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Having spent the whole of the previous week memorising my 2-mile splits (and they're still in my head!) I went to the start feeling quite confident, despite the clearest of clear blue skies and the bright sunshine!
I arrived at the green start nice and early, and after a bit of celeb spotting, did all the pre-race necessaries and dutifully lined up somewhere near my rightful place.
I was aiming for 8.45-minute/miles, which is what I did at the Bramley 20 in February, but I made the classic error of going off too fast. Despite telling myself constantly to slow down, I did 8.15's for about the first 6 miles. But it felt so easy and I just couldn't seem to slow myself up.
By the time I'd got myself on pace the damage was done and I started paying for it from about 15. Through miles 15 and 16 I kept thinking of the support groups just ahead. The thought of them there with cheers and support helped me to stay focused. Then I saw the URWFRC sign and before I knew what had happened I was almost past them.
I heard RichK shout "Trin!" and doubled back to swap my empty bottle for the full one that the Team 6 supporters had ready for me. My brain was beginning to get fuzzy by then so I didn't stop, just waved and pushed on.
I guess, out of the whole race, apart from the finish, seeing the forum support station was the best moment. The familiar faces and shouts of support carried me for a while afterwards, but it soon became a struggle again. The heat was getting to me and although I had sports drink with me I became very thirsty and it didn't take much for the voice in my head to persuade me to walk through a few water stations.
Then followed my worst moment. At about 21 miles I felt a sharp pain at the back of my left knee, which almost stopped me in my tracks. The only mile marker that I didn't see was 22 and I was getting quite depressed when I thought 21 was going on forever. Then, to my relief I saw 23 and made a decision that no matter what, I was going to keep running to the finish. I was in a kind of 'limp-run' by this time because of the injury, but I knew it was going to be a close thing for the sub-4 target.
Then came the 800m to the finish sign, and I thought half a mile....that's all (but it hurts), half a mile... keep running (I can't)... just half a mile (I have to stop)....no, less than half a mile (it really hurts)....nearly there.... probably a quarter of a mile now (where's the finish).... keep running (I can't).... don't stop now...
I turned the corner and saw the finish, looked at my watch, and the slight disappointment when I realised that I was going to be just over 4 hours was mixed with sheer joy that I would soon be able to stop running. I felt completely empty but still found something at the bottom of the tank for... well, not quite a sprint finish, but a slightly faster run to the line.
I was so relieved to have finished that I forgot to stop my watch and by the time I did it said 4.01.01, so I guessed that I got something like 4.00.59. The next day I learnt that my chip time had come up at 4.00.52. I wonder if had I have known that in the last couple of miles, could I have gone any quicker? But I don't think I could have because when I finished, and right through Monday, my whole body hurt. I figure I gave it the best I had on the day.
I'm pretty sure that it was the early pace that took my sub-4 away from me (and maybe the heat, and the crowded course, and the injury at 21).... so there's only myself to blame!
But I'm not really disappointed, it's only frustration at being so close to my target but not close enough.
I ran the London Marathon back in the 80's, including the second one ever. It was amazing to experience the 25th race and see and feel how it has grown and evolved over the years into something quite special. It's truly a great race.
|Flying Scotsman, 3:43|
The best moment (excluding the finish)? Arriving at the halfway point at exactly the same time as the leading men's pack passed in the other direction. It's not often we midpack runners see top athletes in full stride in a race.
The worst moment? Getting cramp in both thighs and both calves at exactly the same time at mile 22. I had to stop and stretch, during which time the crowd were shouting encouragement and cheering me on. When I eventually started running again I got a huge cheer – very inspirational and quite emotional. Best and worst moment all in one go!
The most memorable moment? As well as the two moments above, Johnny Wilkinson handed me Lucozade towards the end, which was a great surprise. "Well done mate, keep going," he said – this can only happen in London!
What would you do differently? Drink more liquid: I got so dehydrated I felt like a raisin.
This was my third attempt at a marathon, and the first time I've actually made it to the start line without injuring myself during training. As a 52-year-old, I was beginning to doubt whether I would ever get to do one - I was totally paranoid the week before every time I sneezed or some muscle twitched.
What made the difference this year? Choose one of:
Best moment: Tower Bridge, the crowds and sights were wonderful and I was still feeling fresh at that stage!
Biggest surprise: How hard the last few miles were! The only thing that kept me going was that walking felt just as bad as jogging! As a sub-1:30 half-marathon runner, I thought 3:30 for the full marathon would be a dead easy target. It wasn't, and I just scraped home in 3:28.
|Fat Buddha, 3:59:52|
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.
I came over from Spain especially for the race and had a great weekend. As I lined up, I overheard someone ask, 'What are you aiming to finish in?' 'Today' came the reply.
Certain experiences stick in my mind: those huge drums echoing beneath the overpass; surfing the applause along the embankment as I ran alongside a six-foot heart; giving my sister an emotional kiss at 20 miles (like being hugged by a wet sponge, she said). What stuck me most is how a usually dour London came over all friendly for the day, from the chap who pulled over to offer me a lift in his smart BMW as I made my way to Blackheath, to the people who met my eyes on the tube on the way home and (crikey) smiled back.
As for my performance, I didn't get under 3hrs, as I'd wanted, but I couldn't be disappointed. I knew it wasn't going to happen not long after the halfway mark. At what point does that feeling in your legs cease to be that thing called fatigue and becomes that thing called pain? And when exactly did that metamorphose into the screaming taut piano wire sensation that accompanied me over the last two miles?
It was a great race and a great weekend. Thanks to Nick et famille for putting us up and to the family for coming down to watch.
Back in one piece - just !! I started off steadily (8-minute miling) for the first couple of miles to make sure my calf was okay (I had strained it the previous Monday), then stepped up. Feeling good, I went through halfway in about 1:34. Then just after that, the calf cramped up.
I decided to ease back a bit and keep going as far as possible. It eased a little after a couple more miles, until about 18 when it cramped quite badly again. I wasn't going to let it beat me. I worked out that, if I could keep going at 8-minute mile pace, I should get in under the magic 3:15.
I kept focusing on each mile at a time and just sheer stubbornness for the last mile and half to get myself across the line in a shade under 3:14. Job done.
I have decided that running 13 miles with a cramped calf is not a good idea and am definitely having a couple of weeks off.
One boost was that when I had slowed down with the bad calf, I still passed Gordon Ramsey. I had a quick chat to him (not a swear word to be heard) and then left him in my wake.
|Bernard Higgins, 3:23|
To have completed my 15th London Marathon since 1989 in a PB of 3 hours 23 was - as with all the others - a very emotional and painful experience. I'm 50 in December, and London followed a 1 hour 30 half-marathon PB in Bath earlier in the year. I aim to run a half-marathon each month this year to 'celebrate' my birthday later this year. Use it or lose it is my philosophy.
I've taught many children who are disabled, and thinking of them during training and the run on Sunday put many things we worry about in perspective. My dear mum and dad died of cancer and motor neurone disease. Their faith, hope and strength taught me, my sisters and friends how to live and die with dignity.
I once again ran for a charity so that I would be able to run in this special 25th anniversary year. I was not going to miss it for anything. So thanks to the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign for their support and encouragement throughout, especially the massage at the finish!
My children's primary school sponsored me. The parents and staff have been so good. My wife is headteacher of a junior school and last Friday each class ran the equivalent of a marathon around the playground. Many told me they saw me run past Colin Jackson as he was interviewing another runner just past Tower Bridge. They were so enthusiastic about the run. Their parents have all sponsored me also. So too have many friends and neighbours, and the local karate club and dance academy where my children are members . Their support is immeasurable.
When I was feeling exhausted and sore on Sunday, my hand would touch my running number and my thoughts turned to Paula Radcliffe. What a runner! My children and I met her at the Nike stand on Friday at the exhibition. She signed her book for me, then my running number. I was so pleased just to be in her company as she was so down to earth. My weekend was made. What a memento!!!!
Will I be back next year? God willing. Sometimes we look inside ourself and see something we've never seen before. That's what running has done for me. My faith in human nature is always restored after running with so many people. The crowds, the atmosphere, the organisation, the medical backup and you the runners make it an event none of us will ever forget.
|'Why do I put myself through it?', 3:55|
The preceding week found me reaching for my sanity at the RW forum to know I wasn't alone. A strained calf was straining right up to the start line and had me in a bad state of nerves. A few ibuprofen and a big dollop of Radian B, though, and I was off. As if by magic, the nerves disappeared.
I was feeling great for the first 9-10 miles, right up to the point where I saw that poor man having heart massage. That was a real leveller and I couldn't stop thinking about it and feeling bad for being healthy.
I picked up on Tower Bridge, which was truly amazing, and even found myself blubbing... and then... cometh the Wall. Surely not at mile 14 - how could this be? It lasted to 18 and then came back from 21 to 25. Looking back now, I can't quite understand how I managed to keep going and stick to 9-minute miling.
Big Ben was the turning point where suddenly all those painful miles felt like a distant reality. Into the Mall there were more girlie blubs and it was done. My legs paid the price this week and my calf won't be right for some time, but as the mantra goes (and one I kept repeating on the day) "pain is temporary, pride is forever".
Thanks for helping me through it, RW and RW forumees.
|Andy Summers, 3:42|
This London Marathon was one of the most fantastic and memorable achievements of my life. I desperately wanted to run sub-4 and I did it in 3 hours 42 - not world record time by any stretch of the imagination, but everyone's PB is special.
I ran London in 2003 and scraped 4 hours 57. I then ran Paris in 2004 and scraped 4 hours 27 - I thought I had been ready - NO WAY!
This time I did things right - eating the right food, giving up my beloved wine (which was the hardest thing), taking on plenty of carbs and cramming in those miles; what a difference it makes. I ran comfortably at around 8:30-miling and kept it up throughout the whole race - I felt great! (Trouble is, I cried when I crossed the line.)
If you really want a PB, my advice is to do it right. Follow a timetable like the one from RW and it can be achieved comfortably and easily!
Many thanks RW and good luck to everyone in 2006 - surely there really is no better marathon in the world than London. If you do it, you are part of something special.
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