After 7 months of training, I had reached the final leg of my very first marathon - starting at Maze Hill. The view from the top of Maze Hill towards the city was amazing. I could see Canary Wharf standing proud in the distance. I said “gosh, that is a mighty long way to go!” My marathon challenge was now a reality. There was no turning back. Anxiety and nerves took the front seat.
Maze Hill Start Where’s Neville
Shortly after leaving the start, I heard a cry 'Go Neville'. I wasn't sure how someone knew me when I realised my name was emblazoned above my bib number. This cheering continued throughout the whole race. Seeing family & friends with smiles on their faces and shouting out in support was emotional and put a bounce in my step. The family members unable to attend kept in contact & monitored my progress on TV and on the App.
Many runners were happy to chat along the way and share their pace with me. I knew that when I got to Tower Bridge, I would be half way to reaching my goal of getting a finisher’s medal. However, I found getting from the Cutty Sark to Tower Bridge never ending. I however managed to get to the 14-mile mark without walking - more than I had done during training - ever.
After passing this milestone, aches in my thighs & hamstrings become self-evident despite scoffing lots of jelly babies which I hoped would let in more energy. Perhaps a shot of energy gel which I was carrying might have been appropriate, but with half way still to go I didn't want to test it out. I also started to feel a pain in my back which I put down to my poor running form. The pain tended to ease off when I reverted to walking. I received acts of kindness by runners I never knew. One asked me if I was alright; another offered me an oatmeal snack which I gratefully accepted. When I asked one chap why was he was doing the marathon, he said that his neighbour challenged him to do it, saying that “he wouldn’t make it to the end” - fighting talk I’d say! Another guy, was walking with a 'popped' knee but wanted to persist to the finish. Sadly, I saw two athletes receiving first aid on the road side but hopefully none were not too serious. A personal problem I encountered was that of sore nipples. I should have remembered the advice given in advance – ‘grease your nipples' as a car mechanic would say when servicing a car. In hindsight, I should have made use of band aid plasters that I had onboard.
At the 14 mile point the toil was reaching a level that I wanted to throw in the towel. However, my main focus remained – get that medal. I remembered the motto of my primary school, and that was: persevere. With my drive train (legs) still functioning, I persevered with a cocktail of brisk walking & jogging.
The route from Tower Bridge to and back from Canary Wharf was a difficult stretch, as was the final 6 miles to Westminster where I saw my family for the last time.
I re-ran my marathon over the next couple of nights whilst asleep. It was on Tuesday that the full impact of what I had personally achieved started to dawn on me. Completing the marathon was a fulfilling experience which has not only given me a once in a life time opportunity to be part of this running phenomena at the age of 70 years, but I have made a lot of new friends along the way, be it in joining Gladstone parkrun & Queens Park Harriers, or to re-connecting with friends & colleagues of the past through their very kind & generous donations to my local charity project.
Mission Accomplished? Yeah!