From a mile around Moor Park to the last mile of the London Marathon
“I dare you to train for a marathon, and not have it change your life.” (Susan Sidoriak)
Like every good story this one has a beginning, middle and an end however I am not really sure where this one began. Running you see has become more than just a way of keeping fit, it has become such an integral part of my life and second only to my little Sophie in importance. Anyone who knows me well enough will understand the mental battles I have been through over the years and also that I am not afraid to share my thoughts. Running has become such a cathartic process for me that the mental challenges of training for a marathon were always going to be a big reason to do this. I apologise in advance for the length of this blog and I know it might wander off topic at times. I had to write this down and need to draw a line under London and move on. I have spent a week dwelling on it and it is already starting to undo a lot of the hard work I had done mentally. My mind is such a strange place at times and it’s time to move on and think about something else. I’ve purposefully avoided naming individuals involved in this story but you all know who you are and I am glad to know you all.
Running had always been a part of my life as a child. My dad was a runner; he wasn’t a club runner and didn’t enter many races. He always says he didn’t like racing and he always struggled to perform as well on the big day as he did in his training runs. I distinctly remember we had slate coasters around the house from the tour (and half tour) of Pendle fell race which he had completed a few times. Whenever we visited my grandma he would run there and we would meet him at her house, he always wore the same running gear and this is definitely where my love of a certain brand of base layers came from. My brothers were both blessed with good football talents; I had no skills or interest in the game but running certainly seemed to capture my interest. Childhood memories always become blurred and twisted as the tales get told again and again, however it is safe to say though I was naturally blessed with the kind of slender lanky frame most fell running whippets would give their right leg for. My first real memories of running were school cross country with me regularly finishing first, lapping everyone on the way and the infamous all weather track that was a nasty unforgiving gravel surface. I was never a great sprinter but the 800 and 1500 were my favourite events. As I got a little older I started entering into the inter schools cross country races and also running in district scouts cross country events, growing up in Pendle these weren’t flat football pitch type runs, these were like mini fell races. Somewhere in my parents loft my trophies might still be collecting dust. I don’t recall ever winning a race (except the inter form 1500’s) but I certainly had some podium finishes. Pendle hill became my playground, I would love cycling up and over to Barley and then having a run up to the trig point before heading back home. I dabbled in a bit of club track training with Pendle AC and I know my dad and at least one of his running pals were trying to get me to join the mighty Clayton Harriers. Despite having had trials and some runs at county level, once I hit 16 my interest started to disappear as girls, fags and booze became much more appealing.
It’s funny because one of my deepest memories of childhood running sounds so familiar to how I approached my running last year. It was my last year at high school, I was almost 16 and like most teenagers growing up in Nelson Friday nights involved cheap white lightning and 20:20 on the park with a few crafty fags. I recall being woken up early by my dad on a Saturday morning feeling tired and rough to be told It was inter schools cross country and that I was running. I remember being drove over, getting myself sorted in the car, probably lacing up the old pair of Walsh’s that we shared at the time. I really didn’t want to run that day, I hadn’t run for ages and here I was in Barnoldswick lining up on the front row with the main rivals in the area. Fuelled on the previous night’s alcohol, some water and a banana I just went for it and actually put in a good race. Jostling for position at the front and eventually finishing on the podium in third place, I was a shining example of how most people I know now approach parkrun on Saturday mornings. Apart from watching running on the telly, the Olympics, commonwealth games and of course the one and only London marathon this was the beginning of the end of my love affair with running.
Fast forward 15 years and I am no longer the lanky light weight cross country whippet I once was. Tipping the scales at 17 stone I hadn’t done any form of exercise for at least 10 years. Heavy drinking, casual drug use and a lazy lifestyle had left me physically unfit but also mentally wrecked. Years of depression, isolation, guilt, anger and blaming others for my problems meant I was trapped in a cycle of self-destruction, alcohol and lack of friendship being a big part of this. Despite having laid down the foundations of a successful career I was never happy and unfortunately neither were the people around me. I had managed to give up smoking and developed a growing interest in mountain biking that was helping a little but I still hadn’t accepted that I was the problem not the world around me. Another few years passed and this brings me to just over two years ago when my marriage finally broke down and I found myself lost, alone and completely independent for the first time in my life. It was time to grow up and accept I needed to change something. Bizarrely I had just started a new job and was meeting new people, one of whom was a runner and she was in the middle of training for the London Marathon. Weeks went by and conversations were had, anyone who knows anything about marathon training (which I now do) will know it takes over your life and dominates your thoughts, running became a big topic of conversation in the office. The next thing I find myself digging out some old running shoes I had bought a couple of years before, and I was off for a run around Moor Park at lunchtime. That first run was hell. I was coughing, spluttering and walking my way around the longest couple of miles I’d ever done. After a few runs like this I was offered a lift over to sweatshop SRC on a Wednesday evening to run with the group. I went along and had never felt so intimidated yet excited at the same time. This was the start of the rekindling of my love of running again.
The sweatshop running community is such a friendly and welcoming group of people, from the first week to my most recent attendance I always feel like I belong here. I have met so many great people and had some fantastic experiences, be it my first half marathon at Liverpool to the Blues & Twos 10k when I completely shocked myself by running around 10 minutes faster than I anticipated. Times were good; I was making friends, getting out, losing weight and feeling fit. I also met someone special who although is now no longer really a part of my life she has had a massive inspirational influence on my life and my running. So as much as life was on the up, here is where the first challenges of running for me started. As always my biggest challenge in life is myself, it is my own internal voice, the expectations I set and the self-doubts that I instil. I am no longer the prize winning whippet of my childhood and that hurts! I want to win again! A year went by, I spent the year with no direction in my running except forward and as fast as my legs & lungs would let me, but then the inevitable happened and my body broke down. 3 months out following a locked pelvis joint and piriformis syndrome and the sciatica that it brings, a massive backwards step and a battle to avoid slipping into old habits with the booze. When I eventually returned to running the challenge now was trying to slow down and take it easier. Although I wasn’t the fastest I was finding myself up at the front on sweatshop runs and enjoying the internal challenge of pushing myself to keep up, be the first back to the shop or the first up cardiac hill. There is clearly a competitive edge to me that needed channelling otherwise injury would happen again. Eventually I was talked into trying out a session with red rose; meeting at a pub on a Thursday night around the corner from where I was living sounded great so I went, joined and became hooked.
Two significant events happened in April 2015. The first was a trip to London to watch the marathon and the second was officially joining red rose. This was my first trip to the capital and what an experience it was. Here I was with someone very important in my life about to experience the marathon first hand and witness a loved one put themselves through this challenge for their own personal reasons. Having grown up watching London on the telly every year I honestly believed for a long-time this was the only marathon in existence apart from the one at the Olympic Games. I had dreamt of running it myself, and started to think that I could in the future. Having seen & supported someone going through the months of training and discipline required to complete a marathon I knew at the time I wasn’t ready, The idea of slow runs just didn’t appeal. I’m not the fastest, never will be but I still like to run as fast as I can and I lacked the discipline required for such an awesome challenge. I came away from London with a real sense of awe in what I had witnessed; someone close to me had achieved their goal and had done it through hard work and dedication. The ballot for 2016 opened and of course my name was going to be entered. The weekend after was my first outing in a red rose vest, I entered the Yarrow valley 10k and despite hardly knowing anyone managed to sneak onto my first ever team photo, the day after was Avenham park 5k and my second outing in a red vest and a 5K PB. Joining red rose has had a massive impact on my life; I have met so many more fantastic people and through the club have become a member of a wider family at the local parkrun. My Sophie has become part of all this and being able to bring the 2 most important parts of my life together has been amazing. The training runs at red rose were a little longer and a little quicker than what I had been used to, lots of people training for half and full marathons, the “extra 2 miles” at the end of the runs and also the occasional pint in the pub afterwards meant I was getting fitter, faster and also making more friendships. There was also the structure of attending intervals and starting to actually think about technique and form. I was now entering races and breaking PB’s on a regular basis. This is what I was enjoying, a few beers, a good laugh and some hung-over races with a PB at the end of them. It reminded me so much of that childhood cross country race, I didn’t have to take it seriously but could still get something positive from it.
November 2015 brought two things Catforth canter 5k Remembrance Day race and also the result of the London marathon ballot. The 5k race was an interesting one, it was my first time at Catforth and the first time I approached a race with a very clear target in mind. I had trained for this; I actually did a warm up and went to the start line with a real sense of purpose. Not only did I achieve a massive 5k PB but I achieved a goal I had set myself and managed my first sub 20 5k and was also the first back to the finish line for the club. I had never felt so pleased and proud of my running achievements and I certainly celebrated that day. As the month progressed and the results of the ballot arrived I had no idea whether I was in or out, no magazine or email arrived and I had no idea. The mistake I had made was still using Sophie’s mums address when I registered for the ballot. My magazine had been delivered there and promptly chucked in a pile of junk mail that never got opened. I had already made my mind up I wasn’t going to London, I was going to enter Manchester marathon and that was fine with me, it would be cheaper and easier all-round. Sophie came to stay as usual on a Friday and with her brought a pile of mail for me, within there was the London magazine and the news that I was in! I didn’t want to go to London now, but I had to, I had been so lucky to be drawn out in the ballot on my first ever attempt, this was a childhood dream, this was the chance to silence some of my internal doubts, this was the chance to do something amazing. I logged on and paid my entry fee, my fingers trembling as I entered my details to pay, I couldn’t really believe what I was about to take on. Training plans were researched, conversations were had. Enjoy the end of 2015, let the hair down over Christmas and then the hard work would start in the New Year. It would all be fine, but then it turned December and with that came the now infamous 12 days of Christmas running challenge. I had already been struggling at the end of November, my timed mile DNF’s at uclan track sessions were already building up. I had dragged myself to a new 10k PB at Chorley Fire 10k with a tight Achilles and then having a bad fall on the David staff fell race I went against my body and forced myself out to run on the first 2 days of December before my body just gave up. I quickly decided to give up on that challenge and have a few days rest. My next red rose training sessions a week later ended in me limping home feeling broken; my marathon journey was over before it had even begun.
After a couple of weeks rest things started to feel a bit better, I had researched and planned my marathon training, a 16 week plan starting after the new year meaning I could enjoy the festive period. I also decided I would do a bit of gentle running over that period just to get a few miles in my legs and hopefully feel a bit more confident about what I was about to start. My first run back being the Christmas day parkrun at Avenham Park and then an easy 10k with the sweatshop group. My first official training run would be back at uclan track on a cold damp Tuesday evening and a 2,4,6,4,2 lap pyramid session with me sitting out the timed mile to avoid pushing myself too hard. It wasn’t long until Garstang 10k and the first of my pacing duties I performed throughout my marathon training (the others being mad dog 10k, plenty of track timed miles and the hilly Darwen half). This is something I have really taken to and enjoyed; helping others achieve their targets is really rewarding and meant I was getting my miles in without worrying about myself for once. Marathon training really had started and the plan was underway. I had decided to base my training around the F.I.R.S.T model which focuses on less means more, with only 3 specific sessions a week. Mine would be speed & technique at the track, tempo runs at the poachers and then long steady runs at the weekends. I wasn’t running 2 days consecutively, I knew my body would handle this and I was able to attend club sessions and also join in with the sweatshop group long runs on a Sunday. The first 10 weeks followed the plan pretty much to perfection and combined with some spinning & weight classes at the gym I was slowly getting stronger and developing increased stamina. I was adapting physically and mentally and starting to think seriously about a target time and race day strategy for London. As I reached those big weeks of training, the 18 – 20 mile long run weeks I made the mistake of building some club races into the plan and unfortunately switched off from the bigger picture. A tough run and a sprint finish at roddlesworth roller might have felt good at the time but I honestly believe this was the cause of one of my niggles that hampered the last few weeks of my training. Tight muscles cause strains on other parts of the legs, a slight groin niggle started to worry me but not enough for me to sit out caldervale 10 and the darwen half marathon both of which were tough hilly routes and left my quads battered, a welcome sports massage and a few days rest seemed to make a difference and it was taper time so everything would be ok. I hobbled through those taper weeks and decided to sit out the last week of running completely. What were a few easy short runs really going to do to help me? I had done all the big work, laid down the foundations over several months and the rest would surely do more harm than good. Plus I had bigger things to worry about like train cancellations, imaginary tube strikes, terrorist attacks in London and the thought of turning up at the expo to be told I wasn’t on the list. As I said earlier my mind is a strange place to be at times and I do wonder whether my niggles are more psychosomatic than physical.
So after almost a year since I entered the ballot and after 16 weeks of specific marathon training in which I had run more miles than I could ever imagine I was off to London for the weekend and the small matter of running the marathon. Despite having been to watch last year nothing can prepare you for the emotions you experience, I assume heightened by the fact this was my first marathon and I didn’t know what to expect. My first advice to anyone taking on London in future years is go down earlier in the week, book first class on the train and pay extra so you can check your bags in early at the hotel. Being half yorkshireman (apparently!?) I am a bit tight with my money so it was off-peak cattle class on the Saturday and the first race of the weekend was for a seat in the unreserved coach. Getting back off the train and a sprint down the platform proved to be a decisive move and meant beating the queues in the carriages and a seat safely secured for the journey, get in! I am not quite sure why we need HS2 developing in this country, a lot of tax payers money for people to get to London a few minutes quicker; I thought 2 hours 10 minutes from Preston to London Euston was fast enough. Then the next lot of fun and games commenced. Although it is only half an hour away on the tube I had just less than 5 hours to ensure I got to the expo and collected my number before it closed, otherwise my marathon dreams would be over again. Another small victory as I made it to the expo by 1pm and bumped into some fellow red rose runners. My race number safely in my hands I felt like I lost about 4 stone in weight and suddenly my persistent groin niggle seemed to disappear. However a long day on the train & tube, a couple of hours wandering around the expo and a trip back to the hotel carrying quite a heavy rucksack were probably not helping my marathon preparations. It was soon 5pm, I was physically tired, emotionally drained, hungry and dehydrated. The evening was spent trying to refuel & rehydrate and to keep my nerves at bay a lovely gentle walk down to Tower Bridge as the sun set on London. Tomorrow I would be back here in completely different circumstances. Arriving back at the hotel just in time for the 9pm Liam Neeson movie (can’t remember which one as he always plays the same role) I went through the pre-race rituals of pinning numbers to vests, fastening timing chips to shoes, laying out gear etc before crawling myself into bed and eventually getting about 6 hours sleep.
So here it was, race day. I was here, I was in London, the trains had been fine, I had my number, my groin felt better, I had all my gear, I knew my way to the start line, I had done the training and I had nothing to worry about. I had my finish time in mind at 8.15am I left the hotel. It seemed strange leaving so early knowing that I hoped to be finished and have collected my bag and belongings at 2pm almost 6 hours later. As I made my way to Greenwich via a couple of tube lines the excitement and anticipation started to grow as more and more runners boarded. Again I had been lucky as I managed to get a seat. I arrived at the blue start zone and bumped into some fellow red rose runners, toilet queues were bypassed by entering through the exit and then bags were dropped. I found myself in starting pen 4, not too far behind the elite & championship runners. The realisation setting in that I was about to run the London Marathon. Bang! We were off, running before we even crossed the start line and I was surprised that we started only 2 mins behind the elite runners, I really can’t remember what time I put down on my ballot entry but it would all be fine, I sat just behind the 3 hour 30 pacer and then focused on just trying to have a steady first mile whilst my legs loosened up. That first mile is way too busy, and the route narrows right down after about half a mile and you find yourself having to walk, then at mile 1 people were already blowing up and walking completely out of breath. Now I know I might have overestimated my abilities a little to end up in pen 4 but these people had clearly lied on their entry. If you are walking at mile 1 out of breath having set off ahead of the 3 hour 30 pack then you really are in the wrong pen and it made me feel really angry as we were having to dodge and fight our way around them. We soon joined up with the green start runners and although very busy the next couple of miles were easy and I managed to get into my stride, perhaps going a little too quickly in order to pull back a few seconds from the first mile. The first big stand out memory of the day came as we merged with the red start runners at mile 3, the boo’s and banter between the two ‘rival’ sets of runners adding a sense of humour to what had so far been a very serious start. Something that really impressed me was the organisation of the event, I had the blue 3 hour 30 pacer firmly in my sights and then like a piece of clockwork precision engineering the red 3 hour 30 pacer appeared to my left and they were running parallel to each other, very impressive stuff I thought as they both started to drift just that little further away from me.
I had gone to London with 2 times in my mind, one being the’ I’d take it and be happy with that’, and the other being the ‘I’d be very happy with that’. So my overall aim really was to finish between 3 hour 40 and 3 hour 30. As I let the 3 hour 30 pacers slowly drift out of sight I wasn’t too worried, I had my own plan, I had my watch and the pacing wrist band I had acquired from the expo (I did pick up a 3 hour 25 one as well but put that in the bin on race morning) and as the miles started being ticked off I was happy enough being just 2 minutes behind my target pace, especially as I planned to run a slower first 10 miles, pick it up for the second 10 and then just hope to hang on for the last 6. The next big memory that stands out is the famous Cutty Sark, I know its appearance has changed over the last few years with the addition of glass & steel but this famous London marathon landmark always stands out and certainly didn’t disappoint. I remember turning to a guy and shouting “we are running the f**king London marathon and it’s the f**king cutty sark, come on!” as the crowds roared and my emotions started to come to the surface. I suspect this is the first point at which I shed a tear, I had seen this landmark every year on telly and here I was running around it in what I grew up thinking was the only marathon in the world. From here the miles seemed to tick along nicely and although I was probably now around 2 minute 30 of pace and after easing off to chat with a lady from Blackburn harriers my mile 10 energy gel was kicking in and it was time to kick on a little and claw back some time. Up until that point I had allowed my pace to drift around 8 min 10’s but now I wanted to keep them under 8 and perhaps get some 7 min 50’s under my belt. I had run like this comfortably in training so why not today I thought as I pushed on towards tower bridge. I knew this was going to be another stand out point, I remember having to dodge and swerve as people stopped to take photos and selfies, I probably swore at a few and thought to myself why hadn’t they left their phones in the bag drop like me. The bridge certainly looked different to the previous evening but the crowds and support here were immense. I also had the anticipation of seeing a familiar face waiting for me at mile 13. Unfortunately 13 & 14 passed and no familiar faces in sight, I am not sure if that was the start of my mental battles but they certainly felt like tough miles and I couldn’t wait to take my next gel at 15. Those few miles around the Isle of dogs are amazing, the crowds are packed in tight especially on narrow street and I really got a sense here of how much the locals embrace this event. It cast my mind back 2 weeks to our exploits marshalling at the Manchester marathon and the battles we had with drivers and listening to people boo and honk at runners because the roads were closed. Here in London this felt like a party, almost like a public holiday and they were making the most of it and it gave me a little kick psychologically but I think I was physically already struggling.
No matter what you read and who you talk to about marathon running one phrase that will always come up is “hitting the wall” and most people say it happens somewhere around mile 18-20. I told myself it wouldn’t happen, why would it? I had run 20 miles in training comfortably with only 3 gels and some water with the last half of that being at 7 min 50 pace, I remember that training run so well, it was perfectly executed, negative splits, a strong finish, plenty left in the tank and a smile on my face. Here I was in London having tried to replicate it sensing it all about to unravel around me. I remember a guy in front of me tripping and hitting the deck hard, his glasses flying off to the side. I stopped, grabbed his glasses before anyone stood on them and then scooped this man off the floor with one arm and passed him his glasses with the other, luckily he seemed ok and I set back off with an extra loud cheer from the crowd and some pats on the back from fellow runners. Surely this would help spur me on. The next thing I am stopping for a comfort break, my first of the race my legs not wanting to set back off after 2 brief stops in the space of a couple of miles and the energy was draining out of me as I could see the mile 20 marker ahead of me. I was so desperate for my last gel, this was the caffeine one, this was the one I needed, it would pick me up and get me going again. I had it out of my pocket and open the moment I crossed that 20 mile line. I think by then it was too little too late. My desire to stick to my plan completely meant I had only brought 4 gels, I hadn’t picked up the race provided ones and I hadn’t touched the energy drinks being supplied for fear of making myself sick, the nothing new on race day rule still firmly fixed in my mind despite everything else seemingly falling apart. It will be ok I kept saying, in 5 minutes my gel would kick in. Nothing could ever prepare me for those last 6 miles, the longest 6 miles of my life. The emotions I experienced and the things I witnessed out there really making me realise how tough running a marathon really is.
Seeing tower bridge for the second time during the race was supposed to be a welcome sight, this is where I could really start to think about finishing and the marathon suddenly becomes just one more parkrun. Unfortunately this is where one of the last big memories of the day took place and it wasn’t a good one. I’ve seen people dying before but I really wasn’t expecting to see a dying man being resuscitated in the middle of the road right in front of me. For a moment I stopped, my nursing instincts kicked in somehow as I contemplated going over to help, however a quick risk assessment of the incident made me realise I was in no fit state myself to help and that everyone who needed to be there already was so I turned away and headed off in the direction of the finish my head really wobbling now and my body seemingly drained of every last ounce of energy. It was definitely at this point where all though of finishing times went out of the window, this was now a battle of guts and determination just to finish. This is actually what I had come to London for, this was the moment, this would be the defining end of this journey one way or another, it was my heart versus my head with my body just following whichever was winning. Unfortunately I didn’t want to finish like this but it was probably inevitable. In hindsight perhaps a 3 hour 30 finish was always a bit unrealistic but it was too late, I had come to London and had a proper go at it. It had seriously kicked my arse and I felt like I had been in the ring for 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. I was on the ropes, hanging on, 6 counts, 7 counts, surely the next one it would be all over and the fight would be stopped but somehow I kept pulling myself forward. I don’t really remember much of those last couple of miles which is a big shame, only 2 key memories left of this 26.2 mile journey across London. It must have been around 25 miles when I heard my name being shouted and out of the corner of my eye saw what looked to be familiar faces, I turned and ran towards them arms reaching out for a hug but deep down wanting someone to slap me across the face and snap me out of the cycle of defeat I had slipped into. My mind was winning at this point, I was ready to give up. I had no idea who was there as it all happened in a blur but I remember being shouted at to just carry on and no hugs or slaps were provided as I turned back in the right direction and carried on towards the finish in what was now a shuffle or a plod. The desire to walk taking hold more and more often as the tears and emotions took over.
That first mile I ran around moor park 2 years ago was tough but nothing could ever prepare me for how tough and emotional this last mile would be. I was stopped in my tracks, I couldn’t move as my mind won the battle, it wasn’t worth it and it was time to give up. I clung to a barrier willing for someone to pull it open and just tell me to sit down and stop but it didn’t happen. Here I was in the last mile of the London marathon, the noise, the blood, the sweat and the tears all culminating in probably the second most emotional event of my life (the first being Sophie’s birth). There was no escape and no hiding. I remember thinking it was more a scene from the roman coliseum than a run, the crowds seeming to take satisfaction from my suffering as they cheered and shouted at me to start running again. Complete strangers patting me on the back, grabbing my arms and pulling me along. I could manage to run 10 metres and then I’d be back to walking, the tears running down my face as I realised It was all coming to an end and I had somehow failed. From somewhere though a sense of realisation, I could still make it home under 4 hours. Yes this was 30 mins slower than I had planned for but according to everyone I had spoke to is a massive achievement for an average runner on their first marathon. I dug in for one last push and then there it was Buckingham palace on my left as I turned the corner towards the finish line and there was no way I was walking over that line. I think one of my strengths as a runner is the ability to kick on with an explosive burst and I do like a strong sprint finish. This was never going to be one of those but I did take pride in reeling a few back in and I managed to wipe away the tears before I crossed the line with something resembling a smile and my finger raised. I had become one in a million, and no matter how badly those last 6 miles had gone no one could take away the fact I had done it, my heart had won the battle and I had finished my first marathon. Not just any marathon I might add, but the only marathon I ever thought existed and the one I grew up longing to run.
So here I am one week on from that momentous experience, knowing that the man I saw at mile 23 had died and that some silly C list celebrity had to cheat her way to accomplish what he died trying and what I put myself through to finish. There is a famous saying about marathon running that I have learnt to relate to “Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself you can learn in 26.2 miles” (Lori Culnane). I certainly learnt a lot about myself in those 26.2 miles and went through a wide range of emotions. I have spent the last week dwelling on what ifs? and pulling myself apart over thinking everything that happened that day and during my training. I am searching for answers that I will never find and to be honest they don’t really matter. I had told myself again and again that running the marathon was really about finishing and winning that battle in those last few miles but here I am now allowing all my self-doubt and blame to creep back in and tell myself I achieved nothing. I am not looking for anyone to tell me otherwise or to massage my ego, the reason I am writing this is because I need to draw a line in the sand and move on. I achieved something amazing; 2 years ago I couldn’t even run around moor park without stopping to catch my breath, last week I ran a marathon. I will learn from this experience and there will be other marathons but this is my first and will always be the most important. The last four months of my life have been an amazing journey of self-discovery, the self-discipline and psychological battles have been immense and without certain peoples support I don’t know if I would have made it to the start line let alone the finish. It has been a pleasure sharing this experience with so many people and I feel I’ve made some real friends for life along the way. The moment Sophie came running out of school on the Tuesday and the first thing she asked was to see my medal I realised how proud she was of her daddy and how proud I should be of myself, I love that girl to bits and no matter how much I love running she will always be number 1.