Paul Walters runs the London Marathon

Report from Monday 19th April 2004

My best yet!

6 miles just after the Cutty Sark

15 miles

20 miles

This year, as usual, the week before the marathon was difficult. It started on Monday with a sore throat, which I was hoping would not turn into a heavy cold. I had a mild cold through the week, and although I had the sniffles on marathon day, it did not pose a problem. As usual, I was very tired throughout the week. I ate more food than usual through the week in readiness.

On Thursday PM I attended the London Marathon Exhibition at ExCeL in London, where I registered for the race, as well as seeing the MS Trust, MS Resource Centre and Great Ormond Street fund raisers. Next year I am currently seriously considering running for the MS Resource Centre. I think I upset a lady on the Just Giving stand too.

Through most of the week I performed daily stretching and saw my physiotherapist twice. Come Saturday evening I had got everything prepared for the next day, but I felt physically and mentally very tired, and had a twingey knee. It wasn't great!

I had a number of theories of how I should run the race. I could 9 minute mile the race for as long as possible (hopefully 20 miles), and then finish the rest as best as I can to try for a sub-4 hour pace. I could just take it easy and enjoy the atmosphere. I could take a digital camera with me and take loads of pictures. In the end, I decided that because of the rain it would be silly to take a camera, so I elected to race the marathon at pace, trying to achieve 9 minute miles.

The weather forecast for Sunday was wind and rain, but clearing for the runners who take longer at the end of the race. During Sunday night the rain was pouring down, and when we woke at 6:30AM the rain was still coming down. I prepared for a wet marathon.

Come Sunday morning, the family (myself, Sarah, Sam and Lizzie) drove to Purley to take a train to London Bridge. It was all fairly straight forward. At London Bridge I said goodbye to the family and went to the correct platform for the Blackheath train - the one going to the blue start. Just as the train was due, over the loudspeakers they declared that the Blackheath train was coming in on another platform, and everyone dashed off to another platform. It was still raining. I managed to get on the train, and we were off, although I was standing in a bit of a squash. Blackheath was the 3rd stop, and we gradually got out of the train and went through the mass of people to get out of the station. Once out, I then walked to the start, where the main things for the runners to think about were baggage lorries, the toilets and the start. While at the start I saw Jeff and Antony from Reigate Priory AC, who were part of the marshalling team of the blue start.

This year, the start was a bit of a disappointment. I queued to get into the enclosure that contained the toilets, and then I joined the queue for a toilet at about 9AM. It was still raining but fairly lightly. It took over half an hour to eventually reach the toilet, with only ten minutes left to the start of the race. It was clear that many people just had to leave the queues, as they realised that they did not have time to go to the toilet before the start. More toilets should be provided. (I'd have gone behind a lorry if I had needed a pee, if you see what I mean). I would have liked to relax, warm up and stretch before the marathon, but instead I spent my time in a toilet queue.

Anyway, with less than ten minutes to go, I removed my coat and jumper and placed them in my bag, I applied Ibuprofen gel to my hips (already having taken 2 Ibuprofen tablets), placed my bag on the baggage bus and joined the start. I found that the runners werealready walking forward although the start had not yet sounded, so I joined where I could, which was in zone 4. I was supposed to be in zone 5, but bearing in mind I could see the 8:30 minute per mile pacer some way ahead of me, I decided that I was well placed. The weather was not too bad. The temperature was not too cold at all, and the rain had turned to drizzle, which proved to probably be more pleasant than a nuisence during the race.

As we were gradually moving forward, I took off my old tee-shirt I had used to keep warm and discarded it, and saw two more Reigate Priory AC members who had finished their marshalling duties and were now spectating, so I gave them a wave. In a very short space of time, the race had started, and within two or three minutes we were over the start line. I set the stop watch on my watch so I could accurately measure my time.

Within no time at all the miles started ticking away, and I started taking on liquids at the drinks stations. I know that it's advisable to drink early in a marathon. We met up with the runners from the other starts. If anything I was going a little faster than the majority of runners, and there were plenty of slow runners holding people up. There were even people who appeared to be walking the whole marathon who started at the front, which is rather silly. There were also people charging through the runners with little regard to safety. I got my heals kicked I don't know how many times throughout the marathon.

I was wearing a long sleeved blue top and blue stretch pants (the ones that I have warn for every marathon so far), and I was also wearing an MS Trust vest. I realised that most people were wearing less, and I was getting rather hot. Just before I arrived at the Cutty Sark I stripped off my tops, and just put my vest back on. I rounded the Cutty Sark and saw the family for the first time soon after. I handed Sarah my top, and Sarah had a problem with the camera which held me up for a bit. I quickly said my goodbyes and I was off again.

The first mile took me about 10 minutes, basically because of conjestion due to the mass of people. I also felt the tightness and soreness of my achilles tendon in the first mile, but this was only to be expected. After four miles I had caught up on myself, and I was within my target 9 minute miling. I stayed just within the 9 minute miling pace from this point up until probably the 23 mile mark. I had no idea that I would be able to achieve this pace for so long, and I was really pleased.

I enjoyed the run from the Cutty Sark, but as we approached Tower Bridge I felt what I thought was increasing tightness in my left hip, which was concerning. I started occasionally to run more on my right side to give my left hip a break. I also felt discomfort from my left knee a bit too.

In the first nine miles I had taken on quite a lot of liquid in the form of water and energy drinks. I felt quite bloated, and from here to the end of the race took on virtually no more liquid. For a few miles I suffered from a minor stitch, which was probably caused through drinking too much.

Apart from the worry about my hip, I enjoyed crossing Tower Bridge, although the rain started pouring down at this point, and there were lots of crowds cheering and lots of brollies. I hope that I had a nice picture taken of me at the end of the bridge by the official photographer. The rain soon subsided to being drizzle again.

We soon passed the half way point, and I was well on my target pace with the odd minute to spare. I was looking forward to seeing the family again at 15 miles.

It was fun to see the faster runners coming back from the Isle of Dogs as we were heading there - the two streams run along side each other for a time. I did not recognise anyone this year though. I could feel tightness on the other side of my hip now too. This tightness was to the rear of my hips, in my buttocks really, which were either tired piriformis or hamstring muscles.

I saw the family soon after the 15 mile mark, and after a quick photograph plodded on. I enjoy the Isle of Dogs every year. It's a time when you've run a long way and you're tired, but you've got about ten miles to go, and the crowd is really rousing. I failed to see the MS Trust people at 17 miles which is where I was told they were. I frustratingly had to stop for about a minute at 17 miles to do up my shoe laces. It was my own fault really - I should do triple knots!

I ran on, and after a time the 20 mile point was looming, where I saw my family again, and again a quick photograph was taken and then off again. I really wanted to stay on my pace, so I didn't stop around to talk this year, which I guess in some ways was a shame.

I had increasing tiredness in the muscles around the front and side of my hips. I don't know much about our anatomy I'm afraid - may be the IT band muscles were tired? This feeling stayed with me until the end, but the problems with the muscles in my buttocks (piriformis / upper hamstring) did not increase.

Again I failed to see the MS Trust people at 22 miles. We joined the runners who were on they way out to the Isle of Dogs, and here I saw Fauja Singh, the 93 year old competitor. What a fantastic man he must be!

I was running with what I think were three chickens. How many times did I hear "come on chickens". After a couple of miles of the bloody chickens I had really had enough. There was someone close by with "Paul" written on their top too. I noticed this because I kept hearing "come on Paul", but I didn't look around once. I was only interested in getting to the finish.

Approaching and running down the Embankment was hard, and just keeping going was getting tougher and tougher as finally the miles I had covered had sapped my legs of energy. I kept running on as best I could, but I was now off pace.

Finally we turned, and Birdcage Walk was ahead of us. This road seems to go on for a very long time when you're sapped of strength and trying to go as fast as you can, but it was just a time to keep head down, grit the teeth and carry on. For the first time in all of my marathons, the crowds were really annoying me. I don't know why - perhaps it was because I was so fatigued, but I really dreaded someone recognising me. I just wanted to concentrate on my race.

We finally turned in front of Buckingham Palace. Even this seemed to stretch a way in front of me this year. I was starting my run in, and I heard on the PA that there were only two minutes before the clock went over 4 hours. To get a sub-4 hour pace on my photo on the line, I had to run in as best I could. On the PA they were warning someone that they had a big postbox or telephone box or something behind them. I didn't look around. I just ran and ran across the line, remembering to follow Antony's advice - I did my best to smile on the line for the photo. I really needed to do this after last year's dreadful photo. With a bit of luck my photo won't be taken up with a big post box costume behind me!

I crossed the line in a time of 3 hours 58 minutes 57 seconds from the gun I think. However, on the London Marathon website my official time has been published now, 3 hours 55 minutes 57 seconds, which is better than I thought it would be - I am very pleased. The split times also illustrate that I was running quite consistently - I completed the first three 10Km in 55 minutes each.

I made my way gradually through to have the chip removed from my shoe, get the medal, have a photo, do some stretches, get a goody bag and reclaim my clothes bag off the baggage lorry, not necessarily in that order.

I was unsteady on my feet, but I made my way through to the "R" repatriation area where I met my family. None of the Reigate Priory AC runners turned up while we were there. We headed off to go to the MS Trust hospitality meeting place, where we had drinks and biscuits, and I had a welcome shower and change of clothes.

After an hour we made our way past Trafalgar Square to go for a meal at Garfunkels restaurant. By this time it was raining quite hard. The forecast indicated that the weather would improve for the back markers, but in fact unfortunately the opposite was true.

I was walking around quite well in comparison to previous years. After the meal we made our way back to Victoria Station via the tube, and returned by train to Purley to drive home by approximately 6PM.

Not a bad day. I had achieved what I wanted to do in the marathon. The last few miles in the marathon were very hard. While running them I was wondering why on earth I do this to myself year on year. Fortunately I have an appauling memory, and before too long I'll really be looking forward to next year again.

Today (Monday, the day after), I woke up with pains in my right foot, but these went away after a hot bath. Other than that, I have felt sore and stiff mainly around my hips, but I've managed to drive and walk throughout the day, taking the children to school and doing a full day's work. I won't run until the weekend I expect.

Until next year!

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