Monday, 22 April 2013

The London Marathon - Chafing, cheering, and the man who nearly won (but not quite....)

I type this in my dressing gown from my kitchen, sipping a cup of tea and muttering to myself like an addled octogenarian. The reason for this complete physical and mental disintegration is the London Marathon. Or more precisely, my attempt to cuff the London Marathon.

To put this in context, it’s important to remember that a marathon is really quite a long way, something that seems to have escaped me in the run up (and never were those last two words less appropriate). I was actually training reasonably well up to about six weeks before the event, before being struck down by a bout of man-flu / manthrax. This caused me to take to my bed, occasionally summoning just enough energy to weakly ring a man bell so Tam could bring me things (I made that last bit up, if I did try that the said bell would be expertly inserted somewhere which would cause me to jingle at every step). Nonetheless I was pretty much wiped out for a couple of weeks, and what’s more Tam and Isla got it too (although in their case it was obviously normal flu NOT man-flu). The only healthy mammal in the place was Reubs, who by this stage was pawing frantically at the door trying to exit the house of plague.

Anyway, having recovered, it was off to Japan to film for two weeks. This was less than ideal, as it involved long flights and very long (knackering) days, with the occasional trot slotted in during the evening. After two weeks of this, we flew home, with me folded up like some novelty pen-knife in a hilariously small airline seat for twelve hours.   

And so to the race itself. Aha, one tiny last point though. The single thing you should never, ever do, ever, is buy new trainers just before a Marathon. So I did. Long story, but basically my old ones were completely, utterly stuffed, and what with Japan and all that, I hadn’t had time to get any news ones. The decision was to either a) run the race in something approaching a pair of ballet pumps, or b) throw money at the problem. So I bought some new, gleaming, pumped up, marshmallow soft, gangsta yardie trainers, and squeaked my way to the start line feeling rather / extremely self conscious. 

I should hastily point out that I had figured out my tactics before hand. This would be a gentle amble through old London town. I would high-five every spectator. Perhaps I would take a sip from a pint or two, maybe even pop in some quiet bistro for a frothy coffee. So why, when the hooter sounded, did I set out like Mo Farah? Some deep, dark part of my psyche actually thought I might win, with an epic sprint finish down the Mall and the commentators frantically thumbing through their notes to find out who race number 26856 was. 

The first thirteen miles were awesome. Dare I say I ran with the sort of high knee’d gait one associates with sprightly Olympians. I grabbed water bottles at a sprint, hosing down my sweaty features in the approved elite athletes fashion before casting them aside as they interfered with my aerodynamic perfection. The crowds were awesome - as they always are at the London Marathon - with a nice line in “Cam awm mah Saaaaaan” bellowed from many a pub. I flew on winged heels, I surfed the roars of adulation, I was a San Bushman floating in the shimmering heat of the Serengeti. And then, at mile 13, suddenly I wasn’t.

At mile 13, my legs began to feel....quite...peculiar. And then the rest of me began to feel quite peculiar. Banana Man overtook me at mile 14. Then a chap dressed - for reasons best known to himself - as a massive orange. A seventy year old man in a man-kini cruised by at mile 15. By now I was moving along in a loose limbed, slack jawed shuffle seen in the better types of zombie movies. Occasionally I would glance up and manage a wave and a delirious lop sided grin to the crowd. I even shouted my thanks at one point - “Thackwachatmaha” was how it came out, causing at least one woman to gather her child close to her and hiss at me like I was a mad person.

Only eleven miles to go then. I realised at this juncture that I might not win, so settled on getting to the end without a) soiling myself, b) fainting, or c) being sponged down and reassured by alarmed St John’s ambulance types. My previous high knee’d gait had been replaced with a crab-like, head wobbly, drooly weaving accross the road. By mile nineteen I was being overtaken by pantomime horses and very, very old people. At mile twenty a very short, generously upholstered lady sprang past - “Keep going” she trilled. I tried to punch her in the head, but couldn’t lift my arms. 

I won’t go into detail about the last six miles, but suffice to say the were....harrowing. BUT - and here’s the thing - you are borne along on a tide of cheers, a great, city-scale tsunami of goodwill that carries you to the finish. This is London at its finest, resplendent in it’s Sunday best, giving voice to every creed, religion, race, age and culture. It’s wonderful, and is worth the pain of the previous twenty miles just to get there. 

It’s also, by the way, the reason why people like the Boston bombers will never, ever prevail.

Anyway, suddenly there was the finish. What a moment, what a sensation, what a shambles as I crossed the line, with both arms raised, and both legs at entirely different angles.

A lovely lady put a medal round my neck, and I thanked her “Thanewferrymush”. I then went a found a tree, and leant against it for a while, looking down at the smoke coming out of my trainers.

Why all this effort. Well, there’s an initiative called PISCES being set up by the World Wildlife Fund, which is trying to support sustainable use of our seas. This is such important work, an effort to give our shallow, inshore coastal waters a bit of breathing space. We all want to hand over clear, vibrant seas to our kids, and things like PISCES seem to me to be the way to go. So, it was all to raise money for that really. Here’s the justgiving page if you fancy popping in a bob or two......

Anyway, it’s a great race, a great day, a great city, and a great celebration of people at their very best. Well done to everyone who turned up to run, and turned up to cheer. I’m chafed so much my inner thighs are as red as a fire engine, I’m foot sore, had to come down the stairs using the banister and the dog for support this morning. I feel like I’ve been worked over with cricket bat. Never. Ever. Again. Until next year.......

PS. Oh, and the time was 3hrs 54mins. It would have been 2hrs 6mins, but something odd happened to my legs. 


  1. Well done Monty!!! Sounds excruciating! However you look as fresh as a daisy! Robin and I have sponsored you and hope to see you in Dartmouth soon for another Great Escape!

  2. A lovely account of your marathon experience, Monty. I'm starting to worry about how much time you've been spending in your dressing gown. Is it your lucky blogging dressing gown?!