Firstly, well done to all my friends, and everyone else, who completed the London Marathon today, as well as those who completed the Southampton Half Marathon. Me, I never watch the London event now, since it makes me slightly sad and envious that I was never able to compete in it myself. I am not going to blame anyone else for this, since I really pushed myself too hard to give myself a chance. In 1988, though I was already pretty fit and playing squash, football and cricket, I was effectively couch to 10K within about three weeks, and was regularly on 8 mile runs three weeks after that. And these were runs where I aimed to run my best time each time out. I had a regular 5 mile route with considerable hilly parts where I was under 35 minutes and I felt if I went two days without a decent run that I would somehow instantly lose my fitness. It wasn’t uncommon to run four or five miles at lunchtime and then the same in the evening.
It became an obsession and I was soon on the half marathon circuit, completing Southampton on a hot (26 degrees) morning, and then Winchester and Gosport later in the year. Just one week after Winchester, I ran a personal best 10K at Totton (having walked four miles each way to the event from my home in Bassett). Running absolutely dominated my life and I was up to 16 mile runs when I felt a shooting pain in my calf while on one of my 5 mile dashes. I rested for a couple of weeks but it was clear that I had done some damage. It turned out to be a back injury that manifested itself in all sorts of complications including sciatica. So 104 minutes and 44 minutes will remain my best for half marathon and 10K events and, proud as I am of those very respectable times, I know that if I’d taken it more steadily, I could have done even better. It is sometimes a very harsh lesson to learn from experience.
I have tried a couple of times to get back, with mixed success, but I know that I would never be able to run another half marathon, maybe not even 10K without considerable risk of damage. And it’s all my fault. I have become much better in the last six or seven years at not having regrets and I console myself that I have achieved considerably more with walking than I was ever likely to running. Today, I was determined to do a really good distance, and pushing myself to walk long distances doesn’t damage me like it did with running. It was a strange day weather-wise. Half the time, it was quite warm but not boiling at around 18 degrees maximum, and half the time it was quite chilly with the odd strong breeze. Going eastwards, I took routes that I hadn’t taken before and bumped into people from cricket, from work and outside.
I was stuck in a long queue in my coffee stop at around 9 miles and, if you can imagine Dot, Mo and Kim from Eastenders, with Audrey, Gail and Rita from Coronation Street, all together visiting a coffee shop for the very first time, that was who was at the front of the queue. I wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d been told they’d run out of coffee followed by an Eastenders doof doof, such was the drama of this gaggle of cackling over-theatrical dames. I normally count on roughly a 25-30 minutes stop but today it was more than 15 minutes before I was even served, so we were looking here at not much short of three quarters of an hour.
It was a long day but I couldn’t quite achieve a full marathon. 25 miles, equalling my best of the year so far, I believe. Not a marathon, not even a snickers, despite shrink-flation over the years. Perhaps just a snicker.