This one might hurt…

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It turns out a half marathon event the weekend before a marathon can be quite tiring. Who’d have thought? It also turns out running another half marathon with no water doesn’t make you feel too good. I’m not sure whose idea it was to have no water bottles at the Amsterdam marathon. In fact, no bottles of anything. A Dutch energy drink sponsored the race.  There were giant inflatable sports drinks around the course, adverts for it, but no actual bottles. At ten miles the inflatable bottles either started to mock me, or I was hallucinating.

The first refreshments stand I came to at 5km consisted of three empty benches and two people handing out small cups of water to a long queue of people.  Conscious of my time, and assuming bottles would be around the corner, I kept going.  By thirteen miles, I’d managed to get my hands on about two shots of water. I think it may be a tactic to boost the performance of locals, who seemed to have strategically placed friends handing out drinks along the route.

When I realised no bottles would be forthcoming, I knew it was a choice between a good time, or making sure I definitely finished/stayed alive. I felt so unwell at this stage I  stopped, looked for water, found none, and had a nice lie down. Nowhere in my marathon training did I anticipate lying in a field staring at a windmill, although it’s lovely to take in the scenery. Running near ten miles up and down the Amstel river adds insult to dehydrated injury, staring at water the whole time, and thinking of beer. At least the Dutch seem to have a sense of humour.

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Keep hoping I’ll get 24601.

The second half of the marathon seemed to go on forever. One you’ve had a lie down with aching legs, getting up deserves a medal in itself.  At this point I have to thank everyone for their support, donations and encouraging messages, because without that, I’m not sure I would have made it round.  It was always going to be a challenge with limited training, but a lot went wrong and it took everything I had to keep going.

Like many other people, I temporarily opted for the walking with exaggerated arm swinging to give the illusion of running. The perfect crime. At this stage I was just hoping I’d be able I finish. By 35km I knew I would, but knew there was another hour of pain left. There was also a trip off course into Lidl to buy a drink and some chocolate.  Again, not something I had planned in training, but it’s an interesting experience to see the faces of locals doing their shopping as a delirious limping marathon runner pops in mid-race.

Olympic Stadium with 26.2 miles to go.

Olympic Stadium with 26.2 miles to go.

The finish of the marathon in the Olympic stadium was a relief, and a great atmosphere, with the crowd the best part of the event.  There’s nothing quite like crossing the line and finding your friend waiting for you. Your friend who started after you, did no training and spent the week smoking. I may adopt this strategy for future training. The key to Simon’s success seemed to be not thinking about it like I did. Some people seem able to maintain a very consistent pace throughout. I suppose there’s no reason this can’t be done, but in my mind it’s about minimising the inevitable slowing down for the second half.  Simon did himself proud though, and you can sponsor him through the same page as me, with all the funds going to Mind. 

While I would never complain about it, my preparation was confused by Saints winning 8-0 the day before the marathon, with ill-advised jumping around with every goal.  Since I started running events in 2010 Saints have gone from the bottom of League 1 to 2nd in the Premier League. I’ll be honest, I’m afraid to stop running. Saints fans, if ever there was a reason to donate, this is it. Although research shows this could lead to an increase in depression around the Portsmouth area, so please drop off any unwanted items at the Portsmouth Mind shop. I’d especially like to see it filled up with Saints shirts.

When finally at the finish, I planned never to do another marathon. The following day, unable to walk, I definitely wouldn’t do another marathon. Back home on Wednesday and still hobbling, the motivation still wasn’t there. On Thursday, I signed up for the Brighton marathon. There clearly is a reason I fundraise for Mind.


Who remembers Pompey?

There remains one more part to this year’s challenge though. You wouldn’t think doing the Great South Run again would be much of a challenge, but I haven’t put my running shoes on since I finished the marathon on Sunday. I also haven’t walked properly.  So if you can’t sponsor me for the Royal Parks Half or Amsterdam Marathon, sponsor me for choosing to trek to Portsmouth early on a Sunday morning and force myself around an agonising ten miles.  It’s due to your support and sponsorship that I’ll be out there trying to move my legs tomorrow.  Whether commendable or just plain stupid, I will finish.

My marathon time of 4:20 wasn’t too bad given the preparation, and I was just delighted to finish in the end. Still, I did feel I was beaten by my mind as much as my body.  I’d been determined to push through it but it remains a constant battle.  A lot went wrong but if there’s one thing I could change it would be the voice telling me to slow down and stop, stressing about everything that could go wrong. Switching off and running for 4 hours is a hell of a talent in itself but one I’m determined to master.  My physical fitness has improved infinitely, my mental health has improved a lot, or certainly become more manageable anyway.  Still, the biggest benefit I hope has been this, merely talking about the experience, raising awareness, funds and starting conversations. Over 70,000 people have pledged on the Time to Change website, so if you’re not one of them please take a few seconds to do that.

Thanks again to everyone for reading this and all the support. If anyone wants to ask anything more about my experience, or just about mental health in general, please get in touch anytime.  Also please remind me to stop carb-loading after tomorrow.

Keep smiling.




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