IF I CAN DO IT?
"I never dreamt that one day I would run the London Marathon"
An account of a 43 year old taxi drivers experience
|It is 8.45am, I am standing somewhere in London, in my running shorts and vest, beside me is a Charlie Chaplin look-a-like, a couple of steps away is a rhinocerous and all around me are similarly clad people, who like me, are shivering with cold, except the man dressed as a mobile phone. I am sure they are all wondering as I am what on earth have I done!|
Twelve months before in a nice warm gym I was watching the start of the 20th London Marathon. Casually I mention that I had always wanted to run the Marathon, it looked fun!!! The answer was, well why don't you? Rather stupidly and with total naivety I thought it is only 26 miles!. I can do that! So I took on this challenge, having never run move that 26 feet (who ever heard of a taxi driver walking, let alone running anywhere!).
After first devising a plan of training, which meant running 3-4 times a week and ignoring the derision from my family, like Dad's having a funny turn, your not running in those shorts are you?- wait till winter comes and so on.
I was amazed how little running I could do, a few hundred yards and I was puffing and blowing, so to start with I ran for 30 seconds and then walked for 30 seconds, until I had run my set distance - maybe 1 to 1 .5 miles and then the inevitable collapse and more derision!! After a while of this I learnt the art of pacing, and not tearing off at full pace - and then suddenly I was running a 3 mile course. 26 miles then seemed no problem!
My first 3 mile run feels great, now the challenge is to do 5 miles, and 6 miles and then to do it 3 more times in the same week. This is a problem, I have always struggled to start the next run when not fully recovered from the previous one. All the training schedules push you to increase mileage at the weekend and so by August I feel confident to try a long run of 8 miles. This felt good, but then it was only a third of the Marathon distance and my legs ache, and my knees hurt, and its takes a week before I run again! 26 miles now seems like from here to the moon and back.
It seems impossible to increase the distance further at this point in August and September, my dream is slipping away.
So here I stand freezing cold in Blackheath, London. 12 minutes after the official start I can begin jogging. Only now do I comprehend how may people there are around me and how friendly my fellow (fun!) runners are.
3 Miles along and the other start joins in - a solid mass of bobbing heads in every possible coloured shirt.
At the first drink station the empty water bottles are piled up several deep for hundreds of yards showing how many thousands had gone before me, there goes my chance of winning!!!!
I am keeping up with Charlie Chaplin and I am joined by the Wombles. I think I can actually do it! The crowd is yelling encouragement. They are actually cheering me!!!! We chat and laugh.
Tower Bridge marks 12 miles and the pressure starts.
Back to Tower Bridge and under it and the crowd is getting thicker and willing us on.
Will the Marathon ever end? I can't think of away to get out gracefully, (looking back I don't remember thinking very much at all) so I carry on 23-24-25 miles.
The crowd gets louder and then theres Big Ben, Bird Cage Walk, Buckingham Palace and
THE FINISH - 5 hours, 6 minutes and 49 seconds later.
If you are going to run a marathon and would like any advice or encouragement email me - Les Barker
Onwards to Docklands and we see those coming off Docklands at 18 miles - the temptation to join them is strong. Much to my disgust I am overtaken by a caterpillar, but I am beating the Wombles, Charlie has vanished.
Drink stations come and go, crowds of people scream encouragement, children hold out plates of sweets. 15 -16-17-18 miles - my maximum training distance- into the unknown.
So my big day is over, all I am left behind is memories, the adoration of my friends and pain.
Stairs were my biggest problem, especially coming down. Still this only lasted a few days. I still can't believe that I have run 26 miles, especially after watching the BBC coverage on T.V.
Marathons are not for ordinary people, with ordinary jobs and ordinary lives - but are they?
I did it and my Medal for the London Marathon 2001 proves it.!!!