I survived the London Marathon – but only just!
I know it’s been almost a week since I ran it, but the fact that I had to get up at 4am the following morning to fly to Jersey on business and the unrelenting workload since then have combined to make blogging about it all…a bit of a challenge.
In summary, it was the best event I’ve ever participated in and I don’t regret a minute of it. Yes, there were times I wondered to myself why the hell I’d signed up in the first place, but the feeling of running across the finishing line and receiving my medal made it all worthwhile.
Starting at the top…
The weather was amazing. If I’m honest, it was a little too sunny and warm for my liking, even though I’ve done a lot of training in Spain in much higher temps. This was going to be a hell of a long run – my longest ever – so I was hoping for cool, dry and still weather conditions. But the sun contributed to a great party atmosphere.
I’m glad I plastered a layer of factor 15 moisturiser on my very bald head that morning. By the close of business that evening, I was developing quite a nice tan there. My shoulders, which missed out on the sunscreen, weren’t as cheery and turned a lovely shade of cherry tomato.
This was my first marathon and I was very, very nervous on the day. But the supportive atmosphere from the other runners soon put these to rest and by the time I crossed the starting line, I was ready to take on the world. The first half was an absolute dream. I had opted, based on all the advice I’d received from friends and experts, to leave my headphones at home and just rely on the atmosphere and cheering crowds to keep me motivated.
I’m so glad I did. The support from the crowds lining the route was indescribable. I’ve never seen London from this angle before – communities using the event as an excuse for a good street party, while cheering on random strangers. I was amazed at the impact this had on me. High-fiving people on the side of the road, exchanging jokes and just smiling as people hollered my “running name”, plastered on the back of my op…”Dr. Dick”.
The first half of the race was pure bliss. I felt on top form, was nice and hydrated and was genuinely enjoying every step of the way.
Then, disaster struck.
Running along Narrow Street, I was tripped up by another runner. I have to say, the most common phrase I’d heard fro other runners up until that point was “excuse me”, as they weaved their way through the packs in front of them. This guy, however, decided to use a more muscular approach and left me and a couple of other runners stumbling as he pushed through us. I did everything I could to avoid hitting the ground, but this stumbling and eventual banging of my foot off the kerb somehow wrenched my right knee.
I felt something grind against something else, which is never a good sign.
But no pain.
So on I ran. But by the end of the street, I was in agony. I needed to stop by a medical station and have it seen to. It was stiffening up by the second and I could barely bend it. The medic I saw was fantastic – thank you support staff! – and produced a magic bottle of something, sprayed it onto my leg and started to massage. I imagined it was some kind of topical painkiller, but unfortunately I saw the label.
It was just baby oil.
All chance of a placebo effect went out the window and once the massage was over, I hobbled on. I had the guts of a half-marathon still to run and my right knee was no longer working.
The sensible thing to have done would be to drop out and just chalk it up to experience. But that’s not me. All I could think about was the money I was trying to raise and all the time I’d spent training. I couldn’t just stop, so on I went.
Imagine running where one knee just won’t bend properly. That was me. I ended up in a kind of shuffle, interchanging that with speed walking.
I had been on pace for a 4:15 finish, keeping an eye on both my watch and the pace-setting runners with flags on their backs. But now, all that went up in smoke and I just focused on finishing the damned thing. I had some pretty dark thoughts as I hobbled along, but even cynical me has to admit that the crowd kept me going. By the time I reached Tower Hill and headed down to Upper Thames Street, I was once again enjoying myself.
Yes, the knee was still agony, but to be fair I saw lots of other runners in similar amounts of pain, so we kept each other going. Every time I slowed to a walk, someone in the crowd made eye contact and cheered me on. I felt so guilty, I’d start jogging again.
Once on Embankment, I hit my stride again – this was home turf. Most of my training runs have taken me along Embankment and around Westminster, so I knew every step of the way. By this point, I could taste the finish line and was doing everything I could to keep going. This involved any and all of the following: visualising the post-race massage, thinking of what I’d have for dinner, singing the George Gershwin back catalogue (in my head, obviously) and thinking what I’d do to the guy who tripped me if I ever met him again.
Turning past Buckingham Palace, I expected to be able to get my sprint on for the final stretch, as I have at every other race. But no. My body just didn’t have anything left. I had done all I could and I jogged the final few hundred metres and eased myself into a walk over the finishing line.
One part of my brain was bemoaning my shitty performance: 4:51 when I’d been aiming for at least 4:30. The other half was screaming “YOU’VE JUST RUN A MARATHON YOU CRAZY LITTLE HOBBIT”.
Getting my medal and wandering up to the meeting point, I did a complete volte face. On the Highway, I swore to myself I’d never run another marathon. Ever. It was complete madness, a danger to my health and something I’m just too old for. By the time I was on Horse Guards, I was thinking about my next race.
And now for some thank you’s…
Thanks to everyone who sponsored me to run this marathon. I’ve raised almost £2000 for Epilepsy Action and the JustGiving page is still open if you’re minded to help me reach my target.
Thanks to my partner, @FrankDJS, who encouraged and supported me through all my training, helped promote my fundraising and watched my progress on the day. Sorry for scaring you when I looked in just rag order!
Thanks for my friends and colleagues for coming into London and supporting me. You’ve no idea what it’s like to see a friendly face in the crowd as you trudge along.
Thanks to the team from Epilepsy Action for your support and for the most welcome post-race massage!
Thanks to all the volunteers who made the day run so smoothly.
And thank you to all the Londoners who turned the race route into one long party.
As for my next marathon, who knows? But I’ve already got two half-marathons in my calendar for later in the year. All I know is, I’ve done one. I can always do another!
And yes – I do look properly knackered in this picture. Not my finest hour, but at least I’m still standing after 4 hours and 51 minutes of crazy activity in the sun!