Only on one other day in my life have I gone through the full range of emotions to such extremes as I did yesterday and that was at Wembley in the '98 play-off final. Running the London Marathon is quite an experience, that's for sure. Whether I can say I enjoyed it is debatable, but I'm so pleased I've given it a go.
After 6 months of dedicated training, I thought I was as ready as I could be yesterday, but in truth, nothing can prepare you for the event itself. I run regularly to enjoy solitude and there I am amongst 37,000 runners, taking part in a global televised event! I felt totally bewildered, if I'm honest. And then there's the crowds that line every inch of the route. I pass the odd dog walker who may bid me good morning, but having people shout my name and hand me orange quarters and jelly babies was unbelievable.
What nobody could have prepared for was the heat. As nice as it was for the spectator, it was not good for the runner. I was told it was only 13 degrees, but it felt considerably hotter than that, especially with the clear blue sky. I'd spent 6 months training in temperatures that regularly went below freezing and there I am in a short sleeve shirt for the first time this year.
Despite crippling nerves I started at a good, sensible pace and kept that up quite comfortably until 18m in when, just like a car running out of petrol, I could feel myself slowing down alarmingly. That's never happened to me before and by 19m I knew I was in trouble. Still I plodded on, occasionally reaching almost a fast walking pace.
I saw my wife, kids and a few friends at around 22m which gave me a morale boost, but the worst was to come...
From 23m it was everything I could do simply to put one foot in front of the other. At just the time that the London Marathon gets interesting in terms of scenery, I remember nothing, not even passing Big Ben! I was in a pretty dark place. I was struggling massively.
The last 800m should have been an emotional high. I should have even tried a glory burst to the finish line, but I literally had nothing left. I stumbled over the finish line in 4:05:37 and before I knew it I was met by a lovely young lady with a huge grin who grabbed and steadied me and hung the medal around my neck. No feeling of elation from me - I couldn't even speak to her. I just wanted to go home.
Before I could even get my breath back myself and another female runner had to come to the aid of a runner who was seconds away from collapsing. His eyes were rolling and he was on his way down. The chap was much bigger than I was and I could have well done without trying to catch him and drop him gently to the floor. I have to say, the first aid available on the day was first class. All around the course runners were dropping like flies and all were surrounded within seconds.
I can't deny I'm disappointed with my time. I'd have loved to have sneaked below 4hrs at least. In the end perhaps I'd put too much pressure on myself. Perhaps I'd pushed myself too much. My poor old feet show show the signs of my labour.
|WARNING: Graphic image of gnarled feet!|
So the question is whether I'd ever do it again? I want to say no, I really do, but I was pretty close to the 4hrs, after all. Tantalisingly close...