What concerned me about the first three miles was my heart rate. I had trained for 30 weeks at 140 beats per minute and yet the first three slow miles were coming in at 153 beats per minute. Looking back, I guess this was a mixture of adrenaline and lack of sleep.
I was running with a bloke who was training to be a doctor in Newcastle. He'd started talking to me in the first mile mark and everything about the run was going fine, even through we went through halfway at 2:06, four minutes ahead of my 10-minute mile target.
I started feeling a bit odd at mile 10 when my chest tightened up a bit. Not enough to stop, but enough for me to be aware of it. The trainee doc just suggested I take some water at the next available point. It was at the next water point I lost the doc who disappeared behind me and I did not dare stop for fear of not re-starting!
At 17 miles the pain kicked in massively. My knees (which were dodgy before Sunday) seized up and I couldn't get them to bend sufficiently to run. At this point thought of nine more miles was incredibly demoralising, but the thought of not finishing was not an option. I kept going for another mile or so with a mixture of walking and running and then just stopped. I stretched my legs, went to the loo and had some Lucozade. This stop lasted for 10 to 15 minutes, and when I re-started I decided to walk to the next mile marker.
From then on, it was case of doing everything I could just to keep going. I started by deciding to run a mile and then walk a bit. This became too much and my chest was hurting, so I decided to run for two minutes and then walk a minute; this too became too much until I was walking and running for a minute at a time. It was quite funny because I found out that to run in a lot of pain from chest, knees, feet etc.. was taking me 12 minutes a mile, whilst walking fast at a much more controlled pace with less impact was only taking me 15 minutes mile. As the time was slipping away I really wanted to finish in a time less than 5 hours.
If I'd seen any family or friends from 21 miles onwards I would have found it hard not to have become a tad emotional. It was hard, so very, very hard, and this is coming from someone who regards himself as being reasonably fit.
For the last mile and a half I was trying to run as much as possible, mainly spurred on by the fact that I knew my wife Nicole, my Mum, my two sisters and other friends would be lining the roads and I wanted for them to see me running. Eventually it was at the 26-mile mark that I finally heard a scream from my right and I turned to see Nicole. I plodded over, gave her a kiss on the cheek then continued round the last corner to the finish. Across the line I felt terrible. I sat down at the entrance to the St John Ambulance tent for 30 minutes feeling as though I was having a mental and physical breakdown. I was desperately to eat or drink something but I felt as though I was just going to bring it straight back up. Eventually I recovered enough to get a Lucozade down and a recovery sports bar but still felt appalling.
I swore there and then that I would never ever even contemplate doing something like that again. It was just so horribly hard. I hobbled to the over-crowded meeting point - it feels as if I've broken a bone in the outside of my right foot, but it may just be strained - and met up with my family and friends. With then went off to Kensington Park and ate lots of pizza before going home to a much-needed early night.
In summary, never again. I did it in 4:52, having set myself a pre-run target of 4:25 to 4:45, but people should not have to feel pain like that! With the help of friends, family workmates etc.. I did raise £1000 for the NSPCC which has gone some way to making the sunburn and pain a little more worthwhile the day after.
Oddly enough, by the following Wednesday, having recovered a little and watched the races on the television, I was desperate to do it again next year, if nothing else just to prove to myself that I can do better!