This time last year...

As it's exactly 52 weeks since I tried the London marathon last year, I thought I'd repost my memories from the day.

I was so done it I couldn't actually do this until a couple of days after, but just had a reread and it's all flooding back.

Only two weeks to go...

It's been two days since I finished the marathon.

Two whole days since I suffered the unimaginable pain and emotional torment of the 26.2 mile run across London.

It seems a good time to update you a bit on the day itself, now that I'm remembering it not through the pain, but from the experience.

And what an experience.

First off, and I mean this with all due respect to them, but it's not Flora's Marathon.

It's not the charities' and it's not even the runners.

It's London's.

I'm sure everyone who's hear of the London Marathon knows the cliche about the crowd getting you round.

As the cynic I am, I put this down to not wanting to embarass yourself in front of so many people. Yes, this was a factor, but I was constantly amazed by the genuine encouragement of the thousands of people who lined the streets in rain and hail to cheer and enthuse the thousands of runners.

It wasn't like they came out for a bit then pop off again. They'd be out there for hours, cheering strangers running along the streets that for the other 364 days of the year are like the ones outside your house.

There were three different phases of spectators.

First off were those south of the river. Blackheath, Charlton, Woolwich, Deptford, Greenwich, Rotherhithe, Bermondsey (and apologies to any I've missed). None of them are places I'd been, or associated with the kind of enthusiasm and warmth I felt running through the streets.

Bands, church choirs, PA systems set up outside people's houses, kids lining the street with their hands out wanting the runners to give them 5 as they ran past.

I never realised, watching previous ones on TV, that when people had made an effort, the runners applauded them. But it felt like the least I could do for these people who had given up their time to help see us off.

It hadn't quite hit home that I was actually doing it until about mile three, but when it did, I looked around at the beaming faces and realised it was ok. My pace was good (despite the loo stop!) and I felt fresh and ready for anything.

Repeated "oggy oggy oggying" kept the mood up, and I was genuinely enjoying it.

When the red starters (the masses I was in) joined with the blue starters (elite men and more masses) there was some good banter and well meaning booing of the other starters, which was another surprise that put a smile on my face.

By the time I got to Tower Bridge (about 12.5 miles) and the first sighting of my family, I was still feeling good, despite the first heavy shower.

At this point I should make a special mention of "Yasmine" who was running for Children with Leukaemia (a brillaint charity). She was one of a handful who thought they were the only people on the road. Cutting across people, barging through people who were waiting for a gap themselves, causing people behind to trip and fall. I dont' know what happend to you, but I hope you were in a lot of pain you selfish cow.


Crossing the bridge was strange as the road narrows and the crowds are thicker, but coming out onto the north of the river saw a change to the second phase.

Now, I will be honest and admit that I did not like the Canary Wharf/Isle of Dogs section. It was too windy and impossible to work out where you were and how far you had to go.

But here, when people were starting to feel how tough it was the crowds were out armed with oranges, jelly babies, drinks, bananas, anything they could do to help the strugglers.

I had my own stash of jelly babies, but needn't have bothered.

I was doing fine up until mile 17. Two loo stops had affected my pace but I was still hoping for some negative splits to reel it back in as the runners were thinning out and you could start to move up.

The drummers (you probably saw them on TV) were amazing - you came round a corner and there was a wall of sound and tempo that pushed you on.

When my knees went, I could quite easily have given up. The pain was phenomenal. My right knee had been sore for a couple of weeks and was strapped up, and I think I was over compensating onto the left and my calf tightened. I pulled over to a railing and started trying to stretch it out like I'd done on training runs, and it seemed to loosen so I set off again.

The pains that shot from both my knees was unlike anything I'd ever felt. I managed about four steps and nearly collapsed. I took a few breaths and gingerly started walking until it eased a bit, but I knew this wasn't something I could run off. Not 10 yards down the road a bloke in his 20's at the side watching just said - "come on Phil," (I had my name on my vest - he wasn't psychic or anything.) "you've come this far" and I just gritted my teeth and jog-hobbled on.

A short while later, and with many more "come on Phil"'s and "you're doing great"'s the second major shower hit.

Christ it was cold.

I flimsy lime green vest is not the best protection against heavy rain with some hail thrown in. Believe me.

I even screamed "for f**ks sake, give me a break!".

I slowed right down again with pain and then felt a friendly tap on my shoulder and saw another lime green vest with "kevin" written on it, and a friendly face telling me "keep going, you'll get there".

I wanted to scream at him how much I was hurting, but he set off again almost straight away. I calmed down and got going again so when he glanced back he could see I was still moving. I felt like I didn't want to let him down.

Ridiculous I know. I'd never seen him before, and will probably never see him again, but the fact someone just gave me the right encouragement at the right time made me want to keep going.

By the time I'd left this phase, my times had plummeted to about 13/14 minute miles - ie marginally faster than walking. But I didn't care then, I just wanted it all to be over.

I'd arranged to see the family again around mile 22 but they weren't where I expected them, but I saw a former workmate who gave my some jelly beans which were greatly apprecaited. I also made a rude gesture to another friend who wanted a picture.

Now I hate pics at the best of times, but when I was in a world of pain and torment, I felt justified in my actions. I love her to pieces, but don't point a camera at me when I want to die!

A bit further up I saw the family and could have cried. I told Laura how horrible it was, but I'm not sure she understood. Probably becase I was a gibbering wreck. It gave me a great feelingto see them though and i set off again, almost running.

That didn't last long.

I had to stop to stretch again a bit firther on, and the same happened as before. Now I don't know much about these things, but I'm damned sure your knees aint meant to do that!

By now I was cursing everything - myself for doing this, my right trainer for the sole going, my vest for making me so conspicuous and the crowds for their "you're nearly there"ing.

When you hit the last phase along Embankment, the crowds are different again. They're not locals. They're tourists and visitors. Families and friends. They're people who have made the effort to travel in to watch you run the last leg.

Another thing about this phase is the fact it was the only bit I know. This meant I knew exactly how far it was to the end and It wasn't a happy thought.

I was wet, cold, in pain, looking like a knob. I was not in a happy place. I'd been relying mainly on self hatred ("it's your own stupid fault you tit") and determination ("tha's from Yorkshire, lad").

Eventually it dawned on me though. I was nearly there. And I was from Yorkshire. Had i been lancastrian, I'd have been crying at the side of the road in the foetal position miles ago.

In my head I was working out the distance to the end as the short runs from training. The little one's that I eventually managed to see as nice and easy.

From then on I jog-hobbled along, trying to get some kind of speed going. Along Embankment was mad with cheering. Parliament square was rammed too. Heading along Birdcage Walk there's a hoarding with "800 metres to go" on it, and I've never been so happy to see a sign in metric.

Then it's an age until you see the next one and you think "how the hell was that only a few hundren metres!?"

The big one is the 385 to go. You've done 26 miles and it's literally the last stretch, with crowds cheering and tannoys blaring. Crossing the line was both a blesed relief and pretty underwhelming.

You know it's over and you've done it, but then you have to queue to get your chip taken off, get your medal and get a bag with snacks and space blanket (which took two squaddies way too long to find for me - though they were much quicker than I'd have been!) before trekking up The Mall to find the truck with you clothes etc in you dumped at the start. Mine was miles down and I thought I wasn't gonna make it.

I couldn't be bothered to keep going down to the changing area so slipped between two trucks and got changed there. There was a nice gentleman who was chuffed he'd made it, and a woman in her 40's who confessed to having only run up to 12 miles in her training.

I could have lamped her.

The rest is a bit of a blur as I found family and made my way home. I was aching, and miffed i'd taken about 5 hours.

That was my mood for a while until I started to think about it more rationally:
  • I'd run a marathon despite only a few months before having done no running since school;
  • I got round on a knee that the week before had given up after a mile and a half;
  • I'd raised more than £1,500 for Asthma UK (and still rising);
  • I'd proved to myself that if I put my mind to it, I can do much more than I realise.
That might sound a bit limp wristed, but that's where my head is at the moment.

Despite the pain, the mentally draining process of running, the doubt, the self-loathing and the thoughts of giving it all up, I'm glad I've done it.

People have said they're so proud of me, but immediately afterwards I couldn't see how. Now I think I can. Sort of.

Will I do it again? Two days ago, I would have laughed in your face and said no chance.


Well, I've entered the ballot, but, it's not likely I'll get a place is it...?

And we all know how that ended up don't we?!


  1. Quite inspirational Phil - hadn't realised that what you'd done last year and labelled as a disaster was a very creditable 5 hours or so!

    It gives a real sense of the occasion, which, to me as a terrified first-timer wondering what the hell two weeks today will be like, is just what I need.

    Goes without saying, but good luck on the 26th!

  2. Was a disaster in the sense my knees took months to recover, and I'd been going so well!
    Otherwise, was pertty awesome - after the pain has started to subside...

  3. Well done Phil. I hadn't realised that it was a year since the pain & numbness had taken over! Can't wait to hear what it's like for you the second time round. You might be inspiring me to enter for next's a phrase for you:
    Kia kaha! Look it up, it's Te Reo Maori (aka NZ indigenous language).