Keep on Running

Well thank goodness that is all over. The 2013 London Marathon was a real… Experience, I think it is fair to say. I even enjoyed some of it. I particularly enjoyed crossing the line, though more on that a little later.
Marathons taken seriously – and this one is the first time I can really say that I did – dominate your life for a while. The training is the big part of that and it is absolutely essential. In my previous attempt in 2002 I fell apart and was very lucky to finish at all. But I was younger, fitter and cocky, and felt that doing half marathons was good enough training – which it isn’t.
A 10K or half marathon is a real challenge for me and others, don’t get me wrong, but they can be approached as a fun run if you are a normal casual runner or if you are pretty fit generally and have working knees. This means nothing (I know now) in a marathon.
Train for it specifically and put in the work, or suffer the consequences. You are going to suffer anyway. A marathon is not fun. If you have an aversion to pain, don’t do it. If you cannot be bored out of your mind plodding on for hours and hours, don’t do it either. I just about managed last weekend but really, never again. I’m just not cut out for this, and I am looking forward to shorter distances again and having them feel like a walk in the park. Roll on the Great North Run in September for that.
On the marathon organisation I cannot real fault that. It was pretty well marshalled and there was plenty of water and other facilities which were really needed on what was a relatively hot day – the reason for quite a few people posting a lot slower times than they might have hoped (that lovely training having been done in freezing cold rain, wind and snow rather than Sunday’s warm sun). The little kids competing with each other to give you water at the start was a nice touch.
Images for me on the journey – cheering so loud that it drowned out the iPod – and in particular my own support party managing to somehow get my increasingly failing attention (as the tiredness and pain began to dominate) three times along the route with much needed encouragement. The idiots drunk outside East End pubs that though it was funny to make fun of runners (I’d be amazed if some of them did not have their lights punched out by someone before the day was out.). The orange teenage girl looking bored at the water station, and being completely ignored by the runners (who went deliberately around her to the next person, so funny). Then there were the hundreds of wonderful people of all ages with jelly babies and jelly beans and orange pieces, desperate to help complete strangers with this ludicrous exercise in mass torture and mass fund raising for great causes. The fundraising should never be underrated. From all the big charities to an the woman I saw running for anti-knife charity foundation formed after her son was knifed at the age of 22… She was on the verge of tears as she finished, and it was not for the pain I am sure. She was thinking of her lost boy.
I crossed the line on the verge of tears too, though mine were happy ones. Having gone and done the stupid thing of predicting a time – normally I refuse – and said under five hours, I really felt the pressure. I prayed a lot in that last ten miles; I probably switched from hope to despair twenty times. But a last cheer from Jane on the sidelines, and a few common sense calculations in my head made me realise that if I just kept plodding for those remaining miles I might still make it. The last mile was agony, and like a lot of these races, it seemed to go on forever. Only that last 300m or so, when you turn into the Mall and can actually see the finish, do you suddenly relax. You’ve just about made it and ironically I managed to speed up once I knew I was going to be within the target (4 hours, 52 minutes, 56 seconds). I’m a practising Christian so praising God as I went across the line was easy, and whether you believe it was divine help or psychological crutch… Well, I’ll leave that to you.
But it is over now, there are two thousand pounds (thank you to all sponsors who might be reading!) heading to a family to get them out of poverty and I have a medal, a T shirt that is either brick red or maybe pink depending on your view, and a brief period of euphoria and muscle pain.
Thankfully we have a week away in the North East for our anniversary this week, in a place called Scargill Castle, which is a two person holiday in the remains of a fortified gatehouse – it was featured on Time Team some years ago.
And the bedroom is at the top of a substantial spiral staircase.
Oh dear, I didn’t think that one through did I?