Mogs London Marathon Blog

Date: April 22 2012

Race no. 41543

Finishing Time: 3:57:42

So many people have supported the Lauren Page Trust which I ran for last Sunday, I thought I might take the opportunity to let you know how the day went while thanking you for your donations.

The race would began by trying to get two good night's sleep on Friday and Saturday, so I would be wide awake at 6.15am on Sunday morning. Breakfast on race morning at 6.30am was porridge, two slices of toast with jam, 500ml of water, a cup of tea and 300ml of water with vitamin C and two paracetamol – yum!

My kit was packed the night before and I was ready to leave at 7.30am. Being a VIP, Transport for London agreed to take me free of charge to Greenwich (as long as I could show my race number 41543). A short walk to the 150 bus stop, followed by the Central line (no seat) to Stratford got me to the DLR in plenty of time to calm down and check in on Facebook. I was on time so far. The journey continued southbound with views of the Olympic Park and I started to feel like an athlete.

I arrived at Greenwich with thousands of runners and started the slow, crowded walk up through the park to the red start area. The weather was perfect. Cool, about 8-10 degrees, clear with sunshine and very little wind. On the way through the park I took a few photos and decided it was time to put on my running shoes and socks. An old sweatshirt over my racing vest and I was ready. I strolled through security; no-one asked me to take my belt and shoes off here.

I was in where only runners are allowed. I dropped my bag and made for the loos. A short queue and I was comfortable again. But wait, as soon as I was out, I needed to go again, so I queued again.

The excitement was palpable. At 9.40am with just five minutes until the start, I made my way to pen six, my starting area, and turned on my Garmin GPS watch which would help me check my pace as I ran. Could I get a signal? No. Typical. As I slowly walked towards the start I eagerly prayed for the satellites to be picked up by my watch, but nothing. The sound of the horn and the race had started.

I shuffled along towards the start and after 10 minutes, still no signal. We turned left and I could see the start and as if by magic I got a signal and we all started to jog to the line. We were over and I was running my first ever marathon. What a feeling - sheer joy and exultation.

The first three miles are generally downhill and thankfully the crowded course helps to slow you down. I could hear the wise words, “save something for the last six miles”, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” , “stick to your race plan” and “run your own race” in my head. I couldn’t help smiling as I saw the faces of the people in the crowds cheering.

Nothing could prepare me for our arrival at Greenwich at six miles. The streets narrowed and the crowds were masive and very loud, with music and cheering that makes you feel you can run at twice the speed. I rounded the Cutty Sark and headed towards the nine mile marker, where my family - Ali, Mia, Connie - and friends - Fatima, Phil, Safi and Alia would be cheering for me the first time.

At nine miles I felt great and slowed a little to look out for them on the left. There they were about half a mile on. It was great to see them and then I was able to speed up a little.

Still feeling strong at mile 12, I could see Tower Bridge in the sunshine straight ahead. What a sight as you realise you are nearly half way through. I turned right on to the highway and I looked out for a few other friends, but it was impossible to spot them as the crowds were so large. I reached half way about two minutes outside my target time but felt I could still make it up.

At mile 14 I was starting to feel it a bit, but I  was still having the run of my life as I went on towards mile 17, towards the Docklands and Canary Wharf.

My family were due to see me again at mile 17, but due to crowd control they had to move to mile 19. I saw one supporter there but not my family and started to feel the miles in my legs. I remember at one point in the Canary Wharf area the crowd noise was deafening and that lifted me again.

At mile 20 I realised this wass a far as I had ever run and I needed the loo. I stopped, but  unable to 'go' off I went again. "Run, Forrest, Run," I heard in my head. My times were just outside my target. Back along the highway the crowds were unbelievable. Shouting our names as we ran by, lifting us, and I needed it.

Then almost at mile 23 I heard a really load shout from afar, “Mark!”. I turned my head, over my left shoulder, and I could see my sister Frances and nephew Richard in the near distance. I was shattered by this point but I managed to wave and they got some of pictures.

Downhill now, past the Tower of London and to Embankment for miles 24-25. At this point I was too tired to look out for supporters even though I knew my friends Chris & Jan were there somewhere. My legs were moving slower than before and I was not controlling them. They just moved. I looked at the ground, as I could not raise my head.

I thought this was only another 20-30 minutes of my life and I would complete this. The weary legs and sore left foot were asking me to stop, but I held firm and continued until I could see Big Ben and the final mile. I knew I was slowing and would not reach my target time of 3:50 but I wasn't concerned.

At Birdcage Walk I could smell the finish and then I saw the 600 meters to go sign. I wished it wasn’t there as I knew there would be one for 400 and 200 metres. Counting down was painful but as I saw the finish line I sprinted the last 100 metres at exactly the same pace as the previous two miles. I had done it and at a sub-4:00 pace!

Walking in a strange John Wayne-like way I was given my medal and sat on the floor for a moment by a metal fence and contemplated how or why I did it. It hurt so much in the last four miles, but I was raising money for charity after all. I had my official marathon finisher’s photo taken and walked slowly to collect my bag.

On leaving the finishers area I started trembling and feeling cold. I donned my Lauren Page sweatshirt for warmth and continued for a few more metres before having to sit down in The Mall shaking like a wet dog after a bath. I was immediately attended to by a young medical helper, who gave me a dry T-shirt, salt sachet and Lucozade. She sat with me for 10 minutes while I began to recover. She said I was a “salty sweater” and she could tell by the white salt all around my face. She helped me up and once I was steady on my feet, she was off to help another runner.

Now I was able to check my phone for messages and walk very slowly to the Savoy Tup pub about a mile away to meet family, friends and other runners who ran for the Lauren Page Trust. There I was given a fantastic welcome by everyone and a leg massage by Claire Page the charity's chairman.

A pint of shandy, something to eat and quite a few phone calls and text messages of congratulations later and I was ready to make my way home – no fares of course being a VIP.

Maybe you will be inspired to do the same yourself next year. It is an incredible experience on race day and the 500 miles of training are worth it. You never know, I even might have another go at it.

Mark

http://www.bmycharity.com/markportman