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.
This week, I have mostly been eating every mother-lovin’ carb I can lay my hands on, force fed through an industrial-sized funnel of Desperate Dan proportions. Result? Three early morning seven milers were hit out of the park on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with today’s cherry on the cake being a fantastic 13 miler run in my shorts(!) in the sun (whatever that is). And what a beautiful run it was too – the first two miles run with my daughter (who’s running the 10k Race for Life in Norwich on 18 May) before swerving off on my own for the rest.
Running under a duck egg blue sky, marbled with hazy clouds and scored with the trails of holiday planes, I felt energised, breathing in the Spring air that finally smelt of the promise of Summer (it actually smelt of the chemical factory three miles downwind, but I’m trying to paint a picture here) and of a happy place where grey skies are banned. During my run I met another runner called Mark, who like me, was in his early fifties, was also running the London Marathon and was also raising money for Cancer. We ran a few miles together until our routes diverged and it was so enjoyable it really made me reconsider my ideas about not having a running partner. When I was nearly home, I ran past an old friend from our village who wished me luck for the Marathon, although it was difficult to thank her as my mouth was full of Jelly Babies.
My fundraising is still going well, getting ever closer to my target of £2,600 (£100 per mile) with my running total now £1,504.81 (£1,854.52 with Gift Aid). For this I have to thank Craig, Mark, Cara and Sue, Sam and Maddie and of course, my daughter and Mrs K who cooked up another feast of diet-busting goodies for me to sell at work. Those goodies raised £50, which, added to last week’s cake sale, meant a grand total of £115. Caketastic! And don’t forget, it’s never too late to donate – just visit my Virgin Money Giving fund raising page and press that Donate Now button. Cancer Research UK, Asthma UK and myself, will be eternally grateful.
After the great runs of last week, the peak of which was my smoother-than-expected-20-miler, I suppose I did feel somewhat like Superman. So it was only fitting that this week, on trying to leap a building in a single bound, I snagged my pride on my stupidity and messed up this week’s repeat 20 mile run.
I was so busy with work, dad stuff and other family commitments, I completely forgot I’m a runner. I can’t think why – I had, after all, made three runs at 6.30 in the a.m. totalling 20 miles during the week – yet it had escaped me to keep digesting the necessary food and water required for such a routine. And that’s why, to my horror, I began to lose energy at mile nine of this week’s 20 miler. Even with my energy gels, I still didn’t have the oomph I had compared to the previous week. At mile ten, I bumped into an old colleague from Virgin Money. I stopped briefly to chat to her, resisting the temptation to ask her to call for an ambulance. Then, using the last of my energy to form a smile and say farewell, I staggered on, gradually getting slower and slower, even contemplating calling Mrs K to come and fetch me when I reached mile 15. Reminding myself that this is exactly what could happen on the Marathon itself, I knew I had to keep running. So, I ran to new self-imposed milestones ahead again and again, until I only had two miles to go, then told myself it would be silly to stop now. The last two miles were terrible – the small amount of sun that had made me a sweaty wreck disappeared under a blanket of cloud, which promptly turned into a snow flurry, transforming my head into a coconut covered dessert. I arrived back at Castle Kirkendall, freezing, dehydrated and limp of leg, looking more like a broken Batman than the Man of Steel. Mrs K became Alfred, covering me in two blankets (one of which was the dog’s) and Number One Son’s duvet. I lay beneath this impromptu life support system, shivering like an expectant volcano, wondering what to do first – vomit, cry or drink my chocolate milk. I now know that I can run a long distance while feeling/looking like a zombie, but I have no intention of making that mistake again.
Ironically, the day before that calorie depleting experience, I had an Easter Cake Sale at Virgin Money. My daughter Eve and her chef boyfriend Bobby, spent all day making cakes and shortbread biscuits which were so popular that I raised much money. As it was such a success and only two people had to go to A&E, I’m going to do it again this Friday and hopefully, will raise even more money for Cancer Research UK and Asthma UK. My sponsorship running total now stands at £1,444.81 (£1,792.02 with Gift Aid), thanks to my latest sponsors, Terry & Lyne, The Blacks, The Sorrells, Helen Filby, Adrian, Marc, Ben and Loz. Don’t forget, it’s never too late to donate – just visit my Virgin Money Giving fund raising page and hit that Donate Now button!
Another week of good running, folks. No mean feat (no pun intended) as this was the week with the biggest milestone so far, my first twenty mile run. After dispatching two grey sky six a.m. seven milers on Tuesday and Wednesday, Friday found me standing nervously outside my house, armed to the teeth with running gels, wondering if I was going to be able to complete a 20 mile run without disappearing into a cloud of steam.
Unfortunately, I had a disastrous start as I had to return home after a mile to pick up my forgotten running watch that I use to time my gel consumption. Turning the corner into the drive I noticed that the gale force wind I had just become acquainted with had blown over our recycling bin and decorated our Close with two weeks worth of cereal packets, newspapers and toilet rolls. So as the recycling lorry pulled up behind me, my lycra clad self had to run around and pick up all of the debris and pop it back in the bin before handing over to our bemused environmental operatives. “You don’t need to run now, you’ve had your exercise, hur hur” quipped the green bin man. Resisting the temptation to say “Thank you for your input, Oscar Wilde, but I have another 19 miles yet”, I just smiled wanly, and set off again into the wind under the ever present grey sky. The wind was against me for greater distances than it was for last week’s 18 miler, but luckily, it was behind me for the last four miles (or the zombie straight as I like to call it). And apart from flagging a bit near the Cathedral, I felt OK. And I didn’t feel like death warmed up when I finally got home, even managing to stretch properly instead of sitting down at the kitchen table, wheezing wildly. I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d ever run that distance and I feel more confident about running the marathon although I’m under no illusions what hard work it will be.
My sponsorship running total now stands at £1,011.31 (£1,261.64 with Gift Aid). Thanks to my latest sponsors, Dale, Jo, Mark, Karen and Jon, Jonny and Darragh (my Belfast-based Path buddies), Rob (the fastest man in Virgin Money), Rachel, Chris and the Blacklocks. If you are thinkng of donating this week on my Virgin Money Giving fund raising page please do so this Friday. Virgin Money Giving aim to make Good Friday great, by doubling any donation made that day via Paypal. It’s first come first served, so you’ll need to be quick!
This was a good week for running. The light mornings now mean I can leave the house at 6.30am, have my run, a half hour sweatathon with breakfast, then leave for work knowing I havn’t got to fit all of that in at lunchtime. On the rare occasion that I’m not running under a grey sky, running that early is such a beautiful experience. Hearing the birdsong as the sun peers over the trees, seeing the low lying mist on the fields and feeling the reassuring wobble of my stomach – what Wordsworth would’ve made of such scenes if only he had a pair of trainers, eh?
OK, down to the nitty gritty. My runs this week went very well – only three this week as family commitments meant I couldn’t manage a run with my daughter on Sunday, so her boyfriend accompanied her instead. I had two good early runs, a gloomy Tuesday six miler and the sunny five miles on Thursday. And amazingly, my big run of 18 miles on Saturday went much better than expected. Run under the usual grey sky, the rain that was forecast never materialised and although it was really windy, for some inexplicable reason the wind was pretty much with me for the entire time. I kept it slow and steady, my body sang with the usual chorus of aches and pains towards the end, but I did it. It took me three hours and 20 minutes, but I did it. I was really tired at the end as you’d expect, but my chain gel-drinking habit ensured I wasn’t the shuffling husk that I have been on other long runs. Hopefully, my 20 miler next week will go just as well. Fingers crossed!
My sponsorship is still going well, the running total now stands at £864.30 (£1,080.38 with Gift Aid). I thank all of my lovely sponsors so far and remember, it’s easy to donate. Just visit my Virgin Money Giving fund raising page to make a donation. Remember, donating through the Virgin Money Giving site ensures more money goes to the charities I’m running for, Cancer Research UK and Asthma UK. Thanks!
Last week was a tough week, both mentally and physically. It was the week that my Uncle Brian finally succumbed to leukaemia. He told me he had been diagnosed with it last summer (a double whammy then as we were already coping with my Mother-in-law Pat’s terminal illness) and two weeks ago he rang and said that his Doctor had given him just weeks to live. My last visit with him a few days later was a good one, he was in good spirits and incredibly matter of fact about his condition. It was hard to believe at that moment he was dying. He lost consciousness last Wednesday afternoon and died peacefully later that evening. So now I have another reason to run for Cancer Research UK.
As for my training this week, it went well as my swollen ankle didn’t hurt to run on and I dealt with any further swelling with ice and Nurofen. The swelling had disappeared by last weekend, so I was able to make my big run of 16 miles on Saturday (switched from Sunday because of Mother’s Day). I still felt tired at the end, and my toes really hurt, but I didn’t feel as washed out as I did on my 15 miler a couple of weeks ago. I put this down to not running the day before and also seeing Mrs K while running across the ring road at mile ten which really lifted my spirits. And they needed lifting after running for three hours in the relentless rain.
On Mothers Day I ran with my daughter on her two mile training run as she’s running this years Race For Life in Norwich for her Grandma Pat. We’re really proud of her for doing this and I want to help her in any way I can. More news next week.
After a big 12 mile Sunday run, my training nose-dived last week due to injury. And, in keeping with my reputation as the World’s Clumsiest Man™, I actually managed to injure my self while walking. Yep, that’s right, just walking. It happened Monday lunchtime on my way to Sainsburys to buy more running gels and energy bars (so I can still claim it was running related). Five minutes into my journey, my right ankle just gave way and my foot folded underneath me. It hurt – oh, how it hurt – but as I was being watched by a gang of builders, I proved to them how butch I am by just grimacing and hobbling on, before walking around the corner and sobbing uncontrollably. I carried on the rest of the day as normal, but in the morning discovered that my right ankle had swollen to Jabba the Hutt-like proportions (see photo above). I couldn’t move it very well, but luckily, I wasn’t in pain. And I certainly didn’t want to run on it either, as I wanted to recover as fast as possible.
Luckily for me, the army of runners at Virgin Money gave me plenty of advice on how to get road worthy again, ranging from “Keep your ankle raised higher than your heart”, “Put plenty of ice on it” and “It will be alright, don’t be such a poof”. So using the newly learned RICE technique (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) and support socks bought by Mrs K (who called me a poof) I managed to reduce the swelling. After resting it all week, yesterday I went out for a really strong five and a half mile run, each mile being faster than the last. Now next week will be a return to my normal training schedule and all I have to do is not walk to Sainsburys.
PS. My sponsorship went through the roof this week, thanks to a little Facebook campaign I’ve started. This week, my Virgin Money Giving fund raising page went from a running total of £56.20 to a whopping £769.30! Many thanks to all the lovely, generous people who’ve donated so far. And remember if you haven’t already donated, it’s not too late!