Getting to Mile 23...By Tube

I had deferred my London Marathon place and written my last blog.  So I thought I was finished with my ballot winner’s commitments for this year.  How wrong I was… 

It was two fellow Eagles who pointed out my schoolboy error.  It seems that as a ballot winner I had agreed to write a race day blog.  The fact I hadn’t actually run the marathon was, apparently, an unacceptable reason to renege on this commitment.

Now these two rather stringent Eagles will remain nameless.  Let’s just say they looked suspiciously like Lisa Emerson and Allie Collins and leave it at that.  They pointed out my obligation in the Wellington pub, whilst we celebrated the achievements of those who had not only made it to the start line, but the finish line too.

Now, a more sober man may have checked the ballot winners’ T&Cs but by this time I had imbibed three pints of some disturbing real ale – Runner’s Old Gusset, or something – and so I readily agreed to write a final blog.  My brain was clearly more malleable than my hip.

However, the following day I thought that a final blog may not be such a bad idea after all.  It could be a way of drawing a line under this year, putting things in perceptive and pondering a few lessons learnt.

The truth is that after reluctantly deciding not to run I wasn’t really sure what to do or where to turn.  What should I do between deferral day and race day?  And how would I feel when race day finally arrived? I had found myself in a sort of deferral limbo.  This doesn’t mean I spent a month in Trinidad dancing under a stick, though perhaps I should have as it may have done wonders for my wonky hip.

Instead I moved towards my ‘non- race day’ reading other ballot winners’ blogs and completing the occasional Parkrun if and when my hip felt up to it.  I occasionally went to work too.

When my non-race day finally arrived, it arrived very early.  About 4:30am in my case because Rachel was volunteering at the start.  This meant a certain Mr Walker and a Mr Thomas would be rocking up in a taxi at some unearthly hour before heading off to Blackheath.

Fortunately I soon fell back into a deep slumber and awoke, feeling oddly apprehensive, several hours later.  It was straight into the kitchen to make a cuppa before stumbling bleary-eyed into the front room and whacking on Aunty Beeb (which you’ll be relieved to hear is not a euphemism).

It must be said that the BBC’s coverage of the marathon is pretty good.  But for Deferral Boy here those first few images of the runners, volunteers and spectators were a slight kick in the ribs.  I sat in my chair leaning forward at the screen; elbow on knee, chin in one hand, tea in the other – Rodin’s the drinker.

I don’t mind admitting I was feeling sorry for myself. I had my bottom lip pushed forward like a sad toddler who had missed out on the sweets.  I’m not sure how long I sat there motionless, watching the screen, but the tea eventually went cold and remained unfinished.

Eventually I snapped out of this self-absorbed nonsense and gave myself a stern talking to.  Enough of this feeling sorry for myself; it was time to throw away my limbo stick, get washed and head out to mile 23.  I might even put some clothes on first too.  Yes, there were Eagles and other runners who needed and deserved some jolly good support. 

So it was that a little over an hour later I found myself ambling up the steps of Monument Station and out into the teaming London crowds.  I could hear the thunderous roar of the spectators straightaway. As I headed towards Lower Thames Street the cheers grew louder and for reasons I cannot quite explain it was all music to my ears.  As I ducked under the tape into the Eagles’ zone all deferral blues vanished and I instantly became another spectator and supporter greatly enjoying the atmosphere.

Coincidentally the first two people I met had also deferred and we cautiously asked each other how we were.  It turns out we were all fine and enjoying the day. Throughout the afternoon several other people kindly, but tentatively, asked me how I was feeling and what my injury prognosis was. I really appreciated people asking, though I suspect my answers were edited to shorter and shorter versions as the day went on.

I heard that some people felt it best not to ask on the basis that I was probably fed-up with answering the same questions over and over again. You people are great too because without your forethought it probably would have become a bit wearisome.   As it turns out the balance was perfect.

However, far more important was the convocation of Eagles (apparently that’s the collective noun) who flew past mile 23 throughout the day. One or two stopped for a sweaty hug, most opted for a high-five and at least one danced with Mr Eagle. All looked absolutely awesome.

Later on in the Wellington pub I heard tales of the highs and lows from our ballot winners.  However, I won’t repeat them here in case I spoil someone’s blog.  I think you’re in for a few good reads.

If you ever find yourself having to defer London, or any other race, my advice is to go along anyway and get supporting; maybe even volunteer if you can.  Either way you’re likely to have a great time.  What’s more the achievements and jubilations of fellow Eagles will only serve as a motivator for you to fix, if possible, whatever caused you to defer in the first place.    

My only regret is that I didn’t head out earlier to support at a few points along the route before heading over to mile 23. Nonetheless, my marathon day was a fun-filled afternoon surrounded by a terrific bunch of people.  And what’s more the next day there wasn’t an aching muscle on sore joint to be had.

Quite frankly I don’t know what all the fuss is about…