Wednesday, 14 May 2008

My Final Run

So Bloggies, back to 2006.

The Flora London Marathon is a great experience and I would urge anyone to have a go at least once in their lifetimes.

We travelled on the Friday to London City Airport which is in itself enjoyable as we had a tour around the capital in the air before landing.

The original deal was that if Irene and I ran the Marathon, then when we returned we would both learn to dance. Fortunately, for me and possibly her own toes, she has never actually held me to that.

The airport is also very close to the place where you sign on and on the Friday when we travelled it wasn't too hectic in the exhibition centre.

In my opinion, the most difficult aspects of travelling away for events are managing to eat properly, particularly if you are carb-loading, being on holiday and not having loads to drink and trying to relax and do nothing, especially if your hotel room is not that large or comfortable.

The Regent Palace is perfectly located for the FLM, being very handy for the Tube and close to the finish. In addition, they provide pasta meals specifically for the athletes, the rates are reasonable but in honesty, the rooms are quite small and not ideal for spending lots of time in.

When you are accepted for the FLM, you get advice by the bucketload and one piece is to remember what you are there for and not to get too much sightseeing in the day before. Saturday was a lovely day, so we just went for a wander down to the 'Mall' to see the finish and then on to the next park, then the next park, then the next park and before you knew it, we had been walking for two and a half hours, were knackered, starving hungry and thirsty. Yep we'd broken just about every rule in pre-marathon preparation.

As usual my planning also reached farcical levels. The day before I left the Island, I finally forked out to buy a stopwatch, so I wouldn't have to carry my mobile phone as I'd become famous for doing in races by this time, only to unpack it in London to discover my purchase was actually a heart monitor. I'd also decided to look for a bumbag or pouch to carry my gels in but we just didn't find one in the shops that we passed.

The day of the race, the fine weather had disappeared and there was a steady drizzle that hadn't been included in the original forecast. For the London Marathon, there are three different starts, so therefore Irene and I had to part company in Black.

The atmosphere is one of eager anticipation and fortunately having brought a black binbag to wear before the race, I was in good spirits and not too cold. For the first time, I was running a long race without pockets in my shorts, so now my failure to acquire something to contain my food became a major worry.

I decided to pop them into the waistband of my Manx Harriers kit as I'd also neglected to get some sticky tape or plasters. The FLM is started in groups determined by the time you mark down on your entry form, so the beginning was a little bit like the PW because you can't get a decent run and in my case this was exacerbated by the fact the all the celebrities were set off in front of me.

Of course, my planned first mile of 6:50 was a minute slower and therefore I panicked and then put in a couple of quick ones after that managing to lose all but one of my gels.

I actually remember very little of where I was during the race but I supppose the features that really stood out were the pubs and the people, all braving absolutely abominable weather. Live bands were creating a cacophony of sound which at times overlapped. There's that chef, I heard at one stage and briefly wondered how they knew I used to cook before realising I was passing Gordon Ramsey.

When the three starts came together, I saw Andy Gosnell one of our local runners and former top parish competitor and it was a great boost to see Manxies at the side of the road such as Gary Ashe, Nigel Armstrong's mum and John Rogers.

All the kids want to slap your hand as you go past and everyone shouts the name written on your running vest. Even slower than usual, it was a while before I realised I was the subject of, 'Come On, Manx!' It was an unwanted surprise to pass Murray though who was struggling.

In my previous marathon, I hadn't 'hit the Wall' until 25 miles but this time after 18 miles the extra pace and the dropped gels began to tell and I really suffered for a while. Eventually, I turned on the the Embankment and I had a girl just behind me whom everyone seemed to be shouting for. From somewhere I gathered my strength for one last effort and flew for home. I think it was around here that I overtook Mark Clague and Ed Gumbley before rounding the corner towards Buckingham Palace and racing on the outside of Paul Curphey.

My target of 3 hours was all but gone but my endeavour was still there and I really powered towards the line to miss out by just over a minute. It was really flattering to see recently that my 40k to finish is still in the top ten quickest of locals since about 2002.

Irene without any prior training managed to circulate in 6:02 which I thought was pretty good in the circumstances (I'm not buttering her up; I can say anything I want because she doesn't actually read this rubbish.) I've no time to research this now and I can't recall where I was placed but I was second local behind Nigel Armstrong and beat my P.B. by around 13 minutes. In typical athletic/fisherman style I still consider this as the one that got away and the what ifs are still hanging because it was to be the first and last running race I ever seriously trained for.

Since that day I ditched the two feet off the ground branch of the sport to concentrate on the walking.

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