Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Well I did it.

I made it over the line 5 hours, 30 minutes and 41 seconds after I stepped over the start line at Blackheath. It was a bit slower than I'd expected before I set off, but was exactly where I'd hope to be by about 18 miles.

Predictably I'd not slept well the night before.  Despite going to bed at about 9:30pm I think I saw every hour on the clock until I got up at 6am.  An impossibly crowded overground train from Charing Cross to Blackheath was OK until I got off and saw a bloke sitting on the platform throwing up.  That did not do much to ease my nerves.

The runner's area at the start

Having said goodbye to my wife at the entrance to the Blue Start it ended up being a bit of a close shave to get into the correct starting pen on time (a massive queue for the toilets was to blame)

The Blue Start - pen 7

It only took about 10 minutes to actually make it over the start line which was a lot quicker than I'd expected and after that the nerves just fell away.  I passed a fair few people in some incredible costumes early on, including someone dressed as Blackpool Tower (I think).  I also saw the brother and sister going round on stilts (who later broke the world record for such a feat).

What anyone who's run the London Marathon will tell you is that the sheer number of people on the streets shouting for you as you run past them is incredible.  The thing is, it's so difficult to articulate how much that helps.  You never want to slow down or stop to walk in front of people who are rooting for you so much.

Within the first couple of miles there were children and adults holding out their hands for a high five as you ran past them.  The number of people congregating on the streets at pubs, landmarks, water stations and mile markers is pretty much constant the whole way round (as you enter the Isle of Dogs around mile 14 it's temporarily quieter, but not for long)

I'd arranged to see my wife at mile 6 (Maze Hill) and I had some friends coming in to see me too. Getting started so quickly meant that I got there a bit quicker than I'd anticipated but did see my wife cheering me on which was a welcome boost about a quarter of the way in

That's me in the middle - 6 miles in

I was pretty much on my own for a while after that.  I remember running through 12 miles and thinking that I'd nearly be on Tower Bridge which was something I'd been looking forward to.  I slowed down a bit as I turned the corner onto Tower Bridge Road so I could take a few seconds to remember it.  I saw Denise Lewis interviewing someone halfway over and remembered thinking that I'd expected Tower Bridge to be longer and it was pretty much over before I knew it.

I knew the first Diabetes UK cheer point was coming up shortly after and it was great to see so many people out there urging me on.  After about mile 14 it really started to feel like the mile markers had been deliberately placed further and further apart.  My times had settled into a fairly steady 12 minute mile pace which was good.  I'd done the first 5 in 52 minutes and I reached 15 in 2:55.  I'd crossed halfway on track for a 5hr finish which would have been incredible.

Me looking rough at mile 13 - courtesy of Diabetes UK

Despite vaguely knowing Canary Wharf a little bit having been there for work a few times, it really felt like I was never going to get out of there and start the long run down towards Victoria Embankment.  It'd been a little demoralising passing halfway and seeing hundreds of people running back the other way but I'd expected it to a degree.

I got to around 22.5 miles and really started to feel deflated - my feet hurt (from what turns out to a huge blister on the sole of my heel and two decidedly bruised toe nails) and my ankle had started hurting at around 18 miles.  The final thing was the heat I think.  It hadn't been very hot, but it was certainly warmer than forecast (and with a distinct lack of rain) and I just started to feel like I was going to throw up so I slowed right down for about a mile.  I just wanted to finished and for once I remained completely sensible and did the right thing.  I read all the tweets, texts, e-mails and facebook messages I'd received to try and focus myself a bit too.

I saw my Dad (who'd travelled down from Sheffield) at miles 23 and 24 which gave me a big lift and I started jogging again around then I think.  The exact events between 22 and 24 are a bit of a blur if I'm honest.  I remember one guy in the crowd giving me a massive shout and then him and his mate giving me a high five but I have no exact idea where that was.
 Me looking even rougher at 25 miles - thank you Lindsey for the picture

I'd been texting my family every 5 miles (roughly) and at 20 miles I figured I was on track for a 5:30 finish which I desperately wanted to achieve and I think that helped keep me going at the end.  I saw my wife and friends right at the 25 mile marker which gave me a great boost too - seeing familiar faces in the crowd cannot be underestimated at all.

Having got Westminster in my sights, I knew where I was and where I had to get to which gave me a final kick on.  Most of the official photographers are set up from mile 25 onwards (when you look your absolute worst!) so I headed up Birdcage Walk with heavy steps and a few feeble waves.

Applauding the Diabetes UK cheerers at Big Ben - courtesy Diabetes UK

As I hit the top of The Mall at Buckingham Palace I felt surprisingly unemotional.  I'd expected to be in tears as I hit the finish but I felt oddly relaxed.  I think it's because I'd imagined myself running the last 300 yards so many times and it dawned on me that the last 26 miles had all been about this moment.  I slightly rue the fact that a bloke in a rhino costume beat me over the line by a few seconds but he and I had been trading places all over the course and he didn't half run a good race.

I remember clapping the crowd in each of the stands as I ran down towards the line and I remember seeing people banging those plastic tubes together as I looked round.  I crossed the line and had my timing chip taken off me before getting my medal.  The finish area is a bit surreal as there's loads of vans with kitbags on, people shouting at you to move for your finisher photos and stuff.  I looked round and a woman to my right in dayglo pink just burst into tears.  I gave her a hug and told her it didn't matter now she'd finished.

The finish area looking back to Buckingham Palace

I picked up my kit and my goody bag and hobbled down to Horseguards Road where I saw my wife, my Dad and my friends and I just burst into tears.  I honestly can't explain how emotional it feels to see those you love after something like that.

(L-R) Dave, Lindsey, Tina (Mrs B), Me and Dad - thanks Jill for taking the picture
Running the marathon is an incredible experience and it's left me with so many memories.  I truly believe I won't ever forget it.  I've got photos, cheer-cards and so much memorabilia to look back on in years to come.

I owe a great debt of thanks to so many people as well.  Obviously to my long suffering wife for putting up with me throughout all my training and doing a great job of organising everything on marathon day.  I love her to bits.  Thanks also to everyone who made the effort to come and see me over that weekend and cheer me on on the day.  It meant so much to me.  Special thanks to my in-laws who took on the difficult task of looking after my daughter for 3 nights - that's incredibly appreciated and it made the weekend a lot less stressful.  Thanks also to Ellie at Diabetes UK and Tonya at The Sheffield Children's Hospital Charity for all their help as well.

And thank you to everyone else who sent me messages of support and wished me luck over the weekend.  I lost count at around 100 - I tried to respond to all of them but I'm sorry if I missed you.  Thanks also to everyone who donated - my current total is £1356 which is an incredible effort.  Thank you so much.

Finally, I don't think this post would be complete without mentioning Claire Squires.  She sadly collapsed and died on Birdcage Walk on Sunday, less than a mile from the finish.  She was raising money for Samaritans (incidentally, where my dad volunteers).  Her loss is incredibly sad and my thoughts go out to her family at what must be an impossibly difficult time.  Her fundraising page has since racked up over £366,000 which I think shows an incredible amount of public support.

Someone asked me if I'd be lining up again next year and I don't think I will.  My 'athletic' focus for 2013 will be the Sheffield Half Marathon but I'm not going to rule it out for some time in the future.

I'll probably have a bit of a break from blogging for now, but I'll be back in some form or other in a few weeks I expect.  You can always get in touch with me on Twitter (@BroomOwl) should you so desire.

Thanks for reading - I appreciate this has been horrendously long but I wanted to try and do justice to an incredible day.

Talk to you soon

Wednesday, 18 April 2012


Training miles completed this week: 9
Total training miles completed: 232
Training miles left: 0
Training runs left: 0

Hello again. Welcome to my last pre-marathon blog post!  It feels a bit surreal writing that to be honest.

I completed my final training run tonight -  a steady 3.5 miles (in a torrential downpour) over my old route as a wind down in preparation for Sunday.  I managed another 5 miles last Saturday night although the inclines are still causing me some shin-splint esque pain.  I'm still hoping that the flatter course will make the difference there (aided by pre-race paracetamol as well I think).

At the start of the week I was considering how it felt to be at the end of my training, to have done my last bit of race preparation, and to be honest, it's quite emotionally overwhelming.  I went back and read some of my earlier blog posts from September/October time, and I can't quite believe the progress I've made since then.  Going out and completing a mile (with a number of walk breaks thrown in) was a massive achievement back then and now it hardly feels woth going out to do less than 5 miles.

It also feels strange that I've wanted this so much since my Dad ran the marathon in 1988 (ish - I'll confirm that when he finds his medal) and now it's only a few days away.  I guess I'll not be focussing on that too much at the start on Sunday - I expect I'll be somewhat over-awed by the occasion and I'll be buzzing from the adrenaline a fair bit.  However, I do expect that when I turn down The Mall and finally see the finish line, there's a good chance I'll turn into some sort of blubbering emotional wreck (though I don't want to spoil my finisher's photo so I'll try and hold it together a bit).

I'll take injuries (most notably these shin splint pains that I can't shift) with me to the start line but as I said in one of my first ever blog posts, my aim is to get to the start line intact. Once I've done that I know I can get to the finish one way or another.

I promised you a bit of a Marathon-By-Numbers post last week and so here's what I've come up with:

17626 - my marathon running number.  I'll be going from the blue start at Blackheath
30,000 - number of other people also starting at Blackheath on Sunday
232 - number of training miles I've run since 18/10/2011 (just shy of 9 full marathons)
183 - days since my first training run.  It's been fully 6 months of training to get me to this point
4,500 - approximate amount of pressure (in tonnes) that I've put through my body whilst training (the "average" person sends 500 tonnes of pressure through their body over the course of a marathon run)
2-3 approximate difference in centimetres  in your height between the start and end of the marathon - compression of the discs in your back means you lose about an inch in height over the course. I'm going to test this on Sunday.
72 - the number of people to date that have parted with their money to sponsor me for the marathon
26 - people I've never actually met or spoken to (excluding the realms of the internet) that have sponsored me - thank you
1128 - the amount of money I've raised for Diabetes UK and The Sheffield Children's Hospital Charity to date
10.91 - my average minute mile since I started tracking my time on New Year's Eve
36 - total number of hours I've been out running throughout my training
6 - number of scheduled training runs I've missed in the last 6 months
5.25 - my projected finish time (in hours) for the marathon this weekend
1724 - (at the time of writing) the number of hits the blog has had since it started

I'm not sure what I'll do with this blog when the marathon is all over and done with.  I'll obviously be back next week to let you know how it all went, but after that.... I don't know.  I'd like to keep writing something, but I don't want to be one of those people that thinks having a blog equates to having a right to force their opinion on everything/anything on the world.  I have a Twitter account for that.  I'll guess we'll see eh?

I'm travelling down to London on Friday to get to the Expo to register and collect my running number and shoe tag and then I'm meeting up with my closest friends in the evening and we're seeing a show in the West End.  Saturday my lovely wife and I are having the laziest day possible (mostly hanging around the cinema in Leicester Square I think) before the race on Sunday.  I'll try and fire off a few tweets before the race starts if I can to show the start area and the build up etc (@BroomOwl if you're interested).  I'm not planning on doing anything during the race other than texting my family when I'm roughly half way round but I'll let you all know how it went afterwards. 

There's not much left to say now I think except a huge thank you to every one of you that's read the blog, sent me words of encouragement or clicked on the fundraising page to donate some money (you can still click on the link to donate if you want to).  Reaching my target with a week to spare has been a fantastic achievement and I won't let you all down now.  The support you've all shown me over the last few months has been incredible.  My Dad and brother-in-law are travelling down on Sunday morning to watch so I'll be looking out for them around Wapping and I'm so grateful they're making the journey down to support me.

I also owe my wife a massive thank you too.  Even though she doesn't actually read this blog at all ("it's too long"), she's made a number of sacrifices over the last year or so, and I really honestly couldn't do this without her and I hope she knows how thankful I am for everything she's done.

Thank you everyone.  I'll speak to you again from the other side of the finish line.

Take care


Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The final countdown

Training miles completed this week: 15
Total training miles completed: 223
Training miles left: 9
Training runs left: 2

Hello again

I'll start with an apology this week.  I didn't write a post last week and that was essentially for no other reason than I was sulking a bit about not running.

A day or so after my 20 mile run, I started to feel a bit of pain in my foot so I took a conscious decision to miss a run and let it heal a bit.  There's obviously no point running for the sake of it - an injury this close to the marathon needs to be looked after.  I thought I could miss one run and be back out to properly start my tapering.

Unfortunately I got a migraine which floored me for about 4 days (I think I've mentioned these before) and so I ended up missing another training slot.  That left me feeling a bit downbeat about the whole thing and I didn't feel that blogging any of that negativity would be particularly cathartic.  But I'm back now with my penultimate blog before race day.

I've managed 3 runs this week totalling 15 miles which is encouraging.  I did 4 miles last Thursday and followed that up with 5 and 6 miles.  It's a bit of a twist on the taper plan I had in mind, but I need to bear the injuries in mind and so I've opted for an extra shorter run rather than doing, say, 12 miles and reducing down after that.  I just need to make sure my legs still worked and I'm happy to report that they do.

Skipping the two runs last week has meant I've developed a bit of a complex about being underprepared.  I'm not sure how much of that is the "to be expected" pre race nerves, and how much of it I really believe.  By the time I get on a train to London at the end of next week, I'll have already run 232 miles - equivalent to about 9 full marathons.  I'd like to think that stands me in good stead but at the same time I have a nagging doubt that having done no great distance for a few weeks will be a bit of a set-back.  Hopefully it's the former.

I think nerves are natural at this stage.  I'm venturing into the unknown in more ways than one.  Obviously I've never run a marathon before and equally, I'm running on a route I'm wholly unfamiliar with.  I've also not run with anyone in this sort of race environment for about 17 years (The Rother Valley 10k for those of you in Sheffield).  All this is easily overcome I suppose - I'd just not really considered all these factors until recently.

I'm going to have to focus on my pace in the early miles - I don't want to set off too quickly and burn out too soon.  I know the first 5 or 6 miles can be done at around a 10 min/mile pace and I should hopefully be able to replicate my 11.5 min mile (ish) time to 20 miles.  That gives me a good guide to where I should be and when.  As I've stated all along though, as long as I get round before the medals run out (6pm) then I'll be ecstatic.

I'm considering Google-mapping the route before I set off.  I'm not sure if that's a bit OTT or whether I'll genuinely feel calmer for having visualised the route at least once before I set off.  In all likelihood, I'll probably get bored/frustrated after 2 miles of trying, but it could be worth a shot.

There's been some movement on the fundraising this last 2 weeks which is excellent!  Current total is £837.50 which is another £130 since I last blogged.  The generosity everyone has shown has been incredible!  I do still have some more donations that I've been promised as well so I hope I'll be able to get very close to the £1,000 target.  If you're thinking about donating then please know that even a couple of quid will make a difference - you can click on the subtle fundraising link above, or the less subtle one at the end of this post to donate.  Again, I can't thank people enough for what they've already done - I couldn't have wished for more. 

As always, all money that I raise is being split equally between Diabetes UK and The Sheffield Children's Hospital Charity - two very worthy causes. The Children's Hospital money will be going to help fund a summer camp for children with diabetes which is very worthwhile.

I'll blog next week after my last training run which in itself feels like quite an emotional milestone.  I'm going to do a bit of a "Marathon Training by numbers" post which will either be a bit interesting or not half as fun as I thought it would be - who knows?

As with the running, I feel a bit rusty with the blogging so hopefully this has been a moderately interesting post for me to return with.  As I say, I'll try and sum everything up next week and perhaps talk about where this blog goes after the marathon is all done, because to be perfectly honest with you, I don't have an answer for that just yet.

Thanks for sticking with me today and if you've been with me since the start, thank you for making it this far.  I really appreciate all the support you've all given me.

Take care and have a good week


You can donate at any time by clicking on this fundraising link