Paul Walters runs the London Marathon

Report from Sunday 14th April 2002

Wow - I've completed The London Marathon 2002

6 miles into the race at the Cutty Sark

Stopped for stretches after 15 miles

Enjoying a joke with Darren and Sandra at 20 miles

With the family at 20 miles

At Big Ben with only Bird Cage Walk to do

Trying (and failing) to smile with my medal!

This year I went to the London Arena to register late yesterday (Saturday), so that I could attend the NSF pasta party. This was not great, as it meant that I had to be on my feet for quite a lot of the day previous to the marathon, but it was good fun chatting to the runners at the Arena and at the party. I arrived home at 9:40PM to pack my bag, and get my clothes, bandages, etc. ready for the morning. I didn't sleep well, and the household was up at 6AM.

Again this year, in someone's infinite wisdom, there was disruption on the railways on London Marathon day, so we set off for Purley railway station in our car at 7AM, rather than going to our local station, Redhill, to take a train to London Bridge. We gave Gary (a fellow runner) a lift too. At London Bridge we all went our separate ways, Gary to go to the Blue start, the family to go to the Cutty Sark, and I took a train to Maze Hill to walk to the Red start (out of three starts, Red, Blue and Green. The charity runners mostly start from Red I believe).

The journey to the start seemed more straight forward this year. I got onto a train bound for Maze Hill with no delays, and the train was not even full. The Maze Hill railway station took five or ten minutes to leave, just because of the number of people leaving the trains, but once I was out and walking, the start seemed easy to get to and fairly free of people. There was no delay in putting my kit bag onto the appropriate baggage bus (the actual bus to use being determined by your number).

I sorted out my clothing, applied Ibuprofen gel to my right hip and knee, took two Ibuprofen tablets, put a knee bandage on my right knee, did lots of stretches, had a pee against a tree, and then with 25 minutes to spare went to look for an appropriate place to start the race.

I was due to start in zone 5 (out of 9 zones, numbered 1 to 9, with the zone 1 being at the front for the good club runners). Because of the problems I have had with my hip and knee, on the day I decided to start at the back of zone 7, so that all of the runners around me would slow me down, and hence I could preserve my right leg. I injured my hip and knee three weeks previous to the event, and from then onwards these injuries always stopped me running after nine miles. I decided that the only way to get around was to keep it dead slow, and to treat the race in four quarters, run up to the 7 mile mark, and then walk a mile, run up to the 14 mile mark, then walk a mile, run up to the 21 mile mark, then walk a mile, and then run in. Even at the start I could feel my hip twingeing, and I couldn't help feeling that I was actually risking my own health by running. Minutes before the start I discarded my bin liner and my tee-shirt I was wearing to keep me warm - I hardly needed them anyway.

The weather was excellent - not too hot and not too cold, and it was bright. The atmosphere around the waiting runners was brilliant. We had a minutes silence in respect for the Queen Mother, and the race started promptly at 9:45AM. It took me just over ten minutes to cross the start, but this coincided with starting to run too. By the way, in the past the times for all runners was taken at the start of the marathon, but this is the first year where the time for each competitor is taken from when they pass the starting line - which is an excellent improvement. Your time is taken automatically by a chip which is attached to your shoe, and it is taken at various points on the course, as well as the start and finish line, to provide runners with a good set of results (available from their website) and this also catches any cheats too!

Like last year, the crowd was marvellous, cheering us on all of the way round. The atmosphere was terrific, with bands, dancing girls, or people just sticking a couple of speakers through their window! Some people took the trouble to hand out sweets or fruit, which was very welcome for the duration of the marathon. I ate a banana, pieces of orange and plenty of sweets during my way around the course.

I ran on, staying with the the runners I had started with, and I gradually saw the 4 hour 30 minute pacer go further into the distance, so I knew that I was running slowly. The runners from all of the three starts converged after a few miles. I saw Terry and Paula, two Reigate Priory AC runners at this point, and we wished each other well.

I was meeting my family for the first time at the Cutty Sark, and so in my first quarter of the race, I really wanted to run past this point without having to slow down or walk, to give them ample time to get to the 15 mile mark to see me. My hip, however, felt increasingly tired and stressed, even in this early part of the race, and I started to walk for a bit at the 5 mile mark. I then ran on to the Cutty Sark, saw my family, and between that point (about 6.75 miles into the race) and 8 miles, I thought I'd walk to give my hip a rest, and it was a welcome relaxation. At the 8 mile point I spent a number of minutes stretching my muscles, and set off again feeling more refreshed.

However, at the nine mile point, my right hip was starting to ache badly. Again I went off the course for a few minutes for an all round stretch routine, which included stretching my piriformis muscle in my hip. I returned to race feeling better, and in fact I followed this pattern of having a few minutes off at the end of each mile to stretch for many miles to come, and I hoped that this would be sustainable for the race. I decided to stick with this tactic, and forget about walking the 14th and 21st miles.

Just before the 8 mile mark a runner recognised me. He was Peter Fryer - you can go to his website by looking at the links of my Marathon 2002 website. He had obviously seen my picture on my website, and managed to point me out. We shared some encouraging words. He was walking too, but he was not in distress, and he eventually left me behind. I hope he did well - I'll have to look on his website later.

At the thirteen mile point, you spend over a mile running with a stream of runners returning from the Isle of Dogs in the opposite direction. As I went past this point, I noticed first Ian and then Linda from Reigate Priory AC running in the opposite direction. They seemed to be having a fantastic race from what I could see, so well done to them.

I saw my family again at the 15 mile mark, and I immediately went into the stretch routine. I could tell that my hip was becoming increasingly painful, and the stretching was having less and less effect. I saw my friends Darren and Sandra at this point too, who had joined my family to support me. I continued off on my way again, but very soon it became evident that I had to start stretching twice every mile, and then three times every mile, and I eventually went into a St. John's Ambulance station for a massage at about 16.5 miles.

I had to wait 5 minutes to see a physio, but I'm glad that I managed to see her, because she suffered from problems with the piriformis muscle in the hip too, so she could give me some good advice. I didn't like what I was told though. She said that massage would only aggrivate the muscle, and it would also not like too much stretching. The only thing to do was to keep my hip iced. I wandered out of the station with an ice pack on my hip, and I tried to run. I couldn't. It was just too painful. I quickly resigned myself to my fate - that I'd have to walk the remaining ten miles with a hip pain - a bit like last year, but then again last year I only started walking at the 20 mile mark.

I just kept wandering along, and by this stage I was surrounded by runners with similar problems, who were walking or walk/running.

At last I reached the 20 mile mark, and saw my family again. They joined me, and we walked for two miles all together, until the children got tired, at which point Sarah took the children to the finish by train, leaving myself, Darren and Sandra on the course. We were passed by three rhinos in total along this stretch of road. Again this year the courage and dedication shown by some of the runners was absolutely fantastic to see. A man walking with the aid of sticks finished hours in front of me, as did a blind athlete. There were all sorts of runners and costumes collecting money for their chosen charity and often doing something humorous in the process. The guts and determination some of these runners had to finish was incredible. Fantastic.

The number of runners who were walking with me had reduced to a trickle, and the roads were opening up to traffic, so we had to walk on the footpaths.

Gradually time ticked away until we found ourselves at Big Ben, with Bird Cage Walk in sight. We saw the family again, and I started the long awaited walk-in. Progress was slow, but we finally rounded the roundabout outside Buckingham Palace.

A slow runner came past me, and I tried to quicken up my walk to keep pace. I found that I could do this, and I started to run. Wow I thought, I can actually run, so I sprinted into the finish and across the finishing line to cheers from the crowd.

This was probably my most stupid move of the day, because I was I suppose showing off, and I can tell you it gave me a lot more grief after the finish - not just in my hip, but in my knee too. Having said that, I really thought that it was highly likely that my knee would be so painful in the race that I would have to pull out, so to find knee painful only after the end was in one way a bonus.

I finished in approximately 7 hours 2 minutes, but on the day, that wasn't the point. I achieved what I wanted to do - to finish - which is something I really thought I would be incapable of.

There did not seem to be any photographer taking photos of runners with their medals, so I wandered on to get my goodie bag, sandwiches and kit bag, although the place was being packed up, and the places giving out these things to the runners had really scaled down.

We all walked slowly off to Trafalgar Square for a pizza meal, after which we parted company with Darren and Sandra, took a bus to Victoria, and came back to Purley on the 8:04PM train to finally arrive home at 9PM. A hot bath was needed.

A very difficult day, but I suppose it was a success - I went the distance and got my medal. I'm really looking forward to next year, where I can train properly learning from all of this years mistakes, and after three years of injury, may be - just may be next year will be my year.

My brother last year obtained a time of 2:45 even though he went to the toilet three times, so he was running again this year to try to improve on his time. About a month ago he was struck down with a hamstring injury, and was very concerned about running, although felt pressured because of the charity money. He left it until last Wednesday to make the decision to run, although he really didn't want to, and his plan was to take it easy and to stop and walk if necessary, or leave the course altogether if things got so bad. He decided to try for 3:15, even in his condition, because this would give him an automatic place next year. I didn't see him yesterday, but he obtained a time of 3:01 or the like, which I think is absolutely fantastic in his condition. He didn't enjoy the day though.

Many thanks for reading this, and for sponsoring the NSF. I know that your money is going to a charity which provides much needed support to people with mental health problems, some of which are I believe the most vulnerable people in our society.

(Monday) I'm now feeling less stiff and I can walk a little better. My walking pace on the way home yesterday was a snails pace, and each step was extremely painful. I needed to walk along walls for some of the time. Well, I'm still walking slowly, but the pain has eased to the point where I think I can go into work today, and collect Liz from School. I'll have to be very careful though. My number and time do not feature on the London Marathon website. I've phoned them up to ask why, and have not had a reply yet.

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