Alastair's Blog

Return to:  Blog | Articles | Videos RSS feed

Guide ro Marathon running part 2

Posted on 25 April 2009 | 11:04am

I know there is a little books section on the website where I can remind those of you who bizarrely have yet to buy The Blair Years or All In The Mind how to do so. And I know too that every now and then I mention one or both of those products, though I hope with relevance to the content of the blog, rather than for blatant plug purposes, not least because I fear blatant non-relevant to content plugs don’t work.

But today is the first day since starting this blog that I am simply going to run an extract from my diaries. Yes, yes, partly because we had a late night at a very nice dinner party hosted by fellow author and blogger Melissa Benn and her husband Paul (cue plug for her novel One Of Us); also because I need to try to  fit in a bike ride before we head for Southampton v Burnley, and I had no obvious blog-thoughts on waking. But mainly as a result of some of the nice comments in response to the blog I did a couple of days ago on tips for the London Marathon, most recently Trevor Malcolm’s which I saw this morning. Very funny and thanks for the donation to Leukaemia Research.

As the day has neared, I have grown more and more jealous of those taking part tomorrow so perhaps the other motivation is to make me feel a bit closer to  it by reviving the memories. But I hope there are relevant tips in there, plus a bit of excitement to  help generate the wonderful feelings the runners and their families are going to experience tomorrow. If you know someone doing the race tomorrow, pass it on, with the tips from Friday.

Sunday April 13 2003 (and I’ll have you know I am typing this because I have not learned how to cut and paste from Word to blog)

‘I had my recurring dream about losing my race number, only this time there was a different twist. The ink on the number ran and it became illegible and I was stopped from running. Relieved to wake up, I turned on the radio and they were talking about me doing it, which I took as an omen I would do ok. It was a nice day, fresh but  looked like it was going to be sunny and the mood at the start was terrific. There were two starting points and Charles [Lindsay, protection officer] and I were starting at the one with smaller numbers, which was a bonus…

I was peeing every few minutes, a mix of nerves and all the fluids of the last couple of days. The start felt great and I reckoned I was in OK shape for sub four hours, which is what I really wanted. i did the first mile well below 8 minutes without even really trying, which was probably the adrenalin getting me to start too fast, the second mile bang on 8, and then into a fairly steady rhythm. After three miles Charles said I ought to run on ahead on my own.

The hardest points were 9 miles, 15 and 21, but the bands and crowds were great. ‘Rocking all over the world’ got me through one tricky part. A Jennifer Lopez song playing made me think of Grace at another and got me through. The crowd were fantastic. I didn’t get a single adverse comment, which surprised me given how much war divisiveness there had been, and loads of encouragement. Philip and Georgia [Gould] popped up a couple of times on the route…

There were no quiet miles at all. Also, on a couple of occasions when I was struggling, one of the other runners would come alongside and help push me on, including a woman from Dulwich who suggested I ‘lock onto her’ and follow step by step which, as she had a near perfect bum, took me through another tricky mile before I recovered my strength and eventually left her.

The last few miles from the Tower were hard and exhilerating in equal measure. I hit 22 miles with 50 minutes left to break four hours so I knew I was going to do it and could relax. The crowds by now were just a wall of sound and encouragement. I was worried I was going to cry on crossing the line so forced myself to do it as I ran towards Big Ben, lost myself in a crowd of runners, and just let the emotions come out, imagined friends on one shoulder, enemies on the other, friends pushing me on, enemies failing to hold me back; thought about John [Merritt, friend who died of leukaemia], thought about how long my dad had, thought about the kids, really piled it on and cried for a bit as I ran, and then felt fine.

i had trained hard in difficult circumstances and I felt a real sense of achievement. I wondered around 20 miles if I could beat Bush’s time but as I tried to pick up the pace, the pain in the hamstrings really intensified and just went back to my steady plod and I settled for sub 4. I didn’t realise the cameras were on me for the last couple of miles, by which time I was swearing at myself the whole time, push yoursefl, faster, fuck it, keep going, push etc.

The last few hundred metres was a mix of agony and joy. The pain was pretty intense but by now virtually every second someone was shouting out encouragement, from ‘I forgive you everything Tony Blair has done’ to endless ‘go on, you can do it, not far to go.’ I spotted Fiona and the kids right at the end of the stand and ran towards them. They were screaming at me to head straight to the finish but I was seven minutes inside my target and just so pleased to see them.

My legs buckled a bit as I stopped and my voice was unbelievably weak, but it felt fantastic to have done it… I had a massive dehydration headache and was drinking gallons of water. We went out for dinner with the Goulds. Philip reminded me of the Woody Allen character [Zelig] today, popping up in incongruous places along the route. But I felt really happy having done it. Grace said she felt so proud of me, and did I know what a fantastic thing I did for John? I was really touched, especially as she had never known him…..’

There you go … there may be something in there to help someone through a tricky spot. If it does, don’t forget donations to Leukaemia Research always welcome. www.lrf.org.uk

Good luck to all who are doing it. You are the chosen many!

  • Patsy Mellor

    I read the diaries, but I guess because that period was all mainly about Iraq I hadn’t really taken in how emotional the bit about the marathon was. Does everyone cry like that do you think? Good luck if you do any more in the future. I’m sure you will

  • Mad Claret

    Let’s be honest … sitting there typing all that out is all just to fill time and space before the match. What’s more nerve-wracking – our run in or a marathon? Can we really be on the verge of the premiership do you think?

  • Alan Stephens

    I have done seven marathons and I identify so much with your two blogs on marathon running. It is both intensely lonely but also one of the most powerful community experiences ever felt. I too am laid low with injuries and I am also older than you, but reading that has made me more determined to make sure I do an 8th before my 60th birthday in two years. Thanks for re-inspiring

  • Dan

    Thanks for the emotional insight Alastair. I’m doing my first marathon in Berlin in September, so have no idea what to expect! Will be watching tomorrow with interest, and fear…

  • Martin

    Hope that you have a heart attack while running as a reward for driving David Kelly to daeth and all the lies you told about Iraq prior to the war.

    You are pure scum

  • CRAiG B

    Ignore idiots like Martin.

    Cheers for the tips, am hoping to do sub-4 tomorrow, for my other half’s dad’s hospice. 2 great and motivating blog entries.

    Note to self – don’t forget the vaseline…

  • gavin montana

    thats pretty unfair and a horrid thing to say, no one forced david kelly into leaking documents.
    no goverment would of made any different discision about
    going to war in Iraq

  • Margaret

    Your blog so reminds me of the excitement and nerves I felt when my son completed his first marathon in London – very much in honour of his beloved father who had died suddenly two years earlier on the day before the London marathon. He has since completed a marathon in New York and is training for the Chicago marathon in October!

  • nick

    To the sad person who made the comment about david kelly, heart attack, etc; get a life.

    How sad must you be that you have to log on and give abuse, when you don’t even know all the details.

    Must be tough being perfect like you; I wonder how your perfect credentials would stand up if you had a job in the spotlight?

    Good luck A in the race.

  • gavin montana

    that is totally horrid thing to say to anyone, no matter who was in goverment at the time the discision to go to war in Iraq would of been the same, as for david kelly no one forced him to leak documents, to lay the blame at AC for his death is completely wrong maybe you should address this to andrew gilligan and the bbc first

  • Alina Palimaru

    AC, thanks for blogging under any circumstances. Your devotion is exemplary!

    Martin, please! I know there are people out there who cannot stand AC, and many of them chose to express their dislike on this forum. But the tone of your post is unacceptable. Shame on you!

  • Alina Palimaru

    I am very pleased to see the reactions below to that horrible comment posted by some sad web-surfer under the name of Martin. Thank you all for taking a tough stance against verbal abuse!!

  • CPW

    alina, you are sadly mistaken. hundreds of people must read this blog and only three have left comments voicing their outrage at Martin’s comment. Do the math as you yanks say.

    I can’t agree with Martin’s comment but the sentiment is understandable. only one englishman came out of the iraq war debacle with an credit. sadly he’s dead.

  • Alina Palimaru

    CPW, at last! I was beginning to wonder how long it would take before you graced us with your presence! I’m not going to dignify your comment with an answer. But I will say that I appreciate the change from addressing me by my last name to the new formula. Also, I’m not American. Till next time buddy!

  • CPW

    alina, why wont you dignify my post with a response, it was neither personal nor offensive. perhaps you know your idol has clay feet. we do. and btw he’s terribly misogynistic so if you’re expecting a job, give it up. you are very sad.

  • Jane A

    @CPW re Martin/Alina

    CPW, I just wanted to say I was as disgusted by Martin’s comment as Alina and others were.

    Wishing “Daeth” on anyone is an abuse too far, whatever your views of their politics, principles or personality.

    (PS – before you wonder, I don’t want or need a job from AC, and I’m sure Alina doesn’t either.)

  • Alina Palimaru

    Jane, thanks!

    CPW, you’re right, your comment was neither personal nor offensive. It was, however, very foolish, so I decided not to respond. But since you insist… First, I think AC’s readership is well into the thousands right now. Second, I think many readers found Martin’s comment to be too distasteful to even bother about it. But hats down for those who did.

    I’m not exactly sure what triggered your job fixation, but it sounds like fiction to me. I’m doing a Master’s in Public Policy not in literary fiction, so I am not in a position to address this. But I must admit, I’m deeply impressed by your concern for my livelihood. Thank you so much and I will keep your advice under consideration.