It’s all over…

So that’s it.

The culmination of nearly 8 months of training, all over in the space of a day. And what a day it was. But more about that later. This is my last training blog as the training is, indeed, over – the London Marathon has been conquered; 26.2 miles in 5 hours 43 mins (or 6 hours 12 mins if you look at it another way – see below).

I’ll attempt to summarise everything that happened over the past week or so and will try to milk the glory just one last time – as this is sure as hell going to be the last time I do this for a while ūüôā

This week has been a roller-coaster ride of a week though – it’s Thursday evening now and the legs, shoulders, arms have only really gotten back to normal today. But the physical stuff pales into insignificance against the emotional side – whew. Who would have thought a jog around London could unravel so many emotions – this week has been a combination of massive pride, acute achievement, woe, sobbing in the shower¬†and back to elation again. ¬†I had a chat with a psychotherapist that I know (I didn’t need therapy or anything, he works in my building) and he reckons I am in mourning: I’ve been in very tempestuous relationship with The London Marathon for 9 months, it has been there all the time in the back of my mind, has given me extreme pain and joy, has haunted my waking and sleeping hours. And now it’s gone. ¬†All that training – up at 6am some ¬†mornings (not many but some), all those endorphins, all those miles, all that scenery, all that achievement, and finally that one massive massive day – now all gone.

About that massive day. Sunday started at 5.30 am for me. I’d done all the right things the night before – lots of protein, relaxed, a nice movie with the family, an early night. I felt good when I woke up, not too many nerves, not too tired. ¬†Shower, change, eat the breakfast of a condemned man, 2 toast and jam. The toast felt dry, the jam was tasteless, it rolled in my mouth but I forced it down, knowing that I needed to fuel.

Out in the car into the cold morning air with my kit bag filled with protein bars, bananas and lucozade, to Park Lane Q-Park where we would later meet and Angela would drive me home. On the tube to Cannon Street to get the train to Greenwich Рthe tube was buzzing with lots of fellow participants with their kit bags and dark expressions of fear and anticipation on their faces.  At Cannon Street the overground which was a much merrier place Рthe passengers had filtered out to mostly Marathon participants by now and the vibe was good, infectious. No-one was paying for their ticket to Greenwich today, Network Rail had covered the fare for all Marathon runners.

Eventually to Greenwich Park and now in a steady stream of participants, past the cafes with people spilling out, ducking into the loos and drinking coffee and juice. We were then filtered out into runners and non-runners with runners herded into a staging area before heading to our start zones. And all of this before 0900. Meeting fellow runners and team mates, watching Gaby Logan interview newlyweds who had apparently got married that morning before running the race.

By 0930 we had all deposited our kitbags into lorries (filtered by runner number) which would then be transported to The Mall. We then headed to our start areas.  Great banter and chats in the start area; smells of deep heat, warm bodies, fear.

Given my self-predicted time of 6 h 30 mins I was in one of the last zones, zone 9 and the atmosphere was excellent.  Commentators keeping us cheering, helicopters, some real characters.  And then at 1000 we were off Рreaching the actual start line at 1030.

I won’t go into massive detail about the run itself but here are a few highlights, things that I want to write down before they fade from memory.

  • The slight feeling of insecurity after leaving the start zone where we were quite tightly packed, warm and comfortable then having to run (run you say? the cheek of it!). ¬†That was a shock after ages of standing and walking.
  • Heading down through Greenwich then down to Charlton, Woolwich, along the river (nice breeze) and then back up to Greenwich and the Cutty Sark. Realising that this was a MASSIVE deal – that there were thousands of people outside pubs, lining the roads. Beer, BBQs, charcoal smoke, the smell of burgers cooking, sunshine, bands.
  • A massive mix of areas and people, modern areas, run down areas, young people, old people, kids high-fiving, people in their Sunday best as if they were dressed for a big day out, more deprived individuals, all colours, all sizes, London together. I was proud to be a Londoner that day.
  • The real realisation (people had told me) that having my name on my charity shirt meant that people would cheer me on all along the way – amazingly boosting to hear one’s name shouted out. ¬†After the first one, I made a point of smiling and acknowledging the wishes, which got bigger cheers and smiles. After that I was smiling all the way around.
  • The music: from brass bands to DJs outside pubs to absolute crazies running sound systems and MC’ing off of their balconies to steel bands to full-on dance setups running off of lorries. ¬†I’m normally plugged into my iPod when running – not on Sunday.
  • Getting a text from my Mum that I had received a mention on BBC ¬†– thanks to Greg Symondson for that ūüôā
  • Buxton Water – wow, so many water stations and although mindful of not over-hydrating, I did drink enough and was also stunned at the seas of discarded bottles after the water stations – litter laws to not apply on Marathon day.
  • Jelly babies and lucozade – I had been warned off the jelly babies but after about 20 miles, man they taste good. Free Jelly babies and Haribos, brought along by well wishing members of the public for no other reason than them wanting to be involved. So kind. The cocktail of sweets and lucozade carrying me along nicely.
  • Then the guy with a tray of Jaffa cakes at Lower Thames Street – rich, chocolatey, fruity Jaffa cakes. I told him what a dude he was and gave him a friendly squeeze of the arm.
  • After all those strangers calling my name, actually seeing the lovely faces of people that I knew in the crowd and the emotion that brings. Ulrike Klinger, Ben Shires, the Ambitious About Autism team, Tracey from my building (we ran 5 miles together!) and finally in the last mile, Rich (he had just completed in just over 3 hours – legend), Lucy, Holly, Megan and friends.
  • And then finally, the most welcome sight of all, Angela, Charlie, Max, Holly and Paul all going crazy just before Westminster Bridge – that was the best bit. Their gorgeous, happy, excited, sunburnt faces pushed me through that through last mile.
  • And then the end, the last few hundred metres, after some walking we all break into a run at the end. Past the majestic edifices of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, along to the Mall. Medals, goody bags, free t-shirts, photos and more drinks.

And then it was all over. I had arranged to meet Angela and the kids at a reception in Rathbone Street to be held by the charity but not many of us made it in the end as time was limited – so instead I got a cab to meet them outside the Dorchester which I thought was a good landmark to meet at plus Max would love the epic cars parked outside. After a buzzing chat with the cab driver, he let me off at the hotel to be met by the Doorman. “I’m sorry, I am only being dropped off here, I’m not staying here” I explained. ¬†“That’s okay Sir, with that medal you get special privileges” he said, making my head swell nicely.

Then it all went a bit wrong.  I sat down on a wall outside The Dorchester waiting for Angela and the kids  and suddenly a wave of nausea, tingling arms and dizziness came over me like a tsunami. Had I not been sitting down, I would have collapsed there and then. The hypochondriac in me knew my number was up РI had hyponatremia for sure and was about to kick the bucket.  I sat with my head in my hands for a while drifting in and out Рa kind Spanish man asked me if I was okay. I could not respond too well. But really all I needed was some proper food Рas Angela arrived, she force fed me an apple then I was okay. The lack of food, and fuel of Lucozade, jelly babies and adrenaline had taken its toll.

Then despite predictions of beers and curry, all I really wanted was the most basic McChicken Sandwich with a chocolate shake РMcDonalds on  the A40 in Hayes was my saviour there.  Magic. After that, onto home, a long hot bath, phone calls, coffee and a super deep, satisfied sleep.

Would I do it again? You bet I would. Will I do it again? Yes I think so, but I’ll concentrate now on getting my shorter-distance times down, losing some more weight and spending time with the family – no more whole Sundays lost to training. And I think Angela is itching for a marathon now… let’s see.

Talking of times: for the record my Strava moving time was 5h 43 mins so I’m recorded on Strava as having done the Marathon in this time. However if one looks at the London Marathon site as I did on Monday, my recorded chip time is 6 h 12 mins – this is the elapsed time from when I crossed the start line to when I crossed the finish line. The discrepancy: Strava puts little pauses in; a loo break and a stop to administer a plaster to my foot ate up that 29 mins. I suppose elapsed time is the correct time as an olympic athlete can’t break a world record with a loo break in the middle. However I’m not an athlete and I have lived and died on Strava for the past 8 months so I am inclined to take its time in this instance. ¬†It’s important to mention this – but you, dear reader, can make of it what you will…

Lastly: a MASSIVE thanks to all of you who sponsored me all through this time. The sponsorship went mad in the week leading up to the Marathon with the money really just rolling in. From September when I started this journey to now, with Gift Aid, my excellent charity Ambitious About Autism will¬†benefit from nearly ¬£5,000 in donations from me alone (I wonder if some of you can push it to just over the ¬£5000 mark by doing one last little sponsor – click here if you dare ūüôā ….).

Again THANK YOU¬†all for your great sponsorship support. And THANK YOU to everyone who inspired¬†me, believed in me, spurred me on, who let me go off on this wild journey and kept things afloat whilst I was neglecting the home and family (that’s basically Angela – love you) and THANK YOU for all the wonderful words of congratulations on facebook, strava, in the street and by other means – you all know who you are.

Until next time, peace and love – keep running!

Andy xx

Ambitious About Autism & Training Update

Hi All,

A quick update from the training and fundraising camp on this rainy Sunday.

Marathon Team Ambitious Meeting

Last Sunday was our big team meeting at the HQ of Ambitious About Autism, the Treehouse School in Muswell Hill; a really uplifting and interesting event.  Some of our co-members of the Team Ambitious marathon team were there and we got to share our stories Рwhat a very inspiring and friendly bunch. From the guy (like me) who has a Son with Autism to the guy who works at the Treehouse college to a Special Needs teacher who is a multi-marathon runner to the very polite and friendly young man who has Autism himself and, like the rest of us, wants to give something back. Everyone had a story, everyone had some sort of connection with Autism and I commend the Ambitious team in choosing a really great bunch of people all of whom are extremely committed to the cause- we are all in touch on Facebook now which means another support group which helps. 

Secondly Рwe got to meet some of the amazing and massively dedicated staff members who not only have a huge pride in their organisation but were giving up their Sunday to corral us bunch around the school on their day off.  We thank them for a lovely tour and for being so engaging and enthusiastic with us.

Onto the tour РTreehouse School is a purpose-built school for kids with ASD; indeed the school has been designed with input from the children and experts alike and it shows. The school is light and airy with high ceilings and well laid-out rooms and corridors and despite being a Sunday one could feel a real energy in the place.  There is obvious input from the business and local community РArsenal FC have some real presence in the place as do Capital Radio to name a couple of supporting organisations, both of them contributing to special therapeutic and business tuition areas. The school also has a strong patronage with prominent figures such as Nick Hornby and John Bercow being involved as parents and supporters.

The interesting thing is that as well as supporting mainstream academic subjects, there is a strong emphasis on giving the children life skills with facilities dedicated to cookery, business, art and science – students have shops, business enterprises and cafes that they run on and off-site.

Above all, a very very strong endorsement that I chose the right charity to run the 26 miles for – and now I am even more grateful that they chose me.

Learn more about Ambitious About Autism here and don’t forget to sponsor me here¬†– with 7 weeks to go I am only 36% towards my target so need all the help I can get…..PLEASE! (but a big THANKS to all my sponsors so far!).

Training Update

What to say…. well it’s definitely getting tougher ūüôā ¬†Following the Hampton Court Half Marathon¬†on the 22nd Feb I did the right thing and did a few easy runs this past week (well, a couple of easy runs and a very rain-sodden, muddy, dung-ridden cross-country 5 miles).

However back into the long runs with a bang today¬†with a long, slow 15 mile run from Risborough to Thame and back. Managed to dodge the rain but I know I’m gonna ache in the morning. Going well but I need to up the pace as right now I’m looking at a 6 hour marathon;¬† although I said I wasn’t going for time, I’d like to do sub-5.5 hours if I can.

Again, 7 weeks to go and the pressure is on:

On the one hand, only 5 more miles to graduate up to¬†in the ‘long’ training runs:

  • 16 miles this Sunday
  • 18 miles the following Sunday
  • 20 miles the Sunday after that
  • Then comes the taper…

On the other hand,¬†with midweek runs that’s about 85 miles in the next few weeks…¬†Easy eh… Hmm.

Peace and love – until next time.

Andy.

Hampton Court Half Marathon

Hi Everyone,

Just under 8 weeks to go and things are well on track – however I’m about to enter the most intense part of training before taking a bit of a rest just before the marathon.

Forkgen half marathon After having done a couple of 10-milers in recent weeks, this Sunday I completed the Hampton Court Half Marathon, an important milestone in the training programme. Considering I hadn’t run more than a few miles before last August, 13 miles was quite a feat and an important psychological hurdle – I’m basically half way to the marathon now and that’s not a bad thing.

That said…

  • I was pretty slow; in the last 25% of runners without doubt.
  • Running over 10 miles in a competitive environment is very different from lone running on a known route. That meditative state, the saviour of many a long distant runner, doesn’t happen in a race like this, at least not for me. And despite telling myself I didn’t care about anyone else, I was still running mini races and making sure I looked good-ish on the course, in other words not much walking and certainly no stopping for a breather. This meant a lot of tension on the body and I’ve only just de-tensed today to be fair.
  • I’ve been running a lot of tracks and trails up to now; the streets of suburban SW London are very different and harder on the feet. I need to get on some streets, and perhaps time for some new trainers too.

But¬†it was all good and the euphoria at finishing such a scenic, friendly and well organised race was amazing. Plus there was the added bonus of a nice chunky medal, ¬†finisher’s t-shirt and a pretty respectable¬†goodie bag abundant with protein based munchies and other freebies – always nice.

Now, onwards, increasing my long runs 10% each week until I hit 22.5 miles a few weeks before the marathon then I hit the taper – right in time for a week of skiing.

The next few weeks will be interesting.

Peace and love everyone – thanks for all the support, thanks to everyone who has so generously sponsored me so far and if you haven’t managed to sponsor me yet, the link is here. I’m off to a team day at Ambitious About Autism on Sunday and will report back here – but I just know they’re all so grateful for every penny, thank you!

This week’s update

Pretty good week – not in terms of run quantity but a lot of quality.

  • Tuesday: 5K
  • Wednesday: 7K
  • Thursday, Friday, Saturday: Rest days (maybe one too many…)
  • Sunday: Water of Life 10K.
  • Total: 22Ks this week (13 miles total).

Possibly a bit too much of a ramp up in the course of one week – but pleased with the achievements nonetheless. Wednesday was an interesting one – I had one of those epiphany moments after setting off at 0630 and running with a headtorch for the first 30 mins or so then realising at about 5Ks that I was REALLY in the zone, that all was working well and that I could well go on for a good while longer. Time was my enemy here as I had to get off to work but I hope to have many more of those.

Then, today, the Water Of Life 10K.

Really awesome location at the England Football training ground, Bisham Abbey, hugging the really nice part of the Thames that I used to canoe in as a kid, between Hurley, Bisham and close to Marlow. Excellent organisation by Purple Patch Running (also a client of ours) with well appointed, well organised facilities such as bag drops, toilets and refreshments. And we could not have wished for better weather, being cold and reasonably clear but oh-so-sunny. I also bumped into an old pal/client Nick Peperell who was doing the half marathon and was very inspirational how in the zone / prepared he was. I have a long way to go but it was good to chew the fat (he’s also pictured above and had an amazing half…well done Nick).

I had a reasonable run – this was the first 10K I had ever done, I mean ever, so to do it in race conditions was probably not the best idea. And to do it after spending a Saturday evening cooking and eating homemade pizza with the kids was probably not the most sensible thing either. Another reminder of the holistic nature of sport – if one thing is out of synch then the whole engine doesn’t run quite right. ¬†In any case, I finished – there were about 13 people behind me, about 250 in front of me. ¬†However my goal wasn’t for time or glory; this was all for practice.

The course was also new to me of course – a few gradients, a few over-river bridges to climb. Also slightly difficult mentally as the 10K course is shared with the half marathon and at various points it’s obvious that some of the best 13 mile guys are taking over me on my 6 mile course and will end up with a better time for 13 miles than¬†I did for 6 miles. Hmm.

But all good and the kids and Angela were there waiting for me which was a massive boost. Plus Chris of Purple patch was calling in the finishers on the PA and I got a special announcement as ‘on of the guys who has been with us for the past 9 years’ along with a special high 5. Nice moment which I really appreciated.

Now for a rest of a day or so then back to the marathon training. More races to come between now and Christmas, watch this space.

Training and Events

Okay so it’s probably important that I give a bit more info about what my training / milestone plan is as I think people are starting to think I’m not serious about this. Here are events that I am committed to in the run-up to London 2017:

  • Several park runs in October and November 2016
  • Water of Life 10K, Maidenhead, 23rd October 2016 (entered)
  • Hampton Court Half Marathon, 19th February 2017

This will give me some milestones to hit and, of course, will increase the need for training in the coming weeks and months.

As for now, I’m our running a few times a week as I was in August and massively enjoying it. I’ll post more progress here in due course!