So, how did I do? Well, I am going to go all American sit com style and go for a dramatic build up before a big finish.
Between my last blog and the race I still had a couple of warm up runs to complete, more just to keep my fitness up than really stretch myself although I was quite worried about doing myself some sort of stupid injury and wasting the months and months of training. On the Thursday I did a 4km run on the treadmill and on Saturday morning a fast 3km along the canal, both of which went pretty well.
I also attended the runner’s expo on Wednesday evening. The main purpose of this was to pick up timing chip and race information, although I also had a good poke around. Strangely there were loads of stalls selling trainers and clothes, even through the advice is to not wear anything new in the race! Also, in the goodie bag there was the usual health stuff, plus a can of Fuller's London Pride. Now, Pride is one of my favourite beers but it was odd to find it in a marathon goodie bag. A post-finish treat perhaps? Anyway, mine didn’t last beyond the evening.
I also had a 15 minute sports massage, mainly focused on my calves, which felt tight through the majority of my training. The masseuse said that I had impressive calves, but they were also incredibly lumpy. After 15 minutes of pain she beat the knots out of the muscles and recommended some stretches for me to do in the next few days.
My alarm went off at 6.30 on the Sunday and I forced myself out of bed, trying not to think about what I was going to be up to that day. I had the usual pre race breakfast of porridge and a slice of toast with jam (carbs and a bit of sugar) and left the house at 7.30 to meet Steve (who was running for Shelter) and get the Overground to Shadwell, before changing for the DLR to Greenwich.
The weather forecast had predicted rain, but it was in fact a glorious sunny morning. Too sunny perhaps, and I was glad I had put on some sunscreen. I was starting in the red area, with the majority of the other runners, and was in pen 8 to start. There was a lovely sort of Glastonbury type atmosphere, probably helped by the sun and the fact that no one wanted to think about what was ahead of them!
I joined my pen at around 9.30 for the 9.45 start and was over the actual start line surprisingly quickly, at around 10.05 to begin the race. However, it was more of a fast walk at the start, with so many people still bunched together and I found getting my pace up was pretty hard. After the first few minutes I just decided to go with the flow and was running at around 6.30 mins per km, slower than the 5.30-5.45 I needed to come in around 4 hours.
Nonetheless, I still managed to overtake a variety of mad people dressed in silly costumes. These included the Blackpool Tower (all 12ft of him), a couple of rhinos, a giant apple, three wombles, a clown, two guys running BAREFOOT, some army blokes in full kit and a guy with an inflatable Zimmer frame. I also saw a couple of people running for Willow and had a brief chat with them.
So, miles 0-6 were pretty slow but I was getting on ok and enjoyed looking out for people dressed in silly costumes. By mile 6 though my right trainer had started to rub. No idea why, it has been fine on distances much longer than that, but there you go. My left shoulder was also quite achy, but that was no real surprise since it had been hurting the week before. It did mean though that when I saw my family at mile 9, I had to stop and get some painkillers from them, which my Mum took forever to find in her bag. Still, medicated I trotted merrily on and was quite pleased that I had yet to even slow down to a walk, despite going over a few hills and feeling dehydrated due to the sun.
Mile 12 is roughly where Tower Bridge is, and I did have a little walk as I came up it, as I was feeling a bit tired and the slope is much steeper than it seems when you are walking over it! Still, as I crossed the middle I picked up the pace again, and at the halfway point (mile 13) I was on for a 4.10 finish if I could maintain my pace. Now, given I had never run the full distance before I was not sure I would be able to hold that pace, but I was still very confident that I would do the lot in the target time of 4.30.
Coming down the other side of the bridge, I turned right and along this part of the course I could see the fast runners going in the other direction, now only 5 miles or so from the finish line. Bastards. Still, I was doing alright and came through Limehouse and into Canary Wharf, seeing my family again at mile 15 and some friends a few hundred meters along. I stopped for a quick chat (it would be rude not too, since they came out to see me) and then plodded on.
However, at mile 16: disaster. My right thigh suddenly tensed up and every step felt like someone was stabbing me in the leg. I slowed down to a walk for a few minutes, and then tried to run again, but after a few hundred meters I couldn’t take the pain anymore, and had to slow.
My race was over.
But there was no way I was going to waste months and months of training and not finish the damm thing. I revised my target time to 5 hours and worked out what speed I needed to hold to get through that. Essentially a fast walk and some jogging where I could should see me home in time, so that was the new plan.
At mile 19 I saw my family for the final time, and stopped to get some instant ice packs from them and let them know I might be a bit slower than expected.
From then on I stuck to the plan, using the GPS watch to guide my pace, running wherever possible (especially down hill). The pain was pretty intense but the crowd were marvellous, shouting encouragement and offering Jelly babies galore.
By the time the 25 mile post came up I knew that I would be able to finish the race and picked my pace up a bit, thinking that I would just deal with the pain later on, and the sight of so many people who had come out to watch pushed me on a bit further as well, although I still had to slow to a walk a couple of times.
The original plan was to sprint over the line, but in the end I just about managed to jog.
So, my final time? 4 hours, 54 minutes. Not too bad, but I did feel like I might never walk again. Annoyingly, the top half of my body felt fine, I was tired but still had some energy left and I know I could have gone quicker. It was just a stupid injury, and on something that I have had no issues with all the way through training that held me back.
After crossing the line I collected my medal and was found by Carol from the Willow Foundation, who took me to the recovery centre, where I was fed tea and sandwiches before receiving a well needed massage. Again, the masseuse felt the need to comment on my “serious calves”, which were also spasmisming all over the shop, making it look like there was something trapped underneath the skin. Lovely.
I also had a shower, which made me feel much closer to being human again, before having my photo taken with the legend that is Bob Wilson and then going for a well deserved pint with my family.
So, that’s it, over. I am not going to lie and say that I enjoyed all of the process. I did find that I like running half marathons, and also having a bit of time to myself while I am out running, listening to some music and generally getting some fresh air (well, as fresh as can be expected in zone 1). I am also fitter and healthier, although I have only lost about 6kgs through all this (about 13 pounds) but I suspect I have managed to shift a fair amount of fat into muscle. However, having to go training all the time obviously had an impact on my social life, while the last 10 miles of the race itself was agony.
Anyway, onto the thank-yous. So, thank you to my Wife and family for supporting me over the last 5 months, putting up with my moaning and getting me running stuff for Christmas. Thank you to EVERYONE who sponsored me, particularly those who I have not managed to see for some time, although of course every penny counts. Special mentions go to the Mystical Mr Miyagi for being the largest single non-family donor and to Mark Coughlan for rounding me up to a square £2000, and if anyone else wants to contribute then the page is http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/runningfatbloke
What next? – Well, I am looking at the Hackney Half marathon this Sept and the Run to the Beat at the end of Oct. Plus, the ballot for the 2013 London Marathon opens on Monday…….