Good evening everyone. We are back. The work is done. The legs hurt. Here is my weekend story. Hope it covers everything. If not – ask away.
Most of the others have said the events as they happened but here is my take on things. I’ve not bothered proof reading this. I’ve just written it as it came. Sorry.
Thursday (3rd April 2014)
Nothing much to say about this day. I was in work all day until 3:20 then Louise (Mrs Welshgje) picked me up and we sped over to my folks house to park the car and my Dad took us to the station. The HST took us from Neath to Paddington and then a cab from there to the IBIS hotel in Euston.
At this point I was trying not to think about the weekend – especially Sunday. I was supposed to have a 3 mile run during the evening but by the time we got to the hotel and had sorted everything out it was just too late. Would this decision return to haunt me?
A nice meal and an early night and still every attempt at not thinking about Sunday.
Friday: (4th April 2014)
Up early ready to meet the Runner’s World team and the other runners at St Pancras Eurostar Terminal. We were there early and soon bumped into James at the Costa Coffee. Introductions were made and the Edmondson’s grabbed a coffee and some breakfast. James seemed relaxed. I was at this time. It hadn’t sunk in yet and as yesterday I was trying not to think about things.
Next to come bounding up to the coffee shop was Roger. Energy and excitement clearly radiating from every inch of his being. Again intro’s were made before Roger disappeared into the shop to speak to his Mother – who was sat directly behind us. Had we have known we would have gone in for a chat.
8:30 meeting time comes around and we all move over to the rendezvous point outside the Marks and Spencer. Here we find Malcs and Isabel as well as some of the Runner’s World team. I forget who was there at which time but I remember Steve being there and Katie. Intros were done and soon everyone was chatting away as if we were a bunch of old University friends.
Lunch was planned and bought in Marks & Spencer and I was designated basket carrier (thanks Sam). I think I left the shop with arms that were 2 inches longer than when I went in.
So we were all together for the journey:
- The Dream Team: Roger, Malcolm, James, Isobel and me
- The Wifes: Louise and Alex (Isabel’s sister Miriam and James’ wife Sarah joined us later)
- The Runner’s World Team: Sam, Katie, Andrea, Chris, Dan and Tom
- The Coaches: Sam and Steve
We made our way to the boarding area and I got a little bit excited having never been on the Eurostar before. Can you believe at this point I was more excited to catch a train than I was to be running in Paris? It had to be this way. I had to compartmentalise things in order – otherwise I would have been a nervous wreck.
So we zip it under the channel to Paris. A taxi to the hotel and then the Dream Team and some of the Runner’s World team head over to the Marathon Expo to get our race numbers and register for the Sunday.
Only one word from me here – WOW. It was like a paradise for runners. All the major brands from food, clothes, trainers etc etc were there. If I hadn’t just been given a load of kit I would probably have spent a fortune. Naturally I was drawn to the Asics stand (very loyal of course) and bought a Paris Marathon t-shirt. Well – it was my first marathon! Isobel bought three. Roger bought a pizza slice. I’m not sure what James and Malcs spent their money on. We were an hour here but I could have spend longer.
We Metro’ed it back to the hotel before heading out for our evening meal at a lovely place which served some great food. Spaghetti in a tomato sauce for me and a few glasses of water. Not a late night but boy was I tired after all the travelling.
Saturday (5th April 2014)
Saturday offered us a busy morning with a free afternoon. A quick two mile run first led by Steve and Sam took us around a large cemetery (no idea what it was called) next to the hotel. It was an easy pace but Roger being Roger went out at his pace and was soon bounding ahead like a dear escaping a hunting lion. The man is a machine!
The morning run was around 9:30 and it was already starting to get a bit warm. We commented on how it was not ideal weather for a marathon – too hot. It was good to stretch the legs.
It was then back to the hotel where Tom, Dan and Chris wanted us on the balcony in our new kit for the morning photo shoots and video captures. A quick shower and into kit. Several pictures later and sporting some classy Welsh Dragon sweat bands on my wrists (plus a leek and daffodil) and we were free to go. I took some photos on my phone and in spare moments spent the morning tweeting and Facebooking what I had captured.
The rest of the day was spend at the Eiffel tower lazing on the grass in a park eating a baguette and relaxing.
We were then out again for our tea. Having enjoyed the previous nights meal I went for the same again before making plans for the morning and heading back to the hotel. A quick leg rub down from Louise and I was soon running to the land of Nod ready to be up at 6:30.
Sunday (6th April 2014)
6:30 I was up and straight into two bowls of porridge and a banana followed by some juice. It all went okay and I didn’t feel that full. I’d slept pretty well and it took a while to escape a groggy feeling that had been brought on by some sneezing and sniffling since arriving in Paris. I got ready and left the room feeling like I was ready to take on the World. I knew I could do it. I was on a high.
Isabel and I were starting from the same pen (4:30) even though she would go off at a faster pace than me. So us two and her sister made our way to our start area. We chatted the nerves away and just before starting Isabel said that this is the last time we would speak to each other as ‘non-marathon runners’. Brilliant.
I was taken in by the atmosphere but wasn’t that nervous. I had faith that my run/walk would work and that I would take my gels and drink the water to see me though. Looking around I saw the 5 and 5:30 hour pacers. I thought about joining them for the race but decided to go with the strategy that was in place.
Eventually we started. 8:45 the elite athletes started their run. 9:45 the 4:30 pen were let out. A full hour after the elites. It was a long wait and resulted in two runs to the toilet for a wee. I said goodbye to Isobel and we went at our respective paces. I soon lost sight of her. Time to knuckle down and get on with my run.
So the strategy was to run 8 mins and walk for 2. I was happy with that but in hindsight am not sure it worked for me. I stuck with it. I stopped twice for the loo during the run. Following others leads I simply pulled over and let it all out by the side of the road. Nobody seemed bothered – not even the women, who were also to be seen stopping for relief 🙁
I was asked after the run what sights I had seen – I can clearly remember the Eiffel Tower and two long tunnels with disco lights and music. I remember several bands and one woman screaming out Adele’s Rolling in the Deep (very badly). I know the river was on my left – but that is it. I was focussed on putting one foot ahead of the other.
At 13 miles (or was it 15) I heard a scream. Sam and Andrea came speeding towards me shouting encouragement and running with me for a while. I don’t remember anything I said – but I do remember Andrea offering me water. I may have been a bit rude as I was in a zone and didn’t want to speak to anyone.
What else do I remember? The water/orange/banana stops – complete nightmare. It seems that everyone wanted their water at the beginning of the stops. What people didn’t realise was that the tables were at least 100 metres long so whilst everyone squashed and bumped each other at the start there was another 90 metres of table to get stuff. I worked this out quite early on but still found myself dashing to the water tables.
I remember grabbing a bottle of Powerade from their table and a french guy shouting at me. Seems we were not supposed to take the bottles – just the plastic cups with a mouthful. Whoops.
I remember waving to some photographers and some cameras. I remember bottles being hurled like missiles across the crowd from various runners.
I was doing well. I had been keeping an eye on my watch and was happy. Miles 13, 15, 17 and 19 all passed without much hassle and then it happened. Mile 20. I cannot describe it. Yes I’d head about ‘The Wall’ but I was going so well. I had to pull over – so I did. What did I do? I didn’t know – I remember a sense of panic setting in – the time…. I was stopped… I was on target for 4:45 – how could I let this slip….. I tried forcing myself to cry – to let out the frustration, the pain, the anger of stopping but it wouldn’t come. I felt sick. I wasn’t sick. In the minute I was stopped thoughts flew through my head. Good thoughts – positive ones. I stood upright and carried on building up again from a walk into a run.
21, 22 miles passed uneventful and then it came at mile 23 – the sickness. I felt it in the pit of my stomach. I dashed to the side of the road where I heaved around 5 times. Nothing came up. I was weak. I was sick of gels – I wanted some squash. Yes – blackcurrent squash. There was none. What do I do? I keeled over and wretched again. I looked for medical help – there was none. (I’m now glad – if there had been I have since admitted that I would have gone with them).
I had to carry on. I got up. Took on a jelly baby – chewed it felt sick and threw it out. I needed water but there was none until mile 25. I looked on the floor for a bottle – but decided against it. I run, I walked, ran, walked, walked some more. There was the Mile 26 banner – yes I had made it. The finish was around the corner. I knew Louise and the team would be there. I started running – as if in a film making a dash for freedom. Around the corner – they saw me. I head a cheer. The race announcer called my name. More cheering.
I crossed the line. I had made it. I struggled to keep in the emotion. I didn’t know what to do but my senses soon came back as the pain in my calves kicked in. I had done it.
I hobbled to a barrier about 100 metres from the VIP area. I started talking to myself. Not sure what I said. I heard my name being called – it was Louise. It was then that 16 weeks of training, 3 weeks of injury and 26.2 miles of pain all came to the surface and I broke down. Louise tells me that I kept repeating “It hurts. It hurts so bad”.
Tears flowed and Dan the videographer soon had a camera in my face – filming the mess that had become. I’m sure it will appear on the website soon. I went and collected my medal and tshirt before heading back to the VIP area. The first person I saw was Isobel – we hugged. She had smashed her time. Then I saw Sam Murphy – my coach. One of the three women that had helped me through. I hugged her to tight (hope she’s okay). I cried. I’m not sure what happened then. Everythign is a blur of memories and photos.
With the race finished and the VIP area packing up it was time to get changed and head back to the hotel. My legs were very sore so Katie offered to stretch them for me. Who am I to turn that down. She soon had me on my back (ooer) and digging her thumbs into my calves. Awww it hurt – but it was good. I managed to be interviewed and eventually made it back to the Metro.
I hobbled off the Metro with Louise and found a McDonalds. A Big Mac never tasted so good. I felt sick after eating it and didn’t finish the fries but the burger was lovely as was the drink.
We eventually made it back to the hotel – my legs getting better as we walked. I then fell asleep on the bed for about 90 minutes. Louise woke me at 6:45 ready for our 7pm evening meal. A three course affair with some beers – boy did it taste good. I think we eventually got into bed around 12:30 after saying goodnight to everyone.
My Garmin time: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/475637708
Monday (7th April 2014)
I dreaded this morning. I didn’t know if I would be able to walk. As it happens I could and I made it down for breakfast. It was a relaxed affair and in simple terms – I stuffed my face. Eggs, bacon, sausage, bread, cheese, coffee, toast etc etc. I was starving.
The Eurostar back was quiet. I think most people slept and then it was goodbye. I felt emotional but kept it all in. Everyone went their separate ways and Louise and I made our way over to Paddington for the next stage of our journey home. I was returning home as a marathon runner.
That evening I found my official time – 5:22:22 – a bit gutted. I felt low. I’d failed in my attempt to hit the Sub-5 target. I wondered whether the voters that put me into the competition would feel let down. I struggled on Monday evening and for most of Tuesday. It is now Wednesday and I’m feeling a little bit better. The post marathon slump is passing and I’m thinking of where to go next – where shall I go next? I’m not sure but I know that I have a new marathon PB that needs beating. I also have a new set of friends who will help me and encourage me.
So that brings me to the end of this story. From that first phone call from Andrea 18 or so weeks ago, through the bootcamp, the voting stages, the injury and the training days – never did I expect to be part of such an amazing competition. I am grateful for the time and effort people have put into getting me to Paris.
To my fellow team mates – I salute you. You are an amazing bunch of people. Inspirational in many ways. They have helped me through highs and lows and have been there with messages of encouragement. Thank you. I hope we stay in touch.
To Sam – you are an amazing coach. She put up with a lot of questions and begging from me during my darkest three weeks. She told me what I needed to hear and I think sussed me out very early on in the training.
To Sarah – you have hands that can make a grown man cry. Like Sam you put me in my place when my own mind threatened to make me run. If I had not listened to you both I would not have made it.
Victor – your words about expectations helped me through the days following Sunday. Thank you.
Steve – I’m not a fast runner but listening to how you have coached Roger and Malcolm is brilliant. I’ll never be good enough for your categories but maybe one day…..
The Runner’s World Team – what an amazing bunch of people. Yes they had a job to do but each one of them were amazing. Their personalities shone out during the weekend. They made us welcome. They welcomed our wives and guests into the team. They are a special bunch and created an experience that I will probably never experience again.
Asics – there are many sports companies around but they have been brilliant to work with – providing so much kit and looking after us. Thank you. Never have I had so much.
The last people to thank are my family. Louise has supported me all the way through this campaign. She has put up with moments of desperation during injury and kicked my butt when I’ve felt like packing it all in – and not just with the running.
My son Gwion has also had to put up with a Daddy that is always popping out for a run instead of playing with him. I know he is proud but I hope one day when I show him the pictures and talk to him about this experience – he will understand why I did it. Hopefully I will inspire him to run and eventually we will run a marathon together.
Thank you everyone.