There’s a reason we use the word marathon as a descriptor of a particularly long and torturous experiences. We’ve all come out of hideously long drawn out meetings shaking our heads and grumbling about what a marathon session that was, or whinged about the marathon endurance feat that spending days on end at cricket games only to result in a drawn outcome is (or maybe that ones just me!), but after supporting Stuart as he ran his fourth of the World Major Marathons this weekend in London, why that’s the case was really apparent. It’s because marathons are really really long and really really hard work.
I have to admit to being a bit complacent about this one – much easier to do from the sidelines I know – but, to a spectator at least, the previous three hadn’t really been that hard. The first one in New York neither of us knew what to expect, but he ran about the time that he expected, and that evening we went out with friends who’d also run and had a great big celebration party.
His second in Berlin wasn’t that different, he knew more about what to expect, had trained accordingly and was confident of achieving a better time. He did, and we went out with the same friends and had a similar great big celebration party.
Things were a bit harder in the lead up to the third in Chicago, with a hamstring tear a month or so out hampering his final training. He recovered well from the injury, but it meant he went into the run with no expectation of a PB time, although he ended up finishing in a time only slight slower than Berlin. The only real difference was I was watching this one via the marathon app on Necker Island, where I had my own great big celebration party that night, plus another one when he joined me there the next day.
So with Stuart fitter than he’s ever been, an uninterrupted training program, and a great weather forecast in London I have to admit I was really complacent about the upcoming challenge. He was aiming to run a PB, and I just thought that was what was going to happen.
He was running as part of the Lords Taveners team, raising funds for the fantastic work they do enabling disabled children to participate in sport, and I joined the rest of the team supporters at the first of the cheer points, just approaching the half way point. I’d been tracking him on the app so knew he was right on track, if not slightly ahead, of his target time, and he ran past in great spirits, looking fantastic.
I jumped in the tube, popping out near Westminster and stopping to take a few pics of the iconic backdrop as the elite field made their way past,
before making my way up through St James Park (stopping to take a few pics there too) to take my place on the fenceline about 500m from the finish.
From there things started to get a bit stressful, as the app showed that he’d slowed down to the point of almost stopping a bit before 35km At first I thought he might just have had to duck to the loo, but the dot started moving again but at a much slower pace, and by the time he crossed the 35k timer pad it was obvious something had gone wrong as his time had blown out quite a lot.
I had absolutely no visibility of what was going on,Stuart was 7km away from where I was and I knew there was no chance of getting to him and seeing what was going on in person, so just had to sit tight and wait for him to cross the 40km timer pad so I could get a feel for how he was going. In the meantime I was fielding messages from concerned family and friends in Australia who were seeing similar on the app, and politely pointing out that while I might have been in London I actually had no more idea than they did, and would update them as soon as I knew anything.
I watched his dot track an agonisingly slow pace towards the 40k mark, at this stage really worried about what had happened as I started to notice runners in all states of distress passing me. There was lots of post marathon publicity about the elite runner who paused to virtually carry a fellow runner across the finish line, but there were no shortage of similar acts of sportsmanship playing out in front of me. Three guys went past, the outer two almost completely supporting the middle one who clearly had injured his leg quite badly, and with temperatures on course much warmer than forecast there were numerous runners in states of dehydration and disorientation being carefully observed by the marshalls as they battled their way the short distance to the finish line.
I was so relieved when Stuart appeared, but also totally confused – he was running, more of a shuffle than a run admittedly, but not obviously injured, had spoken to me as he went past saying he was doing it hard but nearly there, so was fully lucid – so I still had absolutely no idea what had happened.
We’d agreed before the start that I’d just meet him back at the hotel, so I battled my way through the crowds, desperate to make sure he was ok. We arrived back at almost exactly the same time, where he insisted on posing for a photo with his medal before heading for the couch and explaining that his hamstring had seized up a bit before the 30k point, and the compensatory running style he’d been forced to adopt had subsequently taken out both calf muscles.
I went out and stocked up on carbs and ice packs while he had a shower, and we abandoned plans for a big celebration party in favour of a quiet night at the hotel – admittedly with a very nice bottle of champagne to celebrate ticking another of the World Six off the list!
While he didn’t run the time he was hoping for – he still finished with a very respectable 4:12:13, putting him in the top 5 of the 35 runners in the Lords Taveners team – he still achieved his goal of finishing another WMM, and more importantly did still achieve a PB in terms of his fundraising, which will be put to great use by the Lords Taverners organisation.
Thanks to everyone who supported him and his fundraising, from a very proud wife who saw just how much effort and commitment he put in not only on the day but in the months of training leading up to the event. He’s already planning for the final two of the six, and as for me, I’ll probably think twice before the next time I tell people I’ve put a marathon effort into anything!