Back in 1998 I snapped my ACL in my left knee playing football. Whilst sitting in my hospital bed, having been told I should never do strenuous exercise again unless I wanted to have a replacement knee later in life, I was watching the London Marathon on TV. Never being one who liked being told what to do, I decided there and then I would run the London Marathon within 2 years.
After a year of intensive treatment with a full leg plaster, leg brace and plenty of painful physio, I started running to build some strength back and get fitter again. In June 1999 I applied to get a spot in the 2000 London Marathon. Although I vowed to run it, with over 200,000 people applying and only 33,000 spots available, the odds were against me. However, in October I got the letter saying was successful. I’ll be honest, when I opened the letter the word that came into my head was not brilliant but bollocks!! It was gonna be a tough winter.
Training went well. I was training hard and loving it. Remember this was before iPods and I never had a Discman so my Walkman was my companion with my self-compiled run tape with tracks like George Michael, Adam-Ant, Blur, Oasis, Madness and Del Amitri. I was sooo hip. Luckily my mate Paul Prentice was also accepted into the Marathon. We both decided we’d enter a race a week, starting with 6 mile races, then 10 mile, half marathons and then the longest would be 16 miles as we’d read that if we could easily do 16 miles we could do the a marathon (26 miles and 385 yards). Odd advice, but at the time it made sense.
When I was young I could run. Really run. I’d run 6 mile (10km) races in under 38 minutes at the age of 16. Trying that pace on a treadmill at the age of 29 I lasted 5 minutes, fell off and threw up. I was sure I would never capture the speed of my youth but I was determined to run the marathon in under 4hrs 30 minutes. I’d run 4 nights a week through winter in the UK plus a race on Sunday. Races were fun but I developed the lovely habit of throwing up 30 minutes after I finished any race over 9 miles!! I threw up on the edge of a different motorway every Sunday for about 16 weeks.
With my knee struggling a little and blowing up with fluid most weeks I bought a pair of super shock absorbent insoles to help. The idea was you were meant to take the original trainer in-sole out and put the new one in. Being an innovative chap I thought it would be a brilliant to add the new insoles on top of the existing ones. Later that week we had a half marathon in Battersea Park. I ran the first few miles and felt the arch of my foot rubbing. At 8 miles I had to stopped, the blister covering half my foot, throwing the original insole into the bushes and carried on. At the end of the race I took my sock off to see a blood blister the size of Hertfordshire! On the Monday I had to get it drained by syringe but was back racing by Sunday.
One sunny Sunday morning in April race day came and with another 32,999 people, most running for charity we set of for the start line. Paul and I were running for the Cancer Foundation and had raised a few thousand pounds. We lined up and headed off at the count down, it took us 25 minutes just to reach the start-up line but we were off and racing.
The comradery during the race of all entrants is unbelievable. The crowds are huge at the start and the noise is incredible. There are serious competitors, fun runners and crazy runners, dressed in fancy dress. We ran past four guys all dressed up as Teletubbies, insane! We chuckled at them as they bobbled along. The main race has two starting lines merging at the 5 miles marker, causing this massive rumble of noise that got louder and louder. The noise was deafening but all done in the greatest of spirits.
At the 8 mile marker Paul needed a piss. Maybe not surprising, blokes were standing along the whole 26 miles pissing up buildings and trees. More surprising the ladies would be cuing at portaloos, obviously desperate to go and not concerned about a PB but just had to go. Paul was after a good time so kept saying he’d stop but never did. At around 9 miles we ran through these mist showers that were designed to cool the runners down that got you nicely wet and cool. I asked Paul when he was stopping for the loo. He said he’d went in the shower!!! Hope they don’t recycle the water!
Continued in Part 2…