My winter’s journey of 18 weeks and 499 miles is over. Only four more days and 26 miles to go.
From the bleak beginnings of a frozen, snowy Christmastime in Scotland, through fifty Crawley lunchtimes and Guildford nightfalls I’ve wandered.
Along pretty Surrey towpaths and under pitch-black Houston skies, I waved those winter months goodbye.
I’ve seen the North Downs slopes from every side, gasped breathless in the Alps, and loped lazily down last weekend’s Warwickshire lanes and the Avon riverbank, too.
It’s been a long way, this year.
I’ve felt no real promise, honest aspiration, or even false pretence of quicker feet or swifter legs, this time.
Just run through winter, until you reach the spring, I said.
So I just got through it. And now I’m here.
Best run was the Bath Half Marathon in March. On laughably low training of around 12 miles per week and with just one 10 miler behind me, my plan was to start way too fast and try to hang on. Fresh undertrained legs made this strategy work and gave me a PR of 1:51:25.
My best training run was an Edinburgh 7 miler in early November sunshine.
My best running moment by far was taking in the view whilst crossing the Chicago River at Mile 11 on 13th October, out in front of the legendary ‘Bunny Ears’ 4:00 pace group. Soon to be followed by my worst running moment as those Bunny Ears disappeared into the distance at Mile 21 that same morning. No surprise then that my second best, and certainly my most thankful, running moment was a very thankful cruise down Columbus Drive some 50 eternally long minutes later….
19. A warm Bath
4. GO British ! Chicago Marathon 2002
6. Edinburgh – Scotland’s finest
150. Chapel of Garioch, Inverurie – another Aberdeenshire morning
32. The bad run
76. A year of running, rainily
A marathon is such a huge experience. Afterwards, it is very hard to capture how you felt at the time, but it is so important to try. If someone asked you in a year’s time, you’d say, well it was great, or, it was fine, my knee got sore for a while but I made it.
But there is so much more to it than that, so many more moments which go to make up the marathon tapestry. You don’t want to forget them. Ever.
Chicago (sorry, “Shick-aggo”) has taken a long time to settle down for me. I don’t think it will, finally, for a long time. But in a way, it still continues. More than anything, the thought I share with you is that the marathon is a journey. It’s one I am so glad I made.
My first wife died of breast cancer in 1997. The kids were very young, and I couldn’t find time to play golf for four hours any more. But I could find time for a half hour’s run at lunchtime.
I gradually increased my mileage and decided to run London in 2001 to mark my 40th birthday and to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. I raised £7,600, fourth highest in the UK.
2. My first marathon: London 2001
125. The green and the gold – 2006 Ryder Cup
109. Happiness, more or less
99. One over Strath
39. Woking – from Necropolis to Technology Junction
This weekend saw me take an hour’s flight north from London to visit relatives in Edinburgh. After heavy rain on Saturday night, the streets were still wet and grey as I set off from Marchmont early the next morning. It was braw and briskly chilly in the Scottish capital for a soft southerner like me, but gradually I warmed up running on a leaf-strewn Jawbone Walk and Meadow Walk into the Old Town.
Some hardy tourists had ventured out onto the Royal Mile and I decided to follow them up Lawnmarket to reach Edinburgh Castle. The effort is rewarded by fantastic views across to Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat, the hill high above the city forever linked with Scottish Olympian Eric Liddell and the film ‘Chariots of Fire’.
It was a stiff and increasingly hungry flight which I took from O’Hare that evening after the Chicago Marathon. Elation and relief surrounded me all across the dark expanses and sparse city lights of the Mid West, as I peered down through ten kilometres of space at a blue-lit arch of St Louis far below.
And after the sensory and emotional overload of experiencing, and even participating in, one of the greatest sporting events of the world set against the brilliantly-lit backdrop of a Chicago autumn skyline, it was an exhausted and fretfully REM-riven night which I spent in the softest and deepest pillows of the Westinn Houston Galleria.