I know there is a little books section on the website where I can remind those of you who bizarrely have yet to buy The Blair Years or All In The Mind how to do so. And I know too that every now and then I mention one or both of those products, though I hope with relevance to the content of the blog, rather than for blatant plug purposes, not least because I fear blatant non-relevant to content plugs don’t work.
But today is the first day since starting this blog that I am simply going to run an extract from my diaries. Yes, yes, partly because we had a late night at a very nice dinner party hosted by fellow author and blogger Melissa Benn and her husband Paul (cue plug for her novel One Of Us); also because I need to try to fit in a bike ride before we head for Southampton v Burnley, and I had no obvious blog-thoughts on waking. But mainly as a result of some of the nice comments in response to the blog I did a couple of days ago on tips for the London Marathon, most recently Trevor Malcolm’s which I saw this morning. Very funny and thanks for the donation to Leukaemia Research.
As the day has neared, I have grown more and more jealous of those taking part tomorrow so perhaps the other motivation is to make me feel a bit closer to it by reviving the memories. But I hope there are relevant tips in there, plus a bit of excitement to help generate the wonderful feelings the runners and their families are going to experience tomorrow. If you know someone doing the race tomorrow, pass it on, with the tips from Friday.
Sunday April 13 2003 (and I’ll have you know I am typing this because I have not learned how to cut and paste from Word to blog)
‘I had my recurring dream about losing my race number, only this time there was a different twist. The ink on the number ran and it became illegible and I was stopped from running. Relieved to wake up, I turned on the radio and they were talking about me doing it, which I took as an omen I would do ok. It was a nice day, fresh but looked like it was going to be sunny and the mood at the start was terrific. There were two starting points and Charles [Lindsay, protection officer] and I were starting at the one with smaller numbers, which was a bonus…
I was peeing every few minutes, a mix of nerves and all the fluids of the last couple of days. The start felt great and I reckoned I was in OK shape for sub four hours, which is what I really wanted. i did the first mile well below 8 minutes without even really trying, which was probably the adrenalin getting me to start too fast, the second mile bang on 8, and then into a fairly steady rhythm. After three miles Charles said I ought to run on ahead on my own.
The hardest points were 9 miles, 15 and 21, but the bands and crowds were great. ‘Rocking all over the world’ got me through one tricky part. A Jennifer Lopez song playing made me think of Grace at another and got me through. The crowd were fantastic. I didn’t get a single adverse comment, which surprised me given how much war divisiveness there had been, and loads of encouragement. Philip and Georgia [Gould] popped up a couple of times on the route…
There were no quiet miles at all. Also, on a couple of occasions when I was struggling, one of the other runners would come alongside and help push me on, including a woman from Dulwich who suggested I ‘lock onto her’ and follow step by step which, as she had a near perfect bum, took me through another tricky mile before I recovered my strength and eventually left her.
The last few miles from the Tower were hard and exhilerating in equal measure. I hit 22 miles with 50 minutes left to break four hours so I knew I was going to do it and could relax. The crowds by now were just a wall of sound and encouragement. I was worried I was going to cry on crossing the line so forced myself to do it as I ran towards Big Ben, lost myself in a crowd of runners, and just let the emotions come out, imagined friends on one shoulder, enemies on the other, friends pushing me on, enemies failing to hold me back; thought about John [Merritt, friend who died of leukaemia], thought about how long my dad had, thought about the kids, really piled it on and cried for a bit as I ran, and then felt fine.
i had trained hard in difficult circumstances and I felt a real sense of achievement. I wondered around 20 miles if I could beat Bush’s time but as I tried to pick up the pace, the pain in the hamstrings really intensified and just went back to my steady plod and I settled for sub 4. I didn’t realise the cameras were on me for the last couple of miles, by which time I was swearing at myself the whole time, push yoursefl, faster, fuck it, keep going, push etc.
The last few hundred metres was a mix of agony and joy. The pain was pretty intense but by now virtually every second someone was shouting out encouragement, from ‘I forgive you everything Tony Blair has done’ to endless ‘go on, you can do it, not far to go.’ I spotted Fiona and the kids right at the end of the stand and ran towards them. They were screaming at me to head straight to the finish but I was seven minutes inside my target and just so pleased to see them.
My legs buckled a bit as I stopped and my voice was unbelievably weak, but it felt fantastic to have done it… I had a massive dehydration headache and was drinking gallons of water. We went out for dinner with the Goulds. Philip reminded me of the Woody Allen character [Zelig] today, popping up in incongruous places along the route. But I felt really happy having done it. Grace said she felt so proud of me, and did I know what a fantastic thing I did for John? I was really touched, especially as she had never known him…..’
There you go … there may be something in there to help someone through a tricky spot. If it does, don’t forget donations to Leukaemia Research always welcome. www.lrf.org.uk
Good luck to all who are doing it. You are the chosen many!