6am on a Sunday morning the alarm goes off! I didn't throw it at the wall because I had put myself in “early shift” time zone as recommended by the marathon books, magazines, my coach Mike, The London Marathon booklet and the local Witch Doctor. Still 6.00am on a Sunday.... really? Mind you what was ahead was even more nuts.
Today was the day I had been training for, for over a year. A year of short runs, long runs, interval training and hill runs. Knackered knees a sore bum and a crazy time table due to gigs. Some of my weeks had 6 days some as many as 9. Trying to squeeze in that all important long run had become a battle. My friend and coach Mike Baron had displayed the patience of a saint. “Long run this week?”
“Nope! Next Tuesday!”
|..and the kitchen sink!|
I dragged my sorry self down for my fifty nine millionth bowl of porridge with fruit and nuts, a slice of toast and, for a change, a bottle of water!” I had been through my check list a thousand times. Breakthrough shirt, shorts, two pairs of socks, two pairs of shoes, gel belt four gels, jelly beans, hat... on and on it went, I felt like I was about to embark on a trip to the Antarctic, but that would have needed a tent and line of big white fluffy dogs and I have seen enough dogs for one year! My number was already pinned to my vest then everything went into “the red bag” and Sarah and I set off for Chatham railway station. I was going over the check list in my head “Hayley's Flag, MP3 player, spare shoe laces, Vaseline (For those important little places!) Long sleeve under shirt, short sleeve under-shirt (Or base layer as they call them in the glossy running mags!), just in case of a change in the weather before the start.
|No turning back now!|
There were several people with telltale red bags on the platform and we passed pleasantries through half closed eyes! Doubt started running round my head. Have I done enough? I had stuck pretty much to Mike’s training plan but the last three weeks had been chaos. Five gigs in the U K, then Germany and Holland, three visits to Breakthrough including the really impressive state of the art Breakthrough labs. I had also been to Scotland to compère a charity event for a friend running a Breakthrough charity show. Then there was a trip to Salisbury to see Steve Bevis putting together the Hayley's Mile Flag, so all in all a crazy few weeks.
|Viv and Clare|
We had been to the London Marathon EXPO at the London ExCel Centre the Friday before to pick up my red bag, race number, another bowl of pasta, entered every free draw known to man, sampled every energy drink, chocolate bar, had a massage, some more samples and floated merrily six inches off of the floor! While We were there Sarah and I paid a visit visit the Breakthrough stand. It was good to see Viv and Clare were on fine form, as the gang at Breakthrough always are. Always smiling. I think it's the pink food colouring in their coffee!!
This was the day though. In what seemed like seconds we arrived at Blackheath Railway Station and followed the swarm of people to the Blue Start. I queued up for a last minute loo visit behind Mickey Mouse, Superman a bloke in a yellow tutu and a man who really shouldn't be wearing a Borat mankini! Well that's England! It is a free society! I changed in to my other shoes. I had two pairs in case the grass was wet as sticky damp shoes can cause blisters, some people had plastic bags over theirs. I said my farewells to Sarah and made my way through the security barrier. (It's there to stop you getting out!!) Inside there was a line of articulated lorries (Semis for my American friends) all numbered with race numbers. I found mine and handed over my bag. These 37,000 bags were to meet us at the finish! Amazing. I had a little walk about and
|At least I looked like I knew what I was doing!|
luckily the grass was bone dry so I soaked up a bit of the remarkable atmosphere rather than dew. The call went out and I started my warm up routine and did some light stretches. Entering the holding pen with the other “Blue 5” runners I waited. There was no pushing but the odd and unrepeatable comment kept me amused. The fantastic marshals did their "Shepard" bit and I was on the road. Soon we started moving forward to a very familiar tune. If EVER I hear that bloody Heather Small song again, I think I will implode! "What have you done today to make me go BANG!" I didn't hear the countdown or starting horn but we made our way to the start. I gave the customary cheesy wave to the BBC TV camera for Mum and set off at a very slow pace with those around me. There was the odd madman thinking he was on a 500 yard dash, dodging in and out of the runners. One fell over and created a hold up. He was carted off by St Johns, no doubt for summary execution for being stupid.
That was it, I was on my way. I was finally on my way in THE London Marathon. Just keep going for 26.2 miles. Really? How hard can it be?? I won't give you a step by step because there are about 49,000 of them for the likes of me.
Crossing mile 1 a big cheer went up. Everyone but everyone joined in. I set my pace to about 10 minutes a mile but I could not find the 10 minute pace team. Still I was comfortable and breathing fine and I
planned to run off of my heart rate monitor and not split times. I wanted to get round safely. A couple of times after about Mile 6 it bleeped at me at 100% so I eased off and brought it back to “Stay Alive You Plonka!” I felt remarkably fresh and this was purely thanks to Mike for setting such a great training plan and Sarah for pushing me out of the house kicking and screaming because it was raining! I was sipping water as practised and advised and kept an even flow going. Timing it to run out at the next water station and then picking up a fresh bottle. The Lucozade feeding stations were a welcome site at regular intervals too. (Other sports drinks are available..... but not today so there!) In what seemed no time at all I was turning right off of Tooley Street and facing the iconic view of Tower Bridge. Yes, Ok, I started to well up! Who wouldn't? Crossing this, one of the most famous land marks in the world, in one of the biggest sporting events in the world representing my favourite charity and supporting all those with breast cancer was amazing. A tear? You bet! The noise made by the crowd was deafening. It was amazing. Even the theme from Thomas The Tank Engine chugging through my Play list From Hell couldn't blot out the roar. I looked to my left and saw HMS Belfast and giggled remembering the fact that if the guns let go a round each they would take out The London Gateway Motorway Services Area on the M1, some 12 miles away! That will stop them charging fifty quid for a ham roll and a cold coffee! Once over the bridge we turned right along East Smithfield towards Mile 13, almost half way and the first Breakthrough Cheering Point. One thing I forgot to pack was ear plugs. I should have taken out my MP3 headphones and filled my ears with expanding foam, cotton wool and clay. The noise these people made was out of this world! I recognised Anna Bedford to whom I am grateful for all of her support with the Mid Kent Group and Project 350. She was surrounded by a mass of smiling cheering faces.. and yes I welled up again! I gave them all a “Thank you” smile through a another tear and looked to the other cheering point over the road and saw Sarah doing an impression of a squid reaching for its pray, six foot something Clive looking over everyone like a king meerkat, Lyn in new shoes, Sarah R from our Mid Kent Group and her son Sam. These brilliant friends were swarmed by another enthusiastic bunch in bright pink (Sorry! Breakthrough corporate magenta) all waving and shouting, slamming inflatable clappers like crazy! This really does give you a lift. Off I went somewhat elated. Thanks also to Siobhan Cronin whom I saw earlier too. I can't remember quite where but I heard them!!
|Cheer Leader and "shouter of the Year" Becky Crowe.|
Thank you all. Every last one of you!
Marathons do funny things to your body. One minute you are fine, the next you feel like you could crawl into a hole, eat cake and melted Mars Bars. My time was about to come. Out from nowhere my ‘working quite well fifty something year old’ body was doing ok and then... nothing. My hips felt like they were being stabbed with branding iron and my legs felt like I was running through mud. I had found out from my long runs that stopping after a couple of hours trying to walk, my coordination goes gaga and I run like Mr Bean. I carried on running to the next St Johns medical point and woddled in. Stopping I almost went over in a heap. I was seen to by a very caring member of their team. She gave me a quick rub down made sure that I was OK. Questions like “Are you completely mad?”
“Yes” Pointed me in the right direction and said "See that bloke with a cake on his head? Follow him! He's bonkers too! Then gave me a shove back out onto the road.
I was a lot slower now and my feet barely came off of the road! As I shuffled along, the crowd around The Isle of Dogs were shouting and yelling my name along with other struggling runners. I laughed as I was over taken by a blooming pantomime camel and two men dressed up as a London Bus! That would really put my “time” into the rubbish pit. I was after a 4.50 and told friends to give them an idea of where I would be on certain parts of the course. I tried to phone about my delay but not surprisingly all of the phone networks were rammed! I managed to pick up my step after a while but Miles 18, 19, 20 and 21, were the hardest of the whole run. I never thought about quitting. I thought about the people I was running for. People battling breast cancer, chemo, feeling dreadful and HAVING to carry on with their treatments. Hayley waiting at 25, Sarah coming round from her operation two years ago, Lisa S in the States with her fight, Lisa D in the UK, a breast cancer survivor running the same race last year with a leg fracture. They couldn't quit and after all the work I had put in, the trust put in me by Mike, Sarah and Breakthrough I was not pulling out EVER! I looked forward to the next milestone of 22 and another Breakthrough Cheering Point.
|Me at Mile 25 Breakthrough Cheering Point|
I saw the flags and sea of pink. SORRY AGAIN.. magenta and a found a spring in my step. I was fifty metres away and the noise started. Cheers, shouting, clappers and Manager Becky Crow shouting loud enough to shatter glass. The pain went from my legs to my ear drums and I trotted past, picking my feet up almost at race pace, but shortly being over taken by Sonic the Bloody Hedgehog put pay to my spirit! I never did like computer games! I thought about tripping the skankie blue rat-bag up, but that would be unsporting of me! My mind turned to Mile 25 and meeting Hayley to collect her flag. After coming under Blackfriars Bridge the road turned and I looked down the Embankment. An explosion of colour, I could see the charity flags, balloons, clappers, banners and cheering point tee-shirts. It was a fantastic sight but I was really feeling bad now. My legs were like jelly, my hips pounding and I was digging up determination from parts of my body I never knew existed. I had to take a break and walk a while. I settled the staggering and I felt a tap on my back “Hello Stranger!” it was Breakthrough runner and superstar Kerry Burton. We chatted arm in arm for a good ten minutes and she managed to refuel my spirit tank. Thank you Kerry for the chat. She saw her friends and family on the left and I carried on at a trot as she stopped for a chat. I then saw the Breakthrough Mile 25 cheering point and managed to find the strength to pick up to a run. I must have looked drunk as I meandered across the road. In true Breakthrough fashion the cheering point broke into life. Sarah was there with Clive,
|Hayley's Flag Sets Off!|
Lyn, Sarah R her son Sam and of course Hayley and her husband Lee. Many tears were shed as I collected the flag and knowing what it stood for. I had to carry on straight away as I was afraid everything inside me would seize up. I set off along the Embankment on Hayley's Mile with the brilliant flag made by Steve Bevis and family. Soon I turned into Parliament Square and the crowd seemed to swell and just get louder. I was hurting everywhere. Not able to hold out the flag high all the time I wrapped it round me like a poncho! Hearing the noise of the crowd as I ran past Buckingham Palace gave me a final boost and I entered into The Mall and knowing that the finish line was ahead I welled up AGAIN.. No apologies!!. Holding the flag high and wearing the Breakthrough vest with such pride I headed for the finish, trying to muster a smile for the camera! I crossed the line. I was zapped! I had done what I had set out to do and finish. Finish for the names on the flag and countless others in the UK and around the world. I was given my.. sorry THEIR medal and my goodie bag!
Remembering Mikes instructions I had a good stretch out and cool down breaking out one of the drinks in the goodie bag then I staggered the length of the bag lorries to collect my clothes.
I was very light headed and propped myself up against a tree to let the sensation pass. I felt ok to make my way to meeting point “W” to meet up with everyone. (If I do it next year I'm changing my name to Adams!) They were really pleased to see me. Many hugs and photos. Then sadly I felt faint again and had to lay down, I was out for the count. Well actually I blacked out! Thanks to some quick thinking by the now blister footed Lyn (See.. new shoes on a marathon not a good idea, running or supporting!) I was sorted out by the brilliant folks of St John’s and taken to a recovery tent. It's not that Sarah didn't care, but she's always seeing me fall asleep in a second! I was assessed and moved by ambulance to St Thomas' Hospital. Even though I had taken on a bath full of water and lake of sports drinks I was severely dehydrated. The doctor said that I was very well prepared and very fit but the weather had got so warm so fast it had caught out some very experienced runners. This being my first I was satisfied that I had done OK. The training for the London Marathon is all in the winter so I hadn't run in warm weather. I stayed overnight and Sarah and I made our way home on Monday morning. The staff at St Thomas' were fantastic.
You'll love this...
I came home to an email saying that I had won a free place in the Run to The Beat London Half Marathon in September! Here we go again, More warm weather training me thinks.
BUT for now my campaign for Project 350 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer takes centre stage. My next blogs will be aimed at Project 350 and if you live in Kent and would like to take a very small challenge please contact me. I will outline the whole project in the next blog.
Thank you to everyone who sponsored me for the London Marathon. Times are tough and the fivers really do build up and help Breakthrough enormously. The Playlist from hell was hilarious and on its own raised £1000. My overall total was just over £2000 thank you everybody.
This blog will carry on along with the Vodafone World of Difference blog for Project 350.
Training will also carry on, I have the half marathon in September, maybe a 10k in Faversham plus I am tempted to have a go at a sprint triathlon. Being a strong swimmer and reasonable cyclist I quite fancy it. I'll keep you all informed. Until then, thank you all so very much for your support. It really helped me round.
‘Follow Phil to London’ is done and dusted. I made it, ran it and loved it all with your support. I need a new title for my blog, any ideas? Coming up are the events listed above and then there's the band and so on. Please email your ideas. The best will be short listed and I'll think up a final. Maybe even a prize!
See you all soon and please support Breakthrough. Use the link on the right of this blog to visit their fantastic website. GET INVOLVED!!!
My first London Marathon will be a moment to remember and cherish forever. The support, noise and emotions will be with me for a very long time. Thank you to everyone who made it all possible.
It is with heartfelt joy that I dedicate my first ever London Marathon to people touched by breast cancer, Jane and the Running Team at Breakthrough and all the other staff and supporters. And to Sarah. A breast cancer fighter and survivor and without her support I would never have put the running shoes on in the first place. Thank you.