Steve Redgrave famously said, “Anybody who sees me in a boat has my permission to shoot me”. Well running my first (and possibly only) marathon – that’s how I’m feeling today.
26.2 miles is a long way to run – far too long for any sane person. Gosh it was hard.
For the record, I finished in 20,765th place, in a time of 4 hours and 50 minutes. I didn’t break any records, but I did finish which was my aim and so far we’ve raised £1,650 towards the workshop for our sponsored students in December this year.
There were lots and lots of highs. I was fortunate to meet Daniel Wanjiru, Mary Keitany and Gladys Cherono in the days before the race. Daniel and Mary won the Elite races in 2017 and all kindly gave up their time to hear about our work in Kenya. Daniel set of with race number 1 – while mine showed the size of the field. There were actually 41,000 people taking part on the day.
Its often said, but the crowds lining the streets are amazing. So many people, making so much noise for everyone. Its really great to hear someone you’ve never met, shouting “come on Neil”. And then the moments when I saw friends and family, that was a huge boost to my spirits – especially at 18 miles when I was having my toughest time.
I’d started running even 10-minute miles, which was the pace I’d been used to in training. Through to half marathon distance, this was great and I felt very comfortable. I was taking on water every mile and gels every five. I was thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere.
The noise was quite incredible, with certain corners (usually around a pub, funnily enough) heaving with people, singing, and bands of every possible type. And there were some brilliant banners and posters – my favourite I think, had the words “Motivational Banner”.
At 17 miles things started to get much more difficult. The effort and number of gels meant I was getting some stomach cramps and I really didn’t want to drink any more. I was aware of being very tired – and knowing from the mile markers that there was still 8 miles to go; over an hour and a half to go!
The heat was incredible. I was pleased though that I wore a hat and sun glasses, and pored water over my head whenever I picked up a new bottle. I’m sure without these I’d have had sunstroke (I’m a little short on hair cover).
There’s a real buzz at each of the big landmarks like Cutty Sark and crossing Tower Bridge, then once I’d passed Tower Bridge on the way back, I knew that no matter how long it took me, I’d finish. Again the crowds helped enormously – especially the jelly babies and Haribo’s being handed out all along the Embankment.
The race itself had started at 10am, but due to the number of people taking part, I actually passed the start line at 10.37. The biggest cheer as we set off was for the guys in the Rhino costumes. I think everyone was astonished that even in that heat, they were prepared to run in those outfits. It was very late in the race that I managed to pass a man carrying a washing machine and another a flush toilet. So maybe I’m not as mad as I thought?
Just getting to the start line was brilliant. I often feel excited going to sports events. The closer you get to the stadium, the more shirts and scarves you see until its just a mass of colour. This was the same thing – as more and more people got onto the train. Only this time the colours were from those taking part, not the supporters. There was such great anticipation, mixed with no little apprehension. I think we all feared what was ahead.
I ran the first half in 2 hours 10 minutes and the second on 2 hours 40 minutes, showing just how much I slowed down (2 minutes a mile slower). But finally at around 3.27pm, I finished. And boy did I ache. I was completely spent. I had no energy. Bizarrely I felt worse after I’d finished. I was quite light headed and needed to sit down a few times. I think my system was struggling to cope with the extra oxygen I was suddenly getting, finally breathing more deeply. It was only temporary and later once I’d had a cup of tea I began to recover.
And now, I can enjoy it more. Being part of such a mass participation event was so great. A fantastic atmosphere which shows up London in its very best light; everyone cheering everyone, such incredible support. There was such goodwill for so many charities, all doing wonderful work.
For a non-runner I’ve really enjoyed running. I’m fitter at 56 than I was at 40, maybe even than at 30. I’ve met some fantastic people over the last 6 months, all willing to help and offer encouragement. And I’m so grateful to everyone who donated to our charity and sent messages of support. You can’t imagine how much that helped me, as well as the kids in Kenya.
Thank you all.
And if you’re interested in joining us for the workshop, please do let me know. It promises to be another amazing experience – and much less painful than the marathon.