The final 6: running the finish of the London Marathon

Day 6: Trying to make friends with the finish

I had a lofty plan when I was planning my countdown diary. A brilliant insight into how I’m preparing for the London Marathon with tech at my side, an alternative view to the English capital’s finest race.

Today was supposed to be me celebrating my home advantage: running the final 6.2 miles, documenting the last section of the race to help anyone reading this feel more at home at the point when their world will be cavin… I mean, when the end is kind of in sight and the world is a wonderfully uplifting place.

Instead of all that, I’ve basically explained how and why I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to pacing or planning a marathon, I wear too much tech and today I've found I am terrible at documenting routes.

Today’s piece was supposed to be a glorious look at the key points on the way to the finish, but instead it’s mostly ‘Gareth’s trip around a lot of metal barriers and pictures of traffic’.

That's because the roads aren’t closed, so I was basically taking pictures of lorries, long stretches of road and pubs, as well as some architecture that looked pretty and I subsequently had to research.

The slightly better news is I was using the new Samsung Galaxy S8 (read the Galaxy S8 review I spent my entire Easter weekend writing, if you please) which offered up some very quick and clear snaps in the fresh air and blue skies.

So instead of a beautiful view of the route, here’s a terrible run-down of the final six hellish (sorry, not hellish… delightful, of course - for those in my running club who’ve told me these pieces need to be more positive) miles… including a picture of a corner shop.

Mile 20-21 

I got off at the wrong tube stop. It was supposed to be All Saints, but I managed to jump off at Poplar and had to work out where the route was supposed to go and find my way back. I also realised I quite needed the toilet.

I passed a section where there was a lot of rubbish on the floor, and a discarded hat. But you won’t be running this way, so it's kind of irrelevant.

Top underpass though.

Mile 21-22 

When you see the Costcutter’s (a low-cost small supermarket here in the UK) you’ve just passed mile 21 of the marathon. Ignore that mile marker… this is the real moment you know you’ve crossed into the last five miles. One to tick off the bucket list.

The first sign of the barriers. In hindsight, not as exciting as I first thought.

This is also where I saw my first metal barrier, ready for the race on Sunday. I got a little bit excited, feeling like the race was finally nearly here - until I realised there were loads of them up everywhere.

I was massively glad as it meant I didn’t have to keep trying to work out the route. Just navigate the traffic which I’d managed to totally forget about in my prep for this run.

Note - still more barriers

A few turns later and I passed St Paul’s Shadwell, which was one of the first nice bits of architecture on the route… unless you’re well into flyovers and grubby roads.

The need for the toilet was growing.

Mile 22-23 

After crossing mile 22, on one side of the road was the stunning St George in the East church, the photo for which came out really nicely on the Samsung Galaxy S8.

On the other was the Old Rose pub, part of the old Tobacco Dock. It’s clearly been closed a while, and I had to do some ‘artful framing’ so you don’t see the dodgy posters pasted all over it. That’s a treat to look forward to in the race.

What are 'hydroponics'?

A few metres on and you’ll hit the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (not literally) on your left, where you’ll get your first proper view of the Shard. By this point you will give zero craps about lovely London architecture.

However even the most tired of minds will struggle not to enjoy the sight of roaring past the Tower of London, standing all majestic and stuff in the middle of the metropolis, a towering beacon of the amount of ancient stuff that has inexplicably lasted in Britain.

I’m struggling toilet-wise at this point, I won’t lie. I even had a look around an underpass for a cheeky cafe.

Mile 23-24 

When you see the Hung, Drawn and Quartered pub (a name denoting the grisly death a great many noblemen encountered as a result of being convicted of high treason… although by this point, it may feel preferable) you’ll get that wonderful gift: a little downhill section.

From here it’s a straight slingshot down Lower Thames St, nice and flat, passing under Cannon Street station… which is remarkably unremarkable. You won’t care at this point.

My toilet situation is about to get out of control.

Mile 24-25 

You’ll encounter the Blackfriars underpass at the start of this mile, but me and my running buddy Kieran Alger, founder of ManvMiles and previous sub-three runner here (who I’ve just picked up en route) realise we’re not allowed to run under there.

Could be hilly. I don't know. Best go in and find out on Sunday.

I have a feeling there may be a slight incline in there somewhere, but it’ll be such a weird and tiring experience by this point you probably will be able to ignore it.

We have to navigate around and I pass by a beautiful Pret a Manger - which I gladly stop in to use the facilities. It’s like heaven.

We roll back around onto the route, and this is where Embankment begins - it’s that scenic place that’s used in all the marathon photos.

That's Kieran. He thankfully avoided knocking that cyclist just coming into shot over.

As the London Eye rolls into view, Kieran offers some sage advice: ‘It’ll feel like the finish line is just around the corner and you’ll want to start flying. Try to hold back - remember, you’ve still got a couple of miles to go.’

It’s lovely - and I can just imagine the crowds lining the street, remembering what it’s like to be on the other side. I hope I don’t cry at this point.

Mile 25-26 

The final drive is among the most iconic sections: down towards the Houses of Parliament, St Stephen’s Tower and Big Ben. Turn the corner and you’ll be almost at the home straight, slingshotting down towards Her Majesty’s house.

Remember, this is St Stephen's Tower. Big Ben is the big bell inside, factfans.

Kieran tells me that at this point everything will be exploding… I assume he’s talking about emotion. I make a mental note not to check.

Passing past St James’ Park will be hard on the day. It’s a lovely straight road that will have hoards of people lining the way… but by all that’s good and pure, it’ll be the feeling that it’s nearly all over that will be pushing everyone along by this point.

The good news is that you’ve either smashed your target or failed… it’s fist-pump or shrug time!

Mile 26-26.2 

I tried to do a lovely video of this bit. It was a bit rubbish, but you get a vague sense of what to expect though.


I fixed this up on the Galaxy S8 in combination with Google Photos - the image stabilisation was already great on the phone, but then I stabilised it further in the app, using the raw power of the handset.

(I then did it again when I uploaded it to YouTube...  more to see how weird the effect would be).

It’s going to be a brilliant end to one of the top experiences of your life though (if you’ve already done it, you’ll know that already) and a lovely flat and fast way to finish.

(By the way, there may have been some small undulations that my bed-fresh legs didn’t notice. I’m pretty sure they’ll be felt come Sunday…)


If you've got any tech questions ahead of the big day - or just about running in general - feel free to get in touch using the links below, or the email address in my author bio! It'd be great to answer some direct questions from runners over the next few days.