Happily Ever After
Life in The Rural Retreat with a beautiful wife, three cats, garden wildlife, a camera, a computer – and increasing amounts about running
London Marathon 2022
by Russell Turner - 00:11 on 04 October 2022
Maybe a less frenetic weekend would have made a difference to my London Marathon performance, and its aftermath. But thousands of others will have had a similar one (apart from the aftermath), so maybe not.
Marathon weekend began at 4am (that’s 4am) on Friday so Matchgirl and I could catch the 7.15 flight to Gatwick, which then stood on the runway for 20mins because of fog in London. Typical. However, we landed in good time, shuttled to South Terminal for the Gatwick Express to Victoria and by mid-morning had arrived at the Rochester Hotel where bags were stashed, check-in time being several hours away, and returned to Victoria for the tube to Custom House and the Expo.
There, we picked up my bib without trouble, found my name on the wall of heroes taking part, then wandered randomly through the retail extravaganza with no thought of purchasing (apart from the new socks Matchgirl needed) until we chanced upon the Theragun stand, notable for the groans of pleasure being emitted by fellow wanderers trying out the various styles of massage equipment. Matchgirl tried one too and was hooked. So was I. We left worrying about how we’d squeeze it into our luggage for later.
Thankfully, our room was ready when we returned to enjoy some quiet relaxation, the silence disturbed only by occasional buzzes and groans as we further sampled our joint purchase.
Dinner was just around the corner at the Aloo Tama Nepalese Restaurant (you’ll remember it, Cathy) because my first choice Italian hadn’t opened. Mutton curry still tasted good. Next morning, breakfast was rather a contrast, being a buffet in a big hotel with a small dining room, of which most of the clientele appeared to be hungry runners. Not impressive.
Then it was off again, back to Victoria to meet Lynn and Peter from Spain, who’d become virtual Garmin friends. Fortunately they were fine in real life too. Both were also to take part so running and other stories were swapped over a meal at Zizi’s until it was time for Matchgirl’s and my next perambulation: past Buckingham Palace and the Mall, busy being prepared for the next day (the Mall, not the Palace); up a teeming Piccadilly then into Shaftesbury Avenue and the Apollo Theatre where we partook of Upstart Crow, starring David Mitchell. Hilarious. If you’ve not seen it you’re out of luck because the run was ending.
More thronged streets, blinded by a low sun, more crowds taking selfies outside the Palace, and finally the quiet of our room with not even an eager Theragun to disturb it – just a room service dinner, Strictly on the TV and an early night. We’d walked 10 miles over the two days.
I don’t think I ran 27 miles – blame dodgy city GPS.
Marathon day began at 7am with Sainsbury’s porridge and the startling news that the weather forecast, which after being bright earlier in the week had predicted rain, was now showing warm, windless and rainless – so warm that I would be able to wear just my Breast Cancer Now vest and no T-shirt. My second mistake.
Back to Victoria yet again, this time for Matchgirl to wave me off on the train to Blackheath before taking a leisurely breakfast at Bill’s, who does a good one, I’m told, rather than submit to the mayhem of the hotel dining room. The train journey was pleasant, with lots of chat to fellow runners, and the atmosphere grew as we walked through Blackheath and to our various starting areas where I joined the traditional toilet queue, not because I needed it but just in case.
However, after 10, or possibly 15, minutes of queuing I discovered I needed it badly, reaching the top of the queue just in time. My first mistake (you were waiting) was to have two Quaker porridge pots when I rarely eat them, never mind before a race. Nothing new, they always say. I emerged from the portaloo to discover my wave had begun moving to the pre-start line, leaving me just enough time to take my bag to the kit lorries and wander over to join them. Up to then I’d worn a jacket, which went in the bag. Now, for the first time, I had on just the vest and the Tailwind-filled Camelbak. Within a minute of leaving the kit lorries I realised my third mistake. I’d not trained with just vest and Camelbak; its strap against uncovered skin promised chafing. There was nothing I could do.
Then we were off. The pacers I’d planned to use to regulate my initial speed were several hundred people ahead of me so I paced myself, and rather well. Even Matchgirl, watching my splits on the app, was impressed by the steady and sensible first 10k. What she didn’t know, but would probably have have guessed, was that my planned and trained run/walk was all run. Probably my fourth mistake.
After a brief but necessary pee stop I continued running, switching to run/walk after 10 miles – acknowledgement that the warm was getting warmer rather than I was being sensible. Tower Bridge came and went. A little further on I had a welcome first sighting of Matchgirl and an excuse to stop, then a further one when visitors Dianne and Cyril popped up a mile later.
By now I’d picked up a discarded tubular bandage to cover the increasingly troublesome chafe on my right shoulder. It helped a little but not much.
The official photos aren’t out yet – this is one of Dianne’s.
By 16 miles the run/walk was more run/walk/walk and the warm was even warmer. More sightings of my support crew, plus cheers from roadside Breast Cancer Now squads and interaction with some of the 250 other BCN runners I passed or, more often, who passed me helped keep me going, plus shouts of encouragement from the crowd, insisting against all evidence that I was looking good.
From Mile 20 I had a brief second wind, which may have coincided with me slipping the Camelbak off my right shoulder, although the run/walk remained ragged. But I kept going and never doubted I’d finish, so intent that I didn’t notice Dianne and Cyril at Mile 24 or Matchgirl at 25. I crossed the line in 5:40 – an hour slower than my PB but 50 and 45 minutes faster than my two previous London runs and 25 minutes faster than Edinburgh earlier this year. I’d hoped for sub-5 hours but given the conditions I was grudgingly satisfied.
I was presented with my latest medal, walked up the Mall to receive my goody bag (water, Lucozade, an oaty bar and my finisher’s shirt), then collected my bag from the kit lorry, put on a dry top and began a few gentle stretches against the side of a small truck, assuring a nearby couple that I was fine.
That, it turned out, was not the case. They alerted a nearby St John Ambulance steward who reached me just as I fainted. I came round, a few seconds later, was stretched out, talked too and sat up. I was making sense and ready to try standing when to my chagrin a wheelchair was produced; I was helped into it then wheeled into one of the handy first aid cubicles, where a few other runners were in various stages of recovery. It still seemed like overkill until, laid out on one of their camp beds, with a blanket over me, I went into mild shock. So I decided to stay where I was, do what I was told and answer their questions, which I was able to do lucidly enough to relieve me, the male steward and the female attendant who stayed with me.
By now I’d managed to make contact with Matchgirl, the attendant using the mobile because my fingers were too palsied, but a short while later a return call informed us that security guards wouldn’t let a non-runner into the runners-only area. Jobsworths. In the end I spent about an hour in the cubicle while my blood pressure, which had plummeted, was monitored back to normal and I consumed an industrial-strength salts and electrolyte drink. By then I was able to walk, the attendant close beside me, to the gate where Matchgirl, Dianne and Cyril waited anxiously. I felt fine, the blue blanket around my shoulders the only clue that I’d been a fallen hero.
The steward diagnosed hyponatraemia, where too much water is consumed (and can kill), but his assumption, which I didn’t notice at the time, that water stations were handing out 500ml bottles, rather than the actual 250mls, meant I’d not drunk as much as he believed. The rich brown of my pee this morning also suggested I’d not over-hydrated. Most likely I’d sweated out too much salt and other vital minerals and my body decided to take a break as soon as my running effort ended. Tomorrow I’ll ask the doctor for a check-up, just in case.
Showing off the London Marathon bling.
I was well enough to walk back to the hotel, have a bath, get out unaided, and hungry enough for a second attempt to dine at the nearby Italian. Which was closed, as was my second choice Indian, so the four of us settled for the Rochester’s in-house vegan restaurant, which produced tasty if slightly lukewarm fayre, and where I posed for a boastful medal snap.
The night’s sleep was not the best, interspersed with a few almost cramps. I survived. Then Victoria, Gatwick, Inverness, home, three cats who appeared happy to see us and fish and chips for tea. I don’t think the last two were connected.
So that’s another London Marathon done. Despite the finish time it was worth the effort and definitely memorable. Maybe it will be the last. Who knows? Next in the running diary is the Yorkshire Marathon, a week on Sunday. I’ll decide nearer the time if I’m up to it. If I am, I’ll put no time pressure on myself: Matchgirl and I will run it together, at her pace (if I can keep up), as part of preparation for next year’s Race to the Stones. It will be a gentle saunter through God’s Own Country. Expect the rain to fall.
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