April 1990

Whether you regard it as lucky or not is up to you, but at least it was third time successful - I am referring to my application for a place in the London Marathon.

Notification came at the end of last year which gave me 17 weeks to prepare for the 26 miles and 385 yards. As things turned out, it was quite a pleasant way to spend the winter. One of the most important parts of the preparations was a 15 to 18 mile run across Hampstead Heath every Sunday with a group of like-minded fools. I did run one race of over 20 miles as a confidence booster.

Came the day of the Race, Sunday 22nd April. I got up (with the help of an alarm clock) at 5.30 a.m. -  I may say, I don't do that every day! At 7.30 a.m. I got off the train at Blackheath and stepped straight into a downpour - somewhat dampening to the spirits and not boding well for a fast time. At about 8 o'clock the rain eased but the heavens opened up again just before the Race began at 9.30 a.m., drenching the World Record Marathon field of 25,600 runners.

During the early part of the Race I seemed to be running in a bit of a daze. I was surrounded by other runners and there were huge crowds of cheering spectators as well as numerous bands all doing their own version of Dire Straits "Walk of Life". One had to balance being carried away by the spirit of the occasion with running the race to one's own rhythm.

At each mile point there was a drinks station on both sides of the road. At these points one's path became somewhat blocked by helpers and other runners pausing for refreshment.

Anyway, I kept an eye on the time at each mile marker and seemed to be going well. Just before halfway we crossed Tower Bridge and wound our way through the new developments in the Docklands area. I passed the 20 mile mark one second faster than I had in my race six weeks earlier.

Next came a new experience for me, the new Marathoner's lesson - The Wall. The Wall occurs at the 18 to 20 mile point and essentially happens when the body has used up all it's energy. It is then that one realises that the Wall is not just for others, it's for you too! I quickly realised that although I felt fine from the waist up, my legs had nothing left to give. I had a distinct feeling that if I pushed it at all, I would collapse there and then. So I decided that I would "switch off" from the Race I said to myself "I've done my 20 mile race; now I'm doing tomorrow's 6 mile slow jog but I'm doing it a day early". It's a lonely feeling as other runners stream past but there are those who are just walking and obviously suffering more.

Along the Mall with less than 2 miles to go, I ran alongside the spectators hoping for a psychological lift. Some nice person called "Come on Number 7056". I was thinking of the charities I was running for and reminding myself of the words of wellwishers.

I was promising myself a walk at the 3 hour stage but at 2 hours 58, as I was approaching Westminster Bridge, I heard an announcer say over the public address system "Let's see how many we can get in in under 3 hours". I made a final effort and passed the finishing post at 2.59.45 (my official time was 2.59.36).

After collecting my medal, the medical station suddenly seemed a very inviting place. I was wheeled in and put on a stretcher. When I left 40 minutes later I was shuffling along like most of the others at about half a mile an hour.

Would I do it again? Yes I would, and I would try to avoid "The Wall". My advice to anyone thinking about entering a Marathon? It would be "Forget about the Marathon initially, but start running with a club that encourages beginners. You'll become more healthy, easily give up smoking and most importantly, enjoy it."

P.S. The pretentious title? See Rudyard Kipling's "If".

London Marathon 1990 Video - with personal clips at 12:30 - 13:00 and 17:40 onwards