Firstly, a huge thanks to all the fantastic people that came out and supported me and all the runners, Amie, Andy, Jo, Mike, Dane, Gary, FMG (future Mrs Goom), Lucille, my lovely parents, Jade, Pat, Paul, Lizzy and James. And now my marathon story….
6am my alarm woke me up. Boo I thought! It's a Sunday and 6am is early. Still, stuff to do, places to go, marathon to run. You know the drill. By 7:45 I was showered, fed, taped up, bagged up and ready to go. I took the 2 mile stroll to Preston Park, accompanied by hundreds of other runners I met en route.
The atmosphere in the Park was a mix of excitement and nerves. And wee. The huge toilet queues meant many people were abusing the bushes. Soon I was warmed up and at the front of the red coral, watching the elite athletes warm up by running very quickly up and down. Silly people, did they not know they would shortly be doing a lot of running?!
Gus Poyet got us under way and off we went. My plan was a steady start; 7:30-7:45 for 2 miles before gradually creeping up to 7:15. So when I did my first 3 miles in under 7:15 I realised my plan had been shelved. I kept trying to run slower, honest, but it just felt too slow. I won't have been the only one but I really paid for my poor pacing.
The first few miles were lovely, at around mile 2, a nice chap from the RW forum came up and said hello having recognised my name off my backpack. Always nice. I cruised fairly comfortably enjoying the crowd and tried to persuade a lady on a bike to give me a lift. She wouldn't. Not going my way apparently. At Ovingdean I tried to get a local to “make me a brew” but she just laughed! I loved the crowd out there, supportive, loud and vibrant. One or two of them were dancing!
My family were there to support me, and I passed them at mile 5 and 12. Great to see them and their support has been fantastic. I felt good at 12. Good enough to keep beckoning the crowd to cheer us more. I got a huge boost from a big “come on Tom!” and sped up, not a great idea when I was already doing 7 minute mileage.
By mile 15 the cracks started to show, I was chatting to Gavin, one of several really nice runners who were friendly enough to say hello. I was hoping I could forget about how hard it was starting to feel by having a natter. 17 and 18 I started to flag. My speed dropped to closer to 7:30.
Around 19 I thought I was in trouble, I was getting more and more tired and couldn't find a rhythm. I needed a boost. I got it from the 3:10 crew, a nice group of runners I'd met earlier (all aiming for 3:10) who I'd over taken during a speedy burst. They lifted me up. Not actually, obviously, that'd be cheating, but their presence carried me until around mile 20 when I could only watch as they gradually sped away.
Mile 21 I discovered the Wall. I hit it hard, and it hit me back. I had nothing left. I felt weak. I thought, “I really can't do this”. With little crowd out around the power station, there was nothing to lift me. I kept thinking, “how am I going to do another 5 miles?”.
As I turned the corner behind the power station I passed the water station and there was my saviour! Fellow Physio and marathoner, Louise got her whole team to cheer me on and fill me with water and gel. I took long hard drinks from my camel back as well. Their encouragement and that extra energy made the difference. Half a wobbly mile later I could feel my energy levels rising. I picked it up again and found some kind of rhythm.
At mile 24 though I hit a mini wall, the energy left me again and I just desperately wanted to finish. A friend who saw me at that time said I was like a stumbling caveman. But, like all the finishers today, I kept going and somehow at the 800 meters to go sign I found enough energy to raise my speed and power through the final straight. The crowd were amazing. A wall of noise that pushed me on. I crossed the line at 3:12:36. As soon as I stopped I could barely stand. The drinks and bananas seemed an age away but I was soon drinking powerade like there was no tomorrow (although I don't like to drink something that's bright blue – nothing edible is naturally that colour!)
All in all an amazing, unforgettable day with great weather, fantastic crowd and some really friendly runners. I learned an awful lot about pacing, the hard way, but for my first marathon I think I did pretty well. Right, now where's that beer…..