Three months to go, exactly. Time for some real action, some solid workouts. Routine five milers and run-walking twelves just won’t cut it now, won’t get me to The Embankment in April, let alone to the finish line on The Mall.
I’m back in Stratford-upon-Avon today, the town where I grew up. Scene of my most recent marathon tableau, a grateful and joyous homecoming for the local boy.
The meticulously planned, yet widely unexpected metamorphosis from boyhood wimpishness and utter athletic indistinction to the cool, calm and rakishly collected 3:59 marathon runner.
Well, it looked good on paper, and in my dream issue of the Stratford Herald too, but reality had kicked in somewhere amongst the mists of marathon’s dreaded mile 20. “Run a dream marathon for 20 miles, and suffer like hell for the next 6.2“, as Shakespeare himself would have put it, in describing probably 90% of all the marathons that have ever been run, anywhere, by anyone and everyone, except for Paula Radcliffe.
“O, how this spring of love resembleth the uncertain glory of an April day” – Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 1, Sc. 3
Picture a fine and blustery English spring day in Stratford-upon- Avon. I’ve returned from Guildford to my home town for this weekend of processions marking the Shakespeare Birthday celebrations.
An East End boy, I moved to Warwickshire at the age of 9, and these streets I know so well are today lined with flags from over a hundred nations, flying briskly in the breeze.
“Now go we in content…” – As You Like It, Act 1, Sc. 3
Lining up outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in warm sunshine, reflecting on London and Chicago behind me, I am instantly humbled when my neighbour tells me this is his 126th marathon. Just the third for me and the day’s long road is frankly unimaginable at this moment, but soon we start and it all begins.
Today saw a very pleasant four miles along the River Wey towpath on a sunny Spring afternoon. That’s more or less how I started running, almost six years ago, and the perfect final outing before my third (and reputedly last) marathon.
London, Chicago… and er, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Well, it’s my home town, where I grew up, and I know those lanes like the back of my hand. It’s the perfect place for my farewell from international athletics.
I left my familiar tracks high on the Chalk of the Surrey Hills to find my 12 miler yesterday in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Started along the banks of the River Avon, then heading west into rural Warwickshire along The Greenway, following part of the route for the Shakespeare Marathon. We are having fabulous weather here in the UK – almost no rain for the whole of September – and the mist was still rising as I set out across the floodplain by Stratford racecourse. Views of the Cotswolds and Bredon Hill in the distance, with the leaves just showing a faint tinge of yellow.
Crossed the river again by The Four Alls pub in Welford-on-Avon before turning homeward in glorious autumn sunshine. Swans, canal boats and rowers were out in force alongside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre by the time I got back to town.