Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The London Marathon 2009

At 9.49pm on Saturday night a good friend texted me to say good luck and remind me of the words of one Winston Churchill, ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’. Inspiring stuff, although my favourite Churchill is ‘Never ever, ever, ever, ever, give up.’

The world's healthiest festival site

Sunday morning in Greenwich park and such thoughts are far away as we enjoy the ‘world’s healthiest festival site’, in the words of my running mate, of fancy dress costumes, flags and banners, and music. Photos with Team Go at the NSPCC and a video interview for their promotional DVDs, quick loo breaks, lathering up in sun tan lotion in light of the ridiculous sun; which would become a mainstay of the day.

Slowly we take our place on the line, chatting to a nice chap named Matthew from Warwick University who was going for 3hrs anything (I hope he made it) we await the start. The 9 minute miler pacer turns up and all eyes turn to him; like a god among men people flock to him, aiming to follow him for their 3.54 time.

The hooter sounds and we funnel towards the start and, here’s the line…we’re off and running, literally. No walking, straight into the running. The crowds are thin but friendly and the only bad thought is, ‘that sun is quite hot…’

Bands play, people cheer us on, a vicar blesses passing runners (it burns, it burns!) and the first ‘go on Dan’ cheers start. This is great! Soon we merge with the blue runners. The booing commences, who knows why, but quickly subsides, and we’re all together. Away into the distance stretch the runners. All bobbing up and down creating the effect of waves on the shore on a choppy sea.

We're on TV!

We head past the Greenwich Naval College – an amazing building – and manage to get on TV. As Matt Baker (him off Blue Peter) pulls aside a man in a devil costume, we wave inanely at the TV and, checking later on the iPlayer, yes there we are! Around the charred body of the Cutty Sark the crowds swell and the cheering increases. For another 3 miles the crowds are just amazing. Music and bands, sweets and biscuits, high-fives, name cheering, all just inspiring stuff.

Mile 8 and I spot my work colleague who gets a good picture (click) and gives me a nice buzz. Up to 10 and my running mate decides to stop for a quick break; we agree to split, I wanting to push through the slight twinge in my stomach, knowing the second wind will kick in soon.

Mile 12 and the realization Tower Bridge is close by brings in that second wind, and running over the bridge I remind myself to admire the sight of the bridge, the crowds, and soak up the cooling breeze of the Thames. The sun is still beating down, and although cloud cover is intermittent, it doesn’t help.


Over the bridge and half way in 2.07. Off target for a sub 4hr run but given the heat I’ve already decided it’s not worth pushing too hard. Round to 14 and the best bit of the race – see my parents (who pass me the much reminded about Snickers bar) and a huge NSPCC cheer point – who cheer me like a world champion, and I run on feeling fed and loved. Only 12 miles to go!

On down Narrow Street (very narrow it is too) I spot Michelle Collins cheering people on, and start to overtake the people around me. Realising I’m being foolhardy, I rein it in and ease up, telling myself to slow down. Into Canary Wharf and the crowds show no signs of easing up (amazing!) and I take the opportunity to run through another fine mist shower system. Still so, so hot. In fact I have now seen several people being treated on the side of the road and it’s a good reminder to run sensibly.

Through the financial center I pass Kate Lawler who won Big Brother 3, and start to feel the pain. Just 6 miles to go and we’re going past Billingsgate market, very hot, very bland, very hard. Hamstrings getting tight now. Push on. If you’re going through hell, keep going.

Ah, yes, pain. Hello.

21 miles – only 5.2 to go. Only, ha. I don’t hit the wall here but I do realise my hamstrings are now hurting and there’s nothing I can do about it. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up. Just put one leg in front of the other and keep going. Nothing lasts forever.

23 miles and the crowds are huge. But, I’ll be honest, they’re doing nothing for me. This is an internal battle now. The pain v me. I will win. One leg in front of the other. Running through the last shower station makes me shiver, making me realise how low my energy reserves must be, despite the heat of the sun. Out of embankment tunnel I spy Big Ben – so close but so far…

Here I manage to miss my parents and and most friends, although see a few of them, as I internalise everything. Every cheer of ‘Come on Dan!’ is met with a ‘you bloody do it then!’ in my mind only of course.

Turning at Westminster. So tired. Someone shouts. 1km to go. Never, ever, ever, ever give up. I’ve run so many kilometers in this last 6 months, what’s one more? The photographers appear – what? Who placed them there! Force a smile. Just 600m to go. What, where was 800m? So glad to have missed it!

Then 400 to go. Then 385 yards. The turn on the Mall is blessed relief. I shout out ‘ohhhhhhhhhhhhh’ in a form of release to the pain and the joy the sight brings. For no reason I sprint to shave pointless seconds off my time and run with my arms aloft. Once over I put them down and acknowledge my legs’ calls for rest and stretching.

The end?

Utterly dazed and confused I take my medal, my bag, and find a place to lie down in St James’ Park. I’ve just run the London Marathon in 4.22.01. A few loo stops in there but who cares. In that heat I’m very pleased.

Today, Tuesday, and I feel strange. My legs are getting better and people are all very interested and quizzical but I just feel the same. I don’t feel like a hero or that I’ve done something life changing, or affirming, or anything. I don’t know. Perhaps I anticipated feeling like that when really not everyone will. Perhaps it’s too soon to know. I raised £1,901 for charity which is amazing and this makes me feel better than the idea of doing the run itself. Am I alone in having this almost post-marathon depression?

The big question is of course, will I enter next years? Maybe. It’s a commitment for sure, but it would be nice to go sub 4hrs…


Anonymous said...

Great post, I really felt like I was there with you (admittedly I was, kind of, only a couple of hours behind!).

Well done!

Phil said...

Brilliant post, and brilliant effort in the heat on Sunday!

Completely understand the post marathonal depression - took me a while to realise what I'd done, and to feel a sense of pride.

Writing it all down helped, but it also then persuaded me I wanted to actually do it properly.

You should be proud though - not necessarily "I'm superman", but more "look what I can do when I put my mind to it." It still freaks me out!

Congrats again

Anonymous said...

Well done Dan. I'm ashamed to say I've only just read this (almost two weeks later) and it's great reminder of how fantastic the day was.

I completely understand the anticlimactic feeling and to get over it I signed up to run in 2010 (7am the next morning).

Well done on such an amazing time.

Dan said...

I'm ashamed I've just read this too! How you feeling about it now, 6 weeks down the line?

Inspirational read and a smashing result. Will keep the words of Churchill in mind when I'm doing Berlin in September.