in a style that the red arrows would be proud of. Once past Cutty Sark, the pair gestured to the crowd with lifting arms to raise the volume and give a cheer. They loved it… the crowd were on their feet (mainly due to the lack of seating) and going wild as the MCKEP pair forgot about pacing and the fact that they were actually taking part in a marathon.
The athletes regained composure, they continued enjoy and engage with the crowds whilst remembering to drink little and often, and even have the occasional carb gel. This was just as well since Simkiss was starting to feeling some tightness and tension in his right hamstring around 9mile. Knowing his horrific experience at Edinburgh Marathon in 2009, and how badly he suffered in the final miles after started to feel fatigue in the legs at 18mi, the fact he felt a similar level of fatigue in his hamstring at mile 9 was somewhat unnerving – Simkiss began to prepare himself for a pain fest.
All was forgotten however just in time for the approach to Tower Bridge. Much in the same way they did around Cutty Sark, the pair put on a show for the crowd and with adrenaline flowing like Ale at the MCKEP AGM, Rich & Chris unknowingly flew over Tower Bridge at a silly-fast pace. Simkiss has since been quoted as saying:
It was like nothing I have ever experienced before – the crowd support was already at an impressive level, but when the McCarkiss show started and the crowd erupted – it was near deafening – like being part of a major sporting event and everyone cheering for you… oh wait… that’s exactly what it was.
The adrenaline rush was so intense that Simkiss came off Tower Bridge grinning from ear to ear, but breathing like an emphysemic smoker on speed. As mile 14 neared, McCarthy found himself really short of breath, gasping for air, and in the midst of another ‘Liverpool Half’ moment, looking around for a medic and a way to drop out. Simkiss, noting the worry on McCarthy’s face, offered to drop the pace. In hindsight the aeroplaning, high fives and ridiculous showboating across Tower Bridge may have taken their toll and in some sort of adrenalin come down it was almost a panic attack like ending for McCarthy. Anyway, he grew a pair of balls, pushed on and the project went through 15 miles 44 seconds ahead of pace and despite Simkiss’ best efforts to slow things down, with McCarthy at the helm it was like driving with the handbrake on. Heading towards a 2:38:30 finish time the handbrake of Simkiss was beginning to smoke as Chris ‘the engine’ McCarthy persisted – the old adage “there’s no smoke without fire” began to ring true at around 16 miles where the legs went from underneath McCarthy and he began to burn – the reality of 10 more miles was simply too much.
With the flick of a switch, the roles were reversed and it was Simkiss now driving the MCKEP marathon bus whilst the wobbly wheels of McCarthy continued to fall off at the back. At first it was tough going, and McCarthy sat on Simkiss’ shoulder, but as the miles progressed, even the fantastic crowd support and waving of Official MCKEP supporter banners and huge injection of energy from the family support of Chris Simkiss wife Laura and dog Zola could only momentarily delay the decline in pace.
MCKEP athletes were fast making withdrawals from their ‘time in the bank’ and at 19mi the boys were only 1 second ahead of target. McCarthy felt he was a burden to the goal and told Simkiss to go it alone and to keep the dream of a meaningless sub 2:40 alive. Simkiss refused to leave his compatriot and in a display of sweet bromance promised to bring Private McCarthy home safely – they were in it together, to the end.
With 10k to go at 20miles (give or take a few yards) – Simkiss worked out they could still achieve 2:40 if they hit target pace for the remaining miles – at the same time McCarthy calculated there was no f#cking chance of that happening but still the pair soldiered on. Despite fantastic security measures at the London Marathon, as the pair passed the 24mile marker and entered mile 25 having lost around half a minute a mile since mile 20, (now 2 minutes down on target) McCarthy was shot down by the highly trained sniper, “Crampy McHamstring” as he waved to the crowd at Blackfriars Underpass on the approach to the embankment. Simkiss turned around and ran back to save the wounded McCarthy – and after a moments stretching, he was on his way once more.
Simkiss, feeling comfortable, but also on the verge of cramping up at any moment – continued to engage with the crowd, waving, clapping and ‘woooOOOOoo’ing – occasionally checking that McCarthy hadn’t snook off into the crowd waving his white flag. This wasn’t the time to be dropping out, as once past Big Ben the showstopper was waiting. The MCKEP ‘beer station’ attendant John Hosie was stood waiting with the athletes carb refueling drink of choice – a nice tin of Fullers London Pride.
McCarthy was (ever so slightly) rejuvinated and the pair ran the final half mile drinking their beer to cheers from the crowd and remarks of “Oh my goodness – have they got beer?” Yes… Yes they did have beer. Completing the seemingly endless run down the Mall arm in arm the lads crossed the line, having done the project proud, in a distinctly ‘okay’ time of 2:43-something.
In hindsight McCarthy has admitted to Project Psychologists that he wasn’t really up for this race, at no point had there been any mental toughening or preparation for the inevitable tough part of the marathon. In fact, it is safe to say that McCarthy had found his 2:41 so easy in 2013 that he had in no way thought about what he was going to do if things got tough, and oh feck they did. This lack of preparation meant there was absolutely nothing in the ‘run hard and don’t be shit’ locker and the race was over as soon as it got going. As for why the legs went at 16, well that is open to a myriad of reasons but it’s safe to say the last 10 weeks have been somewhat different for McCarthy and training has maintained a decent mileage but hasn’t really had any structure. Also he changed Beetroot brand and gel brand…
The facts of the blow up are below, interesting to compare McCarthy’s 2013 run out to see just how much it really did go wrong in the latter stages; oddly he forgot to lap at around the same time both years. (Autolapping at each mile marker). The plan as per last year was to push on around 22, you can see the difference year on year was staggering. For no real reason we’ve also included Simkiss’ split times from his last visit to the London Marathon in 2010
|MCKEP 2014||McCarthy 2013||Simkiss 2010|