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It came. You saw. We (mostly) conquered.
Weeks of charity-requests and months of training now over for everyone, after 2012′s Virgin London Marathon took over the streets yesterday on Sunday 22 April, and my first ever marathon.
Laying shattered on t’sofa on St. George’s Day (wanted to go out and celebrate this!…my leg’s had other ideas), here are ten thoughts summing up what I thought of the whole rollercoaster, surreal, life-encompassing experience!
WHISTLESTOP LONDON SIGHTSEEING…BY FOOT!
‘Twas a beautiful morning yesterday, and heading out to Greenwich Park, one of London’s best viewing-points, was a sight. Thousands of runners…and what a way to see London! From the park, to Woolwich, through Charlton, around The Cutty Sark ship back in Greenwich, onto my home in Bermondsey, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf & Docklands, back to the Tower of London, then the City of London, past my old school, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Embankment, Waterloo Bridge, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and The Mall.
26.2 miles…! 42 kilometres! Until you do it, you can never appreciate the enormity of the distance covered as you take in some of the world’s most iconic structures. All while running! Nuts!
This year was (I read but cannot find the source!) the THIRD biggest turnout for the London Marathon. 36,705 is nearly twice the capacity of the O2 Arena. Running with so many people, publicly pounding the London roads, like being on some mass exodus. It’s an army!
FANCY DRESS BRIGADE
Running a marathon’s tough. Running a marathon in a costume?! This year’s marathon didn’t fail to deliver on ‘wacky race’ attire. From banana-men, super-heroes, firemen (phwoar), rhinos and more, they were awesome. My favourite, Bagpuss!
It seemed the vast majority of runners were running for a cause. When you zone out and forget what you’re doing running down the street, looking up and seeing heart charities, cancer charities, and other’s all being represented in earnest was impressive. My favourites were the kid’s charities and the hospices, especially those running in memory of loved ones.
The London Marathon holds the Guinness World Record as the single largest annual fund raising event in the world, with an estimated almost £50 MILLION being raised for the day. Since 1981, the 1st London Marathon, an estimated half a BILLION POUNDS has been raised for good causes.
From hamstring injuries, blisters, subungual haematomas to tarsal fractures…and that was one leg! I’ve never needed so much physio! And on race-day it was evident others had also suffered, with compression tights, taping and bandages in abundance. And still all soldiered on to the finish line!
HITTING THE WALL
4 hours, 9 minutes, 10 seconds. Finishing in 13,213 place out of 36,705 runners. The top 36%. But I didn’t reach my goal of a sub-4 hour marathon!
A good (slowest time) estimation in the runner’s world is that your marathon time can be gained from your half-marathon time doubled, then 20 mins added. I ran the Silverstone Half Marathon in 1 hour, 46 mins and 45 seconds, so by that equation I would finish in under 3 hours and 54 minutes at the latest.
Obviously not an exact science, but combined with finishing a 21.5 mile training run in a good time and not seeming to ‘hit the wall’ ever, it seemed definitely possible yesterday.
Plagued by injuries in training, I was well equipped with analgesia along the route and amongst all the many bits of advice read over the months, the most important is to NOT RUN TOO FAST to begin with, the most common cause of ‘hitting the wall’. It’s not the first 6 miles of a marathon that are important, it’s the last 6 miles!
What is this wall? Simply speaking, your body’s fuel is glycogen. Your muscles store glycogen but have a limited supply, and when this runs out (e.g. during running) your body is forced to convert fat stores to glucose instead, a much slower process…and resulting in suddenly not being able to move a muscle. There are other aspects too such as your CNS response, your psychological strength, etc.
You store glycogen after you eat complex-carbohydrates like potato, pasta, rice etc. So it’s important to saturate your body’s reserves prior to a marathon.
Starting out, I made sure I didn’t run too fast, kept hydrated but not too much, thought I consumed enough sports-drink throughout, and reached the half-way mark at a respectable time of 1 hour 54 mins and 13 seconds…enough to keep energy in the bank for the final 6 miles.
Mile by mile, keeping my pace constant. Getting knackered / bored (and desperate to see some supporters!) after mile 14, I kept going. Then mile 18, started feeling sick. ‘OK, you’re just tired, keep going’. Mile 19, still felt tired. Mile 20, legs starting to burn. Mile 22, the realisation I’m losing the sub-4 hour goal. Mile 23, foot fracture starting to hurt. ‘These analgesia tablets are taking ages to work!” Mile 24, just wanting to stop SO badly, legs desperate to plod. The finish line taking AGES to come! Every part of me struggling, until finally crossing the finish line.
‘What happened?’. My legs were in pain and I found it difficult to force myself to maintain the modest running pace I had begun at. I thought it was the pain of injury which I was expecting. But I hadn’t experienced this in training. By 1pm I felt boiling, found myself running with my eyes closed, grabbing at jelly-babies and Twix bars from the hands of spectators…not to mention hallucinating!
And then I saw my results on the official page:
Constant pace until 35 km (21.7 miles). Then bang, dropped. I struggled to run faster than my new slower pace, although it remained constant till 40 km and then the finish.
I heard about serious runners and celebrities hitting the wall, and checking out their times they had the same pattern.
Maybe I hit the wall. Maybe training once or twice a week wasn’t enough? Maybe I didn’t hydrate enough through the race. I won’t rest until I break 4 hours, because I know I can…one day! But until then, for my first marathon I’m chuffed I didn’t stop for a pee break NOR stop running once, from the start till the finish line.
James Cracknell, chef Michel Roux, newsreader Sophie Raworth, chef Gordon Ramsay, TOWIE / The Only Way Is Essex, Ed Balls just some of the celebrities out in force, also raising money for charities. Nell Mcandrew was the fastest celebrity this year with 2 hours 54 (WOW!). And a special mention to Fauja Singh (lives in my home town Redbridge!) for his last marathon, at a record-breaking 101 years old!
Will Young was behind me during the end as all I could hear was people screaming, ‘It’s Will Young!’ every minute. He’s a good guy, but perhaps having enough of hearing that propelled me to race ahead of him and beat him! Here’s his time:
And I beat Iwan Thomas, former world-class GB athlete in 400m!
This isn’t a highlight. It’s awful. By now you’ve heard of Claire Squires, 30, who died just minutes from reaching the finishing-line. She was raising money for The Samaritans, possibly inspired by her brother who died from an overdose a few years ago. She had raised £500 until then. With the public hearing of her death this has rocketed, after donating just now I’ve seen it’s nearly at £200,000. Here’s her fund-raising page if you’d also like to: Claire Squires
The London Marathon would not be the same without the spectators. That’s half a million of you all out on the streets! When you’re ‘in the zone’ it doesn’t make a difference, but when you need that energy drink, jelly baby, or chocolate, boy does it help. And going through London the regional differences are fascinating, from the well-to-do Greenwich gang, the boisterous Bermondsey boys, the City slickers to the heaving throngs along the Embankment, it’s a lovely thing for people to do. Unfortunately I missed seeing my sister, Royston and Oyvind though, and they tried 3 times as I searched in vain! But I managed to see a few friendly faces which was a nice surprise. And while the crowd were, shall we say, shying away from pronouncing my name to begin, at the end while I was struggling, it was all I could hear for a couple of miles. So thank you!
I ran for Mind, a mental health charity. I’ve blogged about them before. They’re excellent. We probably all suffer from mental health issues at least once, but are ashamed to talk about it, unlike heart problems, cancer, diabetes, even HIV these days. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of being strong for too long. And thanks to ALL OF YOU, you’ve helped me raise nearly £3,500 for Mind! Smashing my target of £2000. And if that wasn’t enough, gorgeous Stephen Fry himself donated too! (I’m still gobsmacked about that!). Best of all, I’ve met some lovely people while training for the London Marathon, all with their own story to tell, all determined to raise money for a good cause. And it was so good to run with thousands of other people on the day, who all had their reasons for doing it too.
PLEASE sponsor me if you haven’t already done so! Link here: Fiez’s First Marathon
And lastly, I ran for my dear Mum who died a few years ago. Any pain I felt in the last few miles, I forced aside knowing how great and loving a mother she was to my sister and I, and how good a person she was to everyone. My hero.
So, same time again next year…?
R.I.P Amy. It’s particularly sad when someone dies before their time. Especially when they had so much potential, and especially when life got too unbearable and loved ones couldn’t seem to help.
We were all anticipating the 3rd album. For that spark on stage again.
Clearing out my bug-ridden PC, I think that’s why I had recently forgot I was lucky to see Amy. A personal appearance at The Astoria on 14 Apr 2007, at G.A.Y. no less! The photos and videos I took reminded me that I hadn’t completely forgotten, but for many reasons for me that was practically another lifetime ago.
I almost never went. Some friends were not available, others couldn’t be bothered! At the eleventh hour I thought, “Screw it, I’ll go on my todd”.
I’m so glad I did. I met a guy and a girl also going (not seen them since) and we had a blast on the balcony!
I have no detailed photos or sharp clips though. They are only about a minute each in length, only a taster. It was a far cry from my usual trigger-happy, ready-to-record collection of gigs now. Coupled with the fact that my battery had run out of juice.
So you may be disappointed if you expect even average quality.
But the graininess instills a rawness to it that makes it seem more real. And that her voice and character still come through is a testament to her prowess. Her voice still so strong and so arresting.
Watching the clips last week felt very eery, I guess you’ll feel the same. The lady singing before us had sadly passed away suddenly at 27 (or unfortunately perhaps not so suddenly if you think about it). In a venue that is now no more after being demolished for the Crossrail project.
Knowing I was also 27 (meaning she was 23…!) while looking through my camera lens at her was alarming. But mostly, 2007 was the last year my Mum was alive; any event whether banal or stupendous in 2007 I can’t help hold as painfully sacred. Events like perhaps going home and telling my Mum about the concert, listening to her reaction, and then tucking our conversation away in some corner of my memory, maybe as nothing particularly special, completely ignorant that in months to come the change in my landscape would be nothing short of alien.
I hadn’t seen these clips since 2007. But apart from feeling sad, there was a bittersweetness. And seeing Amy reminded me how much she entertained everyone that night. The room was filled with happiness at her kookiness and her power. She was such a laugh, joking with the crowd. And I hope you get that from watching them too, which is why I wanted to share these clips for anyone who loved her, as short as they are. Hopefully a warm fuzzy feeling of how great she was!
I also wanted to promote MIND, the mental health charity. It’s an umbrella organisation to deal not only with addiction, but all mental health issues, depression, anxiety, minor to major, the lot. There shouldn’t be a stigma attached to it. Sometimes it goes unnoticed compared to other tangible physical diseases. But it’s devestating when someone feels isolated, having seen loved ones suffer and also been affected.
Sometimes all it takes is to share one’s worries with a loved one, to feel on top of the world again. But for many people, this simple act of opening up, which most people engage in, seems to not be an option. And that’s when small problems can spiral out of control, and often they need not. And it’s not just drug addiction, other reasons for feeling low, which is normal for all of us at some time or another and usually we pull through it, can be left unchecked until, in some cases, it’s too late.
Right now, someone else who isn’t famous is going through this. Maybe your neighbour you pass by every day. Your work colleague. Family member. Trying to put a brave face on it. Maybe you?
Depression isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of being strong for too long.
So, whether you liked the clips or thought they were crap! ( :-/ ) …have a look at MIND and donate if you like. Or maybe someone needs your support. Or maybe you do, but are too scared to ask for help. We all need help sometimes.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all!
Hope everyone enjoyed time with loved ones and ate loads.
I had Christmas on my own this year. It’s normally a time for families of sorts to come together. I had a reflective one.
And I also took part in something I had wanted to do for a while.
Sadly we’re all no strangers to seeing homeless people on the streets. And maybe for some Christmas can be particularly difficult.
Crisis is a charity for homeless and rough sleepers. Like other such charities, they work year round to help provide accommodation and improve lives for those affected in this way. At Christmas, many charities have a particular push, and for the past 39 years Crisis have launched an increasingly successful campaign.
From 23 – 30 Dec, Christmas Centres are opened across London that offer vital companionship, food, warmth, and a variety of important services that homeless people often are unable to access.
The charity estimates that this year, more than 2,500 guests will visit their nine centres across London; for some this might mean leaving homelessness for good.
After applying online, I found out that there are different volunteering roles. I had wanted to be a ‘service volunteer‘ – those who provide a particular service to the homeless guests, such as hairdressing, podiatry, legal advice to name a few. Many guests are also in urgent need of dental treatment, which is what I offered. However, luckily for the guests (but sadly for me!) I was informed that this was full, I had applied too late!
So, I plumped for the ‘general volunteer‘ role, and as this was my first ‘Crisis at Christmas’ I was more than happy. This includes greeting guests, providing companionship, giving out clothing and toiletries, feeding guests and more. You have to do a minimum of two 7-8 hours shifts on different days, and so after picking my days and submitting all necessary details, I was set!
My first shift was at a Day Centre in Stratford. After an introduction, we were allocated different roles randomly. It was a great to see so many people eager to volunteer. And it was clear to see that the senior volunteers were really passionate about bringing everyone together, and it was nice to be part of a team. And the place was teeming with guests; chatting, watching performances, playing games, eating, having a wash or just chilling. It was nice to see so many people happy, but sad that there were so many.
So…my roles! First up!…toilet duty. (Great!) Well, someone has to! We were all rotated at 1.5 hourly intervals and worked in pairs. So I cleaned the toilet-rooms, and then monitor the cloakroom, help carry food and equipment, and man the registration desk. In between I had a chance to speak with the guests. That was the best bit for me. It was great to chat together, especially when so many repeated the same thing, ‘we only ever see people’s knees’. If I don’t have money I apologise and say so, and was told that is so much better than just being ignored. But even when I give change, after hearing of some of their stories, it can feel like just a drop in the ocean.
Crisis also have Residential Centres over the same period where people can stay over night. As you can imagine, these are hugely sought after, and sadly after just one day there were no more spaces, leaving the rest to take comfort in the Day Centres, but from which they must leave come nightfall.
The Day Centres close at 9pm. Transport is often arranged to take people back to an easier location. This bit sucks. As much as they appreciate somewhere to stay in the day, you can feel rotten knowing they’ve got to go back to the streets at night. But they were cheery all the same, singing songs and making jokes (some very blue ones at that!).
So my first shift was over. Volunteers are normally required to do all their shifts at the same centre. But hit by a bad cold over Christmas, the thought of also travelling to Stratford again but with limited public transport wasn’t exactly appealing when I just wanted to stay at home and make the most of the 4-day weekend! If you’re ill you can of course stay away, but it wasn’t a flu and I felt I made a promise. And what I felt was nothing compared to how some of the guests sometimes feel.
The Day Centre in Bermondsey was supposedly fully-staffed…but as I live in Bermondsey, was a bit poorly but wanted to volunteer, and it was a possibility that some volunteers might cancel (as is the way), it was seen as probably totally fine if I go there first thing in the morning and explain.
So at 8:30am, Christmas Day I rocked up to the Bermondsey centre (having slept at 5am from a fun night at the 2 Brewers before…! :-/ ). I was told I could of course stay – hoorah! But even better…some of the dentists were based here. Explaining I was a dentist, I was warmly encouraged to make myself known to the clinicians, and luckily for me this time, I was informed they were actually under-staffed. Win-win!
I got to do what I had wanted originally after all! And as a bonus, I met a friend and fellow dentist – Soureya – who also happened to be volunteering her services (and who also had a cold!). Oral hygiene & dietary advice, smoking cessation information, scaling & polishing, restorations and extractions was what I achieved for the different guests over the whole shift. It was good to see the difference it made, and hear about the other services they had that made them feel good, whether a haircut, podiatry or even massage. The government have recently launched centres making it easier for the homeless to access dental care, starting in London, so it’s nice to know that when Christmas is over hopefully dental services for the homeless won’t be.
After the shift, I made it just in time for a late Christmas lunch at Balan’s restaurant in Soho. At the window, I coincidentally saw a homeless ‘Big Issue’ seller. I looked at the mince pie and christmas cake left on my plate which I was too stuffed to finish, and hoping I didn’t appear patronising, signed to ask if he wanted it…I was glad he said yes! His name was Jay. We had a chat after, and I gave him some change on leaving. Not expecting him to jump for joy – I was after all buggering off to a home and yet he was still on the streets – I nevertheless thought he looked a little disappointed. I had to turn back.
‘Sorry, that’s all I have. Is that OK?‘
‘Oh thanks, it’s just I needed some more.‘
I told him about Crisis and where I had been in Bermondsey, and I wondered to myself if there was anywhere similar nearby (there wasn’t unfortunately). Bless him, I knew he was wondering if I could take him there, and I explained they close at 9pm, and so I wouldn’t want to take him there if he’d be stuck with nowhere to go.
‘Oh, no problem. I just need £18 for a place I know at Victoria where I can get food and a shower and somewhere to stay overnight.‘
‘Oh, sorry, I’m out of money!’
‘OK, well, if you have a card and draw out money, I could wait?‘
‘Oh, it’s just I’m in a rush!’
‘OK, well, would it affect your life much if you were £18 less off? It would make a huge difference to me.’
Hmmm. Being 100% honest, I was trying to think of an answer! LOL. But I couldn’t. He was right. And even if he was lying about exactly why he needed £18, it would help him much more than I needed it at that point.
‘OK. Just stay here, I just need to get to my car. I will draw out money for you and come back, don’t move!‘
I got to the car and was about to pull-off, when there was a knock at the front passenger window, before the door opened. It was Jay.
‘There’s a cash machine just there!‘
And he sat in and closed the door. I won’t lie…I did think, ‘Oh goodness…I bet this looks great‘. But, who cares! He looked so comfortable, bless him. I drew out £20 for him and dropped him off at the corner. He gave me a ‘thousand blessings’, and we shook hands and wished each other a Merry Christmas. Driving off back to my flat, I thought it a funny coincidence meeting him after volunteering. I wondered what he would do over this period and felt sad, but after our encounter I did feel a little less alone over Christmas.
This is kinda off the record, but there was a lady I met there who’s story particularly touched me. She’s American, hasn’t got on with her family there, and came to the Stratford centre having just had an operation in London which she owes the hospital money for. She’s got by with some donations from people she knows here. I got her email address and promised her I’d try and help her out too…so if you’re interested in donating and want to know more, feel free to contact me! But otherwise, if you fancy doing something different next Christmas, or even throughout the year, you must check Crisis out! They are always looking for help and it’s great to see a good difference being made. www.crisis.org.uk
Albert Kennedy Trust
This is a great charity that for many years has helped lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans young people to live in accepting, supportive and caring homes, providing services to help individuals who would otherwise be homeless or in a hostile environment. www.akt.org.uk
Since 1966, Shelter has helped the homeless by giving advice, information and advocacy, and by campaigning for political change to ensure a world where everyone has a home. www.shelter.org.uk
HAPPY 2011 ALL. Have a happy and healthy year! XXX