Standing amongst some 37,500 other runners on a bright, sunny Sunday morning in late April, in Greenwich Park, I thought back to how I’d arrived on the verge of doing one of the most physically taxing things I had ever done in my life. I thought back to all the miles I had run in training during the winter months between Abernethy, Newburgh and Bridge of Earn; about how hard I had found it to complete the Inverness half marathon a few weeks earlier; how relieved I was to manage to run about 18 miles without any serious problems a couple of weeks later. I thought of the support from friends and family, of all the waves and toots from people passing in their cars, and from the cyclists and pedestrians.
So, here I was, with thousands of other folk, all with their own stories to tell and their own targets for the day ahead, every one of them with several exhausting hours of running between them and those targets. My personal target was not too complicated; it was to finish the 26 miles and 360 yards. I tried to imagine myself crossing the finishing line in the Mall.
It took all of twenty minutes after the starting gun went off at 9.45am for the people in front of us to even get to the start, then suddenly it was our turn and we were off too. My thoughts turned into concentration. Trying to find a rhythm, think about breathing and pace and finding some space among my fellow runners.
It wasn’t long before I became aware of the huge crowds of people, lines of people at least two or three deep, over the whole 26 miles, who had turned out to watch, cheering all of us on. The atmosphere was incredible, the support and encouragement fantastic and really made the day. The TV coverage concentrates on the elite runners and then on some of the faster ‘fun’ runners but largely ignores the tens of thousands of supporters. For me, it was my fellow slower runners and the amazing crowds that made the whole day the most unforgettable experience.
At last, some five hours later, I found myself on The Embankment, approaching the Houses of Parliament and, turning into Birdcage Walk, I only had a mile or two to go. Buckingham Palace came into view and then, finally, I could see the finish line by the grandstand in The Mall, just as I’d imagined it all those miles ago.
Later that afternoon, I was able to have a long, hot bath to soak away the aches and pains and think about the experiences of the day. My thoughts turned to the people who had given so generously to my Just Giving page, all the donations going to the charity, ‘Fight for Sight’. I’m delighted to announce that the total figure now stands at almost £2,500.
Was it a wonderful, unforgettable day? It certainly was. Would I do it again…?