Having been a mediocre cross-country team runner at school and spending a good deal of my 30s doing half-marathons, I had always hankered after doing a full marathon before getting too old. I thought about it coming up to my 40th birthday, the marathon in that year being on the day of my birthday, but didn't get my act together to apply. I think I was pretty busy at that time going through what others might describe as a mid-life crisis.
I secured a 2005 place though, even though in September the distances that I had been running were nowhere near the 20 miles per week which were the prerequisite for the start of the marathon training schedule that I had put myself on to go under four hours in the FLM.
I did start with the best intentions. I wanted to complete as many of the mid-week runs as possible, but would make sure that I did at least the distance specified for the long run on the Sunday. For the first few weeks I stuck to this, but was finding it hard to get more than two runs in mid-week. However, at that time the Sunday long runs were going well.
Unfortunately, at about week nine, I started having problems with my left knee. I eventually had the choice of pulling out of the marathon, or keeping myself fit by other means and going for it in the day. As I had been waiting a considerable part of my life for the chance to take part in this fantastic event, I decided to go for option two. I was going to go for it and I knew that I would suffer on the day.
On the morning of the race Carol and I were out of bed at 6.30am and I made porridge. On the train I met a fellow runner (Hardeep) who was also looking for a sub-four hour time but I think was a lot better prepared than me. After a change of trains my new friend and I boarded an extremely crowded train heading for Greenwich.
As I stepped from the train onto the platform of Greenwich station I could feel the excitement in the air. The atmosphere was electric. So many people all there to achieve something for themselves and their charity. There were two or three spectators for each runner disembarking from the train.
The start itself was great fun, if a little slow. As the crowd started to move forward and eventually out of the gates of Greenwich park in front of the television cameras, I was thinking about the small matter of the 26 miles ahead and was more than a little concerned.
It was difficult to keep an even pace. There were people weaving about, pushing though, and some stopping directly in front of me. There were plenty of people running using their mobile phones to let their friends know how they were doing.
I didn't really notice the miles going by at this stage. I was preoccupied with the other runners, the drinks stations and the cheering of the crowds. I was pleasantly surprised to see the eight-mile marker go by and the pain in my knees was still at a reasonable level. By mile 11 I felt really good. This lasted until well over Tower Bridge and to over the halfway mark. It was then that the lack of training started to show.
I had it in my mind that if I could reach mile 17 I would stand a good chance of reaching the end of the race. I don't know why I though this, because when I did reach that point, I felt completely differently. I was getting quite lethargic and the running style had almost completely disappeared. Despite that fact that I was taking on board energy drinks and trying to stay focussed I continued to deteriorate until mile 21.
I remember thinking that I was being silly. It was only another five miles to go! At that point I realised that I was running slower than some people who were walking next to me, so I decided to walk to try to rekindle some energy and style.
I started to feel slightly human again and able to run, if but slowly, but with reasonable style when I emerged from the tunnel onto the Victoria Embankment. The crowds there were amazing. They just made me want to run. I was hurting a lot, but kept going. Nobody seemed to know quite how far the finish was, but once I saw the London Eye, I knew that I wasn't too far away.
The last mile was incredibly emotional. The crowd was so loud, I realised that I was really going to make it. Even though my legs were shot, I felt strong in myself. As I rounded the corner into Parliament Square I was wiping the tears from my eyes. Mile 26, only another 385 yards to go, but they seemed to stretch for miles. Then I finally reached the finishing arch. I went for the middle one and managed a half smile to the camera. What a feeling - I had done it !
When Carol and I got home, she laid me on the sofa and plied me with tea. I eventually managed to take a shower and then climbed the stairs, rather wearily to bed. Needless to say, I slept extremely well. I did have a small Guinness to celebrate. And what did I dream of? Next Year!