My 2005 London Marathon

How was it for you? - Quotes and pictures from London 05


Posted: 24 April 2005

5 HOURS+ (Page 10) Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Penelope Pitstop, 5:06

My first, and definitely not my last London Marathon. I had the most fantastic day, which words cannot describe. I've just finished watching the BBC coverage of the whole event and it still chokes me.

I was expecting my best moment to be running down the Mall, but to be honest when I got there I really couldn't care less!

The best bits by far for me were the starting line (knowing that I was part of the best marathon in the world), Tower Bridge (the noise was awesome) and of course the crowds of people all the way along the route. Having my name shouted out by complete strangers was such a buzz.

My worst moment was between 21-24 miles when I thought I needed to walk a bit, which was all in my head. I started running again at 24 and felt fine. My longest training run had been 20 miles, so if I get in next year I'll try further!

The key to my success was to start off slowly and build on it, whilst snacking on a variety of sweeties along the way!

I can't wait for next year.

Y Me, 5:58

I'm 58, and I have always made a virtue of not exercising or participating in sport. I was ‘preserving my body’. Why run for a bus or train when another will follow some time soon? You can always wait in the pub.

The philosophy was simple. That was, until August 2004 when mid-life crisis + bottle of wine = stupid idea. I decided to "do" the London Marathon. Many close friends looked at me with that type of expression that says: ‘don't worry, time of life, he'll get over it’. My lovely wife Linda took it in her stride, and brought me a book on power walking as if to say 'put up or shut up'.

I commenced power walking and three weeks decided to jog. Panic... everything started bumping up and down, I had just read about nipple burn... better start walking again. Then followed months of going out in all weathers, trudging the country lanes - and for what, I asked myself: I don't do sport.

Sunday 17th April arrived, and I was awake at 4am. Why? I would be going halfway round the world later on (or so it would seem). I caught the train from Epsom at 6.45am and suddenly it dawned upon me what the London Marathon is about for a middle-aged first timer. There were others doing the same journey with the same thoughts, not knowing what to expect: should we be elated, worried, or just let it happen? I was with friends, as though we had known each other all our lives.

I find myself in pen 9, with no idea where the start line is located, yet I don't care. I have 'Billy' on my shirt, bright blue hair (the result of some misguided bet). Over the next 26 miles, I hear ‘Go Billy Go’; ‘Billy, you are our hero’; ‘Blue Billy we love you’; and it’s me they are shouting at, encouraging me at the low points, making me laugh when I am on a high. This is what the 2005 London Marathon is about - I am achieving something that I have only dreamt about and before the 17th, a million miles away.

But there is more to the marathon. It has also made me humble. I had set a target of £750 for my chosen charity - Cancer Research UK, so far I have raised nearly an incredible £3000, because of the wonderful generosity of so many people who also wanted to have part of the joy of being involved.

Will I do it again? On Sunday night I said ‘no way’, I didn't even want to watch a marathon. But now, perhaps one more go, and who knows, I may get closer to five hours.

And finally, I have been asked to give talks on how an old timer can become a MARATHON CHAMP! What goes around comes around!

Laura W, 5:11

We all know that if the ‘why’ is strong enough the ‘how’ will follow somehow.

There are no buts or ifs once the desire to finish the challenge or task you’ve set yourself is powerful enough. That was the situation I found myself in. I knew I was going to do it, strengthened by the reactions of those I shared this decision with. Their ‘why on earth would you do it?’ was often followed by my ‘why not?’

The more I mentioned it, the more determined I became. It seemed one of those things that ‘everybody’ wants to do but very few actually get round to doing it. A bit like setting up your own company, moving abroad or learning another language really. We all think about it at least once in our life but somehow reality takes over and we find reasons for not doing it. But I was going to do it. Why? Because I had reached 40, because I want to see if I could do it, because I want to push myself. Because I can.

The ‘How’ was less complicated. Thousands and thousands have done it before me and I don’t even want to count the numbers of books or articles that have been published on this elusive running distance. ‘Marathon Running for Mortals’ became my bedtime reading. Inspired by the Mortal Miracles I was dreaming of my own Miracle. I read every tip twice, three times, memorised the mantras and soaked it all up. Mind you I skipped the most important part - the training schedule - and only did the bits that suited me best. Hey, I’m only human.

My favourite piece of information was ‘don’t try anything new on race day’ which was drummed into the reader. How could anyone be so stupid to try anything new on race day? I promised myself of all the things I would or wouldn’t do I was going to be smart and well-prepared. I would not try anything new on the day. To throw all the hard work away by trying anything new on the day.

And all of a sudden months of preparation came to an end. It was Sunday April 17th, I was in London, injury-free. Today I was going to run my first marathon.

Shoes well worn-in. Check. Trousers, favourite pair. Check. Socks, never had blisters in them. Check. Favourite long-sleeved shirt. Check. Barnardo’s vest with running number. Never worn before but surely that is not going to make a big difference. Slightly too big but who cares? Check.

On my way to Greenwich I was already boiling. I was dressed according to the weather forecast which I must have misinterpreted... Grey and overcast with showers later in the day. My fourth and fifth hour of plodding would nicely coincide with ‘later in the day’ so I came well-prepared. Or so I thought.

In my fourth mile, red as a beetroot, steam coming out of my ears, I was questioning love, life and everything else. Running was fine, I mean, this was only my fourth mile. But if I was to extrapolate the heat I was in for trouble. Real trouble. I mentally prepared the race by talking to my various demons.


    Body: ‘I hurt. You kill me. Please stop’.
    Brain: ‘Get off it. Only two more hours of it. Get used to it’.
    Body: ‘Pain. Pain. Pain. Stop. Walk. Stop.’
    Brain: ‘Pain is temporary. Pride is forever. Keep moving.’
    But these were not my demons. Instead my internal conversation was as follows:
    ‘If you keep this shirt and vest on you end up draining yourself, far too hot.’
    ‘I can’t take this shirt off because that means taking it all off first.’
    ‘Well, take it all off then.’
    ‘I can’t. There are lots of pubs and supporters here and I don’t want to stand here in my bra, looking like an idiot.’
    ‘You are Dutch for heaven’s sake, since when do you care?’
    ‘Well of all my sports bras I’m not wearing my white trendy one but my ‘flesh-coloured with grey tint as a result of a wrong laundry cycle’ one. Besides, that vest is too big and probably means that I run a lot more exposed than I want to be.’
    ‘So what? Take it off at the next stretch when there are no supporters and you feel better instantly. You look like an idiot anyway, and no one is going to care.’
    ‘I shouldn’t. I’ve been told not to wear anything new on race day and I’ve never ever run in a vest before. I may chafe and get a sunburn.’
    ‘Get real, you wimp. You didn’t follow the training schedule either, and you are still here. You can’t be selective with accepting advice.’

This went on for two miles. Two miles of deliberation, getting hotter by the second. Finding a spot without supporters proved impossible as well, so I had to accept I was going to be in full view. The best I could do was making sure it was not right in front of a pub.

And there it was. A relative hiding spot, perfect. I manoeuvred to the left, took my vest off, took my top off and stood there, in my flesh-coloured with grey tint sports bra.

It was over in a second. I tied my top around my waist whilst running, adjusted all that needed adjusting and was pleased that I finally plucked up the courage. I was also secretly worried that I ignored the Master’s advice: Don’t try anything new on race day.

But do you know what? I did many new things on race day. I met new friends on race day. I now know that I can run for 26.2 miles and grin continuously on race day. I can adjust on race day. I have run a marathon on race day. I have survived on race day.

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