This Is Bonkers (continued ... )
(apologies if this is rather long, but this is my pensieve – I need to save these memories before they start to fade)
… which began with the alarm going off at 5:30 Saturday morning. Several months back I booked a Travelodge at Stratford and a very early train, because I expected to do #VLMexpo on Saturday. But that was sorted on Thursday, so I would have plenty of time on my hands. Weekend engineering works were a slight worry, meaning the train terminated at Bournemouth, with a coach then taking us to Southampton Airport. After a flurry of WhatsApp messages, I established that my transition at Bournemouth coincided with that of elder daughter Madeleine travelling the other way on a flying visit to Weymouth to see WOW Youth Musical Theatre's excellent production of “Grease” (I watched it Friday evening). But despite our best efforts we did not see each other.
Then on to Southampton to board the train to London Waterloo. I headed for a “Quiet Zone”, then noisy alert as a family with two young girls took up residence just in front and across the aisle. All hope of a restful journey gone!, which was further guaranteed when the rest of the carriage filled with a party of school children (Spanish I guessed) on their way to the capital. So what of the young family? My opening gambit when pitching to CLIC Sargent for a Golden Bond place was to quote from the song “I believe that children are the future”. Well it's easy to be cynical, but all I can say is that with more children (and parents) like those, surely there has to be hope for the future. As I left the train the new, optimistic, glass three-quarters full, me felt compelled to comment to their smiling mother “Your girls are an absolute credit to you”. “Yes they are lovely aren't they?” she replied – first well up moment of the weekend :-)
So time to kill before the realbuzzers “picnic-in-the-park”. I headed to a favoured place from years gone by, the old Covent Garden Market, where I took in a singing, guitar playing busker, considerably more skilled than myself. Despite his talent, he seemed to have no more success than I did in getting the good folk to part with their cash! I listened for ten minutes or so before placing my two-penneth in has case and engaging him in chat about my own busking efforts (not that he seemed very interested :-( ) - he was more interested in an American lady, also listening. I chatted with her for a bit and she seemed genuinely interested in the marathon and wanted to know where to go to watch, before coercing her husband / partner into buying one of his CDs. Clearly he knew his audience!
And next Starbucks in Villiers Street, where I chanced to look at my mobile phone for just about the first time that day. Totally mad! I spent a frantic hour or so tweeting, txting, FBing, emailing, WhatsApping, and fielding calls from the (local) press. I felt like a real A lister (or maybe an A lister's PA). Truly “a legend in my own lunchtime”, and then on to Knightsbridge station, an quick trip to the top of Harvey Nicks to avail myself of their facilities, and into Hyde Park to locate the rbers picnic by the lido restaurant.
I walked straight past the first time (eyes not as good as they were), since I was seeking a load of people sitting on grass, with picnic hampers. A second pass of the restaurant revealed familiar (from the expo) faces. I guess we all take something different from the realbuzz experience but for me the great joy, after travelling up alone, was the ready made family of like minded people about to share this greatest of experiences. The next couple of hours passed in an instant culminating in the lovely group photos. It certainly let the other customers know what we were there for! Towards the end I was joined by my good friend from Weymouth, Jon, who had travelled up to support me, and skiing friend Judith (who had been out on the razz 'til the early hours). We bade the rbers farewell and off to the Paxtons Head, Knightsbridge, for a quick snack.
After that it seemed like a good idea to check into the Travelodge, and Jon and Judith accompanied me there. A quick phone chat with Judith's (soon to be ex) flatmate, and fellow skier, Caroline (devastated - she's moving in with her boyfriend ;-) ), Judith fixed her makeup (but how can you improve on perfection?), and off up West for some pasta. We headed to Pizza Express in Charlotte Street, where I consumed pasta and elderflower presse, while the others tucked into pizza, beer and wine. But can't stay out too late. A quick (planned) stop at Waitrose to buy milk and bananas, and back to Tottenham Court Road tube and we scattered to the three winds. Judith was particularly concerned for my safety going back to Stratford at night (thanks Judith :-) ). And my training plan did suggest a 15 minute easy run on the Saturday, so easy run I did from Stratford International to the Travelodge.
At this point a minor panic. Having had no time to myself so far, I felt unprepared. I wanted to get a fairly early night but I also wanted everything ready to go on the Sunday. But I calmed down, sorted everything out, then an exchange of texts with quiet, unassuming, Claire, who I also met skiing earlier this year, and who was running on a ballot place. Then to bed, and my chosen bed-time reading; a yellow sticky from work colleague and marathon mentor Chris Cussen, rbers gloshawk's 26 and a bit miles blog post, and hollywood's final inspirational offering. I gathered my thoughts, and slept surprisingly well.
Sunday morning – alarm at 6:00 AM. A quick shower, and even took time to shave. I had already practised how to make porridge in a Travelodge bedroom (including the milk and a banana) and this worked a treat. Get your kit on, including two disposable shirts (thanks to the BHF and CLIC Sargent for these). Chris had told me to travel light, with a backpack that would fit inside the kit-bag, and that worked a treat. too And out the door at seven bound for Stratford International.
The next few hours of my life are catalogued elsewhere. But a few brief thoughts. The noise of the crowd was actually less overwhelming than I possibly expected. And, if anything, I felt less inspired by the crowd than I did at Bath a few weeks earlier – this may have been a direct result of how awful I felt at times during that second half of the marathon, when I really retreated into my own head if that makes sense. I mean it wasn't as if any of them would have picked me up and carried me would they? (well apart from Jon's son Elliot, but that's another story!). But the shouts from family and friends cut right through that and were an inspiration. And after the initial elation of finishing, maybe a small sense of anti-climax – so I've done it - now what do I do?
Well this is what we did … my feet were killing me, and on collecting my overnight bag, I was able to change shoes. To the end of the Mall and turn right towards the meeting area. And I glanced down at my new item of serious bling. And I burst into tears. Eventually met up with daughters Madeleine and Anneliese and Jon and Elliot, and off to Northumberland Avenue for CLIC Sargent reception. Great feeling to be cheered up the steps, and very happy to take up their offer of a massage. But the politically incorrect side of me was slightly disappointed to be assigned a masseur, and not a masseuse, but he set to work with his magic hands, and prescribed a cold bath for later (in yer dreams mate!). Met the lovely RuBo from CLIC Sargent, and Patrick from the earlier training day, lots of photos, and a call from my brother Ian - “I'm in the Mall – I thought I'd come up to London – I think I saw you” (hmmmm – if you'd let us know you could have gone around the route with the others – but never mind).
So after that we headed to Victoria Embankment Gardens, off Villiers Street. We bought some Cava and some beer, the others got a Mexican takeaway, and we met Ian in the gardens. And there we just “chilled”. I consumed alcohol for the first time since February 9th, the company was great, it was a special time – it was like suddenly turning the clock back 40 years! We headed across Hungerford Bridge to the South Bank for the last few minutes of sunshine, and then went our separate ways – me to catch the 20:35 back to Weymouth (including the obligatory coach tour of the New Forest).
I dozed a lot. Some people registered the significance of the red carrier bag and offered their congratulations. At some point I exchanged texts with unassuming Claire. Although not a mega-serious runner, she was quite pleased to have got around in 3hrs 29min!!! “Claire - good for age!!” I said - “Good for age” she replied “What's that about? - I shall have to look that up now”. What was it the man said? “Sometimes the best dreams happen when you're awake” :-) Back to Weymouth station, treated myself to a cab home (normally much too mean to do that), a HOT bath (sorry mate), start to watch my recorded replay of the days events … eyes start to roll … warmth … total satisfaction … sleep ...
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