|Joy and Wonder - a minute or two after crossing the finishing line at the London Marathon on April 28, 2019|
Those who have followed my updates will know that during my training months of January, February, March and April, first the right knee presented major problems that Ben Donaldson, my physio, was able to resolve and then in early April my left knee became spongy after my longest run to date - 16 miles in 3 hours and 9 minutes of continuous running. I had difficulties in walking let alone running for over a week. Ben was on holiday and I couldn't get my weekly physio. Then Ben
returned and treated me on Friday 12 April. By Wednesday 17 April, I was back to running 1.5 miles in 16 minutes. The next day, I woke feeling dizzy and nauseous but managed to walk our canine, Ella. On returning, I put myself back to bed. Only after being sick in the evening did I start feeling human again. Runners flu or food poisoning? Who knows. Ben treated me again on Friday 19 April. On Monday 22 April, I ran 5.75 miles in 1 hour and 6 minutes. I felt good. I ran again for 16 minutes and 1.5 miles on Thursday 25 April and the left knee began to feel dodgy. Ben worked his magic on Friday 26 April between 11 and 11.30 am before we boarded the train for London at 1.33 pm.
|The Cutty Sark - 6.5 miles - a quarter of the way|
Not the ideal pre-run preparation - in T S Eliot's words: 'April is the cruellest month'. At least, it could have been. In fact, April became the kindest month for me. When I crossed the starting line on Sunday 28 April, I had no guarantee that my body would hold together for 26 miles. If I could run without knee pain, I did not know when my running legs would cease continuous motion - and what would happen after that was also unknown territory. Yet all turned out well enough for me to complete my first marathon as a septuagenarian.
|Crossing Tower Bridge (12.5 miles) - running (with difficulty) - the young lady behind me is checking her phone messages, it seems.|
Nevertheless, the running legs began to go a mile past the Cutty Sark (6.5 miles) and by 8.75 miles I had to switch to speed-walking/running. I was still able to run over parts of Tower Bridge (12.5 miles) but by the half-marathon point there was no more running in me. I had to grind out the second half-marathon by speed-walking - every 15 minutes another mile - and in the last five miles, I realised I needed to slow because the head was not feeling so good. The stats show I had been steadily slowing before 21miles:
Section speed (kph)
1st Qtr (0-6.5 miles) - 7.6
2nd Qtr (6.5 miles - 13 miles) - 6.6
3rd Qtr (13 miles - 19.5 miles) - 6.3
4th Qtr (19.5 miles - 26 miles) - 5.9
|Wonderful memory shot taken by Tony Wilson, my brother-in-law, as Louise runs out to greet me as I stride past at mile 20 of the course (near Poplar Town Hall)|
|Grinding out the miles - into central London now.|
Analysing event performance carries a risk of obsessive engagement with data - drowning by numbers. Do excuse me if I am guilty of TMI. Too much information is an indulgence - I am trying to pass on headlines only in this post. With that warning, some more statistics:
Overall position: 40760/ 42428 - 1668 finishers behind;
Category position (Men 70-74) - 141/160 - 19 finishers behind;
Average Km: 9 min 13 sec;
Average Mile:14 min 49 sec;
Average Speed: 4.0 mph/ 6.5 kph.
|Running for the finishing line|
Not before time, let's move from the quantitative to the qualitative. How did it all feel?
The experience of running through the stream of noise and applause is awesome. I kept my eyes glued in front of me to lessen the emotional impact of the crowds of spectators lining the route but the effects are dramatic. The sense of being part of a great occasion is inescapable. Before the running legs began to go, I was loving the moment of being in motion. When the running legs began to collapse, my mental position changed to grim determination. I was recalculating everything once the penny dropped that running was no longer possible. From then on, the crowds and their cheers, the bands and their music, the movement in front and beside me of other runners reduced to speed-walking as I had been - all these experiences melded together to keep me going.
Now, grinding out the miles, I was monitoring my well-being. The feet? Yes, fine - no blisters, no pain. The knees and hips? Yes, fine - amazingly. Thank you, Ben Donaldson, for being the physio of the century! The chest and my breathing? Yes, fine - a trouble-free zone as usual. My head? Not as good as I would like. A bit of dizziness from time to time - enough of a warning to make a conscious decision to reduce my speed. Of course, I had been slowing long before then.
The photographers in the last 600 metres provided an intravenous injection shot of joy. Now I could risk finding my running legs again. And then the crossing of the finishing line and the placing of the medal over my neck and the reclaim of the baggage kit and the receiving of the goodies bag and the posing for another photo - and finally the long walk to the Meet and Greet area, section S, where the Salvation Army runners - the Striders - were scheduled to meet the supporting Sally Army team. I was emotionally shattered when I arrived in section S. With difficulty, I lowered myself to the ground and stretched out. Within a few seconds I was quietly and uncontrollably sobbing from the gut.
|Ross and Rob smiling at the cameras of Louise and Tony and Caroline in the Meet and Greet area.|
Ten minutes or so later I had recovered enough to be back on my feet and talking with Ross, a Salvation Army officer, as Louise and her sister and brother-in-law, Caroline and Tony, arrived. Hugs all round and more photos. Mission accomplished. Two thousand pounds and more raised for the campaign against modern slavery. Twenty-six miles mastered. What a brilliant and privileged way to have lived a day in my life! From the heart, my thanks to all my supporters.
If you would like to boost my sponsorship total, here's the link to the Salvation Army JustGiving page for donations where you can also read the updates in the story of my preparations for this magnificent day:
And as a postscript, here's a few seconds of Marathon video: