I ran my first marathon in April 1998, in London along with 30,000 other runners. It was a great experience, although I know that my memory is slightly rosier now than it was at the time!
started in January, and it had gone well until the week before the marathon
when I got a dose of the 'flu. I felt lousy at the start, but decided after
all the hard training in the winter months, I had to give it a try.
So, lined up several hundred meters behind the start line on a cool Sunday
morning along with 20,000 others at my start point, the long run home began.
The first hour was a blur, running in a mass of people, with a real party atmosphere created by an estimated 300,000 supporters, most of whom swelled every pub en route.
By the 8 mile point I was still not feeling good, but things were also not getting any worse so I persevered. I am in this picture circled in red at the left. The leaders are just out of sight by this point, about 5 miles out of sight!
By half way, the crowds on London Bridge give you a real lift, quashing early tiredness. So, you turn the corner and run away from the finish, towards the London Docklands.
At twenty miles, I was starting to get really tired, and at that point (no matter what level you run at) mental conditioning becomes more important. I remember thinking "Great! Only an hour to go!" Another great motivator was a bet I made with Mark Gurney that I couldn't finish a marathon in 3 1/2 hours. Because of time lost at the start, I was always chasing this goal, but the extra motivation of a few free beers kept me from slowing up at the end...
The last few miles were really tough, and it really helped to have friends and family to cheer me on (you know who you are!). At mile 23, it started pouring with rain, which although in itself was not unpleasant (it was good to hear the spectators feel some pain!), made the last few minutes very cold. The sight of Buckingham Palace was a great relief!
As you can see from the picture on the right, I beat Mark's bet with 8 seconds to go, finishing in 4,857th position. The winners had long since received their trophies and had showered, changed and gone home!
Me, just after finish, shortly before turning a shade similar to the colour of my shirt. My legs stopped functioning properly about five minutes later, a condition which lasted about four days. It was amusing trying to get into the Underground without bending my legs!
Would I do it again? I said at the time I would, and did by running in 1999. It's hard work, but you get a great sense of achievement.
If you are interested in entering a marathon, I'd advise a large event like London or New York for the atmosphere. Click here for a basic training plan.