I could have picked the 100m, long jump or even the javelin. But no, I decided to tackle the 26.2 miles of the London Marathon.
This has to be by far the hardest physical challenge I have ever taken part in during my life. The training itself was difficult. Getting up early at the weekends to run 10,12,13,14,15,17 and 20 miles in the rain, wind and snow was tough, as were the shorter runs during the week. The constant niggly injuries and battles at times just to walk down the 2 flights of stairs from our second floor flat didn’t help.
All of the above is before you’ve even stepped on the start line for one of the most iconic sporting events in this country and the world. The start line was very emotional, reading the backs of my fellow runner’s shirts, with the charities they are running for and the messages to loved ones that they’ve lost. On top of this, and in everyone’s mind was the recent tragedy in Boston and the minute silence was a fitting tribute to those that were affected.
So the gun for the start of the race goes off, however being in starting group 5 meant I had around 5 minutes until I cross the start line with everyone jockeying for space to give themselves the best opportunity to get away.
My start went to plan. I wanted to run around 9.15 a mile for the first half of the race and see how I felt at that point. My right leg was feeling a little bit stiff but apart from that I felt relatively fresh. The crowds even for the first few miles where amazing and it’s really difficult not to get caught up in the occasion and run too fast. As I approached 12 miles I knew that the first of my cheering parties would be fast approaching and there they were outside the Kings Arms pub, led by my finance Rhian and John Mead, who had run the race last year. After a hug and a high five I was on my way, slowly approaching Tower Bridge. The noise was incredible. The earphones had been ditched long before, it was up to the crowd to carry me through now. As I approached the half way point I looked at my watch. 2 hours 4 mins and 50 secs. I said I wanted to go through half way at 2 hours 5 mins, so on track. Not sure what I was on track for, but that was my target anyway. I felt reasonably good, however this wasn’t to last long. Mile 16 was a killer, was this the wall that everyone talks about. My pace slowed rapidly, I began to have doubts about whether I would actually be able to complete the race. Between 16 and 20 miles the pain in my legs grew more and more intense. Every single muscle began to seize up and I couldn’t run any longer. I needed a quick breather, so walked for around 3 minutes before starting up again. At mile 22 the supporters club had caught me up, which gave me another boost, for a mile at least. But now the pain had become unbearable. Various muscles had completely seized up and I went through a couple of miles of stop start running with stretching periods in between. Not only had I hit the wall, the wall was pushing me back. However, I wasn’t going to be defeated. The things that go through your head spur you on, the hours of training that you put in, the money that people have sponsored you and then the noise from the crowd. James, James, James, James. I had to finish this. So with my last ounce of energy, I pulled myself together, focussed my mind and headed for the Mall. 800m, 600m, 400m, 200m. The end was in sight and despite the pain I still managed a little smile for the camera on the finish line.
I had completed my first marathon. Relief, pain and after about 2 hours I finally had the feeling of joy.