Friday, 3 May 2013

All The Roadrunning

Hey, guess what – I finally lost my virginity last Sunday!

No, you dirty-minded creature! Or maybe just concerned about my sanity? Sure, I’m happy to bare my soul on here – but even I have limits!!!

Yes, that’s right – my marathon-running virginity. Well done you on the other side of the room!

Last Sunday I ran a marathon. That’s the XS (‘extra succinct’) version of this post. If that’s enough for you, you may now move on with your life.

Last Sunday I ran a marathon in 3h31’18”. That’s your S (‘succinct’) version. To be fair, that should suffice for most.

Right… now for the fully comprehensive version…

The Day Before: Saturday, April 27
My journey began on Saturday morning. That’s a logistical comment, folk: sure, my running journey began a year ago. But my journey to Manchester And Back – that began on Saturday morning, with a 1.7mi tune-up run along Down Road at a healthy pace of 7’16”. That was followed by shower, breakfast, final packing preparations, a warm goodbye to wife and kids… and the X3 Portishead-Bristol bus. Upon reaching central Bristol, a short hop on a number 9 bus to get across to Temple Meads, all by my lonely self…

…but for the company of The World’s Heaviest Bag Ever (‘TWHBE’)!

Alas, I never got round to taking a photo of TWHBE in its overflowing glory. It’s a bag I’ve had for over twenty years now – if I hold onto it for long enough its garish lime green / purple / pinkish design may finally come into fashion. That would be a sad day for mankind, granted, but a good day for me. More frustratingly, it is the only bag of its size not to have something on the shoulder strap to lessen the burden on the poor beggar carting it around. Just as well I have a few decent ideas per year, this month’s being slipping a long wristband onto the strap to do… ‘something’.
I bought the bag from a Fila factory outlet in Italy and used to use it for tennis – something you’ll hear again later in this post. Its one redeeming feature is that it’s… big! I recall using it to move from Earl’s Court to Slough, carting my belonging across tube and train – TWHBE, a suitcase and a backpack just about sufficed! I also recall dropping both as I walked down the steps at Earl’s Court Tube Station – thanks again to the bloke who helped me out fifteen years ago.

The reason TWHBE was heavy as well as big is that I’d packed more than one might expect for two nights away from home, in between which I would be running 26.2mi. Not a week-long golfing holiday: two nights and what is a fairly minimalist sporting activity when it comes to clothing requirements. But… better safe than sorry, right?

Running shirts aren’t too heavy, so I doubt it was the three of those (plus two ‘civvies’) that made a difference. Ditto with shorts. Just the one pair of shoes, too: I was wearing my spare pair. Pants, socks, Garmin, wash bag, gloves, glasses, belts… nothing too heavy. So what can it have been?

Hmmm… maybe the peanut butter jar… maybe the four bagels… maybe the nuts… maybe the cereals… and that pint of milk probably didn’t help… nor the water… although the Capri juice can’t have done much harm… there were quite a few bars too, what with the fruity ones, the granola ones, the Alpen one, the Clif Bars… not that the Clif Shot Bloks are heavy, mind, even if you do take three sets with you… oh, and the five bananas… now those nuts can’t have been too heavy, but they were in a glass jar…

That’s right – I took food with me. Tons of it! Some because I was travelling by public transport and wanted to ensure I still carbloaded appropriately; some because I didn’t want to rely on The Premier Inn Old Trafford for breakfast. Which is no reflection on said hotel: I just wanted to ensure I ate the same cereals I’d been eating all week (Muesli and some reight expensive Granola). Moreover, I knew that doing my own thing in my room would buy me some extra time early Sunday morning, taking out of the equation the need to get dressed before breakfast, go downstairs, grab the food… it also took out of the equation any last-minute temptations by untried foods.

You’d be mistaken for thinking I took a Manchester-bound train. My destination was instead Sheffield, where I took in Sheffield United-Preston North End. There was never any danger of a fixture between a team whose play-off place had long been guaranteed and a team whose mid-table mediocrity was equally secure being a classic, and this one didn’t disappoint. It ended 0-0, as too many United games at The Lane have done this season, so I didn’t miss owt by abandoning it some 25’ into the second half to meet up with Mick Rooker and David Pye, with whom I’d worked on matchdays entertaining the mascots (kids that is, not grown-ups in costume). They knew I needed to be on 18:42 to Manchester Piccadilly so we reached an Italian restaurant around 16:45 for my last pre-race pasta. I’d planned all along to order pasta with tomato sauce and steamed vegetables, as per “Performance Nutrition for Runners”. However, I was informed that they didn’t do vegetables and settled for a salad instead. An Italian restaurant that doesn’t “do vegetables”… nobody tell my Nonna, please! As for the pasta, it was overcooked and came with way too much sauce. But that’s Italian restaurants in this country for you: I was surprised by neither. I just hoped the overcooking hadn’t impacted its carbloading effect.

If meeting Rooks and Pikey was my post-match highlight, meeting Ian before and Paul at half-time were my pre/during match highlights. Much as I’d never met them beforehand, I already counted both of them at friends: and our encounters in The Golden Lion and in the South Stand only confirmed I’d got that one right. Friendship is not about having known someone for a long time or having seen them on hundreds of occasions: friendship is about having a common connection, being able to start up a conversation even if you’ve never stood face-to-face before because you know there’s common ground to talk about and discuss. Sadly a lot of that common ground is represented by United’s lacklustre season, with a side helping of running talk, but it’s common ground nonetheless. I just wish I hadn’t looked such a pratt by going up to the bar in a pub just a few hundred yards from The Lane and ordering an orange juice with soda… it just felt wrong. But what’s a wannabe marathon runner to do?!

Pikey dropped me off at the train station and I was soon westbound to Manchester, with a few Preston North End fans for company. Nothing unruly, I could just have done without someone who’d had a few Stellas too many trying to make conversation. I wouldn’t mind, but he kept making references to The Other Lot and getting them mixed up with us… no, Brian Laws was never our manager, no, Neil Mellor never played for us and no, even your Alan Irvine headed for the wrong side of town! Just what I needed..!

I got off at Piccadilly and was delighted to see a Boots, which I entered in search of… safety pins! More on that later – not that it’s that exciting, mind. And then… then I only went and got myself injured…

…I stepped out of my cab, closed the door… and caught my ring finger in the door! It bled a little, throbbed a bit more and looked stupid. But you know what? I was delighted!

I was delighted because I always knew I was going to do something of that sort. I just didn’t have a clue as to what. But if this is all it was going to be… great! Something I could easily cope with, not least with my vast array of plasters. Re-sult!
By the way – upon telling the cabbie my destination, he advised me to make sure I asked for the right Premier Inn if returning from town or I might get taken for an expensive ride. My reply:
“Don’t worry, I’m going to check in and go nowhere. I’ve got twenty-six point two miles to run tomorrow.”
His reply to my reply:
“Oh, right – good luck! I did that once – in the Brecon Beacons!”
Well that put my effort into perspective.

I checked into room 266, which of course was at the end of the corridor. My hotel rooms are always at the end of the corridor: a nuisance if I need the bar, otherwise it’s conducive to silence. No minibar so had to rely on cooler bags to keep my milk as cold as possible – non-cold milk on my cereals is a major pet hate of mine! Again, I had a half-decent idea and decided that, in the morning, I’d fill the sink with cold water and dunk it in. Still in its bottle, of course!
I didn’t have the best night’s sleep on Saturday: then again, nor did I expect to. I was buzzing with a mixture of excitement and preoccupation. In the end my trick of making up and counting Marco van Basten goals worked and I got enough sleep. I’ve not slept long into the mornings for some time, what with being used to getting up for early runs (although most recent ones had been later in the day) and being high on adrenaline – but I’ve always managed to get enough sleep. This was no exception.

I did the best I could to stay off social media and texts, to help me relax and drift into sleep mode… but my Auntie Dawn, who was set to give me a lift back to Sheffield after the race, did send me one that focused the mind:

Hi giac im working at 2.30 what time are you expecting to finish

I didn’t have the time to reply “Not sure but I’ll be as fast as I can!” as she rang me up and we chatted about it. That would have meant leaving Manchester around 13:00… the starting gun would be fired at 9:00… I wasn’t going to commit! I told her I had a couple of other ways of getting back if need be (i.e. a couple of nutters), providing I gave enough notice, and we left it that they’d text me overnight. In the end they said they’d come over with two cars so no additional pressure to rush it for me… although who knows, maybe it would have helped?

The Day Itself: Sunday, April 28
Sunday morning came round soon enough… time for shower, breakfast, bath… and run!
That’s right – shower AND bath. I had a shower to wake myself up, then my granola+muesli, peanut butter+banana bagel and jam+banana bagel with coffee breakfast, then headed back for a bath. Dear friends of mine (of the whole family) had given me a couple of lovely, thoughtful gifts: Radox bath gel and some bitesize chocolates! That’s right, they’ve run marathons – they know whatchaneed… I’d already reverted to Radox shower gel the previous week, mindful of how good it felt post-sport in my childhood days (plus I saw it half-price in our  new Tesco Express)… but I never get the chance for a bath so didn’t even contemplate that! Then Kate and Neil (for those be their names) showed that thoughtfulness and that bottle of Radox was always going to head North with me!
Only on the morning, though, did I decide to use it pre-race. It’s meant to relax your muscles, so why not before as well as after? That may be called “doing a Lineker” (he used to have baths before games), I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea so I went for it. It was.

In the bath, I enjoyed some peace and quiet (and bubbles!) before going into energising, motivational mode. I know: electronic appliances and water are not a good combination. But surely if you’re holding the iPod outside of the bath… that’s OK, right?

On the journey to Sheffield the previous day, I’d dusted off a 2007 playlist I had created to get me in the mood for tennis matches. Yes, ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ is on there. In fact, here’s that playlist in full:

1. Robbie Williams, ‘Let Me Entertain You’
2. Survivor, ‘Eye Of The Tiger’
3. Bon Jovi, ‘Have A Nice Day’
4. Bruce Springsteen, ‘No Surrender’
5. Bon Jovi, ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’
6. Bruce Springsteen, ‘Eye On The Prize’
7. The Clash, ‘Death Or Glory’
8. Bruce Springsteen, ‘The Rising’
9. Dixie Chicks, ‘Not Ready To Make Nice’
10. Bruce Springsteen, ‘Man At The Top’
11. Tom Petty, ‘I Won’t Back Down’
12. Bruce Springsteen, ‘Born To Run’
13. Nils Lofgren, ‘No Mercy’
13. Bruce Springsteen, ‘We Shall Overcome’
14. Jon Bon Jovi, ‘Last Man Standing’
15. James, ‘I Know What I’m Here For’
16. Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, ‘All The Roadrunning’

Look, don’t ask about track 9. Perfectly good song, don’t get me wrong: just don’t ask why I wasn’t ready to make nice. This was from my tennis days, OK? 2007… one year later from the dodgiest line call since chalk flew up… I love tennis, but some things are hard to let go of!

For the Sunday morning I selected four of those tracks. Why don’t you have a go at guessing which ones? To make sure you don’t peep (inadvertently, of course), here’s a photo of a bunch of nutters to stall you:

As per @chrismarritt's tweet: "Before, with @madebyelves @AndyWaind @gos75 and @mazymixer"
Note: @gos75 does not endorse that particular American beer - that shirt had been hanging around since 1998 and was duly disposed of at the start of the Greater Manchester Marathon 2013

Right – here we go… good luck!

James are a quintessentially, almost squintessentially, Mancunian band. This version is from “Getting Away With It… Live”, recorded, most appropriately, at the Manchester Evening News arena.
As for me… well, ‘Giacomo’ is English for ‘James’, don’t you know. I was in Manchester. And boy did I know what I was there for. I had a job to do – and James were one of three acts who were going to help me get it done.

It had been waaay too long since I’d played this one!
It was on my tennis playlist to remind me that getting to finals was all well and good but I actually had to win the darn things. Six years later, its meaning needed far less explaining:
“A million miles our vagabond heels clocked up beneath the clouds
They're counting down to showtime when we do it for real with the crowds
Air miles are owing but they don't come for free, and they don't give you any for pain
But if it's all for nothing, all the roadrunning's been in vain”
This came up on my iPod on the bus ride into Bristol. Over the first twenty-five minutes or so of that, all the roads that we covered were roads I had covered over the previous months in training. Emmylou Harris’ tones were a reminder that all those sessions, all those hours, all the roadrunning would be in vain if I didn’t get the job done in Manchester, when I did it for real with the crowds. And I wasn’t going to let that happen.

No doubt you saw this one coming after one of last week’s posts

Need I say more? Thought not.

Let me just rectify one potential misnomer you may have about this quarter an hour or so…
…sure, there was minor hand-raising and fist-pumping. But I cried through most of it.
I cried because I thought about my brothers. I knew I would: it was always a case of ‘when’, not ‘if’. As it happens it was in the privacy of my bathroom rather than yards from the starting line, which was no bad thing. I cried because the fact that my elder brother was stillborn whereas my younger brother died within hours of coming into this fallen world has a habit of getting to me at key stages. When I’m working towards what for me is a major achievement (and Sunday qualifies), I am more aware than ever that I’m carrying them in my hearts, that my achievements are also their achievements and that it will be the three of us and not me alone who makes our parents proud.
So yes, when I was in the bath listening to those songs in the Premier Inn Old Trafford on Sunday morning I had a good old weep. Pretty much through all four songs, in fact. But, as ‘Born To Run’ came to its epic climax, I ensured I was in full control of those emotions, of that passion, and thereby able to channel it in the right direction.
At different times, my wife has told me that I shouldn’t feel that pain/burden, that it’s not fair. To be clear, it is something that my parents have done absolutely nothing, zero, zilch to create, let alone increase. It’s within me, it’s a part of me and I am proud to carry it. I don’t want to “deal with it” if that means remove it. Of course it’s not fair: not so much the effect but the cause, i.e. the fact that they’re not around. The effect is just part of life, and life not fair anyway. It’s not meant to be.
But what truly matters is that the energy that my connection to my siblings, to my flesh, blood and soul generates is not purely negative. It’s no burden. Sure, at times I cry. Depending on what’s going on around me, I can go from ‘mardy’ (my normal, default setting) to ‘weeping’ within seconds, and not many will notice, let alone understand. But oftentimes it energises me, motivates me, invigorates me. That’s why I didn’t think I would hit the wall on Sunday: I figured that, if I approached it, they would lift me over it. Turns out that’s pretty much what happened. Hey – they ain’t heavy, they’re my brothers. And my heart is all the richer for carrying them.

The walk across Sir Matt Busby Way was short but still not the easiest, courtesy of TWHBE. As duly planned on Twitter, I met up with Andy, Catherine, Chris, Philip and Simon under the statue of the great man. Sir Matt Busby, that is – not wanting to knock Simon unfairly there.

I’d met Simon fleetingly at last September’s TenTenTen: he wasn’t running but his son was in the 2.5k event. I’d never met any of the others, although they felt like friends because of exchanges on Twitter and on Strava. I outlined my feelings on whether you can have friends you’ve never met back in January, when my ramblings and considerations led to the conclusion that:
“having weighed all the evidence and overthunk the matter extensively, I’m going to say that yes, I do consider as friends some of the #nutters I’ve met on Twitter and whose runs I now follow on Strava. That notwithstanding, I am quick to add that I would also dearly love to meet them in the flesh to cement those relationships. Which ties up with what I wrote about my friendship with Jon, which was strengthened significantly by our shared experiences along the roads of Pill and subsequently Bristol. Male friendships require that DYRW (“Do You Remember When”) moment: “Do you remember that tweet” doesn’t quite cut it. Now, if I were to run a race with some of my Twitter buddies… well that would be one heck of a DYRW, eh?”

That’s what I wrote in January, after a theoretical debate with myself. Turns out I was right, as indeed proven by meeting Ian and Paul in S2 the previous day. My fellow nutters and I made nice conversation, dealt with the practicalities of loo-queues (not bad!) and bag-drops (boy was I glad to get rid of TWHBE!) and eventually made the short walk to the starting pens. We were almost there when there was a 26” silence followed by a 26” applause for the Boston casualties: we stood still, united with our fellow runners, for a highly poignant and touching moment. A few announcements followed and then it was time to… get the job done.

I’ve stated previously, I had long decided to follow the 3h30’ pace team. However, that wasn’t reflected in the sheet they sent me to pin to the back of my shirt, which showed 3h45’ as per an earlier website submission. This being my first marathon, I panicked about the implications of this and ultimately still pinned it (with my new safety pins!) without any intention of being in that group. With hindsight, I should just have worn nothing (in terms of pace team sheet, that is) and followed the right pack. Most runners hadn’t bothered to register and/or pin anyway, and the sight of my “3:45” number can’t have been overly inspiring for any runners starting to fade behind me having planned on hitting 3h30’. It was only around the halfway mark that another runner quizzed me: “Do you realise you’ve got 3:45’ on the back?”. This was probably genuine concern for my strategy: Philip, who started off behind me but soon passed me by en route to a PB of 3h25’40”, overheard runners commenting that I’d started off way too fast… Thinking on my moving feet, my answer was: “Yes – that was my initial plan but I ended up training more than I’d planned”. Not a bad answer for someone with 13mi in his legs and 13mi ahead, I’m sure you’ll agree…

I figured out early enough that joining a pace team had been a wise move. I could still keep myself to myself whilst not having to worry about the speed at which I was running: that was someone else’s job. I didn’t have to question whether I should speed up and give myself a cushion, a strategy that would probably have left me running on empty too early, but nor was I worried about not doing so. My brain was consuming far less energy than if I had been making decisions myself (and that’s not a joke), allowing my glycogen stores to be dedicated entirely to my legs. I soon got into a comfortable rhythm as we proceeded nice and steady around the 8’/mi mark. Not that I’m one for Schadenfreude, but it was nice to see that most of the runners around me were seemingly expending the same degree of effort and sweat… for some reason I expected to be panting more than most, surrounded by a pack of fellow competitors who’d be breezing through the task at hand… totally irrational when I think back on it, immensely comforting on Sunday morning.

I had it in my mind I wasn’t going to touch the
Clif Bloks till at least mile ten. I wasn’t really struggling and I didn’t want to compromise their effect, be it psychological or physical, in the latter stages. I eventually treated myself to one around the halfway mark. I’d brought my own, see: yes they were handing them out (one of the reasons I’d experimented with Clif Bloks rather than gels in the first place, Mike being the other) but I had packed my own set in my belt. Having succeeded in the Herculean task of placing a Clif Blok into my mouth, however, I somehow managed to miss the gap left by the open zip in my pouch and place the rest of the packet in between pouch and shirt, meaning… that’s right, it went flying as I pushed it down.
You stupid boy! Just as well they were handing them out!
I’d foregone the first set after 7.5mi because… well, I had my own! And the queue to grab one proved I’d been wise to equip myself. By the time the second lot were handed out at the 16mi mark, I was truly ready for one. And had been for a couple of miles…
…as for the water stations, they certainly hadn’t scrimped on those. There was a baker’s dozen of them and I grabbed a pouch pretty much at every one, only once discarding it without sipping or showering. And trust me, I mean pouch: Iconiq water pouches, to be precise. Lovely concept, as it’s easier to hold on to a pouch for an extra mile or so than it is a bottle and as they’re safer for all involved once discarded. I still don’t think I ever cracked the correct opening process but I always managed to get some water out of them somehow. And, whilst it shouldn’t surprise you that runners would offer their half-full pouches to their kindred spirits around them before chucking them away, it was still a source of a nice feeling to see that happen. A sort of “We’re in this together” attitude – only of a Greater Manchester / Altrincham kind rather than a Tatton one…

Clif Bloks, water… what else was going to restoke my fire?

The crowd, of course. Many locals had paved their streets with their foldable garden chairs, presumably to cheer us on and not just because this was a nice dry day. Not too warm, mind: perfect running conditions! Many were handing out sweets: I refrained from grabbing any, as I’m still not sure they didn’t disagree with me in Bath, although that was probably just about the stage at which I was in the race. Critically, I knew Auntie Dawn, Uncle Richard, Nats and Shawn had made the journey across the Pennines, although not where they’d be. Looking back at the map now I can see they were at mile 9 and then 16.5 – a feat achieved by strategically positioning themselves near a junction I would be passing twice. As I passed them the first time, Richard kindly shouted: “Remember Salcombe!”
Salcombe… blinkin’, bleedin’ Salcombe… a chapter in my life I’d detailed almost a year prior to the day!
The XS version: On holiday with the Woods, entered into a 5k race, came last because organisers gave the girl who was behind me a lift towards the end. Now can you possibly imagine a more energising thought to bring to someone’s mind as he’s a third of the way through his maiden marathon?
For a few hundred yards I asked myself why he’d felt the need to bring it up. After that, I chuckled and got on with the job in hand. Nevertheless, even now it’s fair to say that Nats’ cry of “You’re doing great – keep going!” was somewhat more helpful..!

I had ironed my name onto my “In Training For Greater Manchester Marathon” running shirt. That way, strangers on the route can cheer you on. I’d seen this with Jon in Bristol. But that’s the thing: Jon’s Jon, I’m Giacomo. No Mancunians dared tackle this dodgy name until mile 23. And then they mispronounced it, the way I thought they would. I’d long contemplated alternative versions of my name: @gos75 (my Twitter handle), Giac (how most people call me), Gia (the way Nutters call me)… but The Children’s Hospital (who’d kindly sent me the letters) only had alphabetic characters and… well, I’m Giacomo, it’s who I am. Tempting as Giac and Gia were, I stuck with my name. I was slightly surprised only three people gave it a go, less so that none of them got it right. Giv’em a typical Yorkshire name and…

Anyway, back to the run. Passing mile 16 was important for me. My paciest training run had been a 16.2 miler ten days prior: it was then that I felt comfortable with sticking with the 3:30 crew, safe in the knowledge that I could always drop off the pace for the final ten and still clock a respectable 3h45 or 3h59’59”. We passed mile 16 at a decent pace and I still felt good.
The miles passed, the legs kept going and I kept up with the 3h30’ group. I wasn’t at the front of the pack but then I didn’t need to, my distance generally inversely proportionate to the width of the road. That’s right: when the roads got narrower I slipped further back. Most normal. Halfway into mile 23 (which is the furthest Id run in training and I’d always said the last three miles were going to be the toughest), we passed the final Clif Shot Blok station in what wasn’t a particularly wide stretch. I drifted a tad further back and…

…well, for the first time I was unable to just make up the distance. The legs kept going but, for the first time, felt a tad heavier. I felt my pace drop: not instantaneously but over time, as I waved goodbye to the 3:30 flag. Initially it was within my sight but it slowly, yet seemingly effortlessly, sailed away. That never bothered me: I was doing the best I could and that’s all that mattered. I started trying to work out a target time, based on the distance from the 3:30 team and the distance left to cover… I was probably doing 9’/mi and only going to slow further, so… 3h35’?

Then something amazing happened. I looked at my watch. And my faithful companion told me that…
…actually, I was doing 8’20”/mi. Yes I’d slowed down, but nowhere near as much as the weight of my legs suggested. And that remained true throughout the final four miles. Equally encouraging, almost confirming my watch’s viewpoint, I was not been overtaken much. This was no grand debacle – and no wall, either. Of course it got tougher, of course I had to dig deep: but that would be true of most runners at that stage. The advantage I had over most of them was my brothers. If there was a wall, I didn’t see it: my brothers lifted me over it 217 days earlier, just as they had done in Sheffield, in my first race – all 10k of it.

I dug in and kept going, my slowest mile being mi 25 at 8’54”. For the geeks and freaks, here are my splits:

Mi  Time  
01: 7’48”
02: 7:41”
03: 7’39”
04: 8’01”
05: 7’49”
06: 7’57”
07: 8’07”
08: 8’10”
09: 8’08”
10: 8’08”
11: 7’55”
12: 7’52”
13: 8’02”
14: 7’54”
15: 8’07”
16: 8’13”
17: 8’06”
18: 8’10”
19: 8’08”
20: 8’05”
21: 8’03”
22: 8’12”
23: 8’26”
24: 8’44”
25: 8’54”
26: 8’45”

Sure, I slowed down for the final four miles. But I still never went into 9’/mi territory. Not too long ago, 9’/mi was a goal. Chuffed with that.

I never thought I’d be elated at the sight of Old Trafford but then I never thought I’d run a marathon. Simon had helpfully pointed out we had a downhill finish to which look forward and I sped up for those final hundred or two hundred yards, surprised to see Cousin Joe and his girlfriend Steph as I reached the finishing line crossing my arms over my heart and crossing it in, according to my Garmin, 3h’31’30”. The official time would later prove to be 3h31’18”.

In the final couple of miles I was pleasantly surprised to see that a sub-3h35’ time was still perfectly feasible, even though the 3:30 team had long gone. The reason for this became clear when Joe pointed out to me that they’d actually crossed the line in 3h27’. Who knows, maybe had I known that I’d have found another 78” in me…

…but if you’re looking for me to talk about regrets, you’re going to be bitterly disappointed. For I have none. This was always my overriding goal: to cross that finish line in whatever time it took but to be able to say “I couldn’t have done any better”. From preparation beforehand to execution on the day, I gave it my all. I have no regrets over what I did, what I ate, what I didn’t do, what I did’t eat…besides, seventy-eight seconds may not sound like a lot: and granted, over the whole length of the marathon we’re talking 3”/mi, not a huge deal. But it was in those final four miles that my stab at sub-3h30’ proved too much, and 19”/mi at that stage of a marathon is a huge deal indeed. I ended up posting a time that some runners chase for years, some unsuccessfully, and that is an achievement of which I am hugely proud. As per previous post, in my category (sub-40yr old blokes) I made the top 25% (OK, 25.1 – pedants!); on the whole, 1,006 runners crossed the line before me and 4,002 after me.
I DID change -
this is the finishers' shirt!

I don’t know if I was born to run. I do know what I was there for and I know I did not surrender. And I made sure that all the roadrunning had not been in vain.

For my brothers - always. And for Thomas.

p.s.: I will devote a post to my fundraising efforts in due course. For now, an immense thanks to all of you who got to me over £1k
– in some respects, that blows my mind more than my time (3h3118, have I mentioned it?)! For those who haven't... for the final time, you can donate here.

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