Cloud Cuckoo Land

Richard and Marathon MedalIn the Atlanta Olympic Games of 1996, after winning a historic fourth gold medal, Sir Steve Redgrave famously said “If anyone sees me going anywhere near a boat again they have my permission to shoot me”. He then went on to win an even more historic fifth gold medal at Sydney four years later! I must say, moments after crossing the finish line on the Mall in London, I might well have uttered similar words because I got a glimpse of what Sir Steve may have been going though.

However, it’s several days after the adrenaline fuelled adventure of the weekend and we are now finally relaxing at home and it’s time for reflection. When you go though such an amazing experience, a common reaction is “let’s do it again”, but it’s not as simple as that. I got a London Marathon place this year because I belong to a running club that has an single allocated place that can be given to any member decided by the club. In the case of mine, they simply choose at random from those members who want to do it (priority given to first timers).

Apart from promising to raise a huge amount of money for charity, the main way of getting a place is the so-called public ballot. I don’t know why they use the word “ballot” because in my book, it’s a lottery. They put all the entries in a massive digital “hat” and the lucky ones are selected by chance. Although you can get in that way the odds are not exactly in your favour (maybe about 15:1 against you)!

There is obviously the option of doing a big charity effort again but over last weekend I was intrigued by another way of getting a place, the “good for age” category; I’d not heard of this one before. It means that anyone who has done (recently) an officially certified marathon at a certain time (depending on their age), can just get in, no questions asked! For my age category then, what is the qualifying time? I took a look at the London Marathon web site and they have a little table which gives the time for my age, which is, wait for it…… 3 hours 20 minutes (up to the age of 59).

So, what would it mean for me to qualify in the “Good For Age” category? Well, to me that is, to be frank, a stupidly fast time. Here’s me, dreaming that one day I might again run a marathon in sub 4 and then I start looking at 3:20, surely I must be off my rocker, in cloud cuckoo land! But I started thinking about this and asked the question, why not? Exactly how fast is that? Well technically it’s 7 minutes 37 seconds per mile and I certainly can run that fast (which is a good start) and have ran that fast even up to 10K which means, it’s a matter of stamina, endurance and strength (rather than speed). It would mean taking my training regime to a different level and degree of seriousness but hay, if people never had big dreams no one would ever achieve big things.

Now that my goal to complete the London Marathon 2016 is fulfilled, I can settle into, without time pressure, returning to full fitness and strength after which I do want to up my training and see where that leads. Good For Age is a great dream and will help me choose big goals but I won’t get carried away and I will take things one step at a time.

I saw a quote recently that said “I don’t know what the future holds but I know who holds my future”. This reminded me that whatever my plans are , God has a bigger one and in any walk of life including running, I will accept Him as being in charge of my destiny.

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Richard (off the telly)

Richard off the tellyYou’re in a field full of about a million other expectant runners; its cold and you just want to get going but since you’re shivering, 26.2 miles seems an even more daunting prospect that usual!   As the starting signal goes, you discard the charity shop top that’s keeping you warm (they collect them all afterwards and they go back into the charity shops), cheer (almost half heatedly) and then half walk/half jog towards the start mat.

Then you go around the corner towards the actual start and everything changes. It’s an emotional moment and to me it brought such a grin and even tears welling up as I entered a different world.  The grandstands full of a cheering crowd, the mass of runners starting ahead it was an astonishing and unforgettable moment.  After all, this was the London Marathon!

I’m not going to give a mile by mile commentary of my London Marathon experience but it was an emotionally highly-charged roller-coaster.  In the first half the mile markers seemed to go by in twos and threes but in the last six miles they seemed as rare as rocking horse shit!  The last six miles was the most difficult thing I have ever done in running because even though I kept going, my legs had given up the ghost miles ago!

The abiding memories though are of the points along the route where the support of the cheering crowd was overwhelming, the town centres and landmark spots like the Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf.  In the last six miles it was continuous and my name was shouted out seemingly at every few paces.  It was this that meant that you absolutely had to keep going because this was better than any physical drug this was human willpower – mind over matter and the demonstration of the very best of human nature.

The last three hundred metres were both glorious and painful.   You turn the corner from Birdcage Walk into the Mall by Buckingham Palace and then you see the most inviting thing on the planet at that moment in time: the welcoming red finish tunnels.  You keep going although your body has shut down because the noise of the supporters is immense and then finally after, a seeming age, you cross those finishing mats.

So, what of the London Marathon?  I can quite honestly say that in all of my running experience there has been nothing else remotely in the same league.  It is both the most amazing and also the hardest thing I have every done and so I remain grateful for the opportunity.  So, if you want to do a marathon, try your hardest to get into this one because it is absolutely fantastic.

Finally, many people said almost jokingly “I’ll look out for you on the TV” but the most astonishing thing is that my big sister did just that and actually spotted me.  What’s more she managed to photo the TV to prove to the word that this particular Marathon Mann, was on the telly!

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 NIVUK



IKEA and the Crystal Maze

Got itIt’s been quite a day since I wrote “We’re on the train” this morning. I wasn’t kidding about the amount of physical and mental effort required to retrieve a running number! By the look of that massive smile on my face you would be forgiven for thinking I had actually crossed the finish line. Well, that’s what it felt like.

Thing is: read the instructions carefully! When it says (and I paraphrase slightly here) “ExCel London is directly connected to the Central Line at Bank….” read to the end of the paragraph which says “…via the DLR”.

Confused?Now “via the DLR” sounds simple but you have to understand the DLR is a whole different game if you’ve never used it before with its own rules and,…. it’s vast. After getting off the tube at Bank, realising the journey was far from over and then finding a DLR station, navigating the network to find ExCel was like the Crystal Maze.

After a journey time of 5 hours I am afraid that the Marathon Expo wasn’t my cup of tea at all. Collecting the number and chip (from different desks) was a joy, but then entering an IKEA-like labyrinth was not. I was glad to say hello to Ross (formerly of Up and Running, Wakefield) at the TomTom stand and the team at BHF (who kindly gave Helen a red supporters T-shirt) but even more glad to find the exit.

Fortunately we are in a very nice Hotel near Marble Arch and we are able to chill.  My lessons for the day are firstly, get here the day before and make the Expo an exiting day out and not a chore, and secondly, read the directions CAREFULLY. Needless to say I have been reading the “how to get to the start” very VERY carefully.

In other news, due to the amazing generosity of my friends, donations have continued today and as I write the total being raised for the BHF is now £665! To everyone who has donated a massive thank you!

London Marathon TomorrowSo that’s it for preparation, it’s all over; the only thing remaining is to get up in the morning and do this thing!

“‘Now then, my children, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not disregard it.” Proverbs‬ ‭8:32-33‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬