Walk Like A Man

Posted on: 27 Apr 2017

The first post London marathon 2017 blog entry - this blogging only ever started as part of my fundraising campaign, so please don't hesitate to visit My Giving Page if you'd care to make a small donation to the wonderful charity that is CLIC Sargent. Saturday 23rd April 2017. Four years to the day that I officially took up running! Kew Bridge Travelodge. Up ten minutes early at about 5:50 – time for a shave, and standard travelodge marathon do-it-yourself porridge, honey and banana (and comfort stop). Leave right on time at 7:00, park up by Turnham Green tube – hmmm – seem to remember that was the butt of a two Ronnies joke years ago. District Line to Embankment, walk to Charing Cross, time for (another) comfort stop and reach Blackheath in very good time to make my way to Blue start.

Time for (another) comfort stop, and a message to us blue starters from Stella that she is by a baggage lorry. Don’t find her and time is marching on – I stow my bag and head to (the back of) Blue 5 where I’m expecting Stella to be. No sign of Stella. I wait on the grass verge on the far side, but after a bit I see that Stella is now waiting by the entrance. She is keen to meet fellow Egdon “splitter” Jane who we hope will head for the front of Blue 6, but no sign.

Time is getting tight. We see Susan and fellow “splitter” Hannah from Weymouth St Pauls. Hannah is also headed for Blue 6. And finally I spot Jane processing towards Blue 6. It takes several shouts to attract her attention. She comes across – we decide to abandon 5 and queue with her to get in 6. This suits my own (complicated) logistics as I plan to run with Hayley, who is at the front of pen 7 (Red in Greenwich Park that is!!!).

Five to nine – we’re still queueing for the pen. But what’s this! Pen 7 is on the move – I’m faced with the (very real) prospect of actually being behind Hayley on the road! It’s all a bit of a blur, but somehow we make it in and we’re heading towards the start. Before I know it we (Stella, Jane and myself) are heading along Shooters Hill Road – past the “Sun In The Sands” (a sometimes favoured watering hole of my youth) – Indus Road (where I think dad was born) – and along Charlton Park Lane towards Woolwich.

Woolwich is nice and downhill, around where the routes join. It’s a real buzz to be alongside so many others. We head down towards the free ferry and as we turn left, the routes officially join. We pass a lady wearing a “bustinskin” shirt, and then Jackie from Dorset Sole Sisters. But I will be splitting from the “splitters” soon. As we come to the first roundabout, I wait in the middle of the road for Hayley (having somehow managed to miss my support crew). According to the chip timing, I must have waited about two minutes before Hayley appears – crikey that plan went remarkably well – I think we both breathe a HUGE sigh of relief. Let’s get on with the business of running this marathon as close to four hours as we can.

As we head past my spiritual home, I see a bloke wearing a Charlton shirt – “ROLAND OUT” I should, but he doesn’t hear me. We head through Greenwich to the cacophony of the Cutty Sark. Somehow running with someone else I feel able to take much more of this in than the last time. Out through Deptford and Bermondsey, we overtake the mad barefooted Jesus on the cross (hmmm - cross training maybe? - thanks for that Darren). We pass Jane, who has fallen behind Stella. And we spot Mel’s husband Patrick populating an otherwise unpopulated part of the course brandishing his camera-phone. Apparently he was “live” on facebook but (unintentionally) stops videoing just before he sees us, so we are denied that honour 

We were hoping for great running conditions, but we sense it is getting quite uncomfortable when the sun is out. Next is Tower Bridge, with its CLIC Sargent cheerpoint. Hayley spots husband Nathan and for the (to my knowledge ONLY) time of the day heads briefly off-piste. On the other side of the road, Kim’s husband Jim sees us as we head towards the half marathon point. My dream was to get there around 1:56 (about the time I did when I managed to crack four hours in Paris – imagine that – sub four hours!!! - did I ever mention that?). But we are very constrained by those around us, and Hayley is there in dead on 1:59.

Somewhere after fourteen miles I am hoping to see the (lovely) Ingrid from Dudley Kingswinford, but try as hard as I might, cannot see their flag anywhere and as we pass mile fifteen I give it up. Mile sixteen – start to count down from ten says Hayley (hmmm – but I like to do my counting down in kms). At some point we catch up with Stella (who has lost time due to a comfort stop), but she starts to push on again. And we also pass the hugely impressive Sue Fox from Maiden Newton (and her distinctive running shorts) onwards inexorably towards that finishing line. At some point Anneliese and Madeleine and their mum Marion see me, but really don't know where. I stop to embrace my two girls.

And then at seventeen miles, body informs head and heart that the game is up!!!! Wasn’t expecting that (quite so soon). We fight it for a bit but it is useless. GO I tell Hayley, but she won’t. GO! I repeat – GO WITH STELLA. Eventually, faced with the (very real) possibility of me stopping in my tracks and refusing to budge she (reluctantly) takes her leave, and I am on my own. I walk for a bit. Like not a problem – I KNOW I will run walk this to the end, but 14km or so still sounds a b$%&&y long way! I mean yesterday we had an Egdon table for 32 at Zizzi's Tower Hill – RIGHT BY THE 23 MILE MARKER. I sure as hell am wishing I was there right now (if for no other reason than it's at the top of a little downhill). But then what goes down must come up :-( (hmmm – flat on the average?). Come on – now is the time to stop this madness (we tell ourselves) (again). This is (definitely) YOUR LAST SERIOUS ATTEMPT at a marathon.

Onwards we plough. At some point Jane overtakes me. I never seriously contemplate going with her. We get to the place where there are runners the other side of the road, but by now those runners are mostly walkers. As I pass twenty-two miles, I know I'm headed for the RealBuzz bloggers, and I'm right on the right side of the road (the right) to see them. Have to say that was ONE HELL of a boost. At expo, that nice Mr Yelling said in a normal voice that high fiving should be avoided at all costs as a waste of energy, but not this time. I spot Gloshawk Jim from London three years back, and (apparently) high-five Kat :-) There I go, warming up the crowd for the great Mr Hollywood Dave!

Mile twenty-three at the top of Tower Hill arrives and somehow I feel too k$*^&ӣed to actually make much of an effort downhill. A 4hr 15pacer comes past and I make a serious effort to go with him, but after a bit he is getting away, and I resort to walking pace again. I learned this last time, but the worst you look, the more the crowd shout for you, and again I'm getting huge support as we head towards the embankment. Each time I walk, the shouts get even louder, imploring me to start running. But Big Ben is getting closer. The end is getting closer. Past Big Ben and Parliament Square and into Birdcage Walk. There is NO WAY I'm going to stop running now (if for no other reason than that old chestnut Рthe more you run - the quicker you get there Рthe shorter the pain lasts).

As we turn into the Mall I put in a big (final) effort. I am actually flying past people (sadly nothing like the number who've already flown past me). Again I'm remembering Mr Yelling speaking quietly – look around – choose the finish arch you'll look best in and I do (the one on the left). Forget (b$%&&y) Garmin for a bit – HANDS IN THE AIR – Job Done (now stop Garmin). In 4hrs 26mins 29secs (hmmm but note – I can of course knock off my official time waiting for Hayley which gets me down to 4hrs 24mins 20secs).

My huge regret was not beiong able to last the pace with Hayley for longer and inevitably I am wracked with self doubt. Hayley for her part finished in a hugely impressive 4:06:31. Did I wimp out too soon? We trained for four hours and only two years ago I dipped under that mark. We were going to triumph magnificently together. How did it all go so wrong this time (I shall of course be trying to work that out over the next few weeks)? But ultimately you can't feel too bad for anyone who has gone out and done a marathon, not even yourself. We will never know whether I gave it my best shot, but I gave it a pretty good one for 17 miles. I wish I'd been there for you at the end Hayley (tears in eyes) but I wasn't.

Of the other splitters, Stella finishes her first marathon in a fine 4:14:31, while Jane completes in an equally fine 4:21:20, and quickest of all Hannah has finished in 4:02:09! Our partners in (fundraising) crime, carpool karaoke queens Mel and Kim complete in 5:25:13 which is damned good considering the amount of “stuff” they had to do on the way around. And they had a ball :-)

To pick out a few other notable Egdonites, Simon, who two years or so ago was laid up with a broken back, has cracked three hours with 2:56:52 (hugely faster than he ever achieved before breaking his back!), while his dad Nigel, in the M65-69 category has completed in 4:08:32 (hope for me yet maybe?). Stella's husband Bruce finishes in 3:00:49, the second year running he comes within a minute of cracking three hours, whilst Steve goes round in 3:19:28 dressed as St George!

Further afield my amazing skiing buddy Claire clocks up PBs year on year and is now down to 3:21:51. Jackie finishes in 4:30:10, while Sue Fox is tenth in the F65-69 category in 4:12:58. And finally the great Mr Hollywood Dave in 4:58:48. The rhino roadshow now rumbles onwards to Belfast next weekend,  a fourth  marathon in five weeks, as his beautiful Mrs HD wages her own (cancer) battle. There are (tears in eyes) people I've met on this journey that it's just been such a privilege to know - serious manhugs.

Oh - and that nice Mr Yelling finished in 5:01:41 - crikey - if I'd known he'd take that long I'd have paid less attention to him ;-)

Hmmm – I suspect there is still one more #VMLM post to come – the emotional one – the Oscar acceptance speech one where I break down and start thanking everyone. But not yet.

A brief musical interlude (hmmm - don't you go getting ideas for next new year's eve!!).


xxxxx / manhugs


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