So, we were here. I had a gin and tonic, Zoe arrived, we went out to a little Italian restaurant in Battersea. I ordered pizza, she had pasta. We were nervous and grumpy and preoccupied.
Back to the hotel. I faffed about downloading songs onto my iPhone and trying to get them from iTunes to my MP3 player. Zoe had a bath. I went to bed around 11.30.
Unfortunately I then got out of bed around 11.45. And 12.30. And 1.30. And 2.30, 3, and 3.30. For a couple of days before I’d had a bit of a headache and felt a bit wobbly, but I’d put it down to nerves and excitement. Suffice to say I spent the whole night on the loo, which wasn’t exactly the best way to prepare for 26.2 miles of running.
The hotel had put on a marathon breakfast, and along with about 10 others we stuffed down porridge, toast and a banana. I was retching whilst I ate it (sorry that may be too much information) but I knew I had to have something to eat.
London was full of people carrying red marathon kitbags, and after all our worrying about how to get to the start we didn’t have to think at all. We just followed the rest of the kitbag holders like sheep in trainers.
On the train we got talking to some seasoned marathoners. They pointed out the 25 mile marker and Big Ben, and I said ooh, not long till we’re back there. They all looked at each other knowingly. I recognised that look – it’s the look you get when you tell a mother your birthplan before you have your first child. The look says ‘come back to me once you’ve done it and then we’ll talk’.
We left the train station and flocked to the start. There were marshalls everywhere, directing us and wishing us luck. Everyone was very jolly and excited, and being British there was much talk about the weather. We’d been promised the hottest marathon on record, and it looked like rain.
Sure enough as soon as we got to the start, it started to pour. We ran over and put our bags on the baggage bus, then queued for the loo. I was so excited and nervous that I hadn’t time to think about how I was feeling, and I was trying to find my lovely Twitter friend Donna who was borrowing an iPhone armband from me.
Then the klaxon sounded and the race had started.
The pen system seemed to have gone a bit wonky – we were meant to be pen 9, and Donna was pen 8, but they seemed to be letting people in through gaps in the barriers. We decided to tuck ourselves in somewhere around the back, and didn’t go through the start gate until 10.10am (mistake no.1).
- To read part 2, go here.
This one isn’t about running. It’s about why we’re running. Three years ago today, Zoe and I lived through the hardest day of our life; our father’s funeral. He was only 55 years old, and looked ten years younger. He was dynamic, funny, stubborn, loyal, kind and thoughtful. He lived in a tiny village in Lincolnshire which he happily referred to as ‘the arsehole of nowhere’, having escaped London ten years before. The last thing he did was typical of him: he’d just taken on some new employees and he took them out for a meal, because he was worried they’d be lonely and bored, having just moved to the area. That night he went home, felt ill, and died of a heart attack before the ambulance arrived.
It was impossible for anyone to believe – my dad was tall, strong, fit enough to beat the younger men at work in their occasional after-work sprint, played the odd game of football, ate a reasonably healthy diet, very rarely drank alcohol and had never smoked in his life. Everyone agreed that yes, he was a couple of stone overweight, but ‘he carried it well’, so it didn’t matter. Only of course, it does matter. His diet wasn’t really perfect (too many stops at service stations for a Ginsters pasty and a Mars bar in lieu of lunch on the way to see his beloved Falkirk FC) and in reality he was probably four stone overweight, but at 6’3″ nobody really noticed.
Heart Research work in the community to encourage lifestyle choices for a healthier heart. In other words, they get out there and tell people what they should and shouldn’t be doing. They help perfectionists like me, who would rather do nothing than not give it 100%, to realise that every positive step helps. Because I’m overweight, because I’m in a high risk category, because of my family history, because my cholesterol levels were raised at my last blood test – their amazing work makes me realise that even my pathetic attempts at training for the marathon are helping to make my heart strong. And when the time comes and I start begging you all for sponsorship (don’t worry, I’m not hinting…yet!) remember it’s not for me, it’s for the amazing work that they do and for the lives they save.