I can remember it like it was yesterday....

Posted on: 17 May 2018

Never in my wildest dreams or nightmares did I think it’d take me the best part of a month to write a blog about VLM, but there we are.

So, yep, I can remember it like it was yesterday.  What a day, what a run.  I think I ticked off all of the boxes that I wanted ticking, and that means a lot.

The whole weekend was special; I loved Expo (and was delighted to get Vassos Alexander to sign a copy of his book – a book I have now finished and can thoroughly recommend).  I loved the Saturday – some time to myself, some time meeting an old work friend, and then, so importantly, some time with Dave and his family visiting the Tower Lifeboat station.  Boy, did that make it all seem so worthwhile; “humbled” is a word I use a bit in situations like these, but rarely has it been more apt.  A pasta meal, an early night, and then the standard fitful sleep; I didn’t care, because I was running the London Marathon.

And then Sunday dawned.  And what a dawn.  It was identical to the morning four years previously when I’d opened the curtains and seen a cloudless sky.  My first words then?  “Shit.”  For then I was going for a time, and I knew that my loathing of the heat had put paid to it.  My first words this time?  Well, not even words; a smile, a nod, and a warm, confident feeling that I’d get it done.

And what was this “it” that I was going to get done?  I’d vowed to run without a time in mind and with a smile on my face.  I’d always said I wanted to, and then bad weather and illness made sure that I had to anyway!  So, perhaps it was fated in the stars!

It was lush to walk from my apartment (Birdcage Walk) to Westminster tube – even as early as I was, there was a hubbub of marathon activity; there were knowing glances amongst fellow runners, and best wishes from those who were setting up barriers and the like.  God, I love London on marathon day!

I met up with Dave and Hollywood at London Bridge; hugs all round of course, and then chat and banter all the way to Greenwich.  Walking up the hill to the start area was great; throngs of people, all with a common aim.  We chatted away happily; I didn’t feel over-stressed at all.  I knew that it was a marathon, and that finishing it doesn’t come without a fight – it never does – but knowing that I was just there to enjoy it made a difference.

It was a shame that we didn’t hook up with Jenny, RD and Vin – that would have been fab – but these things happen.  I knew that, if the gods of running allowed, I’d see two of them at least at the UJ Club of the brave servicemen later.

Dave and I said our goodbyes to HD, and then headed into the starting corrals.  We played a bit of music (Elbow, Radio 4 theme) and generally waited for the off.  The waved start seemed to work well – Her Majesty has been asked to do some things in her time, but starting us off the night after her birthday party, and all from Windsor…- and we were running smoothly.

Smoothly for all of 600 yards before I knew that I needed my psychosomatic wee!  Fortunately Dave did too, and so we weed in unison and headed off into the high five zone of kids – love, love it.

We ran and chatted away until the 5K marker or so, and I knew that there’d be a cheer as the blob-watchers saw us cross it together.  Quite soon after that, I bade my farewells to the good ship Hobs, and he called for full steam ahead and cruised off into the distance. 

But how could I possibly say that from then on it was just me, myself and I?  This was London – it was just me, my fellow inspirational runners and the serried ranks of spectators.  Who could ever tire of it?  Not I, that’s for sure.

The heat?  Ah well, that was there for sure – had I been going for a time, I would have known by now that it was sunk – my legs felt like concrete and I knew that, running wise, it was going to be a very bad day at the office.  Truly, I was shocked by how bad I felt.  The key thing was though that it didn’t matter.  Genuinely, it didn’t.

And so I ticked off the sights of London with a spring in my step (that’s definitely metaphorical, most certainly not literal!). I lived up to my pledge of videoing – Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, the amazing Mall.

I saw cheering spectators who were my best friends – sure, we’d never met, and probably never will.  But for that moment in time, I was their hero and they were mine.  Can anyone who has a degree in this sort of thing even begin to explain such emotions to me?  In a way, I hope they can’t and that we can just put it down to this wonderful thing called humanity.

Then, of course, there were the people I’d hoped to see; Zoe and her mum, Kim and Kate, the RNLI cheer stations.  And, and….oh boy, how much had I looked forward to seeing you lot?  I had a taste of what it would be like as I turned off Tower Bridge.  I knew that was but an amuse bouche before the main course as I hit mile 22.5.  I.  Loved.  It!  I’ve stood as a spectator there for a few years. Only now that I have been a runner can I appreciate the genius of the location – despite the smiles and the waves, I was hurting through Canary Wharf; as I’d said above, medals never come easy, they have to be earned.  I knew though that salvation was at hand from the cheers and hugs of the Buzzers.  An emotion and an experience that I will never forget.  Thank you.

And then the miles of pain but also of glory.  A way to go yet, but you know it’s going to get done.  A moment of seriousness as I say that still I was amazed, truly, at quite how bad my splits were.  But I didn’t care then.  The following day, I cared not a jot as everything was thrown into stark relief by the realisation that Matt Campbell wouldn’t ever get his medal or return to his family.  Who can care about PBs or any of that ephemeral nonsense when you have such news?

And then it was time to turn for Birdcage and The Mall.  Oh, the irony here – my time was slow.  Yet, in a way, it was far, far too quick.  Four years I have waited for those miles to be run.  Maybe it’ll be four or more until I can do them again.  So, as I lamented the fact that I was slow, I chastised myself for being so quick.  God damn that dichotomy. 

Medals, photos, cheers. A fab RNLI reception, and then a walk to the UJC.  Ah, now the welcome I received there deserves a blog of its own.  For now, I thank you all, and I will forever be grateful that I started to blog and therefore met such a wonderful group of people.  In no small measure, you make me what I am.

On a yard we go; as the trails have called me, and the next challenges await, on a yard we go.  Together, always together.

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