And Did Those Feet …

I used to find it so much easier to blog. I guess I used to have so much more to say. But now, just a week away from London 2018, maybe there are some things I can share with you, particularly if this is the first time you have undertaken this challenge.

Yes I could give you lots of great advice … about training … diet … conditioning … rest and relaxation. But essentially I know stuff all about any of those things. Back in June 2013, when CLIC Sargent first allocated me a place on the starting line, it all seemed so ridiculous. Not particularly fit, barely a runner, an armchair warrior, and at 55 far too old. I was certainly nothing like my idea of the sort of person who would run a marathon. And I guess the same may well be true of you. You may well not be your idea of the sort of person who would run a marathon? But I did it, and so can you, in which case maybe there are things I can say that will be of value to you.

It’s Something Unpredictable …

I could say that on Sunday “you’ll smash it” … “you’ll be amazing” … but I won’t . Because you probably won’t “smash it” and there’ll probably be plenty of time when you don’t feel particularly amazing – more like complete s##t. But what will you do about that? The easiest thing would be to quit. But I don’t think you will. Because I don’t think you’re that kind of person. You put in those hours of training … you ran in the cold .. in the wind … in the rain .. maybe even in the snow. There were times you really didn’t want to go out. Maybe you were ill. Maybe you were battling injury. But you put in the hours and you’ve got to the start line. And when the going gets tough so will you.

When you think about it the whole marathon thing is a bit stupid because:

  1. It’s much too far too run … we really are not designed to run such distances.
  2. It’s a stupid distance anyway. I mean 26 miles 385 yards – what’s that all about?!? Why not 25 miles? … or 40 km? … or 20 km? … why such a ridiculous distance?

And then there’s time? … crack 4 hours? … or 4:15? … or 5? … or whatever? I mean seriously – what does it b####y matter – I mean why are there 24 hours in a day? Why not 25 or 20 or 10 even … that would screw up our pacing bands for sure. So of course I have no finishing time in mind do I? No … by all means go for 4 hours … or follow the 4:15 pacer … but these cannot be ends in themselves. Quick trip to the loo and that’s the last you’ll see of the 4:15 man – imagine it – “excuse me – do you and those other 200 people mind waiting while I nip behind this tree?” … remember any marathon you finish is a worthy marathon.

Ultimately what I am saying is that this was never meant to be easy and that’s why it’s such an amazing challenge that you’re about to undertake on Sunday. This is one exclusive club you are about to join … a quick google suggests the percentage of the population that has run a marathon is maybe around half a percent … yeah – if it was that simple everyone would be doing it – but they’re not … a worthwhile challenge indeed.

Now you could be out there for a long time on Sunday. There’s a lot can happen in that time .. as you run through a whole load of feelings and emotion. That’s ohhhh so much part of why I love it and keep coming back for more. The three “me’s” – “head” me, “heart” me and “body” me – arguing … warring … negotiating … compromising – as we fight to bring us all home. Those crowds – maybe encouraging – sometimes annoying. And then your friends, family, and supporters – shouting your name – cuttiing through the hubbub – the greatest inspiration of all.

And other times I just sing to myself. Maybe that magnificent patriotic hymn – Jerusalem – “And did those feet, in ancient times …” Amercian Pie – just because it’s the longest song I know – recite the whole song and that’s another km under the belt … REM – Man On The Moon … Dusty – “I just don’t know what to do with myself”.

Aaaah and then there’s the prize at the end of this. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s immense. Every now and then in your life along comes a wonderful moment … a hair stands up on the back of your neck moment … you know the sorts of things I mean. And for me, for sure, there are at least two such moments that are marathon related … moments that I can look back on and I start to well up (as I am now).Yet how did I feel when I completed that first London marathon in 2014? FLAT AS HELL – Is that it? What now? And then one amazing moment as I looked down at my medal and suddenly EVERYTHING came gushing out. All that training … all that fundraising … the endless hours … the worry … the highs … the lows … culminating in this one moment in time. I sobbed my eyes out (for the record Paris 2015, and the moment I exited the Bois-de-Boulogne, spied the Arc-de-Triomphe, and realised that NOTHING was going to stop me going sub-four, was the other one, but like I said – I never have any finishing time in mind 😉 ).

I can give you no cast iron promises. I cannot put my hand on my heart and tell you that you WILL finish, because ultimately I don’t know that. We are all, to a degree, hostages to fortune. But what I can tell you is that the odds are stacked hugely in your favour. Again a quick google suggests that the percentage of starters that actually finish the London marathon is around 99% From my own experience I think I can count the number of people I know that have failed to finish on the fingers of zero hands!!!

And we already know the reason why – because on your journey to the start line, you have already proved the type of person you are and that is not someone who is going to look for the easy way out. Which is just as well because sure as hell it won’t be easy. Now no-one can legislate against the unpredicatable, and if something happens that means you can’t continue, then so be it. But that is highly unlikely, and so when things get hard, as they will, without fail, at some point, you will rise to the challenge and come out stronger for it.

But In The End It’s Right …

You will have your own reasons for doing this .. maybe for a family member or for a friend. My own reasons are unashamedly selfish – I’m running this for me. Whatever these reasons are make them work for you.

I Hope You Have The Time Of Your Life

But ultimately it is you, and no one else. that’s doing this. This will be YOUR fantastic achievment. You are highly unlikely to “smash it”, but believe me, when you finish this YOU will have been amazing … you WILL have been quite awesome. It’s all in front of you. It’s there for the taking. It won’t be easy. It was never meant to be. There may be times you want to give up. But you won’t. Go out and do it.

Thanks for reading,

Keith

Take The Money And Run …

Or “An Idiot’s Guide To London Marathon Fundraising”

Of course the idiot I refer to is me – not you 🙂 I’m afraid there is nothing I can offer that is terribly original. If there are magical ways to instantly satisfy the need to raise £2000 I suspect they will be illegal. I can understand to a degree how people might be feeling at this time, but I have never been in those shoes. When I first ran London in 2014, I started fundraising the previous June. But I went through some very dark times … times when I completely despaired that I could ever get anywhere near that magical £2k. But by February it was all behind me – the pressure was off and I could just concentrate on running the b$&**y marathon. All I can really do is relate my own experiences fundraising for that marathon and relate what worked for me then.

This is not somethng you will do everyday. This is more than likely a once in a lifetime experience. You may not be a natural runner. But you are taking on this challenge – this massive challenge. And you are doing it for a wonderful good cause … cancer – which surely has, in one way or another, affected each and every one of us. And not adult cancer … children with cancer … how unfair can that be? But also how compelling a good cause?

And that, I believe, is the starting (and ending) point. The first time you take on this challenge you seriously need to sell yourself and your charity to as many people as you can. Friends, family, neighbours, workmates, clubmates … you have to target them all. You will, of course, have your giving page, but how do you get people to use it? Maybe you keep posting on facebook but still there are hardly any donations … and you become disheartened. Ultimately, I believe, you have to approach as many people as you can directly. I sort of phased it. I wrote down all the groups I was part of … running club … skittles team … quiz team … brass music group … family … friends … neighbours … people I met on holidays … and made estimates of who I thought might donate and how much! And targetted them. I created little flyers and gave them out at every opportunity. And stuck them through the doors of everyone in my street.

But still the returns were not what I hoped for. But I kept records of everyone who had donated. I made sure I thanked them personally, and made sure that I never approached them a second time. And critically I harvested as many email addressed as I could. So when the time got close I emailed as many people as I could (as well as maildropping everone in the street again) … I told them about my challenge … and the compelling reasons why they might want to help a children’s cancer support charity. And a hell of a lot of them did want to. I reckon I got a good few hundred pounds come in those last couple of weeks. It sounds like brinkmanship. I know it would be so much nicer to get the money in earlier, but as those marathon adverts start to hit the TV screens – da da – da da – da da-da-da-dahhhh – that is the time to it.

Of course, this may not sound like you. You may not be good at selling yourself. This may be way outside your comfort zone, but believe me, if that is the case, you’ve really got to brave it and step out there. This is a fantastic and wonderful thing you are doing … don’t undersell yourself.

What else … maybe a hot potato at the moment, but if there is any chance at all of a supermarket bucket collection GO FOR IT. Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco (and Morrisons too) all have local community champions, and these are the people to approach. I don’t know about other supermarkets. I think Lidl is a total non-starter, but I have heard of collections at Aldi – again sell yourself and sell your good cause as hard as you can. And again, should you be lucky enough to be allocated a day really go for it … it is a fantastic fundraising opportunity. Try to put on a bit of a show, with material explaining what you are doing and what your charity does, and be prepared to represent both yourself and the charity to the customers. If possibly have other collectors to help … be happy … maybe play music … maybe dance … have a bucket full of sweets to reward children who donate. And also be prepared to talk … and to be upset .. CLIC Sargent is a compelling good cause, and people WILL come up to you and relate their own experiences … occasionally you will be reduced to tears (and you will probably feel strangely uplifted by that afterwards). But if you put in the hours (for instance 8:00 through 18:00) you can easily raise over £500 this way (which fills a huge hole in your fundraising chasm).

And more still? Do you have a special talent? Something you can somehow use to raise some more pennies. In my case my (not so special) talent was guitar and singing. So I busked in town. Now that was really WAY OUTSIDE my comfort zone. Experience soon told me I could expect about £20 an hour. So again it was hard work. But it kept the thermometer ticking over.

How about your work mates? Mine have been just brilliant in supporting me. But once again you have to work for it. I never miss an opportunity to run sweepstakes and competitions … World Cup … Euros … #GBBO … #strictly … Grand National … marathon finishing time … fantasy football … fantasy rugby. Typically £2 to enter, £1 to the prize pot, £1 to fundraising. I was totally taken aback when the chap (who I barely knew) who won the first guess my finishing time competition promptly gave all his winnings straight back to me, but experience now tells me that a good deal of the prize money will find its way back to you 🙂 And I keep a sponsorship form by my desk. Because I strongly suspect that, come the time, a good few of them will start to leave me some nice notes – £10 ones – and maybe even £20 ones.

Ahhhh – and cake sales! I never considered this but a colleague with young children who loved to bake insisted on bringing in several boxes of their cupcakes, and after persuading another three or four colleagues (or wives) to bake (as well making a couple myself) we had a nice little display which raised over £100 with seemingly minimal effort.

The local press – phone your local rag and get yourself featured. I did – they wrote a great article about me running and busking (hmmm – so great that the organisers of the #VMLM got hold of the wrong end of the stick, assumed I was intending to run / busk the actual event, and offered me a place in the celebrities start pen – but that’s another story!). Job done (I thought). It’s out there. The donations will come flooding in now. And did they? Not a dicky bird! But don’t forget this is part of the long game. It all raises awareness and consciousness of what you are doing. And it might just make the difference that persuades someone to give nearer the time. Oh yes and local radio too! Again it didn’t bring the donations flooding in but it was fun 🙂 and again it all goes to raise your profile.

Put posters up. The supermarket … local takeaway .. library … CLIC Sargent shop. And what about the internet … I did get one of the fan’s websites for my beloved Charlton Athletic Football Club to promote what I was doing, and as a result of all the above I did get a few donations come in from total strangers … maybe another hundred pounds (and its strangely sweet when a total stranger chooses to support you).

Maybe you have an event planned … a captive audience! Make the most of it … give people plenty of chance to part with their money .. a great raffle … little games … and again make sure you sell yourself and distribute your flyers. Whatever it is you do try your damnedest to give all your guests a great evening and value for money so that you do not feel in any way beholden to them. Because if they’ve enjoyed it they might just feel inclined to go on-line and donate a bit more to your great good cause. And even if they don’t you’ll have no guilt about going back to them and asking them to maybe donate closer to the time.

Hmmmm – but ultimately what if you are not going to meet your target? Well I don’t know anyone’s official stance on this but surely no-one out there wants you to fail. Talk to them. I know there are nominal dates published, but will they really be that concerned if you don’t meet those dates as long as you get there in the end? Maybe you can give it a few months and put on a further event? All I can relate is that I did once ask this question (based on the fact that I knew I had an event organised the following September) and they were entirely cool with this 🙂

Well enough of my distilled ramblings wisdom. There are no two ways about it. This is hard work. In all probability the marathon will seriously take over your life. Whenever you have a spare moment it will take over and occupy all your thoughts. And it’s a bit ridiculous. If you were going to run a marathon then attempting to raise £2000 at the same time is a huge distraction. And similarly if you were going to raise £2000 you probably wouldn’t choose to train to run your first marathon at the same time. But that is where you are and believe me the prize is huge. As you turn the corner into the Mall – as you throw your arms into the air and cross the finish line – as you maybe collapse in a heap – as you are reunited with friends, family and loved ones – as you maybe break down and sob uncontrollably (as I did) – if you ever had any doubts before … suddenly it’s all sooooo worthwhile ….

Smells Like Teen Spirit – The Zagreb Travel(b)log

Tuesday 17th October – I’m on a Flixbus bound for Croatia for the first time, and its capital, Zagreb. If you recall I’m in a bit of a state on account of having mislaid my glasses and having left my breakfast burek on the counter of the kiosk in Nepliget Bus Station, Budapest. But luckily no bugger has sat next to me 🙂 But I do have some food – a couple of cereal bars left over from my marathon goodie bag, and the remains of Madeleine’s Budapest chocolate stash. I quickly tuck into one of the cereal bars and polish off the chocolate. For sure the first place I’ll be headed to in Zagreb will be the Central European equivalent of Boots the Chemist. The road takes us past Lake Balaton, known to us quizzers as the largest lake in Central Europe, and as we near the border, I sense it’s time for the final cereal bar. I reach into my Budapest kit bag, where the last of the food is and joy-oh-joy … me and my reading glasses are reunited. Now I feel I can truly sit back and look forward to my three night stay in Zagreb.

The border is reached. Schengen zone … my a**e. It would appear Croatia hasn’t signed up. This really is painful – talk about jobs for the boys. It takes us a good half hour to cross the border. But we’re still making good time. Onwards and we pull into Zagreb’s autobusni kolodvor (aka the “bus station”) just a few minutes after one o’clock. Still two hours before checking in to Buga & Ognjen’s Zagreb Eye-panoramic view in center airbnb. Thought I might as well take a leisureley walk through the city centre and head for the apartment at the far side of the city. Google maps is doing its stuff, and I find a convenient mlinar for lunch in a park. I reach the flat dead on three o’clock. It is on the ninth floor of a tower block. It seems that in Zagreb you’re not allowed to build anything higher than the cathedral, so this is one of the tallest buildings.

After a bit of a rest, I head back into town. The plan is to sort out a Zagreb card, which should cover public transport and a few other things, and maybe try to book some trips. I walk back to the main tourist office, who unable to sell me a Zagreb card (too late) or indeed help out much with trips. But there will be a free walking tour at 11:00 tomorrow, and I can get a Zagreb card from a nearby book shop. After, I head uphill towards the old town. This is a road with lots of bars and al-fresco dining opportunities, and at length I choose Lokma, for more falafels followed by Turkish coffee. And now, armed with the Zagreb card, catch the tram back to Mandaličina, stop off at Spar for some good old English tea-bags, and back to Buga & Ognjen’s.

Wednesday 18th October – and a day’s sightseeing in Zagreb. I head for the local bakery, Dubravica, for coffee and pastries, and catch the tram into town. The Zagreb card promises free entry into the interesting sounding Museum Of Broken Relationships. Strange quirky and generally well worth the entrance fee “… hoarders of objects beautiful, strange or downright odd“. By the time I’m finished, there’s just time to head down to the main Ban Jelačić Square, for the start of the walking tour. Our guide a Luka, with an engaging manner, a man-bun, and excellent command of the English language.

So what did the Croatian’s ever do for us? The clue is in the name. Hrvatska the locals call it … I assume the “H” is a sort of a “C” – Crvatska – now we’re getting close. Apparently Croatian soldiers were always sent about wearing a sort of a necktie (to remind them of their “loved ones” … and to hopefully deter them from straying to far from the straight and narrow). And apparently the Parisiennes rather liked them – and so the cravat was born. And today (of all days) it’s “International Necktie Day” (hence the adornment on the statue of hero of the revolution Ban Jelačić in his eponymous square).

But back to Luka. We head up through the Stone Gate, the only remaining entrance to the old town. Apparently there was a great fire back in 1731 and miraculously the only thing to survive was a wooden picture of the virgin with child, which is now housed in its own little chapel inside the gate.

We head up to the old town square, which apparently is now the seat of the Croatian parliament. There we watch the changing of the guard. Apparently this normally only takes place during the summer, but this is a special one-off presentation for neck-tie day.

But midday is approaching and Luka takes us to see Zagreb’s ceremonial midday time signal,the cerominial firing of a canon from the window of this tower. And afterwards the bloke whose job it is opens the window and is given a massive round of applause.

Now we head back down the road where I ate last night. It seems that, like Budapest Zagreb started out as two settlements, divided by a river. The smaller, Kaptol (from where we get the word capital), was inhabited mainly by clergy and housed Zagreb Cathedral. The larger, western Gradec, was inhabited mainly by craftsmen and merchants. Two towns depending on each other for trade and for labour, but with a love / hate relationship. And when they disagreed they typically headed down to the “bloody bridge” over the bloody river and killed each other. But the river has long since headed underground (to be replaced by the road – the one where I ate last night), hence no need for a bridge anymore. And here we were treated to a rather excellent acoustic version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

And then it’s back to Ban Jelačić and the end of our tour. But conversation turns to marathons. David on the left ran 3:39 in one of his and then Meg, on the right let slip that she once ran a marathon … what time we asked? It was her local Rotorua marathon on New Zealand’s North Island. “It was a bit hilly” she explained – hence she only managed to get around in 3:09 – yes you did hear me right … THREE OOOH NINE. She plans to head for Christchurch, where it is flat, to crack three hours 🙂 But she is a lot younger than me – a good reason why she should be so much faster? … but then she explains that her sixty year old dad paced her around that day!

We lunch at one of Luka’s recommendations, Heritage Croatian Street Food. Apparently this is run by a Croatian “Masterchef” winner. After that I decide to take a look at Zagreb’s river, the Sava. It’s a beautiful afternoon and surely the riverside will be a great place to visit. But the truth is it’s not really Zagreb’s river. It just jhappens to run close by. It’s a nice place to walk (and would be a nice place to run), but there’s little else there. And it’s while I’m walking along the river side that matters start to come to a head regarding my impending new house purchase. This is threatening to put a bit of a damper on things, and I head back to the flat to make phone calls and do some soul searching.

But let’s not let this completely ruin my city break. I head back downtown to sample Luca’s other culinary tip, La Štruk restaurant for the local Štrukli, a cheesy, douchy concoction … apparently a dish that every Zagreb grandma would cook and that every Zagreb grandson would recommend.

Thursday 19th October – and back to Dubravica, for breakfast. Well we wanted to visit Budapest’s “House Of Terror” museum. But it was shut on Monday, so instead I decide to sample another Luka recommendation, Zagreb’s museum of medieval torture! Hmmm – some interesting hardware there! And next I use the Zagreb card to gain free admission to the Zagreb 360° observation deck.I mean it’s not exactly the Burj Khalifa, but like I said, it’s not allowed to be taller than the cathedral!

Have to say I was somewhat intrigued by this little message in the lift 🙂

And speaking of the cathedral, that was the next thing to be seen. Apparently (according to Luka) they got the three massive chandeliers second hand from the Gold Coast Casino in Las Vegas!

Hmmm – the plan for the afternoon was originally Luka’s “War Tour” but I’m afraid at this point house purchase related matters totally took over, and the afternoon was spent largely on the phone, back at the flat. But after “close of play” I head out for a last meal – genuine Croatian pizza at Leonardo’s Trattoria just below the cathedral.

Friday 19th October – farewell to Zagreb, but first Dubravica, for another quick breakfast. The number six tram takes me all the way back to the bus station and this time plenty of time to stock up on coffee and bureks for the Flixbus heading to Slovenia, Ljubljana, and back home. And again no one sitting next to me … a double seat all to myself … luxury 🙂

Thanks for reading,

Keith

It’s Not Unusual – The Budapest Travel(b)log

Friday 13th October – not the greatest day for flying. But I’m at Gatwick preparing to head off to Budapest for a small jog. Belt off and through security. Retrieve your stuff – what no belt!!! I accost a member of staff – apparently it’s not unusual – he asks me to describe it – “I don’t know – it’s either brown or black – I’ve only had it for a week” – apparently he has a nice sparkly one. He tells me to come back in half an hour by which time the machine should have spewed it out! Meanwhile I have visions of being arrested, trousers round ankles, in Budapest. But it turned out the man with the machine was right 🙂

Strangely on arriving at Budapest all is going smoothly. I pick up my Budapest card, and there is only five minutes until the bus leaves – jump on the bus, change to the metro and before I know it I’m at Deák Ferenc Square where Julia’s airbnb flat (which I highly recommend) is located. At which point I can’t for the life of me find the entrance to the flat. Eventually, guided by Madeleine who arrived an hour or so earlier from Ljubljana, I find it, but still can’t get through the locked gate. Eventually she has to come down to let me in. The location is vibrant and busy. We head off to one of Julia’s recommendations, for our first meal.

Saturday 14th October – my plan allows for an easy 5km – head down to the Danube, past the Olympic Rings (hmmm Olympic Rings?!?), the Parliament, and maybe I’ll make it over to Margaret Island. But that would take me over the 5km, so turn round and head back to the flat.

First things first – I need to get registered, so we head out and catch the metro to Hősök Tere for Városliget park, where the marathon will start and end (hopefully) tomorrow. Registration completed, we get as many free samples as possible, photo opportunities by the giant Budapest letters, and off to find breakfast somewhere. The best bet seems to be to head back to Deák Ferenc Tér and we follow another of Julia’s recommendations Keksz Bár for coffee and omelettes.

And after that the obvious thing is the open top bus tour. The office is right by our flat, and our tickets are valid for 48 hours. We jump on the bus and before we know it we plug our headphones in, select the union flag symbol, and are being whisked around the best of the downtown Pest. It is a truly beautiful autumn day, and as we head across the river to Buda, Madeleine has the idea of hiring Hungarian Boris Bikes and cruising along the banks of the Blue Danube. Easier said than done, before we know it we have walked a good couple of miles, right down to Margaret Island, by which time we’re feeling distinctly peckish. Surely there will be nice places to eat here right by the river, but that (along with open public loos) is something not readily available. I suggest we ride a tram for the first time, back to where we came and continue the bus tour.

By we don’t like to stick too rigidly to the plan – we find a different bus, which has a real live English speaking guide. This is a lot better and we head off right back to where we’ve just walked and trammed. But these days we have Google Maps, and Madeleine is an expert. A new plan is hatched. To quote Nomadic Matt, “Ruin bars are all the rage in Budapest and have been around for 10 years since the founding of Szimpla Kert, the mecca of all ruin bars. These bars are built in Budapest’s old Jewish quarter in the ruins of abandoned buildings, stores, or lots. This neighborhood was left to decay after World War II, so it was a perfect place to develop an underground bar scene. (Not so underground anymore, though)”. We are going to take a look at Szimpla Kert, and there is a street food market right by it.

Well we took a quick look around the bar (hmmm nothing like anything I’ve ever seen), and head for the Karavan street food market. Attempting to eat Vegetarian is not guaranteed to be easy, but I find a really nice burger, after which we also reccie the Mazel Tov, the new kid on the block in the ruin bar world (“a decidedly more sanitized and sophisticated version of the ruin bar experience“). The loose plan is to hit the ruin bar scene after tomorrow’s marathon. But now I need a bit of a nap in advance of tomorrow’s excursions. We head back to Julia’s, via an indoor market with loads of eating places. But I fancy a cup of good old English breakfast tea, and Julia’s has a (small) balcony. We sit out there at which point Madeleine introduces me to “Sporcle – the World’s Largest Trivia Quiz Website“. “Can you name the top 200 characters in the Harry Potter series by number of mentions?” it says. Pah – nothing to it! – between us we get about 100 (hmmm if only Anneliese had been here too). What else? European countries? US States? So much for my beauty sleep. I go and lie down for an hour or so and it’s dinner time.

We head back to the indoor market and find a nice pasta place. Choose your pasta and choose your sauce and it’s really well cooked. At some point Madeliene mentions some talk she’d been to on why people always lose their keys? Yeah glasses too!!! As we head back to Julia’s we like the look of a crêpes kiosk. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a more labour intensive process, but eventually we are served very acceptable crêpes (with nutella and banana). Back to Julia’s and sleep 🙂

Sunday 15th – Marathon Day – it’s a hot 4 hr 14 minute marathon for me. Our bus tickets also cover us for a night cruise on the very dark blue Danube. The main sights by the river are stunning when lit up. And by the Parliament a strange effect as a flock of birds are circling and are being lit up too giving us an amazing light show. At which point <grumpy rant> loads of people stand up, showing total disregard for their fellow sightseers, taking numerous photos while standing right in front of us, blocking our view – I MEAN I WOULDN’T MIND SO MUCH IF YOU WERE ACTUALLY LOOKING AT THE VIEW BUT ALL YOU’RE ACTUALLY DOING IS TAKING AN ENDLESS STREAM OF F**KING PHOTOS (which will probably look c**p when you actually get home and look at them)</ grumpy rant>.

Then we head off to the Jewish quarter, for our Israeli fusion cuisine at Mazel Tov (the new kid on the block), and drinks at the mecca of all ruin bars along with Madeleine’s friend Sophie and sister Annalisa. But before we know it it’s after midnight and time to leave Szimpla Kert. We head downstairs to the main area which is a solid mass of gyrating bodies. The other three are far more adept at this than me and as Mad goes ahead, the body mass kind of closes behind her and I am strangely reminded of Sirius’ death scene in “the Order of the Phoenix” as he sinks backwards through the ragged veil. But in this case Mad reaches through and leads me by the hand to the safety of the street! I mean I know I would have got out but it was a strangely touching moment – almost a handing over of some symbolic baton from one generation to the next.

Monday 16th – my official grockle day, and Madeleine doesn’t leave ’til evening. The hot spas are (apparently) not to be missed. We buy breakfast from our local mlinar (a sort of central European Greggs). Burek (a sort of doughy pastry filled with apple) and coffee, and over the road to the “popup park” to eat it. Now apparently “Budapest is a unique city in more than one way. For those who love spa and wellness, it is unique for being the only large city in the world, which abounds in fountains of healing water“. We head across to Buda and to Gellert, the daddy of Budapest spas. We sample the indoor pool and hot spas, before heading to the outdoor pools. Mid October and sun bathing by the pool in the middle of a major European city 🙂 Before we know it it’s lunch time.

Back to Pest for the indoor market with it’s ethnic Hungarian food stalls. We head upstairs, and there is a stall selling stuffed eggplant, the local veggie delicacy. Madeliene meanwhile chooses a sort of Hungarian hot dog – a Frankfurter wrapped in the local deep fried doughy Langos. But this chap was a seriously good up-seller. “Red cabbage” he asks (yes) which gets piled up on the plate. “Cheese on it” he asks (yes – something grated surely?) at which point he grabs a deep fried specimen, roughly the size of the thing that sank the Titanic, dumps it on the eggplant, and shoves it all in the microwave. Madeleine’s comes with a very generous Greek salad, and it’s soon clear this will be the main meal of the day.

But we haven’t yet “done” the rest of Buda. Our bus tickets may have expired but we manage to blag our way back on and head up to the citadel and Buda’s Statue of Liberty, from where there are stunning views of the city.

But there’s one thing still to be done. We decide to walk across to the toursist centre of old Buda, the Fisherman’s Bastion, and my American walking friend Debra’s recommendation – Ruszwurm patisserie, 200 years in its present location, with the worlds best “kremes”. We just had to finish at the cake shop.

Back to Julia’s (window right in the middle), a bittersweet and tearful farewell to Madeliene (who has a two year work permit and a plane ticket bound for Vancouver on Friday).

Tuesday 17th – and I’m off to a another new city (Zagreb), and another new country (Croatia). I’m up in plenty of time and packed ready to go. Time for another al-fresco breakfast from mlinar? But as I get older I do tend to get more stressed more easily. WHERE ARE MY F**KING GLASSES?!? Can’t find them anywhere – start to panic – no breakfast – get to that bus station. Nipliget bus station – yes – still time for a burek – oh and a take away coffee. Put the burek down, pick up the coffee. Just time to board the bus – doh – what did I do with that damned burek?!!

Thanks for reading,

Keith

You’re So Square – The Budapest Marathon 2017

Or What Have The Hungarians Ever Done For Us

Goulash, Bull’s Blood – oh not forgetting Zsa-Zsa Gabor. But maybe most of all the Rubik cube. A few months back I thought it would be good to do a bit more marathon tourism, and for some reason Budapest struck me as a location with some sort of mystical attachment to distance running. After all – it’s Hungary – home of the legendary Emil Zatopek. Further research reveals that he was actually Czechoslovakian – lucky I never got asked that as a quiz question (would have been serious egg on face). But the die was cast, flights were booked, airbnb carefully selected (“3 big rooms in absolute center”) – the trip was on, and elder daughter Madeleine will be joining me for three nights. Isn’t it going to be hot said a few people – never occured to me that it might be. But I checked the climate – it should be cooling down nicely 🙂

The Budapest Marathon Sunday 15th October

Well Julia’s airbnb flat could hardly have been better located, a 50 metre walk at most to Deák Ferenc Square, downtown Pest, and the hub of the city’s transport system, and from there just ten to fifteen minutes metro ride at most to the Városliget city park, where the marathon would start and finish. With a 9:30 start, no rush to get up. Leisurely porridge, banana etc … followed by obligatory three or four pre-marathon comfort breaks, before heading out to the metro.

I reckon 5,000 or so is a pretty good number for a big city marathon. Enough to make it a big event, but not enough to stop you from running your own run. Not like London where the likes of me are hugely constrained to run at the same pace as everyone around us. I headed for the appropriate start pen, but these were certainly not rigidly policed, with plenty of people jumping over the barriers. I asked my neighbour Juanito to take a pre-start picture, and then a nice moment as Juanito, the bloke next to him, and myself all embraced and wished each other luck, as gentlemen of “a certain age” before setting off.

We headed down Andrássy út, an avenue likened to the Champs-Élysées, and indeed a world heritage site. Madeleine heads for the Opera, and sees me (and a Rubik’s cube) there for the first time at about 2k. After this we made acquitance with the (ever so blue) Danube for the first time, and that was largely where we would stay for most of the marathon. We cross Budapest’s historic chain bridge and head off around the back of the Royal Palace. We then head under the palace, through a tunnel (the best downhill stretch of the whole run) and back to the Duna (as the locals like to call it).

Did I have a strategy? Well sort of … I was still hangng on to the crazy notion that somewhere there might be a London GFA or Boston qualifying time inside me and (again) I feel I’ve trained pretty well. So could I attempt to keep up with the 3:45 man for as far as possible, hang on, and see what happens. But (sadly?) the 3:45 man was way in front of me at the start. Never mind – maybe we could try something a bit like Paris – perhaps 1:55ish for the first half and hang on for sub-four?!? In any case the 4:00 pacers are well in front. Onwards …

The course was flat but maybe a bit disjointed. My impression was that we were running up and down the side of the river, crossing bridges willy-nilly. Madeleine sees me for a second time (by the river) around 8km. After which we cross from Buda, into Pest and head off for a long riverside stretch, past the magnificent Parliament building, the Olympic rings (Olympic rings?!? – when were the Olympics ever in Budapest) and off to Margaret Island, a magnificent 3km long park right in the middle of the river (hence the name), where Madeleine sees me for a third time. In the park I finally catch up with the four hour pacers, a lady from Norwich Road Runners, having a carefree phone conversation with a friend (“I’m just in front of the pacer I was following, so I should be back in about four hours!”) and a man from Blackheath and Bromley (running club that is – I assume he actually only comes from one place).

But the thing is it’s how – very hot – unseasonally hot! – and I just don’t do heat very well. The desire to keep my pace up until half distance is becoming an end in itself. At the far end of the island we head back to Buda, and I’m slightly suprised that the 4:00 men go past me (they are supposed to be slowing down in the second half) and soon I reach half distance in a reasonable 1:57:26. At which point I realise I’m totally whacked. And I’m sure had I not slowed right down I would have probably been an ambulance case … hmmm all about survival now … forget those dreams of Boston … of sub-four 🙁 But I’ve been here before … I know I can still get around 🙂

Madeliene sees me (looking now not nearly so happy) around 24km. We’re now doing a long stretch of the Buda side. I allow myself the luxury of a little wee break but otherwise I’m talking to myself … plod on … get to 35km and then maybe you can have just a small walk. As it was I think I got to about 34km. I take every opportunity to seek out the shade, and can’t belive others aren’t doing the same. And then M sees me again at around 35km.

At last we’re heading away from the river and into the city. I haven’t a clue where, but I worry it’s going to be even hotter there. At one point we head (slightly) uphill onto a flyover. But at the point it is my Everest. And I have to walk. Which is embarassing ‘cos just after that there is a huge cheer from someone I didn’t know. But I guess it’s Madeleine’s friend Sophie, here to support her brother (and run the 10km) and herself a 3:14 finisher in London earlier this year!

But I’m counting those kms off, and we’re getting towards 40km, and back to the park where we started. M sees me a couple more times and I’m sooooo glad to cross that line. I just can’t wait to head for the grassy bit, find enough space, and be flat out on my back. Which is where I am when M finds me (the wonder of these internet tracking apps … note to self … you can switch it off now – “he must be somewhere near that bin” she says to herself – looks down – and there I am). For the record finished it in 4:14:38, which is still my third best marathon time 🙂 Oh and Melissa from Norwich managed a highly respectable 4:08:19 (haha – I gave her kudos) and Juanito (born just a year after me) was around in four and a half hours dead (as in exactly – not deceased).

But we don’t like to let the grass grow 🙂 We meet up with Sophie by the giant Budapest letters.

And after that Mad and I walk the whole length of Margaret Island looking for a café (eventually found one where we experienced the local deep fried doughnut delicacy, Langos).

And in the evening we found time for a Danube cruise,

Israeli fusion food at Mazel Tov (apparently the “new kid on the block”) in the world of Budapest ruinpubs.

Before seeing Sophie and sister Annalisa again in the “mother of all bomb bars” Szimpla Kert – but that’s another story … the Budapest travel(b)log still to come.

So what can I say? Maybe the marathon was a little disjointed – not like Paris where you head up the Seine, turn around, and head down the Seine, and you know where you’re going. No – this was a bit all over the place, and there were bits of the course we repeated several times. But it’s pretty damned flat, and I reckon with more clement conditions, it could still have been a serious PB opportunity (even for me). And it’s just a brilliant city.

Marathon tourism – you really should try it.

Thanks for reading,

Keith

Still On The Line

If it’s good enough for our parliamentarians … the blogging summer recess is over. The thing is next weekend I’m off for a further bout of marathon tourism and would like to do another trave(b)logue. Three countries in a week, taking in the Budapest marathon.

And so a quick catch up. What did Keith do next? Last blog entry I’d just completed the first ever Dorchester marathon. After that I was sixty.

And towards the end of June I completed White Star’s Giant’s Head Marathon for the third time. No sooner had I finished that than I experienced a strange feeling in my foot, and at times walking was excrutiating – what’s that all about? After all I never get injured. Surely not the dreaded “plantar fasciitis” (hmmm well the symptoms weren’t right). But it was enough to convince me to fall out of love with this running thing, and so I stopped.

But there was another challenge on the horizon, having signed up with some work colleagues to do Macmillan’s Great Jurassic Coast Hike, 24 miles, Weymouth to Corfe Castle. Strange to say … forget the marathons. I reckon that was just about the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There are some brutal ascents on that coast path and such a long time on your feet.

And still I didn’t run. But Budapest was booked and finally, after four weeks away, I knew I had to get back in the saddle. There was still this occasional thing going on with the foot. But I did have a couple more White Star events to help. Firstly, at the end of July, there was the invader half marathon+ Now fancy dress seems to have become an integral part of these events, and the theme for the Invader is the Romans (tell me – what did they ever do for us?). My thanks to Sally, my running buddy for the day.

Mid August, and a memorable trip to London to watch World Athletics, including the final evening. I had an amazing seat for that last night, we were treated to medal ceremonies, including the UK relay team’s gold, and as for Usain’s final lap of honour.

But maybe just as memorable was the fact that whatever it was in my foot worked it’s way out that weekend (looked like a minute stone). No excuse for not running now and as always I enjoyed the Thames towpath.

End of August and it’s back to Winterborne Whitechurch, near Blandford, for White Star’s “East Farm Frolic”. This time the theme is cowboys, and I’m delighted to be part of the four person relay team, “Keith and the Cowgirls”. My huge thanks to the rest of the team, Ellie, Sue and Hannah.

We each ran four laps, which was about a half marathon’s worth, and then enjoyed a beer and cider fuelled lap of honour with Ellie and our favourite ultra marathoner Bev.

And since then it’s largely been a case of “follow the plan”. In the run up to spring marathons we kind-of set up an alternative Egdon Heath Harriers Long Slow Run group, which has kind-of become known as “the splitters”. I mean it’s all very well going out with the others, but if they’re all aiming to crack three hours … and hence the splitters has kind-of been resurrected, and it’s been a pleasure to be out running at weekends again with a few companions, with special mentions going to Matt, who has accompanied me most of the last few weeks, along with Laura, first ever marathon in Bournemouth tomorrow, Alyce, Hannah and Martin.

And then last weekend and just two weeks to go ’til Budapest, and the plan said either a fifteen miler or a half marathon. Half marathon it will be – Salisbury to be precise. Now I’ve long been aware that whatever PBs I may have achieved in the past, my “half” time was probably the one rifest for being beaten. But I should only be running easily … right? But then again you do get strangely dragged along don’t you, and at sixteen km I’m quite a bit quicker than I planned. At which point I think of some of the stuff I’ve been doing these last few weeks … like running at tempo for instance … that bearable level of discomfort over a prolonged period. Only five km left … go on … go for it. And I did – dropped off a bit during km #20. But you could have knocked me down with the proverbial feather when the clock was just ticking over 1:52 as I finished … a new PB of 1:51:35 – it might not sound great – after all the fastest boys have nearly finished a whole marathon by then – but well chuffed – and that was without really trying. Reckon Bath half next year could be the full frontal assault 🙂

Just a week to go ’til Budapest then. This weeks running was done by Saturday because I want to hie off to Bournemouth on Sunday and support a few people, particularly Laura in her first marathon.

(stop press) And now it’s Sunday evening – Laura did brilliantly in her first marathon, while Hannah has just run a second half marathon PB successive weekends. And another couple of things. My cousin Kathryn reports spotting someone called Hollywood Dave (realbuzz blogger, charity fundraiser and all-round inspiration) running past the end of her road as she is out supporting the York marathon. And also to see the legendary Pete and Alan from Hailsham Harriers, who I shared the Valencia breakfast run with a couple of years back, running Bournemouth this year. Oh yes and I return home to find I’ve got a ballot place for next year’s Weymouth Half Iron Man 70.2 – doh!!! – gonna need a new wetsuit.

The running continues (and so does the youtubing). Keith’s Marathon Dream – Still On The Line.

Thanks for reading,

Keith

Don’t Dream It, Be It

The dust has settled – it’s over five weeks since London, indeed I’ve since run the first Dorchester marathon. But there remains one #VMLM blog post that needs to be seen and I’ve determined that it must be posted before next weekend.

I Had A Dream

Yeah – back in 2013 – and it was this. You have to raise £2000 to run your first marathon for charity. Well lets leverage your obvious?!? musical talent by recording a load of songs and shoving them on youtube. And include a little link to your giving page. And then thousands of people will come along, like the music, like the charity, stick a couple of quid on here and there, it will all mount up, and before you know it Bob’s yer Uncle – job done. The money will be raised – HUGE weight off your mind. Well that’s just what I did and let me tell you, four years later, just how much money I’ve managed to raise that way for CLIC Sargent … precisely nothing – zilch – DIDDLY SQUAT!!! Maybe, looking back, it was a pretty daft idea? But more of that later.

Now Is The Time To Say Goodbye

And so, for a second time, my London marathon dream is done. So many people have been very complimentary about what I achieved a few weeks ago. And yet I stubbornly reserve the right to feel just a little bit disappointed with the 4hrs 26mins and 29secs that I spent out there. That wasn’t how it was meant to be. That wasn’t what we trained for. I never planned to get to 17 miles and just not feel I had the strength to carry on.

Tramantuna Trail, Majorca

So what went wrong? I’ve certainly asked myself. Was it the weather? We found it hot out there. But that didn’t stop Mary Keitany … or Simon … or Claire. Did I not taper well enough? Was parkrun on Saturday a mistake? Should I not have pushed that run along the esplanade with Asa so hard on the Tuesday? (5k that was very close to my parkrun best). Was it a mistake not to wear a cap for the first time ever? Was my diet wrong, having been eating almost exclusively “veggie” for several months? Did I get the fuelling wrong on the day? Was I dehydrated? Should I have not gone skiing (twice) in the build up? Did I go out too fast? Did I go out too slow? Should I have got a hotel closer to the start. Should I have gone up on the train? Did I get the balance between running and fund-raising wrong? Is the whole thing just a bad idea?

Having sent Hayley on her way, it was one hell of a struggle. Not for the first time I told myself “you really don’t ever need to do this again”. And this time I felt I really meant it. Maybe you’re just too old for this. The irony … you spent thirty years or so waiting to discover this great new hobby and then – before you know it … you’ve got to pack it in because … quite frankly … you’re past it!

Then again, if I met the ME that first turned up at Les’ summer Egdon session from the squash club, precisely four years earlier (to the day) I could ask him a question. If I said to me, “in four years from today you will complete the London marathon (your twelfth) in under four and a half hours” how might I have felt. I guess suprised and pleased, but tinged with just a smidge of disappointment (because EVERYONE knows a decent marathon is run in under four hours!). Hmmmm – so what’s changed?!?

But there is more to it than that. This year I was joined in running, and raising money for CLIC Sargent, by three great ladies from EHH, Hayley Howard, Mel Ward and Kim Fudge. Which leads us back to youtube. Very early on Mel and Kim chanced, almost by accident, on their carpool karaoke idea. People would donate via their giving page, nominate a song, and Mel and Kim would go out in the car and video themselves murdering singing along with the above song choice. Clearly a huge mistake since I have already proven definitively that you just can’t raise money through youtube. Forward to May and Mel and Kim’s carpool karaoke giving page is showing over £6,000. It reflects a HUGE effort on their part and is a huge achievement. Hayley meanwhile ran a prize draw, cake sales, came in with me on organising a quiz night and helped with our band concert. And now a quick visit to our team giving page, “Egdon Run London For CLIC”, shows that our total raised is more than £11,500, surely way in excess of what we were expecting.

Thanks For The Memories

It was (again) a very special time. Thanks so much to my family, to Anneliese and to Madeleine and indeed to their mother Marion for such wonderful belief and support these last few years.

To CLIC Sargent, truly a wonderful supportive charity to run for. My only regret – what happened to those brilliant London training days that I attended a couple of times?

When “keithsmarathondream” was still a pipedream I started blogging using the realbuzz platform, and still post there. Thanks to all you guys, especially this time Kat, for such wonderful, uplifting support when I was really struggling towards the end this year. And of course especially to the inspirational Hollywood Dave and Mrs HD – wishing you both all the best at this time.

My wonderful extended running family, the Egdon Heath Harriers. So many more inspirational people there – to mention just a few of the great marathoners, to Brian, Nigel, Simon, Bruce, Paul, Richard, Gail and John, Bev, and the Frances’s (not forgetting St George!).

All the “Egdon (and WSPH) Splitters” that I ran with at some time or another, Matt, Phil, Lucy, Alyce, Richard, Monica, Zara and Hannah. To Anna and Jane who each completed their first marathon this weekend in Dorchester. But even more, two other special ladies and new(ish) friends who I shared more runs with (and also those first few miles of London), to Stella and Jane – you’ve both been brilliant.

Of course, two other special friends, Mel and Kim (or Kim and Mel) and of course also Patrick and Jim and their families. And not forgetting “guest vocalist” Ellie who helped raise over £600 at our Brass Concerts.

And most of all, this time, official “training partner” Hayley (and of course Nathan, Will and George too). If you ever had any doubts about your ability to deliver, this year’s marathon must surely dispel any of those. Yours was an awesome (and hugely merited) run which I so wished I could have kept pace with. I’d love to say get in there and start training again for next year. But there’s a time and a place for everything. And there are things that are far more important than running (like family) so maybe this is not the time. But there will be a time, and when that time comes I hope you’re up for the challenge ‘cos I reckon you’re well capable of something special.

(wipes a small tear from eye)

Don’t Dream It – Be It

I’ve sometimes regretted choosing the name “keithsmarathondream” for the website. Why not “keithsmarathonblog” (I ask myself). After all, that’s what it is. But then when this all started it was just a dream. I don’t mean the sort of dream you do when you’re asleep. I mean it was something that I wanted to make happen, and that’s what I did. I made it happen. I made the dream a reality (hmmm – www.keithsmarathonreality.co.uk?).

I’ve never had a “bucket list” but if I did, “Run The London Marathon” would have been right at the top. So what else would have been there? Two things for sure, “Visit Auschwitz” and “Ski The Vallée Blanche”. And within these last twelve months both of those dreams have also become realities.

Approaching all three, my feelings could very much be summed up as a curious cocktail of trepidation, expectation and excitement. And then, after completing each, not surprisingly some very mixed emotions. But one thing for sure … absolutely NO REGRETS.

Last Sunday – Dorchester marathon. Next Sunday – sixtieth birthday (crikey – how did that happen). Maybe time to start formalising that bucket list (already got a few ideas). Maybe time for yet more trepidation, expectation and excitement. But absolutely no regrets! In the words of the great Dr. Frank-n-Furter, “Don’t Dream It, Be It” – Click here for a (slightly bizarre) musical interlude.

Thanks for reading,

xxx / manhugs,

Keith

Walk Like A Man

The first post London marathon 2017 blog entry – this blogging only ever started as part of my fundraising campaign, so please don’t hesitate to visit My Giving Page if you’d care to make a small donation to the wonderful charity that is CLIC Sargent. Saturday 23rd April 2017. Four years to the day that I officially took up running! Kew Bridge Travelodge. Up ten minutes early at about 5:50 – time for a shave, and standard travelodge marathon do-it-yourself porridge, honey and banana (and comfort stop). Leave right on time at 7:00, park up by Turnham Green tube – hmmm – seem to remember that was the butt of a two Ronnies joke years ago. District Line to Embankment, walk to Charing Cross, time for (another) comfort stop and reach Blackheath in very good time to make my way to Blue start.

Splitters Start

Time for (another) comfort stop, and a message to us blue starters from Stella that she is by a baggage lorry. Don’t find her and time is marching on – I stow my bag and head to (the back of) Blue 5 where I’m expecting Stella to be. No sign of Stella. I wait on the grass verge on the far side, but after a bit I see that Stella is now waiting by the entrance. She is keen to meet fellow Egdon “splitter” Jane who we hope will head for the front of Blue 6, but no sign.

Time is getting tight. We see Susan and fellow “splitter” Hannah from Weymouth St Pauls. Hannah is also headed for Blue 6. And finally I spot Jane processing towards Blue 6. It takes several shouts to attract her attention. She comes across – we decide to abandon 5 and queue with her to get in 6. This suits my own (complicated) logistics as I plan to run with Hayley, who is at the front of pen 7 (Red in Greenwich Park that is!!!).

Five to nine – we’re still queueing for the pen. But what’s this! Pen 7 is on the move – I’m faced with the (very real) prospect of actually being behind Hayley on the road! It’s all a bit of a blur, but somehow we make it in and we’re heading towards the start. Before I know it we (Stella, Jane and myself) are heading along Shooters Hill Road – past the “Sun In The Sands” (a sometimes favoured watering hole of my youth) – Indus Road (where I think dad was born) – and along Charlton Park Lane towards Woolwich.

Reunited, But For How Long?

Woolwich is nice and downhill, around where the routes join. It’s a real buzz to be alongside so many others. We head down towards the free ferry and as we turn left, the routes officially join. We pass a lady wearing a “bustinskin” shirt, and then Jackie from Dorset Sole Sisters. But I will be splitting from the “splitters” soon. As we come to the first roundabout, I wait in the middle of the road for Hayley (having somehow managed to miss my support crew). According to the chip timing, I must have waited about two minutes before Hayley appears – crikey that plan went remarkably well – I think we both breathe a HUGE sigh of relief. Let’s get on with the business of running this marathon as close to four hours as we can.

As we head past my spiritual home, I see a bloke wearing a Charlton shirt – “ROLAND OUT” I shout, but he doesn’t hear me. We head through Greenwich to the cacophony of the Cutty Sark. Somehow running with someone else I feel able to take much more of this in than the last time. Out through Deptford and Bermondsey, we overtake the mad barefooted Jesus on the cross (hmmm – cross training maybe? – thanks for that Darren). We pass Jane, who has fallen behind Stella. And we spot Mel’s husband Patrick populating an otherwise unpopulated part of the course brandishing his camera-phone. Apparently he was “live” on facebook but (unintentionally) stops videoing just before he sees us, so we are denied that honour

We were hoping for great running conditions, but we sense it is getting quite uncomfortable when the sun is out. Next is Tower Bridge, with its CLIC Sargent cheerpoint. Hayley spots husband Nathan and for the (to my knowledge ONLY) time of the day heads briefly off-piste. On the other side of the road, Kim’s husband Jim sees us as we head towards the half marathon point. My dream was to get there around 1:56 (about the time I did when I managed to crack four hours in Paris – imagine that – sub four hours!!! – did I ever mention that?). But we are very constrained by those around us, and Hayley is there in dead on 1:59.

Somewhere after fourteen miles I am hoping to see the (lovely) Ingrid from Dudley Kingswinford, but try as hard as I might, cannot see their flag anywhere and as we pass mile fifteen I give it up. Mile sixteen – start to count down from ten says Hayley (hmmm – but I like to do my counting down in kms). At some point we catch up with Stella (who has lost time due to a comfort stop), but she starts to push on again. And we also pass the hugely impressive Sue Fox from Maiden Newton (and her distinctive running shorts) onwards inexorably towards that finishing line. At some point Anneliese and Madeleine and their mum Marion see me, but really don’t know where. I stop to embrace my two girls.

And then at seventeen miles, body informs head and heart that the game is up!!!! Wasn’t expecting that (quite so soon). We fight it for a bit but it is useless. GO I tell Hayley, but she won’t. GO! I repeat – GO WITH STELLA. Eventually, faced with the (very real) possibility of me stopping in my tracks and refusing to budge she (reluctantly) takes her leave, and I am on my own. I walk for a bit. Like not a problem – I KNOW I will run walk this to the end, but 14km or so still sounds a b$%&&y long way! I mean yesterday we had an Egdon table for 32 at Zizzi’s Tower Hill – RIGHT BY THE 23 MILE MARKER. I sure as hell am wishing I was there right now (if for no other reason than it’s at the top of a little downhill). But then what goes down must come up 🙁 (hmmm – flat on the average?). Come on – now is the time to stop this madness (we tell ourselves) (again). This is (definitely) YOUR LAST SERIOUS ATTEMPT at a marathon.

Zizzi Dreaming

Onwards we plough. At some point Jane overtakes me. I never seriously contemplate going with her. We get to the place where there are runners the other side of the road, but by now those runners are mostly walkers. As I pass twenty-two miles, I know I’m headed for the RealBuzz bloggers, and I’m right on the right side of the road (the right) to see them. Have to say that was ONE HELL of a boost. At expo, that nice Mr Yelling said in a normal voice that high fiving should be avoided at all costs as a waste of energy, but not this time. I spot Gloshawk Jim from London three years back, and (apparently) high-five Kat 🙂 There I go, warming up the crowd for the great Mr Hollywood Dave!

Pain Is Temporary

Mile twenty-three at the top of Tower Hill arrives and somehow I feel too k$*^&”£ed to actually make much of an effort downhill. A 4hr 15pacer comes past and I make a serious effort to go with him, but after a bit he is getting away, and I resort to walking pace again. I learned this last time, but the worst you look, the more the crowd shout for you, and again I’m getting huge support as we head towards the embankment. Each time I walk, the shouts get even louder, imploring me to start running. But Big Ben is getting closer. The end is getting closer. Past Big Ben and Parliament Square and into Birdcage Walk. There is NO WAY I’m going to stop running now (if for no other reason than that old chestnut – the more you run – the quicker you get there – the shorter the pain lasts).

As we turn into the Mall I put in a big (final) effort. I am actually flying past people (sadly nothing like the number who’ve already flown past me). Again I’m remembering Mr Yelling speaking quietly – look around – choose the finish arch you’ll look best in and I do (the one on the left). Forget (b$%&&y) Garmin for a bit – HANDS IN THE AIR – Job Done (now stop Garmin). In 4hrs 26mins 29secs (hmmm but note – I can of course knock off my official time waiting for Hayley which gets me down to 4hrs 24mins 20secs).

My huge regret was not beiong able to last the pace with Hayley for longer and inevitably I am wracked with self doubt. Hayley for her part finished in a hugely impressive 4:06:31. Did I wimp out too soon? We trained for four hours and only two years ago I dipped under that mark. We were going to triumph magnificently together. How did it all go so wrong this time (I shall of course be trying to work that out over the next few weeks)? But ultimately you can’t feel too bad for anyone who has gone out and done a marathon, not even yourself. We will never know whether I gave it my best shot, but I gave it a pretty good one for 17 miles. I wish I’d been there for you at the end Hayley (tears in eyes) but I wasn’t.

Splitters Breakfast Photo Call

Of the other splitters, Stella finishes her first marathon in a fine 4:14:31, while Jane completes in an equally fine 4:21:20, and quickest of all Hannah has finished in 4:02:09! Our partners in (fundraising) crime, carpool karaoke queens Mel and Kim complete in 5:25:13 which is damned good considering the amount of “stuff” they had to do on the way around. And they had a ball 🙂

Pure Mel And Kim

To pick out a few other notable Egdonites, Simon, who two years or so ago was laid up with a broken back, has cracked three hours with 2:56:52 (hugely faster than he ever achieved before breaking his back!), while his dad Nigel, in the M65-69 category has completed in 4:08:32 (hope for me yet maybe?). Stella’s husband Bruce finishes in 3:00:49, the second year running he comes within a minute of cracking three hours, whilst Steve goes round in 3:19:28 dressed as St George!

Further afield my amazing skiing buddy Claire clocks up PBs year on year and is now down to 3:21:51. Jackie finishes in 4:30:10, while Sue Fox is tenth in the F65-69 category in 4:12:58. And finally the great Mr Hollywood Dave in 4:58:48. The rhino roadshow now rumbles onwards to Belfast next weekend,  a fourth  marathon in five weeks, as his beautiful Mrs HD wages her own (cancer) battle. There are (tears in eyes) people I’ve met on this journey that it’s just been such a privilege to know – serious manhugs.

Hollywood Days

Oh – and that nice Mr Yelling finished in 5:01:41 – crikey – if I’d known he’d take that long I’d have paid less attention to him 😉

Hmmm – I suspect there is still one more #VMLM post to come – the emotional one – the Oscar acceptance speech one where I break down and start thanking everyone. But not yet.

A brief musical interlude.(hmmm – don’t you go getting ideas for next new year’s eve!!)

#egdonrunslondonforclic

xxxxx / manhugs

Keith

Heroes

I grew up a total sports nut. I was out all hours kicking a ball around the garden or throwing it against a wall and whacking it with a cricket bat (seasonally dependent) and when I grew up I knew for sure that I would be a top racing driver. Cup Final day was so special and the first I remember was Spurs beating Burrnley in 1961. I became hooked on Tottenham Hotspur (a habit I later, happily, found remarkably easy to kick – haha), and Kent regularly played cricket locally at Blackheath. All I wanted to do was score – goals and runs. And so it was simple – my three sporting heroes, the king of goalscorers Jimmy Greaves, the man who made an artform of scoring runs, Colin Cowdrey, and just the best racing driver, Jim Clark.

heroes #1, 2 and 3

April 7 1968 must have been one of those days I was out playing because I remember as plain as if it were yesterday mum coming out to break the devastating and unbelievable news that Jim Clark had died in a crash at Hochenheim. I mean, I knew that racing drivers died almost every day in those days, but surely not Jim – Jim who won every race he ever drove (in my memory) – surely HE, out of all of them, was immortal.

But it wasn’t the Spurs that we went to watch – no it was our local team, Charlton Athletic. Now we accepted them as perennial under-achievers. Their natural place was near the bottom of the old “second division” (now the Championship) but I was lauded with tales of how “we used to be one of the best teams in the country” – culminating in victory at Wembley in the 1947 FA Cup final (mum was there!) and so we come to simply (in my memory) the best I ever saw in a Charlton shirt our young (well he’s 69 now!) Scottish midfielder Alan Campbell.

hero #4

Those were the days of George Best – “Beatle” Best – but Campbell had the haircut too, and on his day he could be the best too. Good Friday 1969 – in those days Easter was special in the football calander. Out of the blue, a Campbell inspired Charlton were threatening promotion to the old “first division” (now the Premiership) and today we hosted rivals Cardiff City. But (shock/horror) Campbell had been in bed with the flu all week and his participation was doubtful. But he made it onto the pitch and by the time he was withdrawn at half-time, our boys were 4:0 up! The then Cardiff manager, dour Scot Jimmy Scoular, openly lamented the fact that none of his team had the flu!

And then in my youth, along came the book “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche”. Wasn’t there something in there about real men being born within shouting distance of the football team they support? Woolwich Hospital for Mothers and Babies! I gave myself a firm talking to. Overnight Spurs were dumped and Charlton officially became my first love. And in those days we had the most ruthless of goalscorers – a true cult figure – I present “Killer” Derek Hales. He wasn’t much of a footballer but God help you if you upset him. Fellow striker Mike Flanagan must have done once, because Killer hit him – on the pitch (they were both sent off!). He didn’t “lead the line” particularly well. He wouldn’t “hold the ball up” for you. He was no good with “his back to goal”. But when it came to “sticking it in the net” …

hero #5

I grew to adulthood and developed an armchair passion for Ski Sunday. And in those days there was just one man, peerless and fearless, Austrian Franz Klammer. I went skiing and was soon hooked, and it was (prior to the birth of Madeleine and Anneliese) surely the greatest shared love of my married life. And if you know me, you’ll surely know that, for the past five years, I’ve rejoiced in becoming a “born again skier”.

hero #6

But there’s something else. In the “noughties” I developed an obsession with watching the London marathon on the “red button” and that was for just one reason – I just LOVED watching Paula Radcliffe – it may sound boring – two and a bit hours just watching one person, metronome like, pounding out step after step around the streets of London – the streets of Woolwich and Greenwich and Charlton – the streets where I grew up – strangely hypnotic. I remember the great Michael Johnson being in total awe. In his world he was quite prepared to beat himself up for best part of a minute, but to do it for two and a bit hours????

And so grew inside me that strange desire to experience, just once, that experience. And in 2014 I did. And I came back for more. And Sunday will be my twelfth 26 miler. This is genuinely a love / hate relationship that I’ve grown to love. The three “me”s – head, heart and body in total disharmony – the discussions – the conferences – the compromises – the agreements – as we go about trying to achieve our (hopefully) shared goals – the pain – the joy – ultimately the ELATION.

Two years ago it was such a privilege to be there to support (alongside Hayley) Paula on her marathon swansong. I’m welling up now just thinking about it – to Paula Radclife – truly a most worthy inductee to this life’s “hall of fame”.

#egdonrunslondonforclic

Next stop Blackheath (and Greenwich Park),

A musical interlude.

Visit Keith’s JustGiving Page if you feel inclined to make a small donation to CLIC Sargent.

Thank you for reading,

xxx / manhugs,

Keith

Here Come The Girls …

Just a quick update from the parallel universe of #egdonrunslondonforclic

Well I did mention earlier about stepping ever so slightly outside my comfort zone on Wednesday evening and tonight I am pleased to be able to present the evidence. Hayley and myself were invited along to share in the madness of Mel and Kim’s carpool karaoke, and the upload of “Here Come The Girls” as sung by the Sugababes went live tonight

Other than that, today I did expo. It somehow felt a bit different this second time around, somehow a bit calmer. I took the time out to spend some money on a series of items that I genuinely needed. And I posted messages on a couple of other charities’ walls – pancreatic cancer for my dad, and then this message for mum at dementia research. Somehow these few words just always reduce me to tears (and today was no exception).

 

Of course, I visited the CLIC Sargent stand and was photographed by Lewis for the wall, before meeting David Hepburn, one of the charity’s world record attempting “Scooby Gang”. And I was also delighted to meet marathon first timers Helen and Kath and pass on to them some of my distilled wisdom as a veteran of one previous London marathon 😉

And next I sat down and listened to a couple of speakers. There was a very interesting talk from top nutritionist Anita Bean. But the highlight was undoubtedly some more distilled marathon wisdom, this time from the inspirational Martin Yelling. Afterwards the chap next to me asked “was that man Yelling” – “no” I replied – “that was his normal voice” (actually this never happened but I never like to pass up the opportunity for a cheap joke).

Unlike the last visit, I didn’t have to put up with the Olympic marathon champion bugging me to have our photo taken together 😉 But I did later bump into Martin again in Costa Coffee and mentioned that my friend Chris had once been overtaken by him pushing his twins around Montacute parkrun in  double buggy. Apparently he was born in Weymouth and claimed personal responsibility for including the hills in the Bournemouth marathon route!

Meanwhile, the Egdon 4 crashed through their £10k fundraising target. Huge kudos to my co-conspirators. Watch out London – those girls are truly coming to get you.

Another most satisfying day in the world of #egdonrunslondonforclic

Thanks for reading,

xxxxx / manhugs,

Keith

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