My VLM 2010: John Whitehead (4:23)

The knee injury I sustained pre-Christmas made an unwelcome return at the most inconvenient time but that didn't stop me from reaching the finishline


Posted: 26 April 2010
by John Whitehead 4

After a few years of running 10Ks and half-marathons, the next challenge was the big one: a marathon. Six months ago (when I first received confirmation I had a ballot place) I was made up and devised my training programme carefully. I felt like nothing could stop me.

That was until at the beginning of December a simple fall in the gym highlighted a knee injury I was totally unaware I had been carrying. Following this injury I was out of action until the middle of February (disaster), but remained determined to see how much training I could complete and ultimately finish the marathon. By the first week in April I was feeling great and running better than ever, so made the decision to give the marathon a go...

Race day arrived and I was totally up for it. I felt great - I was well-rested, well-hydrated and ready to run. I soon managed to settle into my 7:00-mile pace and everything was going well. I'd never felt so good running and was well on target to achieve my 3:10 goal. 

But at Mile 15 I felt a tweak in my calf and my knee locked up. I could hardly move. The knee injury I had sustained pre-Christmas had made an unwelcome return at the most inconvenient time possible. Thankfully, with a spot of treatment from the fantastic St Johns Ambulance volunteers, the willingness of the crowd, a tear in my eye and a spot of stupidity on my own behalf (I was struggling to walk) I set off to drag myself across the finish line by whatever means possible.

The last 11 miles were pure hell. Running and trying to compensate for my knee injury caused my other calf to cramp. Every muscle in my body was screaming at me to give up, but every member of the crowd and every passing runner gave me the strength to carry on and make my way to the finish line (even if it wasn't in the most dignified fashion...). I was saying "never again, stick to the distance you know" but that was until I dragged myself home in 4:23. I'd completed my first marathon and all I could think about was when can I start training for my next one?!

Everyone has a goal for the marathon. If you think you didn't achieve yours on Sunday, think again - less than 1% of the British population has ever started the London Marathon, let alone put the dedication into training and made the sacrifices that you did to get there. Everyone should be proud of what they have achieved even if it wasn't what they were originally hoping for!

I'm now off for my first pint of beer in two and a half months. It's well deserved...

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