Mansfield runner’s London Marathon journey

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When you’ve been quite the couch potato, running a marathon is probably not the first thing on your mind.

But, on Sunday, I ran the 26.2 miles of the London Marathon. Actually, my Fitbit GPS tracker said I ran just under 27 miles.

Whichever was right, I had done a marathon. I had run across Tower Bridge, past Canary Wharf, through some residential streets, past Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, along the Thames.

I had got a medal and joined a relatively small group of people to have run the distance.

While it was the culmination of training that started on Boxing Day 2016, it marked a milestone in a change that first occurred in January 2016.

It was then that I had decided I wanted to get fitter. And healthier. So, on the first Saturday of that year, I took my lardy self off to a parkrun, at Manor Sports Complex.

If you haven’t heard of parkrun, they are free, timed 5km runs that take place in parks across the world.

That first run saw me “run” the 5km without stopping, a feat in itself. Doesn’t matter that I came somewhere near the back. Probably last.

The next week, did the same thing, except at the Sherwood Pines parkrun, which is nearer home.

Week after that, the same thing. Throughout the year, I also did a parkrun in America, whilst on holiday in Orlando. Something had changed; I wanted to pack my running kit and do a parkrun while on holiday.

Later that year, I also spent a wonderful long weekend in Venice. Took my trainers there as well and spent time running around the maze-like streets of Venice, over the bridges and into the famous St Mark’s Square.

I did the Nottingham half marathon too. But it’s only a half. So I entered the ballot for the London Marathon. Didn’t get in but did get a charity place with the Royal British Legion.

I’m no expert but I would suggest if you’re going to do something like take up running, set a goal. Whether it’s your first 5km, or a marathon, set a goal and have a plan on how to get there.

So, fast-forward to Sunday. The night before had been spent at a friend’s apartment not far from the start line in Greenwich Park. I’d have been fresh as a daisy if I had been able to sleep the night before.

I walked past Cutty Sark, and got chatting to a chap from Cornwall who was doing the marathon. The next chap I spoke with, a former Royal Marine at the British Legion photocall for its charity runners, was from Warsop.

No matter where I go, Florida, Egypt, London Marathon, there’s always someone from the area in which I live.

After the photocall, off to the athletes area. Athlete? Me? Nah.

This was the area where you hand over your baggage to be transported to the finish line. It’s where you see huge queues to the toilets, mountainous piles of banana skins and people stretching. There was also a strong whiff of antiseptic cream.

You see people dressed as telephone boxes, rhinos, Mr Men Characters. You know full well that after a mile or two, you’re going to be overtaken by someone dressed as a tree.

Before you know it, and after three or four visits to the loo, you’re in the starting pen. Thousands of people ready to run the event of their life. Ready to hit the roads to raise money for charity. Ready to prove something to themselves and others.

Because of the large numbers involved, I think it was about 25 minutes after the official start of the race that I got to the actual start line.

This was it. Within half a mile, blokes were stopping for a toilet break. There were jokes about having broken the back of the marathon; could people see the finish line, and how it was the daftest idea they had ever had.

The route wound its way around London. The crowds were amazing. Shouting your name, encouraging and holding up signs that read “Shortcut #fakenews”, and “Which was the worst idea, running a marathon or voting for Brexit” and “You’re running the marathon better than the government is running the country”.

The first half of the marathon was OK for me. Seeing family at Tower Bridge was amazing and makes me well up as I type.

But at mile 15, I had to rest. Was it the famous wall that runners run into? A stop to use the urinal, eat half a flapjack, and I was on my way again. Mile 19, similar thing. Ate some more, had an energy gel, drank water. It was a very hot day so made sure that I took water on board at every possible opportunity. Dehydration can be a killer. Drink loads of fluid, or be ill? It’s a no brainer.

Struggled a bit at mile 21 but by then the end is almost in sight. It’s a couple of parkruns to do. Not sure if parkrun is an official unit of measurement but it should be.

One more parkrun left. The crowds got even louder. The road narrower. You could have followed a blue line that marked the official 26.2 route but with thousands of runners, many of whom walking, this wasn’t always possible. And, I had trained running to the right of roads, so I continued to do so. I can’t imagine training running down the middle of the A614 to Ollerton.

There was no way I was going to walk the last mile or two. I had gone there to run a marathon.

Then into The Mall, and the finish line. A medal. A completed marathon. A goodie bag.

Collect luggage, walk to the meet and greet area within sight of Downing Street. Sit down, stretch. Your family see you, wearing t-shirts specially printed for the occasion.

You’ve done it. You well up. You’ve done something special.

That was my marathon journey. Who knows if I will do another. It takes an amazing amount of time and selfishness to train. It takes a lot out of family time. I thank my wife and two boys and dog for the support and time.

Wait, there’s the Nottingham marathon later this year? Well…

* Wayne is raising money for the Royal British Legion. To help raise funds, he has organised an event at The Mangrove Indian Restaurant, on Dame Flogan Street, Mansfield, on Sunday, April 30, at 7pm.

Tickets are £20 each, and there’s a raffle on the night as well, with some superb prizes - including a beautiful Thomas Sabo bracelet, Thorntons chocolates, bowling sessions, afternoon teas, Yankee Candles, shopping vouchers, fitness sessions, a two-hour treatment (full body massage and deluxe facial), hampers, whisky, real ale, model trucks, and much more.

Get in touch with Wayne to book your tickets, or purchase raffle tickets (at £5 a strip of five tickets), on 07854689914. The raffle will be drawn on the night.