Nobody likes the 'M' word...

05 June 2019
  • Challenges

Nobody likes the 'M' word...

“Nobody likes the C word….or the M (Marathon) word for that matter”  

M for Marathon…. Or more accurately the Hackney Half Marathon.  

It’s the 19th of May 2019 and there I was, on my own, amongst 27,000 entrants milling around the starting line on Hackney Marshes. Dance music was pumping out and everyone around me (barring none) looking very much the runners that they are… I thought to myself “Now then, you’re not in great shape, you haven’t run a bath recently (preferring showers) let alone 20 kilometres, you don’t have a running buddy as no one goes as slow as you do out of your super fit friends, you are not prepared for this, so …..how the hell did I end up here?” But I have a huge smile on my face and I know why.  

I remember how my journey began back in February 2019 when Lesley Morris, who is the Operations Manager of the fantastic charity Teens Unite, spoke in our weekly networking meeting about all the great work that they do for their charity and happened to have a place available for the half marathon. As I tucked away another sausage from my full English breakfast, a tiny voice said from somewhere within my 20 stone frame “you can do that… you need an excuse to lose weight AND you’d be raising money for a great cause.”  

After the meeting, Lesley passed me onto her team of lovely ladies in the Teens Unite office who signed me up - and then it became real.  

My office in Old Harlow is rural, so I started running around the country lanes and had worked out a 6km circuit to start with. I say running, but my version of running is dictated by not being a runner, having bad knees etc and is just faster than walking pace.  

So off I went on my 6k starter. It was a disaster. I managed about 1k and had to slow to a walk. I never actually stopped during my training, just slowed to a walk and that also helped me keep pushing on. I did this rural route a few times and managed to push up to about 2k before I realised that at the 2k mark was a horrendous hill (a slight incline in reality) so needed to find a more flatter and forgiving route to give me more of a positive experience and sense of progress…  

And then it occurred to me that a river would be flat – no I’m not Jesus and can’t walk on water (yet) - but I’m referring to the river bank. So I parked at the River Stort one day and started off. I managed to run as far as 2k before having to walk 1.5k then turned around and walked back (totaling 7k). This was gonna be tough.

Then next time out I ran 3k, a full kilometre further… then I turned around and walked back.  

This went on. I was pushing myself to add another 500 meters to 1k per time – then walking back to my car.  

On one of these runs I was approaching a significant marker but was clearly tired and dragging my feet. I clipped a renegade stone poking its ugly head out of the ground and took a tumble. My Grandfather was in the paratroopers, so I put the impressive ‘tuck n roll’ down to genetics.

Fortunately I tucked away from the river, unfortunately I rolled into stinging nettles! Worse still, an elderly couple was approaching me on the path; they saw the lot and gasped in horror at the site. I could only hobble off harbouring a hefty dead leg and crimson blood streaming from my knees muttering “didn’t hurt.” Not a good look I assure you.  

Anyway! So the furthest I managed without slowing to a walk was 6k. I couldn’t get past 6k!! (12k in total with the walk back to the car). It was tough. I decided then to check how far 20k was on one of my runs; my intention was to run as far as I could then carry on to 10k and then walk back (making it 20k). I started off on Sunday 28th April and felt ok through the first 5k so kept going on to 6k, then 7k, then 8k and with a sense of jubilation carried on pushing to 10k at which point I turned around feeling the excitement of achievement and walked back (20k done).

I was out that day for 3hours 7 Minutes and 39 seconds. It was a long run/walk, beautiful scenery and I knew the distance in my mind. I had the mind map in place and it was the best and the worst thing I could have done as I only managed a few more runs from then until my actual run day of the 19th of May. Too cocky.  

Back to the start line! Standing there in the glorious sunshine. I had stopped talking about it on the lead up. I didn’t invite anyone to support me as I was unsure if I was going to make it. But I also know that I am too stubborn to pull out and I wanted to complete it so went up on my own. It was a lonely place surrounded by groups of runners that were all far more prepared than I.  

Fortunately for me I had my two sons and my parents coming up later on and an equally stubborn girlfriend who was making her own way up too - I’m so grateful that they did.  

I set out at my ambling pace and by the time I arrived at 1 Mile I realised what a huge task this was going to be. I had 12.1 more of these things called “Miles” left and I wasn’t feeling it AT ALL!  

2 miles in then 3 I’m still not running freely but I’m still going. The crowds are cheering, the water station is a welcome refreshment, the supporters handing out sweets is a welcome distraction. I cannot see in any way at all that I can run the entire distance. Each mile seems to take longer to reach and then I receive a text message, “I’m tracking you x.” It’s my girlfriend and she is waiting just round the corner before the 10k mark (halfway). A very pleasant surprise!  

A quick kiss later and spurred on plodding through the miles, overtaking and being overtaken by the same few. Finally I then see my parents and my two boys Freddy and Louie cheering me on too, nearer the finish line! “1 more mile to go Dad!! Keep going!”  

I think about the young people that Teens Unite support that won’t have the ability to have what I have had - due to the hand they’ve been dealt. I round a few corners more, I run the mile that my sons Freddy and Louie had said I had left and note the extra half a mile that I have left to run. I make a mental note to work on their maths …  

The long road to the finish line was amazing; people cheering me by name and spurring me on. The home stretch and the elation of crossing the line with knees burning, hip screaming and ankles mildly unamused too– that said, being greeted by my medal and a can of low calorie beer was an amazing and proud moment for me.  

Did I walk some of the way after not stopping for 10k? Yes I did and I’m ok with that.  

What was my time? 2hours and 50 minutes...well there were speed bumps and traffic lights around Hackney so it slowed me down!  

Did I want to do it quicker? Yes. I wanted to do it in 2hours and 20 minutes. The winner managed it in 1 hour and 6 minutes!  

Will I do it again……… 100%.

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