Congratulations on your run. Two minutes off a 5 km is impressive. It’s a gruesome distance to run, so you might as well get it over with.
So, London just wasn’t my day.
All those months of preparation and careful tapering blown out of the water by a dodgy stomach. Cold weather, nerves, grapefruit squash in the morning, a bug from one of the kids. I never was quite sure.
We arrived back on Sunday, to find Guildford lying in a warm green haze. The moment had arrived, and I knew it was time for those first three miles. A very gentle loop, following my favourite route along the River Wey from the bottom of my road. The sun was going down, and there were cool patches in the warm air. The path was dry, and the river still. Summer running. Definitely a different season from last weekend in London.
I wasn’t worried about the time, yet the miles came up in 8:52, 9:09, 9:06. Almost metronome-like.
It was a good five days of recovery in Sicily, eating pasta, going to Syracuse and Etna, and resting tired legs on Taormina’s beach.
Clothing is now causing me obsessive concern following a deterioration in the forecast.
All week it’s been showing Sunday as 14 C, sunshine and light southerly wind (perfect).
Now suddenly it shows 11 C, rain and wind.
I’m just four days away from the London Marathon.
Four months of training have somehow shrunk to four days and a single two mile jog.
If I can think of little else but the race on 18th April, it seems a good time to take my mind off the road ahead, and to look back on the journey that has brought me here.
It’s a journey that started on The Embankment one chilly night in early December, as I left a party at the Globe Theatre on the South Bank. I walked across the floodlit Millennium Bridge to admire the view.
That reflective walk brought me eventually onto the London Marathon course, as I walked, dreamed and finally had to run to catch my train from Waterloo station.
A whole winter and a passage into spring have gone by since then, and I’ve experienced it all. The highlights and lowlights of just one season in one lifetime.
My computer hard disk crashed yesterday, which seemed appropriate. It wasn’t the only hardware that was suffering.
The Bath Half Marathon last week gave me a useful opportunity to experience the thrill of racing again, and to assess my fitness levels.
The appalling weather also offered a good ‘dry run’ (if that’s the correct word) for running a race in the wet, if that’s the weather which should be served up by the London Marathon.
A successful day, but I’ve paid for it since. My legs have been stiff and heavy. My motivation’s been tested, and found wanting. Hell, I felt tired. I still do.
In geology, you learn about time. About a lot of time.
As I look from my window upon the Surrey Downs, I see the Chalk and Greensand hills, walked by pilgrims heading east to Canterbury for eight hundred years and more. That seems a lot of time.
But to the Earth, it’s nothing. Our planet is around 4.6 billion years old, give or take a few. That IS a lot of time.
A new perspective is required, so let’s imagine the Earth’s own lifetime as a marathon course. The longest journey, but even in this unimaginable race, every 100 million years meant just one kilometre en route from Greenwich to The Mall.
A familiar sense of anticipation, and a race at last. The last few weeks of training have gone by in a flash, and it’ll be good to see how I fare on the road again. After weeks and weeks of running into the dusk, at last a bright and sunny morning. I’m feeling pretty good today as I open the curtains and look out. Spring seems to have arrived at last, and I can feel it in my step as I bound down the stairs for a big breakfast.
My mother makes me a mountain of toast and marmite, the sun streaming now through the kitchen window of my youth. It’s a perfect day, and time to get ready. I pull on my favourite racing kit and try to imagine the race, how it will feel. I focus on the good feelings – calm, cool running through the early miles, feeling the distance kick in, but staying with it. For as long as it takes.