I swore when I did my first marathon in 2003 that it was going to be a one-off, a birthday present to myself to celebrate my 50th and to shut me up. For years I'd been saying I had a marathon in me (yeah - a 16-stone retired prop forward running a marathon - as if... everyone knows props don't run....). I thought it was time to put up and shut up. But I did it, and missed my target of a sub-4 and came in at 4:07...and that was it. I'd done it - I'd run a marathon. Move on.
And I did move on - and carried on running in other events - but crucially I got started doing triathlons, which led on to me eventually being sweet-talked by a bunch of RW forum nutters into entering the Switzerland Ironman in July 2005 - known to us all as IMCH.
Well, I guess I wasn't sweet-talked into it that much, as I did a Half-Ironman in September 2004 and got thinking full-sized thoughts. I started to add up my swim, bike and run time estimates, and duly entered IMCH. Then thought about training for it.
If you don't know, an IM is a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a full marathon. Yes, you finish with a marathon run. So training has to include loads of long runs, which started me thinking of doing another marathon as a training run.
But I confess here: I hadn't NOT thought about doing another marathon after FLM 2003, and had entered for a ballot place in 2004 and 2005. Lo and behold, I got a ballot entry for 2005 so I knew that FLM 05 was going to be that training run. Seems mad really, but as FLM is exactly 3 months before IMCH it would be a great test of how my running was progressing, and give me plenty of time to recover and focus on my bike and swim training. And as a bonus, it also gave me that sub-4 target to aim at having been close last time. And training had gone well - no major issues, plus a 10k PB at Brighton in November which was a good omen.
April 17 arrived and the sun came out again as in 2003. Oops - the heat was bad then; how would I cope now?? Ach, get on with it you big jessie. The start came, and I was over the line and into a nice steady pace once the jostling had finished.
Then Mile 4 came up and the wheels started to buckle - well, not so much the wheels but my left ankle. As I stepped of the central reservation I trod on a drain cover and my left ankle went over - BADLY. I managed to stay upright but hobbled and swore in some fine Middle English for the next few hundred metres.
NO - I can't pull out now - this isn't in the script. Goddamn it. Aaaaaaaaargggggghhhhh.........
But as I hobbled on the pain started to ease, so I decided to carry on and see what happens - I can always pull out later if it gets worse. But the ankle really never bothered me again - yes, I could feel a twinge in it but my running didn't seem that bad and the miles reeled themselves off. I saw my wife Clare (aka Petal) at Cutty Sark, which gave me a boost, and I was feeling good again.
In fact it was going so well that at halfway I was 9 minutes inside my target time - probably a bit too quick really, but that buffer was to come in very handy later. I carry on running into Canary Wharf and meet up with the RW supporters group at Mile 17 - and see Clare again. I stop for a quick snog from her, chuck a bottle at Jon (and hit him - well he did challenge me on the forum!), wave at everyone else and get a picture taken by RichK, and then grab a bottle of PSP22 fuel from Clare and head off again. "See you at the finish," I shout, never doubting now that I would finish. Bad ankle or not.
BUT I didn't count on miles 20-23. I really started to flag after mile 20 and my heart rate was heading skywards - signs of dehydration, tiredness from heat, and fuel running out. Damn - it's only a 10k run from here - get a move on.
But the legs say no. I have a couple of "walkettes" to get the heart rate back down, take some gels, and get some decent volume of water on board. By the Tower of London I start to feel better but by now I have lost minutes and the sub-4 is being threatened. That 9-minute buffer is now earning its keep. As I hit Mile 23 I look at my watch and think it's still possible if I get a move on. So I do get a move on and, somehow, manage to rattle out one 8-minute mile - where the hell that came from I have no idea!
At Mile 25 I pass my fellow IMCH buddy, Cougie and urge him on, but his legs have given up so I carry on alone. Big Ben still seems a long way off but it eventually comes up, and then it's right into Birdcage Walk and I keep cracking on. I keep looking at my watch, keep urging myself on and although my legs and lungs are now hurting badly - that sub-4 is MINE. Come on...
Buck House appears on the left, and Clare appears on the right - standing 6 feet above the crowd on a column! Yay - great to see you girl! And she is hollering at me to GO, GO, GO.
Into the finishing straight and I am watching the finishing clock like a hawk - 4 hrs has gone by, and then I see it go to 4:01 but it's getting closer now - BANG - over the line at 4:01:20. The lungs are burning, the legs are wobbly, the head is spinning out a calculation - 1:20 mins after 4 hrs, 1:30 mins to cross the line - was my watch right, was it really 1:30 to cross the line? I dunno - whatever comes with my chip time will come. I tried my best and had nothing more to give. Let's see what happens.
I meet with Clare, head off to the Trafalgar Thistle to meet up with other RW runners and supporters, have a few beers and head off home. Knackered. Completely knackered. I can't even be bothered to check my official time that evening.
So - Monday morning - back into the office and log onto the FLM website - hoping and praying my timing is right. And BINGO - there it is in black and white.
No 1686, Richard Donovan, 3:59:52.
You beauty, you absolute beauty!! I holler and whoop around the office. Got you, you b*stard. The sub-4 is cracked on the 2nd attempt.
And my ankle you may ask? Well, it's nicely bruised and swollen and I've been hobbling for a few days and won't be running for a couple of weeks I reckon but do I care?? Do I hell!!
Bring that Ironman ON!!!!!!!!!
To be continued - be sure to read the stories of IMCH after 17th July. That is going to be one hell of a RW forum trip.