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London Marathon 2023 Race Report

The Lead Up to the London Marathon 2023

The 16 week block of training for the 2023 London Marathon began on January 2nd. Following on from two months’ rest after the Dublin Marathon, where I ran a relatively comfortable 3:01, my fitness was lacking. My lower back had been bothering me when running since I arrived home from a long road trip in the States in August 2022. This had a real negative impact on my performance in the Berlin Marathon upon my return. The back issue continued through my Dublin run, but I managed it a little better by taking Ibuprofen on the course.  In my head, a couple of months off was just what my body needed before I started training for London in earnest.

For readers of this blog, you may have followed my training progress as I went along. If not, please go ahead and read through each week. You may find it interesting. But to summarise, I began the first week weighing in at 166.2 pounds and had a resting heart rate of 55 bpm. Both of these metrics would need to come down significantly in order for me to find my ideal marathon racing fitness. In total, I programmed 828 total miles over the course of the 16 weeks. In addition, there was one race on the plan for the purpose of a progress review. As a coach, I’m not a big fan of racing during a targeted training block. There is more risk in physical and mental setbacks than there is benefit. Of course, the pendulum can swing both ways, but focussing on the end result is more important in my eyes.

Mid-Training Racing

The one race I planned was the Bundoran 10 Miler in week 9. By this point, my fitness was coming around nicely, but my back still played a negative part in my training. It was during this week that I swapped out my daily strength training for a daily yoga routine. Ideally, I should have done both, but to be completely honest, I don’t think my lower back will get to 100%. This 10 mile race went well, better than expected. I ran the first 7 miles at a comfortably hard pace. The last 3 miles my back was getting tight and my pace suffered. Still, it was a very encouraging effort with an overall 6:28/mile pace, on tired legs. 

By the time April 22nd rolled around I was in pretty much top form. My weight was down to just over 150 pounds and my resting heart rate for the week was at 44 bpm. I clocked over 840 miles since January and my speed training sessions were all on target. Only a trip to the expo, a few more calories, a good night sleep and then race day would be upon me. This was without question the best 16 weeks of training I had in my 10 years of marathon running. Initially, the goal was for a sub 2:55 finish, but I had a 2:52 in my mind. My training was pointing towards this as a best case result and I was going to go for it. 2:52:59 means running an average 6:36/mile.

Week 16 training for the london marathon on route to expo
On the way to the 2023 London Marathon Expo
On the way to the 2023 london marathon
On the way to the 2023 London Marathon
On the course of the 2023 london marathon
On the course of the London Marathon
on the course 3
On the course of the London Marathon
Finish line of the 2023 London Marathon

Friday & Saturday

I flew over to London Gatwick from Belfast on Friday night.  Arriving at 8pm, I was hungrier than I had anticipated. My cousin Jim met me at London Bridge Station and from there we went to the AirBnB to drop off my bag. We met my daughter, Catraoine and her boyfriend, Harry, before going out to grab a fantastic sourdough pizza. After that, it was home for some much needed sleep.

We travelled to the expo at the ExCel centre on Saturday morning. It was extremely well organised and within minutes of our arrival we had our race packs. We shopped around for a while, grabbed a coffee and even took a few minutes to watch an interview with Mo Farah. This one was to be Mo’s last competitive marathon. We soon headed out and had a light lunch and met up with some of Catraoine’s friend’s. One of whom was running her first marathon. What an event to take part in for your first. 

The weather was quite changeable on Saturday, but in the early afternoon, the sun came out and it warmed up. We had a coffee before heading back to the room for our pre-race meal. Harry, made a delicious pasta bolognese. It was the perfect meal, along with some garlic bread, for the evening before a marathon. After that, it was time to prepare our running gear and get to bed for a good night’s sleep.

My Shoes for the London Marathon 2023

This was the third marathon wearing these same Nike AlphaFly’s. I was a little worried about them, but they turned out to behave admirably. Mostly because of some last minute shoe repairs carried out by my cousin Jim. His role in my marathon experience cannot be understated. He has been living in London for years and being his usual generous self wore many hats during the weekend. He was our local guide, restaurant chooser, travel expert and all-around good samaritan. We were never looking for anything that he couldn’t help with. This included some super glue for my small shoe repair on Saturday night. 

After London Marathon 2023 with harry
Meeting Area with Harry
meeting owen and thea
Meeting Owen Thea and Roisin
Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge

Making Our Way to the London Marathon 2023 Start Line

I woke early, full of confidence. My breakfast consisted of porridge with peanut butter and honey, 2 slices of sourdough, also with peanut butter. To drink I had two cups of strong coffee and about 500ml of water. This is my normal marathon day breakfast. No surprises. I learned some valuable lessons about pre-race nutrition over the years.

The plan was to leave the room at 8am, meet some friends, and catch the train to Blackheath. We all managed to catch the first available train, where we found ourselves packed like sardines. It was a short enough journey from London Bridge Station. I parted ways with my daughter and two clubmates who were in different waves. The countdown was on and I watched the minutes tick by as I followed the signs for the Green Wave. In hindsight, we should have left at least 30 minutes earlier as when I arrived at my pen, there was less than 10 minutes to go. I quickly removed my excess warm clothes, packed up my bag and handed it in. 

The queues for the toilets were at least 50 deep, and that’s no exaggeration. There was no time for a last minute trip to pee, so 2 cups of coffee and 500ml of water was staying with me for 26.2 miles. Standing in the starting pen, the rain began falling. It wasn’t freezing cold, but the wet weather made things uncomfortable. I managed to get right up in front of the wave and our start was just a minute after the elites and championship athletes. One of my concerns going into the London Marathon 2023 was that the crowds would be so big that it would take a few miles to find space. This turned out to be no problem at all. At no point did I find myself wanting for space. That even includes the bottleneck around Cutty Sark that I was told could be an issue. Over the course of the first few miles we all got well soaked, but that was the only negative.


after with family
Meeting Area Waiting to see Catraoine
ERC supporters London marathon 2023
ERC Supporters

Running the London Marathon 2023 Course

Traversing this iconic course should have been amazing, and it was. It just wasn’t because of the sights. I have to say, I didn’t see the Cutty Sark, Big Ben or any of the other landmarks. I knew I was going over Tower Bridge because of the arches, but other than that, I was focussed on the race. I also knew I was going through the area around Cutty Sark because of the S-bends, and I did look for the ship, but not a thing did I see other than a small crane. Ah well, it’s probably better to sight-see when one can take it in a little slower.

The noise on the course from the supporters was deafening. There were sections on the course that you were just carried along by the sound waves. One of the benefits of running with an Enniskillen vest is that loads of people recognise the town. All the shout-outs for Fermanagh or Enniskillen certainly helps when the going gets tough. I even met a young lady running for the Annadale Striders, a Belfast based club, who was aiming for a sub 2:55. Dearbhla Cox and I had a brief conversation, offered each other some encouragement, and went our own ways. I was delighted for her when I saw her pass me fairly late on, and I genuinely hoped she would hit her goal.

My Run

As for me, I had a very good run. An exceptional run to be fair. I got out to a good solid fast start as the first few miles had a downhill profile. Although my pace slackened a little as I went, I was leaving it all out there. In the end, my back was an issue and the rain dissolved my second ibuprofen in my shorts pocket. I don’t think it would have made much of a difference. For the last 9 miles or so, I ran in pain. But we were all in pain, it’s just that mine was in my back. Other people were finding it in their glutes or hamstrings, or worse, in their heads. 

Racing a marathon is a mental challenge more than anything. Knowing that I could run through the back pain was a benefit. I did it in Berlin, Dublin and even Bundoran. I could make it to the finish line and I had mentally trained for this race. I did a lot of running on my own, even the long ones. Another tactic I used to mentally train was to tackle a 31 miler on one of the Sunday runs. During this one, I did have company for most of it. Still, my head was prepared for just about anything.

As for my feet, the wet weather got in early and despite the Nike Dri-fit socks, I developed a blister on the bottom of my left foot. It felt like a needle sticking into my foot with each foot strike. But again, we all had something we were dealing with. I wasn’t overly concerned.

Running The Course

The course is mostly flat, however, there is a good stretch of downhill in the first 5 miles or so. This leads to some quick miles during this stretch. So, as I was hoping to run under 6:36/mile, these were encouraging. My splits looked good at 6:31, 6:31, 6:24, 6:24, 6:30, 6:35 for the first 6. I hit a 6:41 in mile 7 but back down under 6:40 for the next two. By mile 15, the pace got tougher to hold. The miles were sneaking up over 6:45 and reached 6:54 for miles 21 & 22. Even 6:58 for mile 23, but I was keeping a close eye on the overall average, not on the mile splits. It was creeping up, but never got over 6:42 average. I had lost my 6:36 hopes by around mile 17. 

As the miles wore on, I paid closer attention to the blue line on the road. My watch was ticking over about a quarter mile before the mile markers from early on. So I knew I hadn’t run the line well. Around mile 17, I made a point to keep it there, and to not run any more than I had to. The field had really started to spread out by that point. This made it much easier to stay close to that line.

The other area I was warned may slow the runners up is where the two starting groups merge. This occurs at about 3 miles in, however, I never experienced any issues of crowding. One part of the course I did notice was Tower Bridge. This is somewhere near the midway point. It was simply amazing. A real rush of adrenaline! ERC had supporters here, but I neither saw nor heard any individuals. Apparently, they saw me, but from the other side of the road. It would have been impossible to pick anyone out at this point. 

Cat & John Finish
Catraoine and I at the meeting area
margaret and john
Me and Margaret

The Finish

The most memorable part of this day for me was reaching the 200m sign where we turned right onto the mall. I knew I missed my sub 2:55 goal, but a personal best was never in question. I was absolutely delighted with this. The strange thing about my back issue is that it only really hurts when I’ve been running for a while. The pain goes away when I stop. I thought hard about stopping and stretching along the way, but I kept telling myself that isn’t how I do it. In hindsight, maybe I should try that sometime.

So I crossed the finish line in 2:56:44, which was 1:49 better than Kildare last year. It wasn’t a sub 2:55, and certainly not close to 2:52:59, but it was the best I had on the day. It is a reminder that no matter how well training goes, no matter what shape you’re in, things have to go right on the day. This includes so many things outside of our control. The real lesson here is to be proud of what you accomplished. Bask in the fact that you were able to do it at all. So many people would love to be able to do what we do. It is a privilege and one I’ll never take for granted.

Additional Congratulations

Huge congratulations to a few people. First of all, to the runner staying in the room next to mine in the AirBnB, Rafael Dienstmann. Rafael, flew in from Brazil with his wife and daughter to run his first London Marathon. After getting to know him a little I was impressed with his positive attitude and determination. After suffering major injuries following getting knocked off his bike while cycling in October, he decided to enter the London ballot. Fortunately for him, he got his place. Training extremely hard over the last 4 months Rafael ran a 7 minute personal best finishing in 3:12:42. I couldn’t have been happier and it was certainly a proud day for Rafael and his young family.

Some Special Congratulations

I had three other runners who I coached that took part in the race. Margaret absolutely crushed her training and did absolutely everything asked of her. We targeted a 3:30 finish and her 3:30:16 was a testament to her unbelievable work ethic. Next up was Joanne, who took an incredible 49 minutes off her marathon personal best. An amazing accomplishment. Hats off to these two remarkable athletes.

Lastly, and certainly not least was my daughter Catraoine. The goal was to run a Boston Qualifier. For a girl her age, this is a sub 3:30 finish. This is a tough ask of anyone, but Catraoine is one of the strongest people I know. Endurance running is quite a test and marathon racing is a special challenge. During the course of this race, only her second marathon, there were some tough moments. But true to form, Catraoine pushed through the mental barriers. With the encouragement from Harry, she found the strength to reach the finish line in 3:29:44. Boston accepts fastest qualifiers first. So although this is a BQ, it may not quite get entry to Boston. She will go again soon in order to ensure her place in 2024.

 Additional Thank You’s

I would also like to say a special thank you to those who came to support us runners. My son Owen and his girlfriend Thea travelled over from Bristol to be there at the finish line. There was also a group of eight club-mates, including my wife, Roisin, who travelled over from Enniskillen to support. One of the most enjoyable parts of being in a running club is the support and encouragement from fellow runners. These things can never be underestimated. So a big thank you to Erica, Gareth, Ian, Joanne, John, Mary, and Trevor. Also to other locals from other clubs who made their presence felt, too many to name.

What’s Next After the London Marathon 2023

What is next? I have a 50 miler in May. I’ve never done any distance over the 50k so this will be a challenge. A different challenge. For the remainder of the summer I will look to improve my 5k and 10k times before training for the Valencia marathon in October. I foresee many sunny miles around the Spanish countryside during the summer. 


I will be focussing most of my efforts on growing my coaching business. Apart from racing, coaching is where I get so much satisfaction from the sport. If anyone is interested in one-to-one virtual coaching, please make contact through this site. I take every athlete on an individual basis. It will never be a one size fits all approach.

Conclusion to the London Marathon 2023

Thank you for following along during these 16 weeks. It has been another learning experience for me. I enjoyed every minute of it, even some of those tough speed sessions in the wind and rain! I’d love to hear your comments on the bottom of this post. And if you enjoyed it, please give it a thumbs up just above the comments section. It is greatly appreciated.

Happy Runners and Supporters
ERC Support Crew
Fermanagh Crew at the London Marathon 2023

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