Yesterday, when I should have been buried in bed listening to the tommy gun rain and dreaming of coffee, I found myself at the start line of the 2014 Wymondham New Years Day 10k. Despite the wannabe tornado wind making my face flap like a skydiver’s, I had a great run, sweetened by a new PB for this distance(54:55 minutes). I feel on top of my running at the moment, which is a nice feeling, nicer still with the recent weight loss because of it. My aim is to keep this going and to lose as much weight as possible while maintaining a healthy diet. And if anyone can show the world that dramatic weight loss is possible on a diet of donuts and hamburgers, it’s me.
Yes, I did. And nine, count ‘em, NINE minutes faster than last year, a new PB.
Trumpet blowing aside, it was helped in no small part by running with Virgin Money colleague Jem Walters and his sister (on her first half marathon). They helped me keep a good pace which worked well until halfway through mile 11 when I suffered a power cut. Jem and his sister disappeared into the distance as I staggered around the last few bends and that ****ing hill that leads back to the finish line on the Norfolk showground. I did receive more encouragement at this point, as people could see the light fading from my eyes and someone even kindly read me my last rites as I clung onto a bin after scraping over the finish line. Luckily for me, Team K appeared with my Goo-Goo Cluster from Dylan’s Candy Bar which restored life back to my wheezing frame.
I should mention my Virgin Money Studio colleagues who ran this too – Rob (The Fastest Man in Virgin Money™) who came eleventh(!) place out of a field of 2,166 and Andy Bobbin, who forged a half marathon PB of one hour 32 minutes.
In an effort to become a proper runner, I have entered several (er, three) races since running the London Marathon. I ran the Dereham 10 in a decent time (for me) and was really looking forward to running the Humpty Dumpty 10k at Reedham, especially as it’s sponsored by the local brewery of the same name and promised a pint of it’s finest ale at the end. Since I didn’t get a pint of London Pride at the end of the London Marathon, that was incentive enough to enter this race. My last long training run had gone well and I was fully recovered from the Man Flu that had stolen a weeks training for this event. The runners knee I’d developed by running interval runs training for this race had quietened down, so all the signs were good. And it was a beautiful sunny day – what could go wrong?
OK, I’ll tell you – first, I forgot to take my traditional energy gel right before the start. Secondly, I forgot to pop a carb tablet into my mouth before we set off, which left my mouth drier than a 250 page report on car parks in the UK and thirdly, I started with the serious runners and set off too quickly with them in a burst of macho madness. This went well enough until the three kilometre point and it’s beautiful, beautiful water station, when all of my energy decided to go on holiday. I struggled on through the wind, heat and the hills (some slight, some not, but in my state, all cruel) but I was helped by the newly-arrived clouds occasionally masking the blazing sun with the gusty wind that brought them. By now, however, my face had become hotter than Christina Hendricks in swimwear. The remaining race was like something out of a desert war film starring me as the soldier in the middle of the Sahara, dragging his camel along and keeping his spirits alive by thinking about his sweetheart. Or in my case, the pint of Humpty Dumpty I was going to jump into when I staggered across the finish line. Finally, at 58 minutes and 33 seconds, my steaming, sweaty, delirious, hallucinating being did just that, four minutes over my PB. It was easily the hardest race I had ever run, mainly because of the heat. Mrs K said that everyone seemed done in as they crossed the finish and unfortunately that was proved to be the case for one runner who collapsed right before it.
As I met my family I was given my goody bag but no medal, but never mind, eh, as I did receive my quality race momento, a bar towel with ‘Humpty Dumpty 10k 2013’ emblazoned on it. Hmm. Heading for the t-shirt stand to get myself a proper souvenir, I was told they’d sold out of t-shirts in my size (I decided then that I would make my own t-shirt that said, “I ran the Humpty Dumpty 10k 2013 and all I got was this lousy bar towel”). Swallowing my t-shirt disappointment, I set off to the beer tent for my real prize, a pint of Humpty Dumpty’s finest ale. As I stood in the queue, my body quivering with anticipation (or it may have been cramp) I overheard the barman say they’d run out of beer. We couldn’t go into the village hall bar as we had our dog with us and as she wasn’t allowed on the grounds around the village hall, we left and celebrated in the Blofield McDonalds car park, after getting drive through.
Mo Farah, eat your heart out.
This weekend, the Norfolk Showground turned pink again as over 7,000 ladies of all ages (and their dogs) turned up to raise money for Cancer Research UK’s fight against cancer. I’m proud to say that one of their number was my daughter Eve, who’s been training hard these past ten weeks to get herself ready to run the 10k race, the furthest she’s ever run.
Eve was running for her Grandma (my mother-in-law Pat) who died suddenly of a brain tumour last summer. As you’d imagine, it was a very emotional day. Mrs K and I both found ourselves a bit tearful turning up and seeing the word cancer everywhere. It was sobering knowing that everyone who was running had had their lives touched by cancer. However, it was a great atmosphere, helped by the presence of Heart Radio, who hosted warm up sessions and sing-a-longs to get everyone pumped up. Eve did really well, finishing the course in one hour and ten minutes (her time didn’t matter, but now I’m a runner, I get a bit obsessed with race times) and raised £951 for Cancer Research UK. Once across the line we all hugged and cried, a sight common at Race for Life and one you can be quite cynical about until you’re involved raising money for a loved one.
Other highlights included the aforementioned dogs effortlessly running with their owners, the Army cadets at the finish line dancing to Mambo Number Five in unison like something out of a West End musical and the fact that Eve and her boyfriend Bobby, both got photographed for the Heart Radio Race for Life 2013 web page.
Evie, we are all so proud of you – Grandma would have been too.
After running the 2013 Virgin London Marathon, I made the rash decision to keep on running. Having discovered, via the medium of black toenails (pictures on request) that I’d run the marathon in the wrong trainers, I decided to buy some new ones. Two weeks ago, after a great lunch with Team K in the Reading Rooms, we walked just a little further up Nelson Street to The Runners Centre where we left with new trainers for me and Number One Son. I also left with a list of upcoming races in our local area. I thought that if I was to continue running, pounding the pavements solo was not a good idea. So, I signed up for both the Dereham 10 (miles) and the Humpty Dumpty 10k. I’d planned on having a ten mile run on Sunday, so the Dereham race was a good fit. However, when Team K arrived at Neatherd High School, the start and finish line for the race, I was quite shocked to be confronted by a sea of serious runners (including Ellie Matthews, one of the fastest runners at Virgin Money). These people not only made me look silly before any running started, but also made me feel completely inadequate as nearly all of them went for a quick spin around the playing field to warm up. I passed this off by explaining that crying and looking like you were about to wet yourself was the usual way that I warmed up. Gulping down my panic and trying to ignore the middle-age gentlemen massaging their bare buttocks in the registration area (hey, it’s a free country), I counted the butterflies in my stomach to pass the time before Team K escorted me onto the main road for the start.
I was right at the back of the field and fiddling around with my iPhone running app when the race started. And no, I don’t recommend starting a race by wrestling an iPhone onto to your arm while trying to look where you’re going at the same time. I started with a group of ladies and was unsure how to pace myself, but I realised, given the competition, that I couldn’t really start as slow as I might have liked. So I left the ladies behind and slowly picked off similar runners one by one to get into the swing of things and to ensure that I didn’t finish last. After a while I met a group of younger women, who after a while I overtook. However, one of them, who looked uncannily like Davina McCall, kept pace with me. Just as I was wondering how I was going to run ahead of her before she left me for dust, she asked if she could run with me. Gasping in the affirmative, we both started chatting about our reasons for running, how we’d both done the London marathon and what a difference running had made to our lives. It was great, we both kept each other paced and she told me our times on her Garmin and congratulated me on my (now) best ever 10k. We kept on like this until two miles from the end when the hill and wind on the final approach caused her to slow. Waving me on, I left her and finished the final stretch on my own. Mrs K suggested I try and beat my ten mile training time of one hour and forty-two minutes, but I beat that by eight minutes. I was really pleased as you’d expect, especially as during the difficult last two miles I developed two really painful blisters. I finished in 191st place out of a field of 216 (Pete Johnson, who sold me my trainers, finished 28th) and Lisa, my pace maker, crossed the line in 193rd place. It was a great experience and my first proper race amongst some serious runners. And next time, I hope to do better.
It’s hard to believe that a year ago today, I took myself off for a three mile run at lunchtime, my first taste of road running since 1986. I couldn’t even run it all in one go and I had to walk part of the way back to work. Since then, I’ve chalked up another 119 runs, covering 682 miles, including a half and full marathon, and miraculously, my body is still ready for more.
Some people have kindly said that my efforts have inspired them to run (if only to get away from me). I can recommend it. Running’s a great way to make you feel good about yourself, it gives you a real sense of achievement and it’s a great anxiety killer. I intend to keep it up until my body says otherwise (famous last words).
As the sun slowly peered over the Excel Centre opposite our hotel, I woke after a night of fitful sleep, my stomach boiling with nerves. Mrs K assembled me and my kit and escorted me downstairs to reception to meet my Virgin Money colleagues Rob and Andy at 7:30am. She snapped some pics of us all pretending we were relaxed with assurances that if I didn’t see her at the finish line, I would be at St Thomas’ hospital. We headed out into the blindingly bright cloudless day for the (free) train, meeting the swarms of other runners heading for Greenwich Park. On arrival at Maze Hill station we climbed the hill to the Green Start (where celebs and Virgin Money peeps depart from) our nerves climbing along with us. After chilling out in the Virgin Money marquee, we discarded our outer layers and put our kit bags onto the trucks that would take our belongings to the finish line. We took some quick snaps before shaking hands and taking our places (Rob and Andy at the front, me at the back). The announcer started talking about the events in Boston but everyone kept chatting away, I wondered if they were listening. But as soon as the whistle blew for the 30 seconds silence for Boston, Greenwich Park fell silent except for the tweeting of the birds. Once the whistle ended our mark of respect, we were on our way.
I promised myself I wouldn’t go tearing off as I needed to keep things slow for the first mile or three. I have never ever felt so full of adrenalin and nervous energy in my life and even at that early stage, the streets were lined with spectators shouting out encouragement. After a while we Green Start runners were joined by the runners from the Blue and Red Start, which looked both times like an invading army of rival running clubs flooding in from the side roads. Running past my old place of employment in Woolwich, the crowds were now even thicker, adults and children handing out high-fives, sweets and shouting out variations of “Come on, Steve!” which was extremely helpful. I tried to keep to the side of the road out of the way of the faster runners who’d joined us, but to my surprise that was where people overtook. So I tried to stick to the thin blue lines in the middle of the road, marking the shortest way to run the marathon. As we approached Greenwich we ran past many of the fantastic bands, orchestras and sound systems that lined the route, some of which I really wanted to stop and listen to. Arriving in Greenwich was so exciting, running around the newly restored Cutty Sark, through the high street full of cheering, sweet-toting smiley people. After trotting through Deptford and Rotherhithe I felt like I was starting to flag, until I arrived in Bermondsey to see Team K perched on a wall with their RUN, FAT BOY, RUN signs. With that shot of extra adrenaline, I ran off down Tooley Street, where, spookily, someone shouted out “Come on, Biggles” (spooky as that’s my old school nickname). Turning the corner we were faced by the surprisingly-wider-than-you-think Tower Bridge, an amazing thing to run across, with me checking out my favourite buildings either side of the river. Turning right onto the highway, I saw Rob on the other side as he started his last three miles to the finish, two hours and ten minutes ahead of me (that sonic boom you heard at 12.51pm on Sunday was him crossing the finish line, the fastest runner from Virgin Money). As I hit the halfway point, I really started to flag – my adrenalin had drained away and my hips and back had started hurting. I grabbed the two Anadin in my bum bag, gulped them down with my ever-present bottle of water and pressed onto Docklands. This part was tough as the crowds thinned out in places and I was moving past a lot of people walking. I wasn’t tempted to join them as I was determined to run the entire 26 miles.
As we arrived in Canary Wharf, I found myself picking up the pace, bouyed on by the fantastic architecture (it was like running in a North American city) and the really funny crowds that I happily hammed it up for. Running past a battling Ed Balls, who I said hello to, I was then well into my stride and feeling good again. Just then, I heard two unbelievably strong Scottish accents from behind me. As these runners overtook me (annoyingly quite comfortably) I realised it was Muriel Gray plus friend. As they slowly left me for dust, I wondered if I’d have run better with a Scottish accent. Maybe next time. Suddenly I was at mile 20, only three miles away from Tower Hill and the remaining three miles of the home straight. Running past the Tower of London, the run just got more and more exciting. The crowds were shouting, screaming out any names they could see and the further I progressed into the last three miles, the crowd just got louder and louder. Everywhere you looked, there seemed to be a huge wall of people to your left, right and on all of the bridges above. The noise was so loud, like listening to a football match while wearing earphones, the kind of noise usually reserved for an elite runner miles ahead of anyone else, which is now how I felt, despite the fact I was surrounded by my fellow marathoners. As we emerged from the Lucozade tunnel (where they had speakers feeding in the crowd noise above) I could see the South Bank, my favourite part of London, which gave me another incredible thrill. And then I could properly see Big Ben, who was holding his hands at the quarter to three postion. As my halfway point time was so rubbish, how did I manage to get here quicker than expected? Had I become Scottish? Realising that if I got a shift on, I could make it under five hours, I paced myself up to Big Ben, turning the corner to Parliament Square and then turning on the gas, being careful to gradually increase it so I didn’t arrive at Buckingham Palace looking like a spare red carpet (ie red and on the floor). As I got faster and faster down Birdcage Walk (they really should rename it Birdcage Run for marathon day) the noise of the crowd had become like white noise in my ears broken by the shouts of “Go on Steve, keep it going”, “Run up Steve”, “Not much further” and “Look, it’s Mo Farah’s brother” (I may have have misheard that last one).
As I came around the corner in front of the Palace, I could see the finish line clock counting down. Running with all my might towards it (against all received advice “try and savour the last few moments, Steve” they said) I tried to pick out Team K in the Virgin Money Grandstand to my left. I just managed to spot them, give a manic wave as I sailed past only to see the clock hit three o’clock before I crossed the finish line three seconds later. Bugger, three seconds over! But all was not lost – as I had crossed the start line three minutes into the race, I therefore had a finish time of 4 hours, 57 minutes. MacBlimey! My chip tag was cut off my foot and I received my medal as if in a dream. I paused and looked back at the Mall, remembering an empty snow covered St James’s Park on 12th January 1987, when I was on my way to catch the last coach to Norwich after being told only hours earlier that my Mum had died from an asthma attack in the snow the day before. The person who told me was my late Uncle Brian who died of leukaemia last month. I wondered if they and my Mother-in-Law Pat, who died suddenly last year from brain tumour, had seen me finish. Hopefully they’d be happy with the money I’d raised for Cancer Research UK and Asthma UK. I’d like to think so. I normally never big myself up, but I have to confess I felt prouder of myself for running the London Marathon than probably anything else I ever achieved in my life.
After two ill advised attempts to stretch, I creaked up the Duke of York steps with my kit bag to Lower Regent Street and reality, feeling like someone in fancy dress among the Londoners that weren’t screaming their heads off at Lycra-clad looneys. I made my way up the Haymarket to Planet Hollywood, where Virgin Money had it’s free post marathon bash, and waited for Team K to meet me there. I compared times with Rob (his aforementioned PB of 2:51), Andy (another PB at 3:45) and stole a few hugs and kisses from assembled colleagues. When Mrs K and Eve and Joe arrived, I creaked up more stairs where Mrs K plied me with lots of food and beer. A great end to an incredible day.
As I write this, my lovely sponsors have smashed my fundraising target of £2,600 by an extra £874.21. But with Gift Aid I shall be sharing a pot of £4,297.52 between Cancer Research UK and Asthma UK. Thanks to everyone who sponsored me, advised me and generally held my hand throughout. And to Rob, Mr Fastest-Man-At-Virgin-Money, who has motivated me in all matters of code, tech and running. But most of all, thanks to my family, as without their support I never would have been able to complete my training and get to this impossible point where I actually finished the London Marathon the same month I started it.
My marathon training came to an end this week, with only 12 miles run, split into three early morning shifts. Now I can concentrate on the next stage, which is blind panic, shaking and praying, before standing on the start line on Sunday morning. After 16 weeks of running in the worst Winter since the London Marathon began 21 years ago, I’ve pushed my body to places it didn’t want to visit. The last 12 months have been a truly awful time of bereavement and misery and I feel proud of myself to have come this far since I began running last May, raising money to help combat the diseases that have blighted my family’s life.
My latest sponsors this week include Willem (very kind, sir!), Betty, George, Jenni and John Kemp, Rich, Doreen, Clive, Carol, Rob, Lynn, Beckiee and Nikki who have helped raise my running total to £2,289.21, which with Gift Aid totals £2,835.02, taking me comfortably over my target figure of £2,600. Hooray!! And if you’d like to join in, all you have to do is visit my Virgin Money Giving fund raising page and press that Donate Now button. Thanks!
Not many miles to report this week folks, as I’ve started my two weeks of tapering before the big day. After all the bashing my body has taken in Winter’s wearisome weather, I thought I’d be happy taking things easy, but it’s proved to be a real anti-climax. And even though I’ve run under sunnier skies this week, there was the cloud of my Uncle Brian’s funeral on Tuesday. Luckily, the forecast rain held off, and Brian had a sunny send off from his many friends and colleagues.
I’m sure you are as happy as I am to see the sun again, but I’m worried about how hot it might be on Marathon day. I can spend an hour vacuuming and look like I’ve just cycled up the Alps on a fixie, so the idea of running for five hours under a blazing sun makes me anxious. My plan is to hide under my hat and hopefully the water stations will be able to keep me going. My nerves have already begun their climb to panic stations after seeing the trailer for the London Marathon coverage on BBC One. Seeing it on the telly like that and realising that this year, you’re not a spectator, does strange things to your mind and body that I shan’t go into.
As ever, thanks to my lovely sponsors this week who raised my fundraising efforts for Cancer Research UK and Asthma UK to £1,673.21 (£2,065.02 with Gift Aid) taking me ever nearer my target figure of £2,600. Take a bow Lee, Duncan, Madge, Lesley, the Lockwoods, Dave, Esther and Viv. If you want to donate, but haven’t got around to it yet, fear not! It’s ever so easy – just visit my Virgin Money Giving fund raising page and press the Donate Now button.