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‘London Calling’ – 21 April 2013

Steve Wyatt reports from the marathon.

There’s something about London that stirs the emotions in a way that normal running somehow doesn’t. Even die-hard couch potatoes know the day it is on; it has more TV coverage than any other running event and for months beforehand the most heard questions are: How’s the training going? What time do you expect to do? Perhaps it’s this latter issue that creates such a sense of expectation as not only do we carry our own hopes but I also think we carry those of other people who we’ve bored to death with talk of long runs, carbs and PBs. In short, no one ever asks or cares what my time was for the `Romney in the Marsh 10k’ but one mention of the L word and I’m obliged to explain using infinite detail why slogging about in the pitch black and rain for hours every winter week is essential.

So we get to the infamous ‘time’ question and I reveal my hopes and aspirations only to be met with blank stares and a ‘Good Luck with that’.  No one ever remembers the quoted time and a simple, ‘Did you get the time you were looking for?’ sums up everything about running there is to know:  It’s only about me and the tests I set myself.

Well this year I wanted to go quicker than when I ran it in 1995 at age 27. So much so that I enlisted the services of a coach (no – not a 52 seater) and knuckled down to what was for me some quite serious training over the winter. The sense of relief at even getting to London without a major injury was palpable (nod to Rich Swindlehurst here who should have been with us) and with more detailed organisation than Montgomery in North Africa we finally arrive in London.

Race day dawned bright and sunny in complete contrast to the winter’s training. Arriving at Red Start I’m greeted by Jerry and Anthony Clark (Poole Runners) who appear to be sun bathing on the grass at 8am! So many other Dorset runners congregate in our little area that we may as well have been at the Wimborne 10. Tjiwolt arrived having taken runner’s excuses to a new level by circulating a long list of his ailments by email the day before. Wayne Walford Jelks (Littledown Harriers) took the transport biscuit by catching the 3.30 am National Express coach from Bournemouth to Victoria. Obviously taking the thing seriously… Also in our area were Baz (calmness personified) and Phil Whitehurst who looked decidedly nervous as we were shepherded into the pen.

The observation of the 30 seconds silence was impeccable and before too much thought we set off. Now I’ve never been off Red Start before and I was quite surprised how undulating the first three miles were. I caught up with Jerry then Tjiwolt and settled into a 6.15 pace that seemed manageable. My wife handed me jelly babies at Cutty Sark in a way that an F1 pit stop team would have been proud of. We absorbed Simon Way from Bournemouth and this lasted until about mile 10 when he pulled away from me. I felt strong and went through half distance in 1.21.43. This is it I thought; 2.45 is calling me, all that training has paid off. But it was warm and getting warmer every time we appeared in full sun. I sought all the shade I could find (which us baldies tend to do), doused and drunk as much as I needed but 3 miles later the wheels came flying off the wagon. I can always feel myself slowing and at first it’s an easy task to pick it back up but ever so gradually you know it’s affecting the time. Sure enough Tjiwolt shot past me at Mile 18 and then at Mile 22, I stopped to gather myself. Jerry came past and I disconsolately watched him disappear into the distance. My misery was complete.

At my darkest moment I stop looking at the watch as it’s making it worse and just focus on running. This period is like a month in my mind and I’m not really functioning properly but I slowly start to realise that I’m making roughly the same amount of progress as everyone around me. I see a mate of mine playing in a band near the mile 24 marker and suddenly, from who knows where, pull out a 6.15 for the next mile. My family are cheering at The Embankment and as I turn into Birdcage Walk I can see Jerry about 200m ahead of me. It feels to me like I’m sprinting and I do a little show as I pass the Wimborne flag and supporters up near Buck House - (Thank you guys). I’m so happy as I pass into The Mall that I gee up the crowd a bit and swoop (yes swoop) down the mall, almost catching Jerry at the line. He’s as surprised to see me as I am to have caught back up and my elation (at finishing, my time, the atmosphere, sheer relief etc) is felt by every volunteer I can find as I chat to all and sundry on my way to the baggage lorry. We meet up with Tjiwolt who before adding a few more ailments to his list announces his time of 2.47.08!  Who wouldn’t be a little sore after running that quickly?

Me? I said 2.45 and 2.52.46 doesn’t come close so, as my daughter would say: ‘Epic Fail’.

There’s always next week at North Dorset!

Marathons – not just a race but a whole way of life………



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