“That’s it! I’m not doing any more marathons!” I said to Alan as I sat in the shade of the Statue of Dom Juan I, feeling hot, thirsty, tired and damp. The whole Rock’n’Roll camp was being packed away, the finishing arch had already been dismantled and there was a man sweeping up.
Between Les and Alan, they helped me stagger to a café and after a 0.5 litre of lager and a triple scoop ice cream, I started to feel more human.
The dark morning had seemed a very long time ago. But it had started at silly o’clock when I had a quick mini brioche roll with some cheese and ham for breakfast, followed by some fruit and a small glass of fruit juice. We had agreed to meet our friend Les (who had come along to support and to get a mini visit in to Lisbon as he’d never been there before) at the ‘underground’ station at 6:15 with the intention of getting to the main railway station to catch the train to Cascais 40mins up the coast for the start.
We hadn’t realised the underground network didn’t open up until 6:30 which didn’t leave us long to catch one of the three trains to the coast! So we ended up walking (very fast) to the main-line station (thank you Google Maps). We thought we’d managed to catch the 6:50 train but it didn’t leave until 7am but as it was full of runners I stopped panicking.
We arrived at Cascais with the sky lightening and the sun just beginning to peer over the horizon. Alan insisted we stop for some photos where as I was keen to get to the start, but it was certainly beautiful.
We followed the flow of lycra and found the start – no corrals or starting paddocks – just heard them counting down and everyone just went en masse!
So I was on my way within 5 mins of 8’o’clock! In fact it was such a quick start I hadn’t got my Garmin on and Les hadn’t had time to set up his ‘go-pro’ to film the start either!!
I'm just disappearing off right
I had managed to get the Runkeeper started but I wasn’t relying on that as the power seems to drain quite quickly. After about a mile I managed to finally get a signal on Garmin so it started rather late.
I was trying to keep my pace nice and steady and slow so many people passed me on the long 4 mile stretch out of town. I do recall thinking, this must be uphill as it’s a bit of a slog – but at least it would be quicker on the way back.
I stopped momentarily to shout and clap on the elite runners who passed by on their way back – that was quite exciting. But after about the 5th time, it became a bit old and I stopped and concentrated on the job in hand.
As I got closer to the switchback point I noted a loo and thought that it would be a good idea as the guts were churning a bit, but I’d wait until I was on the way back.
All this time I’d had the sea on my left, shadows were long and it was still relatively cool. After the switchback I was mostly by myself and so there were no queues at either of the loos. Even had toilet paper and gel!
So that was 4 miles down, 22 to go (HWD was never far from my thoughts and I found his ‘counting down’ method rather than up really does help. But my maths are so bad, it certainly took up some time trying to work out how many KM’s left (the whole course was marked by KM’s instead of miles so that was also confusing).
One of the bands on route, but most had finished by the time I got there
The sea was now on my right and the sun was beginning to gain warmth. That’s when I took a hard look at the terrain and realised I was going uphill not down as previously thought! Oh swearwords!
I reached Cascais for the second time that day and the place seemed deserted! No sign of Alan and Les, just the odd bored looking policeman. I could see a few people ahead of me and I could hear music. So I knew I was on the right track.
That was the first 8 miles done, 5 more to the half way point.
An image I have in my head of the sea and Alan photographed it!
I had taken a bottle of Smart Water with me but I also grabbed a bottle whenever the opportunity arose. So I always had both hands full!
Had my first walk about the 8/9 mile but tried not to lose too much momentum – especially on the up bits. It was getting rather too warm for me. I guessed the elite must have finished by now! Lucky things, I just concentrated on the figures in front of me and the waves to the right of me. Some of them crashing into shore and the smell of ozone was rather intoxicating. I really do love the sea!
Things begin get a little hazy after 10miles. Just getting to the KM marker or water station became my sole aim and nothing else mattered! Oh but the divine shower at the half way point was wonderful. Could have stayed under it all day!
I had been trying to run as much as I could and walk when I couldn’t but that changed to walk and run a bit when able!
Sitting here Looking at Runkeeper I appear to have had quite a few stops (mostly when I spied a bit of shade with somewhere to sit). During my first proper sit down (is that cheating?) I was enjoying the shade and a little drink of water (without the risk of drowning) and taking the weight off the feet when I chap went past “Is this your finishing post?”, I shook my head and responded: “Just enjoying a little sit-down”. Then I was back underway before I got too comfy!
The shady bits were few and far between after that. The course left the seaside and it all kinda went down hill (figuratively speaking) after that. The road went inland and followed the railway track all the way back into Lisbon. It went on FOREVER!
It was just as bad looking the other way!
The heat was bouncing up off the road surface as well. I was most definitely not enjoying it. Then I heard someone calling my name!? I looked across the railtrack and spotted Alan and Les! Not sure what I said, but I waved a few time and carried on walking as fast as I could. [Alan subsequently told me that they had taken the underpass to walk with me but by the time they surfaced, I’d gotten so far in front they gave up!]
You will have to take my word for it that I am in this photo!
As I went past one of the final waterstations I noticed some poor person being treated by the medics and as I grabbed a bottle (by this point it was usually – tip over one’s head anything that was left in the old bottle and grab a new one) I was asked if I was okay. I replied in the positive but I don’t think I convinced myself!
Looking at Runkeeper I think it was about mile 23 when the policeman asked me to move onto the pavement so I guessed it must be about the 6 hour mark. My Garmin had long given up on me and looking at the blank face didn’t help.
Up to this point it had been tough but not impossible. I’d had a couple more sit-downs. Had overtaken the chap who’d spoken to me and subsequently got overtaken by him again. A couple of girls had gone past me on one of my breaks and said that it was only 5k to go (they’d lied). I’d had another break with another chap who had been worried about the cut-off and I felt that he was about to stop. I can’t really recall what I said to him but we got up and started walking together but I’m afraid I left him behind without looking back! (sorry). I definitely overtook both the girls (no longer together) and ploughed on.
I thought it had been hot on the road but on the pavement it was even hotter as it was not only bouncing off the pavement but the buildings too! When I’d told Alan that carrying on on the pavements was fine, I hadn’t reckoned with route finding, pedestrians dawdling in front of you, stupid traffic lights, plus, the water stations vanishing!!! I kept following my nose and occasionally asking very bored looking policemen for directions and taking even more care of my precious water supply! Very warm by now!)
Never got to the stage where I grovelled on the floor for spare water but they were certainly a good indication I was on the right road!
After passing the umpteenth square thinking it was the end, eventually I entered one I recognised! But horror! The forklifts were in packing everything away! Do I cut that final corner to ensure I get over the line in time, or do I plough on through the streets full of tourists and hope I can find my way back? Sorry guys I cut the corner. The chap at the barrier opened it to let me through, a very tired looking volunteer handed me a medal and a goody bag and I think I heard the timer ping.
I staggered to the shady side of the statue and collapsed on the step.
I was too hot, my head was muzzy I was very thirsty and I had lost contact with my feet and legs a long time back. I wondered where the guys were. I assumed my phone would be a goner so I poked around in my goody bag… a warm chocolate milk and a bottle of water. Woo Hoo! At that point I heard a round of applause and the beeper go again so I assumed someone else had made it in.
It took a while to get the straw into the milk but I did it and it was gone in a matter of seconds, as was the water. Then I thought I’d better have a look at my phone and was astounded – it was still on and tracking me!
Runkeeper said I’d completed 26.62 miles in 6:50:21 (moving time) which is 1 minute more than Brighton in 2016! So I didn’t feel so bad about cutting that final corner!
The gentleman sweeping up seemed quite concerned by me but was visibly relieved when the Guys showed up. They insisted I pose for a photo but the finish arch had already been dismantled and then we staggered off to find a café. All I wanted was a lager and ice cream.
No sign of the finishing arch!
Les said that the official tracker said I was yet to finish and that worried me as I’d been thinking of you guys tracking me. But I’m afraid it wasn’t until I was back in the hotel and the Wi-fi I was able to let you all know.
At no point did I feel alone because you were all there, with me, albeit in my head. But the strength it gives one is quite something. Thank you.
As to the “Never again”! Well I’m ready and poised to try to gain a place for Snowdon next year and I’ve signed up for the 50k day 2 of Race to the Stones. So as has previously been said before: Never say Never!
My stats from the course:
Final Time: 07:03:55
Chip Time: 06:59:00
K2.5 time: 00:20:46
K6 time: 00:53:07
K10 time: 01:32:48
HM time: 03:15:03
K30 time: 04:46:13
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