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Sunday 9th October 2011

Up at 7am to make my carbohydrate-packed porridge in preparation for a 13.1 mile run. I had slept quite badly and woken up at 5, but just about drifted back to sleep when the alarm went off. Not wanting to mess about I jumped straight out of bed and went downstairs. I was still a bit woozy from sleep and thought how funny it would be if I fell down the stairs and twisted my ankle at the last minute. Then I got to the bottom of the stairs and slipped on the third last step and fell. I am like some kind of Nostradamus. But luckily I didn't hurt myself
We were aware that we hadn't done quite enough training for this event - we'd started running a bit before Edinburgh, but then not done anything whilst we were at the Fringe or for the two weeks after- and I don't think either of us could quite believe this was happening. Having done long runs before I was fairly confident we'd make it round, though in what kind of state I didn't know, but my girlfriend had never run this far and was somewhat apprehensive and I think, wishing that she'd never agreed to do this in the first place. I was struggling to work out why I had thought it was a good idea. We were going to be raising money for SCOPE, but at this point that didn't seem like a good enough motivating factor!
We had to get there a little bit early as the people at SCOPE had asked if I minded being photographed with the "celebrity" runners. I had been told that the Cheeky Girls would be there, which was incentive enough for me. I was hoping they might both fall in love with me and I could dump my girlfriend and marry them both (at least one of them clearly has very low standards, right Lembit?) or failing that their mum. But they were nowhere to be seen. SCOPE had tricked me. I'd only done this bloody race to meet the Cheeky fucking Girls. There was one of the girls off of Hollyoaks and Duncan Bannatyne and Sophie Raworth and Mark Goodier though. Yup, never have the inverted commas around celebrity been so required.
First they were doing a photo of all the charity mascots who would be racing in costume and I managed to get a snap with me in front of them, clearly thinking, "No one told me this was fancy dress". My ""celebrity"" status meant that I had the option to start the race from the front, but when I had done that at the Marathon in 2004 the pace set by the club runners at the front meant that I ran much too quickly at the start. We weren't looking to break any records, just to get round without dying and I wanted to do the whole thing with my girlfriend by my side, so although I could obviously have gone much faster without her holding me back, we decided to aim for the 2 hour 15 mark twenty minutes slower than my personal best of just over 1 hour 55 minutes. In truth I thought we were more likely to finish in 2 hrs 30. I am seven years older than I was the last time I did anything like this and we really hadn't done enough training.
I slightly regretted not taking advantage of my """celebrity""" status because due to the huge number of participants it took over 15 minutes to get to the starting line and I really needed a wee already, but once we got going all was fine. The route was relatively flat and took us round many of the landmarks of central London. Roads were closed for us and it was quite a thrill to be running round Hyde Park Corner on the road.
We actually did the first 3 miles in under 30 minutes and seemed to be comfortable at this pace. I noticed that due to the layout of the run and the way it looped back on itself there were several opportunities to cut the distance down by crossing the road and heading back in the other direction. There weren't even barriers to stop anyone doing it. But we all had the barrier of our pride. We wanted to complete this fair and square. Also though there was a disparity between my GPS watch and the mile markers - unless you follow the exact central course of the race it's easy to run further than the distance required. Even after four or five miles a few people had ground to a halt or were receiving medical treatment - whilst it's a lot of fun to do these runs and there's a great atmosphere, you do get slightly scary reminders of the fact that it is not risk free. As we got further on there was the occasional more serious looking collapse, or comatose runner being covered in foil. This is not an easy thing to do and again our lack of training slightly worried me. But we kept on going, with encouragement from the crowd, reading our names off of vests and occasionally people who actually recognised me. Just after mile 11 I decided to record a mini podcast to commemorate the run - it was an unusual enough circumstance to be interesting and I thought it might help pass the time. You can hear it here and note how confused and disorientated I am. Still amazing to have the technology to do this. Maybe next time I should do one for the entire run!
Our longest run had been 9 miles in training and once we passed that mark it got noticeably harder. My legs felt heavy and I had a sharp pain in my calf muscle. But we had to keep pushing on. And a bottle of lucozade and a brief downhill bit gave me a new burst of energy. At the 12 mile mark it now felt very achievable and looking at my watch I felt it was possible we might make it in under 2 hours 15, so in spite of the discomfort we had kept up a very good pace. At one point we saw someone dressed as a tomato about 300 metres ahead of us. I said to my girlfriend "We have to beat the tomato", but I was only joking, it seemed impossible, but we were pacey enough to do some quite comfortably, though it was hard enough to navigate the packed pathways when you weren't dressed as a fruit.
We sped up for the final straight and I felt surprisingly sprightly - not so sprightly that I would wanted to have done the whole thing again: I think I will only do one complete Marathon in my life- but our final time was 2 hours 16 minutes and 25 seconds, which I was very pleased with. I had been tempted to suddenly break away at the end so I could claim I had beaten my girlfriend, but even for a joke that would seem cruel (and there's the chance that she would have risen to the challenge and beaten me) and we crossed the line hand in hand with the people doing the commentary taking the piss out of me for taking so long (though I suspect they thought I had started at the front, so they thought I had taken over two and a half hours).
All that mattered is that we'd done it and it did feel like quite an achievement. My girlfriend really couldn't believed she had managed it, but despite her earlier reservations was delighted about what we'd done. It was impressive. And it gave us the excuse to eat loads of food and go to the pub for a couple of pints of Guinness before returning home for a bath and a big takeaway pizza. Which would all have undone any of the health benefits of the day, but which was nonetheless very enjoyable.
We were very tired though and legs were starting to ache with stiffness and we had a very early night, getting to sleep just after 9pm.
Thanks to everyone at SCOPE for looking after us so well and well done to web king Rob Sedgebeer (who created and maintains this site) who smashed his personal best (though not mine - just saying) and came in in under 2 hours. If you appreciate his hard work, sponsor him here.
And thanks to everyone who has sponsored me. My run has made over £200 a mile for SCOPE, which helps justify the slight pain I am in now. If you want to nudge that figure higher then my sponsorship page is still running, even though I am not.

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