Final destination

Just thought I’d rattle out a quick update for all two of you who’ve been reading the blog lately and feeling a bit bored by me droning on with marathon training tips, and maybe wondering how I was getting on with my own running as build up to the big one on April 23rd (hi Mum & Dad!). The London Marathon is, finally, nearly here.

I’m on the home straight now, but it’s been a funny old build up this time around, and the contrast to last year’s preparation for Manchester could not be more stark. I’m running less, I’m running slower. I’m a bit heavier. I don’t feel particularly fit, even though I’ve put in around 300 miles since I started training for this (although which, to put in perspective, is 700 less than twelve months ago). Almost every single run has felt like hard work and I can count on one hand the number which I can actually say went pretty well, although weirdly, the dress rehearsal 20 miler a fortnight ago was one of them, which I guess bodes well? It could be though that finally, at the age of 35, I’m just starting to slide over the other side of the hill, now running in the VM35 veteran category and staring at a downward spiral as Old Father Time has his say. Or it could be that I didn’t start actually training for this until a couple of months ago, right after spending two weeks on an all inclusive honeymoon which itself came straight after the Christmas period. Hard to say.

It’s OK though. I’m cool with it. As I mentioned last time around, there’s no pressure on this one, and I’m absolutely bloody loving that. Who cares if my long runs are frequently over a minute per mile slower than last time around? Or if I can’t get anywhere near the sub-six minute pace I was previously pumping into my 1km interval sessions? I don’t. Whatever the reasons for the decline (and there are many), when I set off from my green “good for age” startline next Sunday I won’t be panicking about keeping to any sort of pace. I (hopefully) won’t be spending most of the morning beforehand rushing back and forward to the portaloos as the nerves take their usual terrible toll on my insides. I won’t be getting sad and distressed as the pace balloons in the last few miles. It doesn’t matter. It literally doesn’t matter to me how long it takes for me to run from Greenwich Park to The Mall. So long as I don’t get swept up by the broom wagon as they begin to reopen the roads behind me, everything will be OK.

I can take my time, admire the sights and sounds. Stop to say hello to anyone I recognise on the route. Amble through the water and feed stations. Use the bogs if I need to. Absolutely everything I tried to avoid doing last time around is open season for this one as I draw a line under all this marathon business by finally running the one I’ve always wanted to run.

Yes, of course it’s going to be absolutely horrific. It’s a bloody marathon. It’s really, really far. Even those in the past I’ve trained my nuts off for have been an absolute nightmare for at least the last hour or so. It’ll probably be torrential rain, or about 30 degrees celsius (no in between). I’ll no doubt be hungover thanks to Spurs playing in an FA Cup semi final at 5.15pm the day before. I can almost guarantee this will be the one where my bowels finally let me down and I’ll start feeling like I need to Radcliffe on the side of the road. I might even reprise my Liverpool 2011 performance and fall over with ten miles to go.

But. It’s the London Marathon. The London bloody Marathon. The culmination of over a decade of hard work aimed at getting there, from those very first tentative steps along the banks of the River Mersey in a shitty 20 quid pair of running shoes from TK Maxx that left me crippled for nearly a week, all the way through to the 70 mile weeks of early 2016 that left me similarly broken but earned me the good for age time to qualify for it, after nearly a dozen SORRY! magazines. Thousands and thousands and thousands of miles run, through over a dozen pairs of running shoes and God-knows-how-many missed social appointments, late dinners and early bedtimes. So many kilos of pasta, salad bowls full of porridge, bananas and energy gels. Illness, injury; hope and despair. Completing my first marathon in Liverpool and swearing “never again”; running a second and finding out it wasn’t even a bloody marathon. Quitting running, playing football, going back to running then quitting again and taking up cycling. Having my bike nicked, going back to running and nearly setting a PB in my first race back. (Nearly) three marathons, five half marathons and fifteen 10ks.

All that is behind me now as I wind down the training for one last marathon, the final taper period for the one I thought would always get away from me. I’m nearly there. A week today, I’ll be there. Lining up with 35,000 others in a world major marathon for the first time in my life, an ambition about to be realised. Over a million people have crossed that finish line on The Mall since the first race in 1981, and all being well by around 2pm next Sunday I will be one of them. I just need to run 26.2 miles first. Let’s do this.

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