Beyond The Barricade

Posted on: 02 May 2015

Two Nice Things Happen To Me On The Way To The London Marathon

A lovely weekend in London, but this time as a supporter. Saturday morning and another bout or parkrun tourism. This week's destination was the Richmond parkrun. As we waited for the pre-run briefing I looked at the two people next to me and recognised the couple who I knew to be Martin and Lin from Maiden Newton Runners just north of Dorchester. "I know you from Weymouth parkrun" I ventured. After the briefing we had to walk 200 yards or so to the start and Martin was most keen to talk with me. "Are you running tomorrow"? He asked. I talked about having done Paris and he congratulated me on my "sub-four". They had both run Manchester the previous week, and their results were Martin, V60, 2:57:41, and Lin, V50, 02:55:32 – not just good for age – good for any age!

We were told to "seed" ourselves at the start, a narrow funnel. So I left them there as they slipped in at the front. And they clearly justified their position. For the record Martin, seventh, in 19:29, and Lin, first lady, in 19:49 (and Keith, sixty-second, in 23:46 - but knock a few seconds off for the slow start :-) ). The point is, that little chat really did help to make my day. Isn't it great the people that we meet on this running journey and the encouragement we get from them? Thanks Martin and Lin – in my book Dorset running royalty :-)

And later a visit to my younger daughter Anneliese. In a similar vein, it really was reading Phil Hewitt's book "Keep on Running: The Highs and Lows of a Marathon Addict" that planted the Paris seed in my brain. And I'd recently noted the presence of @marathon_addict on twitter. So I messaged him "@marathon_addict Because of your book I found myself running the #ParisMarathon last weekend" with a link to And Phil replied on Saturday afternoon "Fabulous account of Paris Marathon by @pullen_keith … Sums up why marathons are best experience ever - great read". The global village at work! Thanks Phil :-)

The Other Side Of The Fence

One of my first rational thoughts on completing London last year was "I have to do this again next year" – there I was, one minute after midnight on the designated day, waiting to click that "enter" button. But as time passed I decided maybe last year's day in the sun should be left to stand alone. I was relieved not to get the ballot place, I declined to enter the ballot for club places, and the Paris plan hatched. But I knew I had to return to London to support. And now, with thirteen Egdon Heath Harriers, skier Claire, hundred marathon man Mike, plus a few others, and last but definitely not least, Paula, one of my all time favourite sportspersons, there were plenty of people there to shout for.

First stop was my spiritual home, Charlton. I arrived at the station about nine, and planned to meet my friend Diana (who is fortunate enough to live within cheering distance of the Valley) and my daughter Madeleine there. This was clearly a much worse spectating day than last year (and a far better day for the runners). We saw the wheelchairs fly by, followed by the elite women and the paralympians. Then quite a long wait before the elite men, followed by the masses.

And such excitement as Paula ran past us. Massive support for her. For me watching Paula Radcliffe on the red button when she was in her prime was absolutely compulsive viewing. So pleased to be part of this huge, extended and so well deserved tribute to her.

Early on I saw Jacobo from Spain representing Egdon Heath and good for agers Bruce and Brian running together, but it soon became plain that, unless someone ran right past you, the chances of actually seeing anyone were, to say the least, remote, and the chances to recognise celebrities by cross referencing against the list of numbers I'd carefully noted down were absolute zero. But we did see the Mona Lisa and got a great view of the 5 metre, 38 kilo dinosaur. As the runners started to thin out I bade Diana and Madeleine farewell and off to the station, heading for the CLIC Sargent cheerpoint on the Embankment. And an unexpected treat from the train as we got a great, if fleeting, view of runners heading over Tower Bridge.

I found the cheerpoint at mile 25 and decided that it would be less crowded at the outstation on the river side of the road. This entailed quite a trek downriver to Waterloo Bridge for the crossing point, but I rushed back to the cheerpoint just in time to see Paula again. Brilliant. And then not too long to wait for Jacobo, Egdon Heath brothers Steve and Mike, Brian and Bruce, still running together, and John, my age, and still running close to three hours. But that was about it as the Embankment got busier and busier. And the other (officisl) job was to spot CLIC Sargent runners (of which there were, I believe, 800 or so) and give them a great cheer (whilst whacking those inflatable things together).

But I had another mission, which was to spot my friend and sometime marathon training partner, Hayley, running in the blue vest of the mental health charity "Mind". But Mind runners came and went and no sign of her. Then suddenly a lady is rushing headlong towards us and engulfs me in probably the biggest bear hug ever. It brought tears to my eyes then and brings tears to my eyes now thinking about it.

But why? Well I guess we've sort of been on this journey together, she for the first time, me for the second, despite our geographically differing destinations. So I guess I know better than most the extent of the journey she travelled. So many balls to juggle. Hayley Howard – mother, wife, fundraiser, athlete and (at that time soon to be) MARATHON FINISHER I salute you. So excuse me for thinking that one person's run to be a bit special. I egged her on, whacked her a few times with one of my inflatable things to help her on her way, and she was gone – oh so close – Hayley nothing is going to stop you now. "Do you know her?" Asked one of the other CLIC Sargent supporters.

So that was one special run, but do you know what? That's just one story that I know from the inside. There must have been thousands and thousands of other stories and great achievments out there last Sunday too. And for those of you, like Hayley, doing it for the first time, welcome to a special club. We know you don't just turn up at the start line. We know about the hours of slog and the sacrifices that are needed just to get to the start line.

And, as it got colder, and the runners started to thin, a final mission to gatecrash the CLIC Sargent reception in Northumberland Avenue. I was greeted there by (the lovely) RuBo and Amy, introduced to tweeter @Jeff_jones2325 and then the "lady I walked back to the station with" after the CLIC Sargent training day (apols for not remembering your name) greeted me. Just a fleeting visit. And two more stars to behold.

I'm so pleased I didn't run London this year. It seemed important to put last year's life changing experience on a bit of a pedestal. But now that's done. Never fear, I shall be there, mouse in hand, at one minute after midnight on Monday just waiting to hit that "enter" button,


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