Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Marathon Day

What a stunning day! For those worrying about the important number of the day, it was just over 5,600. That’s £5,600. There’s still more to come in from folks who promised to donate in the run-up to the event, maybe even enough to get me over £6,000. As Mo observed, I’ve already broken my target twice. Absolutely amazing! The other number for the day was 4h 44 (and 14 seconds by my watch, 20 seconds by the Marathon's own monitoring - but I'm not quibbling). I’d have been a lot faster if it hadn’t been for the speed bumps early on and the constant red lights throughout London – you’d have thought they’d switch them all to green for the race. I ran the first 4 miles in about 8m 15s (each, not altogether), the first 10km in 51 minutes and the first 21km in 1h 53m – all far too fast for me. I’d stumbled into starting 4 rows from the front at the Green start, surrounded by interesting people, most of whom I didn't recognise. I got talking to “the Galloping Gourmet” who is, I imagine, unique in having run 30 London Marathons; given that this was the 25th anniversary race, that’s some achievement – on several occasions he had run one way and then back the other way to cover double the distance on the same day. A crackpot and a lovely guy – dressed as a turkey this time, instead of his usual pancake tossing costume. The downside to starting that close to the front is that all of the “real runners” – the guys who can cover the distance in 2h 45m are right behind you. As soon as the race horn sounded, they were off – and carrying me forward at the crest of the wave, unable to get to the side and slow down to my planned pace of 6 minute kilometres. Hence my 8 minute time for the first mile, 8m 15 for the second, 8m 03 for the third and 8m 30 for the fourth – it wasn’t until the 5th mile that the crowd thinned out and I settled into a slower pace (around 9 to 9 ½). I’m pretty sure that I didn’t pass anyone in the entire race, except those who stopped for a pee break (most, fortunately, using the telephone-box shaped portaloos by the side of the road rather than the Paula Radcliffe approach). The first shock came after about 6 or 7 miles when I saw a commotion up ahead. As I neared, I saw the police giving CPR to a runner who had collapsed at the side of the road. I hope he made it – things didn’t look good when I passed. The next shock was when I turned right from Tower Bridge - having comfortably cruised the first 13 miles in a time far better than I had achieved in training (and still feeling good) – and saw that the Docklands loop would mean that I’d be coming all the way back to where I was (but on the other side of the road) some 9 miles later. There were runners already streaming past on the opposite side of the road – the clock read less than 2 hours and they had only 4 miles or so to go. Quite soul destroying. The last shock was the climb – and I mean Climb – up the hill to reach Big Ben, before turning right into the home stretch. That hill was nearly the end of me. It would barely qualify as a speed bump at any other time, but after 25 miles, it was significant. The run along the river and then down to the palace was awesome. People were out in force, lined up 6 or 8 deep for the last few miles. All along the route there had been people shouting and cheering – including friends from work (they have no idea, I suspect, what a boost it provides when you see people you know); the Macmillan teams were also out – and when 20 or 30 people start shouting your name as you go past, you have no alternative but to keep running, wave and try and look the part. The atmosphere for this London race was better than anywhere else I’ve run in Europe. I’m sure the sunny day helped but I got the feeling that many people had planned to show come what may; they brought sweets and other goodies in huge bowls and freely handed them out to runners. The folks handing out water and Lucozade were enthusiastic in the extreme, taking care to place the bottle or carton exactly in my hand as I passed. Lucozade is, I think, a lifesaver in this run, except for the patches of sticky residue downstream of the pick-up points where discarded cartons have leaked onto the road – you go through patches of a couple of hundred yards where every impact and release of your foot makes a noise like ripping open Velcro studs. I followed some, but not all of James’ advice from the other day. The one thing I am most pleased that I did, against his recommendations however, was to get my name printed on my t-shirt. The roar from the Macmillan crowd as I went past their “support stations” was a hugely needed lift, as was the shouts of encouragement from people watching, who didn’t know me from Adam (or Alan even). Despite finishing 30 minutes slower than my target time, I had a blast. I’m hugely grateful to everyone who donated money. I’m sure Macmillan are going to be delighted with this contribution. It made a lot of the pain worthwhile (not all of it, mind).

4 comments:

  1. Woo-hoo! £5,634.64. Bloody marvellous, well done Alan. I had to chuckle reading your account of the great day- lots of that brought back happy memories. Well, memories, at least. Those of you who have done it will understand... those of you who haven't, what's keeping you? Book soon to avoid disappointment, and choose your charity now.

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  2. ronnie Monaghan11:24 pm

    Alan- Well done, it can be lonely on those long runs, even with so many people around! The one's i have completed only gave serious nipple rash, amazing blisters, thighs that merged together, and extreme troubles getting on/off the loo for the weeks following....but nowhere near the money you have raised. When you look back this will be the most memorable..until next year!

    Ronnie Monaghan

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  3. Ann & Paul down yer in Zummerset.12:26 pm

    Well done Alan, super effort. We are proud of you. Hope you have recovered now

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  4. Congratulations, we're impressed. (Being passed by people who are just _going_ to be faster than you in races is always soul destroying, even though logically it shouldn't be. Happens to me in the Fours Head of the River every time I get placed too high up and we're surrounded by men's IVs.)

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