Thursday, January 2, 2020

Race Report: Virgin Money London Marathon

Getting into the London Marathon is, for all intents and purposes, a relatively difficult challenge.  For international runners, there are only a few ways to get in: by ballot entry (better known as "lottery" for Americans), raising money for a charity, or securing an entry through a travel partner.  The ballot is next to impossible; for example, over 414,000 people put their name in last year for the 2019 edition, but only 17,500 got in. That's a 4.2% success rate.  Charity entries are attainable, but can sometimes be hard to come by as well, because you're competing against a huge pool of other runners who are trying to get a charity entry as well.  So, what's left? I got my entry through a travel partner, basically paying my way in.  Not proud of it, especially for my reputation of being such a frugal traveler -- but it's what I had to do.

After securing my entry into the race, my schedule worked itself out that London would end up being my 100th marathon.  And then, my travel snafu happened with my passport when I wasn't able to travel to South Africa for the Two Oceans Marathon, which would've been my 99th marathon. My plans were such that I would be flying directly to London from South Africa, after spending nearly a week touring both Cape Town and Johannesburg. Since I had to cancel that part of trip, my flights for the four day stopover in London, then ultimately back home to New York, were essentially voided.  Thankfully, I was able to sort it out to get a replacement race right at home (which ended up becoming my new PR and my 99th marathon), but I ended up needing to book a completely new set of flights to fly me to London and back from New York.  Ultimately, I ended up using a bunch of flying miles, putting a big dent in my SkyMiles accumulation, but hey -- what else should I use them for anyway?

I left after work on Thursday afternoon, slightly early so as to be able to head to the Global Entry enrollment office that was conveniently located on the first floor of Terminal 4 at JFK Airport. Since getting a new passport, I needed to update my information with Global Entry, and the Trusted Traveler Program website was not letting me do so, so I had to get it updated in person. After a short five minute wait, I got it done, and headed upstairs, easily passed through security (thank you CLEAR and PreCheck!) and made my way to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, with two hours before boarding, enough time for me to grab a quick meal and get a complimentary express facial at the Clubhouse Spa!

A ridiculous queue at UK immigration
The flight was as normal as my JFK-LHR flights were; I encountered another runner on the flight with her family, and we chatted briefly as the plane was boarding. We landed just after 7:30am, actually slightly early, and then deplaned, only to encounter massive lines just to get to the immigration hall.  As many flights from the east coast depart in the evening hours and land in the morning in the UK, the queue for immigration stretched nearly halfway to where we had deplaned, and we stood without any knowledge of how long the wait would be, as we literally inched our way forward.  We still had a full set of stanchions to pass through before meeting with a UK Border Force guard, and when all was said and done... I had stood in line for nearly two hours before I was able to leave the airport.  Pure hell.  Thank goodness US Citizens will be able to go through the eGates come June 2019.... at least, that's what's scheduled!

So, it was nearly 10am when I finally made my way onto the London Underground, better known as "The Tube" from the airport.  After loading £20 onto an Oyster Card, I got onto a Piccadilly Circus line train headed into Central London, with my ultimate destination as Kings Cross St. Pancras, where I'd disembark nearly another hour later.  From there, it was an easy five minute walk to my hotel, the Pullman.  Unfortunately, my room wasn't ready yet (it was only 11am, and guests were just checking out), so I was given a chance to freshen up and change in the hotel's gym on the 5th floor.  It was just enough time for me to leave bags with the concierge and head right back out the door to get on the Tube to Piccadilly Circus and head to the Le Meridien hotel, where I was due for a 12pm appointment to attend a focus group with athletic company New Balance.

Expo bib time!
During the pre-registration process, I was asked if I was available to participate in the focus groups, and was selected to participate; the two hour session with a small group of seven of us discussed our running history, our preference for shoes, and then (from a consumer perspective) our aesthetic impression of several New Balance prototype models. In exchange for our time, we would be sent a pair of shoes and other gear from New Balance.  When our session was over, a few of us headed to the marathon's Running Show at ExCeL London, an exhibitions and international convention centre in Custom House area of Canning Town, East London.  The building was massive; there was a sci-fi/fantasy gaming competition happening in the halls next door!

Meeting up with Thomas at the expo!
At the expo, I met up with my friend Thomas from Germany, who was also running the marathon. He had ordered some items that were shipped to my office in the US, while he had a memento from Germany to give me in exchange for taking it with me from New York.  I would end up spending the next few hours exploring the massive expo, visiting vendors' booths showcasing products geared toward runners, races advertising their events in the near future, and charities participating in the marathon. I'd also run into several friends at the expo, including Ken (who I met in the Bahamas, and subsequently in Chattanooga), Arland (running the CounterCultur3 booth, selling his own London Marathon branded apparel), and Minnie (from the Netherlands, who I met at the Chicago Marathon). I then made my way back to the hotel to finally check in and meet up with my roommate for the weekend, Estelle.

Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross!
We decided to hit up a pub across the street from our hotel, the Euston Flyer, for dinner, then followed it up by walking over to the Kings Cross railway station to take photos at the "Platform ​9 3⁄4" plaque and luggage trolley 'stuck' halfway through the wall, next door to the Harry Potter themed store inside the station.  Being that it was pushing 9pm, the workers were about to close the line, so we joined in.  I had posed for a "flying" photo here three years earlier, with me performing a cabriole jump, a dance move where my legs were parallel to the ground in mid-air, so I was hoping to try to reenact it.  I semi-succeeded.

Afternoon tea at Radio Rooftop
Being awake since 7am, I was very ready to crash, and we both did, heading right to bed. The next morning, we woke up early to beat the breakfast rush in the hotel restaurant, and Estelle still had to head to the expo. We were joined by our friends Febry and Leo, and after breakfast, I headed back upstairs to get my race accoutrements together, as I would be spending the night before the race at a different hotel. My friend Sharon, who I met in December the previous year through Sally, had arranged a full schedule on Saturday which included afternoon tea, a matinee of the West End production of 9 to 5, dinner at restaurant STK London, and one night in a room at the hotel the restaurant was in - the ME London. She was bringing ten of her friends and family, plus Sally, her parents, and myself, and taking care of everything!

9 to 5 on the West End
The ME London was a short bus ride away, and I met up with them shortly before noon at the lobby bar, before we headed up to Radio Rooftop for afternoon tea - my first ever experience doing teatime in the UK! Afterward, we headed to the Savoy Theatre, a five minute walk away along The Strand, for the show.  I watched the original production of 9 to 5 on Broadway ten years ago, so it was fun to see this new revamped version that had just opened a couple months earlier. The show has enjoyed a US and UK tour and healthy regional life back in the States!  While at the show, Sharon invited me to join the group for dinner at the adjoining Savoy Grill inside the Savoy Hotel the following day after the race. After the show, we headed back to the hotel, where we had a few hours of rest, and because of my limited clothing I brought with me, I decided to shop for a new outfit to wear for dinner, finding some nice new duds at Zara in Covent Garden.

My first ever pornstar martini!
Dinner was a bit late at 8pm, and upon entering STK London, we were immediately received by the pounding bass of the restaurant's sound system. It was blaring, and ultimately far too distracting to eat to.  We were also fifteen people seated at a table that could only accommodate twelve, but thankfully, a little while later after complaining to the maître d′, part of party was seated at an adjacent table to give everyone more room.  After the main meal was served, and I ate all I could (and drank, too... let's face it, I can't turn down good wine! And also, Sharon insisted I try a "pornstar martini," supposedly a drink that originated in London  - so I did!), I retired for the night while the rest of the group stayed to the end of the meal.  After all, I had a marathon to run in the morning!

On the train to the start...
Sally and I had agreed to meet at 6:55am, so I could move my bags to her room, then grab a quick breakfast at Radio Rooftop before walking to Charing Cross station to take the overground trains to our respective starts. Breakfast would begin to be served at 7am, but it was an a la carte menu, so we requested some easy items to prepare in a rush, then were out the door by 7:15. The trains weren't terribly busy, and began to fill up when we reached the second stop at London Bridge.  Sally left to transfer to another train, as the Green Start area was better accessible from a different overground station.  Our train arrived at Blackheath station not even half an hour later, and we followed everyone walking through town and into Blackheath common; the big open field just past a lonely looking church was my start area, the Blue Start.

The blue start area, where I would begin
The field was huge; after presenting my bib, I headed in and kept myself warm as the area began to fill up with more and more runners as time passed.  There was more than enough space; on two sides were the baggage lorries, and in the center was a set of changing tents, and stations to get water, Lucozade (energy drink), and coffee and tea.  Port-a-potties and urinals were also ample. I clearly had gotten there far too early, but at least I was not rushing to make the start.  Eventually, I found Estelle and Febry, and other common friends, and we watched as the hand cycles and elite runners took off for their start almost an hour prior to the mass start just after 10am.

Showing off my commemorative bibs
It was pretty chilly that morning, and the sun would occasionally hide behind the clouds, bringing in a strong breeze. I kept my layers on until 9:40, and then shed them to put in my plastic bag for the baggage lorries before they closed them; we still had a bit of time before my zone, Zone 6, would be called to approach the start line. While we waited, many of the runners in costumes, or "fancy dress" in British parlance, began to mill about, and we enjoyed selfies with many of them! I also got a fair share of requests for photos, with many people impressed with my feat of finishing 100 marathons, made clear from the custom bibs I made that were plastered to the front and back of my shirt. After over two hours of waiting, my zone was finally on our way, and we approached the actual start. I would end up running into my friend JC just as we approached the turn to the startline, too!
One of the many "fancy dressed" runners running the marathon, this one a Minion!
Trying to stay warm pre-race
Here we go... the "blue start!"
I ended up starting the race 36 minutes after the first wave of the mass start, at 10:46am, with the temperature a temperate 52º.  The start gates began at three separate points: the 'red start' in southern Greenwich Park on Charlton Way, the 'green start' in St John's Park, and the 'blue start' on Shooter's Hill Road.  From these points around Blackheath Common, south of the River Thames, we headed east through the district of Charlton. Immediately, as we headed east along the very residential Shooter's Hill Road, we were met with the cheers of spectators on both sides of the road.  The green start, where Sally began, merged along the road to us, but by this time, their field was long gone; there were far fewer runners in that start area than in the other two.  We continued along the road for a mile, then turned left onto Charlton Park Lane, making our way past Charlton Park and Queen Elizabeth Hospital.  As we were still in a residential area, there were minor speed bumps in the road, and we had course marshals out in force, with signs warning runners of the "humps" in the road. By the time we hit the second mile, it began to drizzle, but it was brief, only lasting for about five to seven minutes.
Running through Charlton
"The Man in the Big Pink Dress" - he's run in 56 races in 56 dresses all over the UK!
"Beware Humps!"
A smokestack on Woolwich Church St
After turning left onto Woolwich Common, we merged with the red start runners, converging somewhere after the 4.5 km (2.8 miles) mark in the district of Woolwich, close to the Royal Artillery Barracks.  This was the start of the road becoming quite congested for us runners, now that there were so many of us crowding it.  Also, we reached our first significant downhill of the race, where we dropped some 150 feet over 1.25 miles.  We also reached our first water station, being handed out bottles, which made ingesting much easier, but the roads completely littered with plastic. I'm not such a fan of wasteful consumption, but at least I knew they would be recycled.  Some places even set up dumpsters with targets on them, where we could aim to throw the plastic in, rather than leave it on the road.  We continued up John Wilson Street, and I passed the first timing mat for the 5K mark in 28:21.  A speedy start already!  After encircling a roundabout, we turned left onto Woolwich Church Street, and then began to run along both sides of the wide road, heading west as we enjoyed the crowds lining the road through the Charlton Riverside and Westcombe Park.  Somewhere along here, I encountered my first spectator handing out jelly babies, what I always look forward to at races in the UK... they're sweeter and juicier versions of gummi bears, which you can find in America, though shaped like babies.  I would end up having SO many of these as the race went along.
SO. MANY. JELLY. BABIES.
Aim here! Though, in my experience, runners are known to not be very good basketball players.
The National Maritime Museum
Just after the 6 mile mark, we were now on Trafalgar Road, with the University of Greenwich (on the grounds of the Old Royal Navy College) to our right, and the National Maritime Museum (part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site) to our left.  It was also somewhere along this road that we passed the lien of the prime meridian, where longitude of the earth is defined to be 0° - in particular, the Greenwich Meridian, considered the international standard since 1884.  It wasn't marked anywhere on the road, but up in Greenwich Park at the Royal Observatory, there was a marking strip. Soon, we'd cross the 10K mark, which I would cross in 58:23 - again, a very good time!

The steeple of St. Alfege Church can be seen in the distance
Cutty Sark
We turned right onto King William Walk, and headed straight for the Thames River, but to our right was the majestic Cutty Sark, a British clipper ship drydocked in Greenwich. Built in 1869, she sailed the tea trade routes through the Suez Canal to China and to Australia for wool. In 1954, she was put on public display at its current location.  We ran around its length, then took Greenwich Church Street back to Creek Road, where we headed next into the area known as Deptford.  Surprisingly, our very first energy drink (Lucozade) station happened just after the 7 mile mark, quite late for most marathon standards, so I drank the whole bottle to replenish my electrolytes. I found the Lucozade to be extremely sweet, and needing a bit of dilution, but it was the only thing on the course.

The Shard in the distance.
We continued straightaway along Creek Road as it passed through  more residential areas, then gave way to Lower Road, as we reached Surrey Quays in the Rotherhithe residential district of southeastern London, a peninsula that faced the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf on the other side of the Thames, a part of the course we would be running about an hour later. Now in the London Docklands, we were in an area that was working shipyards and docks from the Elizabethan times up until the 1970s.  In the 1980s this area along the river was redeveloped as housing, through a mix of warehouse conversions and new-build developments, now turning into a gentrifying residential and commuter area.  We weaved our way along a narrow road around the Canada Water area, hit the 15K mark in 1:30:05 on Quebec Way, then took the very suburban like Salter Road and Brunel Road as it curved around the peninsula, making its way towards the hip area of Bermondsey.

About to cross Tower Bridge!
Jamaica Road curved its way into Tooley Street, before turning right onto Tower Bridge Road, and finally taking sight of the two iconic towers on the famous bridge.  I slowed down of course, to take this important photo op as we ran across the bridge's span, with the upper level walkway some 14 stories above us. The bridge was also the 20K mark of the race, which I would end up hitting in 2:02:08. Unlike in New York, where the bridges we cross are devoid of people, Tower Bridge was filled with people, five to six deep as we ran across the Thames. As we continued north along Tower Bridge Approach, the Tower of London was to our left - but being so taken aback by running across the bridge, I barely even noticed it!  We turned right along The Highway, just past St. Katharine Docks, as hordes of faster runners ran on the other side of the street in our direction. I crossed the halfway point in 2:09:02, leaving a lot of good cushion to keep my race under five hours.
Enjoying the amazing crowds on Tower Bridge!
Narrow Road. And feeling like it!
We continued east through the districts of Wapping and Shadwell, fiercely cheered on by thousands of spectators, and passed an area where volunteers gave out Lucozade gels; unfortunately, that made the road incredibly sticky for a good 600 meters before it finally subsided.  Around the 14 mile mark, we turned right onto the aptly named "Narrow Street," as we ran through the charming district of Limehouse.  This is the oldest part of Limehouse, with many buildings originating from the eighteenth century, and was the home of many famous Londoners, including painters Francis Bacon and James McNeill Whistler; and more recently, actors such as Sir Ian McKellen. Narrow Street then gave way to the Limehouse Causeway, home of the original Chinatown of London, as we headed east before turning left onto Westferry Road, before heading toward Canary Wharf and the peninsula along the meander of the River Thames in East London known as the Isle of Dogs.

Heron Quays West
Westferry Road headed south into the peninsula, and we ran downhill into a tunnel underneath Westferry Circus.  At the end of the tunnel, we emerged in an area with many new buildings being built, including Heron Quays West with its concave vertical sloped facade, and another one with a unique lattice design of red and white metal over its windows.  Soon, I would run into my friend Claire, from Connecticut, recognizable with her signature yellow plaid skirt, who I had been messaging with over the course of the weekend.  We continued along Westferry Road, all a fairly modest residential neighborhood, up until we were directed to turn left on East Ferry Road about 16.5 miles in.

Running along Westferry Road
As we headed north on East Ferry Road, the skyscrapers of Millwall Dock and Canary Wharf came into view. Soon, the high rise buildings started to surround us, and after another Lucozade gel station (and sticky streets, ew!) we turned left onto Marsh Wall, which we would follow westward as the route headed west, back toward Westferry Circus, but this time above ground. 

Near the south end of the Isle of Dogs
We then took West India Road eastward, passing through Cabot Square and eventually running along North Colonnade, into the heart of Canary Wharf.   Among the buildings we'd run past is One Canada Square, the second tallest building in the United Kingdom at 770 feet tall. My GPS went a little nutty around this area, which makes a lot of sense since the building is clad in stainless steel, and has been known to cause some reception interference, at least for televisions, for people living in the area!  This was also the 30K mark of the race, which I would cross the mat in 3:08:49.  My roommate Estelle would also see me here, and reach out for a pat on my back, before passing me and leaving me in the dust for the last 12K of the race!
One of the many Guinness World Record attempts on the course!
Cabot Square/Canary Wharf
The route started to lead away from Canary Wharf into Poplar as we hit the 19 mile mark on Trafalgar Way. We then curved our way onto the highway, somewhat uniquely, as it was a short out-and-back on Aspen Way, what's likely a very busy highway, which we'd cross multiple lanes of traffic in front of Billingsgate Market, the country's largest inland fish market.  We'd head back along the ramp on the other side of Aspen Way toward the mile 20 mark on Cotton Street, before turning left onto Poplar High Street, heading west again. We'd run back towards Limehouse and on through Commercial Road, and the 21 mile mark.

Another record attempt...
After turning left onto Butcher Row, we then were back on The Highway running west, the stretch we had run eastward on about an hour and a half earlier. We were on the stretch those faster runners were on so long ago!  There were still a few runners on the other side of the road, having just gotten past the halfway point in what was somewhere around 3 1/2 to 4 hours - putting them at an 8 hour finish time.  Now THOSE were the troopers of this race... to be out on the course for so long!  I'd cross the 35K mat in 3:41:46, and this was when I began to push myself, as I knew I could potentially come in under 4:30 for my finish with ~4.5 miles and ~49 minutes of running left to go.

One of many bridge pass-unders
We passed the Tower Bridge Approach, and once again, I neglected the Tower of London on Tower Hill to my left.  Mile 23 arrived, and I knew I had just a little over 5K left.  We were positioned right along the north bank of the River Thames, and the crowds seemed to grow thicker as we continued on. At this point, we passed underneath the roadway of the London Bridge.  Just before we would enter a tunnel underneath Millennium Bridge House, we passed the much-talked-about Lucozade edible drink capsule pod station.  Here, instead of a plastic bottle, we would be handed an Ooho seaweed capsule filled with Lucozade Sport. The small pods are made by the London-based startup Skipping Rocks Lab, and are designed to be both edible and biodegradable — the pods themselves are tasteless, and if not consumed, they biodegrade within six weeks.  I grabbed one, and simply bit down to release the liquid, but the texture of the pod was so strange, I spat it out once I had my fill of the Lucozade - it seems many had the same idea, as there were discarded "plastic" everywhere, once we entered the tunnel.

1.2 miles to go!
We'd run a short section through the tunnel, before emerging once again to more cheering crowds, having passed underneath the Blackfriars Bridge.  Now the Victoria Embankment, we passed underneath Waterloo Bridge, as the course of the Thames curved slightly south. We'd pass the Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges just before hitting the 40K mark, in 4:15:35, and I knew I still had the potential of a 4:30 in me.  Just 2K more to go... roughly 1.3 miles!

Big Ben, covered in scaffolding
In the penultimate mile along The Embankment, the London Eye could be seen just across the water, but with my intense aim to finish in a certain time, I barely even noticed. A behemoth of a building, covered in scaffolding stood before us, and then I realized - that is Elizabeth Tower, better known by the name of the great bell of it's clock, Big Ben, undergoing a four year schedule of renovation works currently in its second year.  We turned right onto Bridge Street, then becoming Great George Street, passing signs telling us just how many meters we had left in our run.  Sharon and her friends were situated there, and I hadn't even noticed since I was so in the zone, even with them screaming out my full name. As we passed Horse Guards Road and entered the southeast corner of St. James's Park, the road became Birdcage Walk to complete the final 352 m (385 yards).  The minutes and seconds ticked by... 4:27... 4:28... 4:29... and then we made the final turns along Spur Road, past Buckingham Palace and Victoria Memorial, turning right onto The Mall toward the finish line.  I felt my watch beep past the 4:30 mark, but I crossed the finish line only 16 seconds later, proud to still have crossed in a stellar time - my 4th fastest all time, and my fastest of all four world majors, by a good 16 minutes!  But even more importantly, I had just completed my 100th marathon!
Lovely and treelined Birdcage Walk, along the last mile of the marathon
Buckingham Palace, before turning onto The Mall.
Finding Sally post finish!
I found Sally not long after getting my medal, and she had just completed an interview, having finished around a half hour earlier, squashing her 4:15 time goal by over five minutes and getting her third world record, running the fastest marathon by a female dressed as a nut in 4:09:51! It was kismet we found each other in the massive sea of runners, and perfect, so we could coordinate getting ourselves back to the hotel to shower and get changed for dinner.  I joined her as she made her way to the Guinness World Record adjudicators, who were positioned just past St. James Palace on Marlborough Road, where she got several photos taken with the plaque indicating she was a world record holder. We'd also have her pose with a couple guys working security who were also part of the British Armed Forces. Both of us would then get interviewed by ITV News, with a small bit of Sally's interview being shown on news later that night!
Being interviewed by SkyNews

Victory Headstand, British style!
The wind started to move in a bit, and with our walk down The Strand to the hotel a good mile away, we decided to get going. I grabbed a quick headstand photo at Admiralty Arch as we exited the area to head to The Strand. It was already after 3pm, and Sally was to meet with a contact with Invictus Games in the reunions area to bring us to BAFTA for their reception, but the signage didn't seem to match, and we couldn't find her contact.  With the time starting to fade away, and the cold coming over us, we made a decision to just head back to the hotel instead to get changed and make it to 5pm dinner plans with Sharon and her friends on time.  We still managed to get two more headstand photos in, as well - one at Trafalgar Square in front of the National Gallery (where unfortunately, I'd fall over from a distracting person laughing at me, right onto my knee... It would end up stinging for a bit, and a bump would form, but nothing to affect my running) and at an iconic red telephone box, with a double decker bus and black taxi perfectly situated right behind it.  We got back to the ME London, and got showered and changed quickly to prepare for dinner.  I had Sally go first, while I iced my knee.

With Estelle, post race.
Looking back, I really enjoyed this race.  In terms of crowd support, it was easily one of the most electric marathons I've ever run, with barely any deadspots (maybe only in the short tunnel sections at Westferry Road and on Upper Thames Street) and could give the New York City Marathon a serious run for its money.  The course was good too, but not as good as NYC.  I found myself having to weave around runners and other road situations in this marathon much more than other marathons I've done in the past.  Largely, I think it was due to the sheer amount of runners in the race and the narrowness of the streets we were running on, but occasionally, it was due to areas where the streets were sticky due to discarded Lucozade gels, plastic bottles not properly disposed of on the side of the road, or having to dodge the occasional shower/sprinkler of water from the side of the road (it was far too cold to purposefully get myself wet, and even when we did, it was because we had no choice - the weather was going to be what the weather was going to be!)  These streets were also SUPER narrow, even narrower than in Berlin! But I seriously believe this race to be one of my favorites for sure.

Sunday Roast!
After I got my shower, and changed into my newly acquired clothes from Zara the night before, we headed down to the Savoy Grill for dinner, enjoying the rapturous applause from our friends who were happy to see us successfully completing our races.  I was playfully scolded for not paying attention to them as I ran past their cheer zone.  The staff at the grill took photos of us with our friends before dinner was served - and boy was I hungry.  I destroyed a delicious roast sirloin (a traditional Sunday meal in England) with Yorkshire pudding, and several sides shared amongst the group.  Sharon also commiserated with our sommelier to provide us with some solid wine selections, including a California red that she jokingly claimed "to be your fault, Jim, if this American wine turns out not to be good." (spoiler: it was *quite* good)  Before we all set off to leave (since all of the group, minus Sally and I, had trains to catch), we enjoyed some dessert, and then I headed back to the ME London to grab my things and return to the Pullman for my final night in London.  Estelle came home from her own dinner about a half hour after I did, and then we slept like rocks after a long day!
Loving my newly acquired bling!
Sharon, Sally, and I, before everyone left for home on Sunday night!
Abbey Road
My final day in London began earnestly, as we both awoke to meet with our friends in the lobby for breakfast.  Estelle left to run some errands before her scheduled Eurostar train down to Paris, and I packed up all my things to leave in storage, while I used my remaining hours of free time enjoying parts of London I hadn't seen before.  I took the Tube out to St. John's Wood to meet up with Pretty, her husband Matt who had arrived to spend the week with her, and her friends, to check out Abbey Road Studios and the famed Abbey Road zebra crossing, made famous on the cover of The Beatles' Abbey Road album.  It’s become a popular photo-opportunity area, much to chagrin of Londoners passing through, as the road is still a busy thoroughfare for traffic.  After our photo-ops, I headed back to Covent Garden to check out the London Film Museum, which has housed the Bond in Motion exhibit since 2014, showcasing cars, other vehicles and original props from the James Bond films over the last several decades.

One last tea time, this time courtesy of
the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse!
Soon, the 1pm hour came around, and I was needing to get my things to head to the airport to allow myself ample time before my flight home to New York.  After all, I needed to hit up the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse one more time, enjoy their daily tea time service, and make use of complimentary treatments from the Clubhouse Spa!  The flight home was pretty uneventful, but great to be able to relax on our way back.  I had my 100th marathon behind me, and a wonderful trip to the other side of the pond once again.

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