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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…?
Who doesn’t love their Mum’s food?! I’m no exception.
My Mum loved to cook. She sadly never met a lot of my nearest and dearest (passing away recently), whom we’d both always wanted her to meet. She would have totally loved to cook for all of us.
So, I thought it would be good to share some of my (the few that I know! ) Mum’s recipes with everyone, so others can enjoy her food and know of her.
First up…prawn curry!
I love Indian sub-continent food…that’s home food for me! Such dishes often need many hours of preparation with ingredients and cooking methods many people may not be used to. But the beauty of this dish is that it’s really rather simple. From students to connoisseurs…all can enjoy!
Feeds 4 hungry people.
* 1 large chopped onion.
* 3 chopped green chillies (or less if you’re sensitive!)
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon pepper
* 1 heaped teaspoon turmeric powder
* 1 heaped teaspoon red chilli powder
* 4 cloves of crushed garlic
* 4 teaspoons chopped ginger
* 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
* 5 tablespoons of sunflower oil
* Fresh coriander
* 2 cinnamon sticks
* 300g basmati rice
* 600g to 650g peeled prawns
* 1 red onion
* 1 cucumber
* 1 chopped tomato
* 1 fresh lemon
* Large live yoghurt tub
* Cumin seeds
Heat the oil on high in saucepan.
Add onion to oil and brown.
Add the green chillies, salt, pepper, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, garlic and ginger, keep heat on high for a few minutes while stirring.
Add the tin of tomatoes and cinnamon sticks and stir for a few minutes.
Turn the heat to a simmer, add the prawns and cover. Cook for 45 minutes or until sauce is fairly thick, stirring and tasting periodically.
During this time, rinse the rice well and allow to soak for 15 minutes, before adding to boiling water in another saucepan with a pinch of salt. Allow to simmer, stirring periodoically, for 30 minutes or until rice is tender. Drain in a sieve before serving.
For the salad, chop the tomatoes, cucumber and red onion and a sprig of coriander, and toss well with a dash of lemon juice. Mix 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds with the yoghurt.
A few minutes before the prawns are ready, chop a twist of the coriander (about 2 tablespoons), add to the curry and stir.
Serve the prawns with the rice and salad, and garnish with some coriander. Yoghurt is traditionally served with Indian food to aid digestion, so make sure you add a few table spoons on the side!
I look forward to tasting your efforts!
Love Fiez (and Fiez’s Mum) X X
12th of December 2010.
Just another day.
I guess I imagined I’d be with my Mum.
Perhaps driving with her to my Grandparents, looking over to me with a slight hint of pride sitting with her son at the wheel.
Or helping her cook her infamous lamb biriyani for my close friends that she (and I) had so longed to meet, to know an important part of my life, looking after everyone as always. Both watching contentedly as people close to my heart enjoy her food, eating with us.
Taking her to a museum, both eagerly discovering, say, the ancient Egyptians, or enjoying a West-End play, or simply spending time with her in town, arm in arm, proudly showing her off to the world.
Or at home, she’d be listening, enraptured, beaming, as my sister spoke excitedly about her hard work paying-off in her demanding job, or how I got an ‘A’ in my latest assignment.
I could be sitting with her in the living-room, me obsessing over the latest pop artists on T4 or X-Factor, my Mum half-frowning at me, half-joining in.
Or maybe…she would just be there…while we were chilling at home…her pottering around or feet up on the sofa…just her presence, but such a powerfully loving, warm, pure and immensely beautiful presence.
But, all this and more are bittersweet fantasies, endlessly evolving in my mind, since my Mum died unexpectedly 3 years ago today.
Memories have always been important to me. Actually, massively so – half the time I’m in a constant state of playback of past experiences.
I think this is why I’ve found it particularly cutting. I remember speaking to someone shortly afterwards who said that after his Mum passed away many years ago, the pain never goes, you just get try and get used to it. ‘Blimey’, I thought, ‘this bodes well’. Actually…he was so right. Well, for me at least. Of course, everyone dies. Bereavement and mourning are a fact of life, always very sad, but the final rite of passage. Everyone who’s ever lost someone always feels pain, but I guess it all depends on different circumstances, some people’s are worse than others.
I think what makes it quite tough is that since late primary school, a distance developed on my part when I realised I was gay. Sensing early on the social taboo, but then the far greater family and cultural and (gravely misinformed) religious view, the idea of being close when I might be disowned was too painful, and unsafe. And so although I still was a part of the family and enjoyed good times, in my heart of hearts, it was always from a distance.
Desperately wanting to be honest, be open, just be me, but too scared of rejection. But I’ve always said, as harsh as it sounds, that I’d rather be disowned than be dishonest. After years of damage, when I came out to my parents for good (I initially came out at primary school…but in short, it wasn’t taken seriously), it was like being reborn…a feeling I’m sure others can relate to. It was the most difficult but proudest moment of my life.
Of course, it was an ongoing process, and there were some very difficult times. But to finally know that there were no secrets, that she knew who her son was. No sinister ‘elephant in the room’. I was ecstatic. Nothing could ever compete with that relief and happiness. And very slowly, I started to reform broken bonds, making up for lost childhood. It was a massive learning curve for her which she was still on, and I was immensely proud at how she dealt with it, in her way. One can’t expect ones’ parents to get used to it overnight.
And so I hoped to take her out, show her my friends she had always wanted to get to know, or my partner, go out with her, anything and everything. I could be 100% relaxed and feel at home in my family once more. The one thing so many take for granted, the only thing I had wanted for so long, was now finally coming.
But a few months before she passed away, life suddenly descended into darkness. There was a lot of pressure on our extended family, but particularly my Mum. All families have ups and downs. There are a couple of incidents that were our toughest times, but we pulled through. But, this time, regardless of my Mum’s death, was shaping up to be yet another. I shan’t elaborate here, but again we all tried to pull through.
Less than 24 hours previously, I had met her at my flat. Unfortunately my last moment with her was to be a brief hug in the cold. Dropping some stuff over, my Dad asked my Mum if I could come downstairs rather than meet me in my flat. ‘Thanks Mum’, ‘OK darling, Dad’s tired, we have to go’, ‘OK, see you later’, ‘Bye, see you later’, *HUG*, ‘Love you’, ‘Love you’.
I remember on the day she died, something horrible I had recently heard she experienced as a child particularly gripped me that morning, and I solemnly vowed I absolutely had to get justice for her while she was alive. And then, hearing it on the phone, the words that broke my heart. Running out into the street at night, finding taxis who’d agree to take me home, seeing my sister’s telling face at the doorstep, then rushing upstairs seeing her laying on the bed, blood on the pillow near her face. She still smelled so strongly of ‘Mum’, that comforting, loving essence. Her skin still so silky soft. She went to sleep in the afternoon, and my Dad found her a few hours later. The coroner said she was healthy and didn’t know why, but perhaps her heart. I think the hospital misdiagnosed her a few days previously. A few weeks after my Mum died, my Granddad also died.
We all face hurdles…I’ve faced a lot that other people also have, and a lot that people haven’t. But I feel you must always tell yourself that there are people in a worse-off situation. Because it’s true. But even though that doesn’t help sometimes, you have to, otherwise you’d be bitter, be unsuccessful, be defeated. But thank God / Cosmos, like a lot of us, I’ve got through them, and achieved, and then one can finally appreciate the good in one’s life, and enjoy life.
But with my Mum taken away, it was difficult to keep telling myself the same thing. She was barely 60 years old, I was in my 20s. Her parents were still alive. After years of being trapped, I had only just started to develop a full content relationship with her after coming out, sharing our life the way we were supposed to, the way others did and perhaps took for granted. She had devoted her life to making everyone around her happy, putting others before herself, and I wanted to devote the rest of my life to making her happy. And the last few months of her life she was tortured with sadness.
That was the moment I thought, ‘No, f**k this. What the f**k just happened? My Mum’s been robbed from me. I’m supposed to live my life with her. We’ve been through such a difficult journey, and now we deserve happiness. We need to make loads more memories. Good happy memories. I wanted her to meet all my friends. It’s not fair’.
And so the memories I had became like gold-dust. Such memories with my Mum are worth more than all the money on the planet…and then some. From waking-up, to going to bed…her face, her voice, her laughter, her kindness, her joy…infiltrate my mind, my soul. Painfully sometimes.
In the absence of creating new memories with her, I have a desperate need to share past memories with others whose lives she blessed. Of course, something we all do when we lose a loved one. Regaling tales, swapping anecdotes, reliving. That’s all I could do.
And so we move on, try to adjust. Make the most of our lives, with those important to us. Knowing I could never do that with Mum, I hoped to do that with those she was important to too.
So memories. To try and make up for missing out on them. Unfortunately, the other thing I was relying on seemed to give way. My sister and Dad together with me in my family home. My Mum’s extended family together with us three. But my Mum’s family and Dad grew resentful of each other. My Dad entirely refurbished my family home. And then he remarried within months, and then left the country.
‘So what did I have left?’, I asked myself desperately. I never say never, but it’s unlikely I’ll have my family back to how it honestly ought to be. I feel it didn’t have to be that way.
If anyone else is going through a similar experience, this is what I hope helps. Some of what I always did, some of what I’ve learned since.
Talk to friends. Maybe a counsellor might help?
Share your memories with your loved ones. In some cases your family may implode and you can’t. I tried to find at least a few people with whom I still could.
Tell those important who hadn’t met them, all about them. Share what made them special.
Make good memories! With people in your life who are still here.
Surround yourself with positive people. Try to distance yourself from negative people.
Try to be around those who truly appreciate you. And make sure you tell people whom you appreciate exactly that.
Live your life respectfully and try to do what you can to make those who you’ve lost proud.
I don’t think my Mum got enough of the appreciation and support she deserved and so selflessly gave others. And we never had enough of a chance to share life and for her to meet my friends. But I hope by making her proud and letting people know about her, it’ll make her and me happier.
Hope this helps anyone else who is going through a tough time.
R.I.P Mum. Love you and miss you forever. X