Paul Walters runs the London Marathon

Report from Monday 17th April 2000

I've run the 2000 London Marathon!

Well, I completed the London Marathon yesterday, although in the last week I have felt that I would be lucky to be at the start, let alone the finish. I have written an account of my run for those who are interested, as follows:

The weather in the previous week was atrocious - very cold and wet, with snow on Tuesday. As early as Wednesday, the weather forecasters were predicting an improvement on Sunday, and indeed as if some sort of miracle had happened, the sun shone and the temperature warmed on Sunday morning, which lasted for the duration of the marathon. By the end of the day it was raining again.

I woke up at 6:15AM (with a sore throat) to take the 7:20 train to London. I arrived at the start at about 9:00, and had only just enough time to sort out my clothing, put my kit bag on the appropriate lorry, have a pee, sort out my knee bandages and get to the start. In the end I decided against knee bandages because I though that they would rub me and make me sore. I started at the red start (out of red, green and blue), and should have lined up in zone 4, with zone 1 at the front of the field and zone 9 at the back. I was hurriedly looking for zone 4 when over the tannoy they told us that the zones were closed, and all runners not in place would have to start at the back - so I jumped over the fence into zone 5.

We all edged forward, and then the gun went at 9:30. We were walking to start with, but we crossed the start line within five minutes, and set off at just over a 9-minute mile pace.

Within the first mile, I felt my ligament injury in my left leg, which was no surprise. However, I did not feel the shin splints injury in my right leg throughout the race, which was a surprise. I quickly tried to get into an efficient running rhythm, to reduce the strain and impact on my legs. I developed this into a style that I am sure appeared strange, but I felt comfortable with. I was swinging my arms backwards and forwards as though I was skiing (although I have never skied) which transferred my weight from side to side, throwing my legs back and forth. I tried to use this right through to the end of the race. I was a little concerned that I would be using muscles I do not often use so much, but it paid off in the end. It felt that I was transferring energy from my arms into my running.

The crowd was great all of the way around. There was the occasional lull in the numbers of people in the crowd and in the cheering, but when the crowd got loud, they really got behind the runners, and I am sure that they gave us all a boost. There were all sorts of bands playing, and some of the music was so good it almost made you want to stop.

Within the first few miles, the runners who came from the blue and the green starts converge, and then these runners converge into the stream of runners who came from the red start. When we turned around a corner to be presented with the runners from the blue and green starts, a large amount of booing was heard from the red starters, which was very funny at the time.

At about 7 miles we waved at the TV cameras and rounded the Cutty Sark, where I saw my friends and family for the first time. I ran with a womble for a bit.

I was a little concerned at the 9 mile point, because I got a pain in my right knee which was even more painful than my left knee, and I thought that this may have made me stop. Somehow or other, the pain subsided into nothing.

We crossed Tower Bridge at just over the 12-mile point, which was a great experience, because we all knew that the half way point was in sight and the crowds over the bridge were particularly rowdy. The low point here though was that a rhinoceros overtook me!

At something like the 13-mile point we were running on one side of the road, and the elite runners were running in the opposite direction on the other side, returning from the Isle of Dogs. It was quite entertaining watching them.

I had my heels kicked a number of times in the race, and was cut up many times by runners trying to overtake or diving for the drinks. I think that there were too many runners in the race, and there were too many runners who did not seem to follow any sort of etiquette to the other runners. I felt that it was extremely silly of some runners to be diving in and out of other runners and behaving dangerously when their timing was such that they were not going to put in an earth shattering time for the race anyway.

Anyhow, at the 15 mile point, a man kicked my heels so hard that I very nearly had a bad accident. Fortunately I recovered, but not long after I felt cramp in my heels. I have never felt this before, and I was not sure if it was caused by him or just by a lack of energy. On some occasions when I picked my leg up, my foot pointed downwards so I nearly tripped up over my own feet. I thought I was going to have to stop for a massage, but after about 5 miles this problem subsided.

I took on loads of fluids in the race. I drank 2 full water bottles, about 4 sachets of the Liquid Power energy drink, and I had other water drinks too. I did not want to go to the loo once, so obviously all of the liquid that I drank was expelled as sweat. I was keen to drink the energy drinks to keep my energy levels up.

After going around the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf, I saw my friends and family again at about the 20-mile mark. After this I looked over my shoulder and saw Frank Bruno just on my left. I thought that he had caught me up, but I have heard since that the celebrity runners set off a little earlier than the rest of us, so may be I caught him up. He was being rather rude to the other runners who I assume were trying to be encouraging, and he was in difficulty. Let's face it - he is not really built for marathon running. He dropped back, and I did not see him again. Then there was the man who very suspiciously came in from the left, and looked as fresh as a daisy. I am not sure if there was some cheating going on.

As we ran on, I was getting tired, but I kept up my rhythm, and although I started passing loads of runners who were dawdling or walking, there were also runners passing me too. I ran with Batman for a bit (or one of them!).

Throughout the run there were some excellent fancy dresses, with brides and grooms, batmen, wombles, rhinos, a mock bus being pushed around, girls in dancing costumes, rabbits, etc. While walking to the start from the railway station there was even a lady with both legs removed taking part, who was being pushed around in a wheel chair by another competitor. Although the competitive wheelchair race set off before us, we did see the tail enders. This provided the event with an excellent spirit.

We knew we were getting closer and closer to the end, and I was very tired. I think I was fine up to about 2 or 3 miles to the end, and then it was just a matter of gritting my teeth and carrying on. I passed an unfortunate Reigate Priory AC runner (my club) who was injured.

We passed the 24-mile mark, and I thought we were further on than that, so I was a little disappointed. We passed the 25-mile mark, and not much further from there it was a nice thought that with under a mile to go, I was almost home. We started along Bird Cage Walk, although I was not sure if it was Bird Cage Walk or not. I knew we were getting close though. We were approaching the roundabout (OK - I didn't notice Buckingham Palace), and someone in the crowd said "only 400 yards to go". Although I was on my last legs, I perhaps stupidly thought that I would see if I could speed up, and started sprinting around the roundabout, running wide around the other runners, and passing many of them. I then realised that I had started sprinting a little early, but I made it to the end okay.

I finished the race in 4 hours 24 minutes 14 seconds, in 15,430th place out of about 31,350 finishers. I am very pleased with this result bearing in mind all of the problems I have faced. I am sure that I can do a lot better if I can train properly.

After finishing I immediately started wobbling around, and found walking very difficult, which was amazing thinking that 30 seconds earlier I was sprinting. This makes me think that it was very wise not stopping at all during the Marathon. If I had have stopped, I think I might have had difficulty starting running again.

I received my medal, space blanket and goodie bag. I had my chip removed from my shoe, my photo was taken, and I collected my kit bag from the lorry. This was done fairly promptly, but I went through the process slowly because I did not seem to be in very good shape compared to the other runners.

The repatriation area was extremely busy, and fortunately someone lent me their mobile phone so I could ring family and friends to meet them by the lake in the park instead.

24 hours on, I am finding it even more difficult to walk. I can just about get from room to room by leaning on the walls. Sarah has to help me with everything. Of course I cannot do any chores in the house too. I wonder if I can spin this out a bit? Seriously, I cannot wait to get back on my feet, but I will just have to be patient over the next few days.

Running the London Marathon was a thrilling and exhilarating experience. I do not know if I would want to run it next year, but I certainly want to run it again.

I am now wondering when I will be fit to get back into training, and how long to leave it before my next Marathon. I am not sure which one to choose, because Marathon's take place throughout Great Britain, Europe and the world.

Many thanks for reading this and also for sponsoring me. I know that your money is going to a cause that helps some of the most vulnerable in our society, and provides support for their carers.

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