What a day! Thank you!

Olive MarathonThat marathon.  It was a cement mixer.  A food blender.  It was a day of everything.  I feel very privileged to have played a ‘moving part’ in such a spectacle.  And what a lesson in all the good things life has to offer.  Overdoing it?  I’ve may have finished, but I’ve not even started yet!

Before the race

It’s all about if you want a wee and getting your head blown off about how many people there are at Greenwich park.  Everyone you see is running for someone else.  Perhaps on behalf of an individual, or in the name of many thousands.  All of a sudden, you go from ‘training for a long run’ to being part of one seriously sensational network.  And then you wonder if you want a wee again.

The start

Everyone starts to walk en mas and in orderly fashion to the start line.  Like any decent cavalry charge, the organisers have figured out what speed a crowd of several thousand needs to be at in order to hit the start line without falling over each other…and that flip from walk to run is a great feeling.  You’re off!

Miles 1-5

It’s a bit like running through a carnival.  Lots of support from the Greenwich crowd and lots of colour, energy and good vibes.  At this point, no one is out of steam and your senses are suitably distracted from the miles ahead.  That first hour is very special.  You get the sense that you’re into something pretty good.

Miles 6-10

The body starts to let you know that you’re running a marathon.  The sun starts to tell you that it’s really hot.  Despite my ongoing knee thing, all worries were focused on nipple burn and blisters in the first half of the run!

Miles 10-15

This is the rock star bit.  Leading up to and going over Tower Bridge, into the sights, is a great buzz.   For a moment, you forget that you have another half marathon ahead.  Maybe I can just run back and across the bridge until the miles are clocked up??  It’s like a football stadium…on a road.

Very Good People

It’s in the hour up to Tower Bridge (13miles) that you also get the Marathon Lesson.  This event is only about distance and time for the Elite.  The vast majority are putting themselves through it for a bunch of incredible causes.

The London Marathon is a real-time reminder of the power, scale and enduring nature of human kindness.  I was in awe.  The runners and the crowd are energised by doing a good thing for other people.

I live in a commercial world.  It’s a world away from the essence of the Marathon.  It struck me how the BIG institutions of the land are wholly reliant on human kindness to prosper.  Government could not function if people were not prepared to work on behalf of others, whatever the conditions.  The BIG brands, Apple, Virgin, Barclays etc…they would have no customers if we as humans were not able to compassionately support each other.  What presents itself as ‘charity’ is really an extension of people doing what people do.  We don’t buy iphones intuitively, we don’t borrow money by default, we don’t fly without thinking about it, but we do help each other.

The London Marathon is 26.2 miles of people helping each other out.

I think that’s what makes it so special.  With that in mind, the last 11 miles were all ahead. And my legs were starting to wobble!

Miles 16-21

Hard Yards.  Water, gels, food, focus, dedications…but somehow you just run out of steam.  The stride shortens, the rhythm syncopates and…you hit the….banking district!  It’s also the points where you see casualties in greater number.  St John’s at work on some people, others attempting roadside cramp removal, others walking in that I’ve-had-enough way.   But always, a moving river of charity vests and a chorus of support from a crowd full of welcomed strangers.

Miles 22-26

Your body and mind get split in two.  The support thickens and the sites of the capital are back!  You do get literally carried along.  But oh that body, those legs, those aches that just won’t let you alone.  It’s all about hanging on.

The last 300 yards

Turning the last bend at Buckingham Palace to face the, thankfully, short stretch to the finish line is a wonderful feeling.  There’s just enough endorphin in the system to let you soak up the vibes and the pain.  The red tarmac of Pall Mall gives a change of tone to the heavy, heavy weather of the past 90 minutes.  You’re home.  Phew!

The Finish

When you stop running after you’ve run for, in my case, 4 hours 46 minutes, you feel….weird?  Exhausted and really quiet.  No thumping feet.

All the pain of moving gets reallocated to the pain of not moving and the interim period is about as close to teleportation as I can imagine.  Not that dreamy Star Trek teleportation.  Think more like, The Fly.

Much like the pain of the run itself, the sense of achievement builds over time.  It’s not til a good few hours later that what you’ve done really sinks in.

The upsides of this experience are numerous.  The money raised from sponsorship, the life lesson, the physical fitness, the love affair with lycra, the family support, the 52 likes on Facebook, the pics, the ‘I was there’ factor.  And yes, I can’t walk properly.  I am the Tin Man.  But…what a day.

The cuddle at the end?  Priceless.

I will continue to thank everyone who has given money to the RLSB as part of my Marathon sponsorship.  But in blog world, I have to say officially, again, Thank You.  You have made a contribution to the futures of young visually impaired people…and one of them happens to be one of the most important people I know!

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As for next year?  Well, being a dad it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is it! (Nearly)

jacko IIThe last person to coin the phrase ‘this is it’ was, I believe, Michael Jackson?  However, my intention is not to bribe a doctor to administer me with fatal doses of hospital grade anesthetic.  My intention is only to run the London Marathon…next Sunday.  Gulp!!

I have done most of my training runs (knee permitting) with a woman called Nathalie.  We break up the run by talking…mostly about pain (mental, physical, emotional), pressure points, event logistics, fund raising, self-doubt, hydration, clothing, weather, trains, celebrations yada yada yada.  We’re both running for charities that have impacted our family lives.  So, in terms of big deals, we share a bigness!

Yesterday’s run, however, was a day of referring to all the above and then getting, dare I say, a little bit excited.

The ‘journey’ of training for the marathon makes you ‘dizzy’.   I genuinely thought I could run a sub-4 hour marathon for about…hmmm…two weeks?  It was a temporary belief.  I had found my calling!   A balding forty-something marathon man.  My middle years spent taking on ever more extreme endurance as my face became a gristled grid of windburned wire.

What a numbnut!?

The reality of marathon training is that it is super tough.  There are reasons why I haven’t bought a pair of real trainers for the past 20 years.  There are reasons why I have been getting progressively heavier over the past decade.  There are reasons why I used to bunk-off PE at school.  There are reasons why my knee nearly fell off during training! Innate, genetic, immutable reasons!

My training plan sort of went out the window due to knee issues.  I have ground through the final weeks with a combo of cycling, funny exercises and some running.  My plan for the race is really one of hope that the knee holds up – but as the start line approaches, it’s a good hope, not a prayer.   Thankfully, the remedial work on my bum (glute) has helped some and, luckily, the advice of ‘not running  very fast’ is one I am more than happy with.

The trouble with such a physically demanding event is that you get immersed in the ‘performance’ and lose sight of the motivation for signing up.   My family couldn’t give a fig what time I run the marathon.  Olive doesn’t even know what time is?  The RLSB just want me to get round and (ahem) enjoy it, raising money on the way. None of my fellow runners are concerned for my time.  It’s just me, then?

We live in a world that is judged on performance and that seems to creep into your skin, even in fun running.

Kids that are visually impaired know a lot about performance.  As an infant, the performance is, in Olive’s case anyway, a series of trips to GOSH to be observed and evaluated against a set of benchmarks for VI children.  This is a very benign yet important process.   We get an idea of where she is at and what she can see.  We also get some perspective on where her development is against sited and VI children on an objective scale.  I think it also gives the team at GOSH some sense of red flags to watch for as well.  If her motor skills, speech etc are delayed any more than is to be expected as a result of her blurry world, they may need to look for other cues as to what’s up.

I’m sure there will be times between now and Olive being a grown-up where her ‘performance’ is evaluated in more subjective ways.   It’s hard not to judge people that sit outside the physical, emotional or intellectual norm.   Humans don’t do outliers very well.  There’s probably some sort of Darwinian imperative that ‘forces’ us down this track.   For most of us though, it’s to do with a lack of familiarity and plain old bad habits leading us down often faulty roads of judgement against a person’s character and capabilities.

Olive, thankfully, swims at the shallow end of adversity with her condition.  She has some sight.  It’s improving.  Her development is good.  Her attitude is enchanting! But, she’s still going to run the gauntlet of feeling excluded, vulnerable, ‘out there’ in the big wide world at some point.  Maybe no more than any other kid.  Maybe less?  But as the work of the RLSB keenly points out, the need for VI children to be supported in infancy, through the school years, through adolescence, and be given all the chances possible to realise their potential is crucial.

If children are given the right preparation for life, they thrive.  VI children benefit from some of that preparation being tailored to them – peer groups, skills development, training, confidence building – even the simple mantra of living life without limits – they are all guiding hands to give VI kids a fair start.  With that, the ‘performance’ measures that life places on all of us, stand a better chance of being met.  In some case, exceeded.  On others, completely smashed to pieces!

And that’s why I’m running the London Marathon 2014 for the RLSB.   I signed up because this worthy charity has helped my daughter and family, because I have met so many other children that benefit from its work and because the notion of running a long way motivates people to give me money to do so!  My marathon is not a tick box event for the middle-aged professional.  It’s not a passion to test my limits.  It’s a commitment to my Olive and an investment in all the great people at this remarkable organisation.

You can help me on this big ole run by donating here.

That really is it.

 

(for now)