A special blog by ICM member Pete Whitmore FICM
When I woke up at 6am on the Old Kent Road, I could not possibly have envisaged how the day would play out. The nervousness and excitement were apparent as I made my way on the bus with my wife, Tracy to Waterloo East station to catch the train to Blackheath and the blue start. Saying goodbye to Tracy at the station was really tough as the next time I would see her would be on the course.
The platform was packed with excited runners and the train compartment was absolutely buzzing as we made the journey to the start. It was a great feeling joining the masses in walking through Greenwich in the brilliant Sunday morning sunshine. In fact, I would struggle to remember a more beautifully perfectly clear blue sky. After going through my stretch routine, depositing my kit bag on the lorries and surviving the queues for the toilets, it was time to join up with everyone else in blue start zone 9.
The abundance of different characters waiting led to a lively and fun atmosphere; the beautiful coloured costumes of a group of South African runners next to a glamorously dressed aged Indian gentleman wearing a golden turban were just a couple of my memories of the myriad of excited people around me. Time seemed to fly and suddenly we were stop/start walking towards the official start line.
The first thing that struck me was the noise emanating from the crowds lining the route at the start; something that would become a feature of the day. Then there was the multitude of people who just wanted to touch your hand as you ran past; each touch seemed to add an extra burst of energy to my running. The first few miles flew past and it was a great feeling when the blue, red and green starts merged. Suddenly, you felt part of the whole event.
At around 4 miles, I suffered my first real difficulty as I felt a sharp pain in my right calf. I couldn’t believe that I was getting cramp so soon; little did I know at that time how I wished it had just been cramp. After stretching out, I was off again with the music blaring in my ears, but just a little more tentative with the discomfort in the calf.
I received a real morale booster at Surrey Quays when I spied Tracy, Scott and Dan on the corner with a smashing banner. Their cheering and waving would drive me to do anything! I applied some much needed Jointace and set off on my merry way again.
I kept running until around 11 miles when I suffered another shot of pain in the right calf. Another stretch out followed by a gel and I was off again. Before I knew it, I was running up to Tower Bridge and boy, was it an inspiring sight! It was truly wonderful to run on to and over the bridge with so many other runners! Suddenly, I saw Ash and Josie cheering me on and it gave me another boost of energy.
The next section was pretty tough as you run on to the Isle of Dogs, because you can see runners on the other side of the barrier going the other way, but they are 8 miles ahead of you! I started to feel a little nauseous and could feel my heart pumping in my chest, but couldn’t bring myself to eat another energy bar. I had to walk for a mile or so, before picking up another gel and start running again.
I was due for another meet up with family at around 15 miles to swap my Diani charity vest for my CRY charity vest. The only problem was that each time I stopped, the calf would seize up and it was getting more and more difficult to get it going again. The change of shirt and some more gel did help, but not as much as seeing the boys there!
At 18 1/2 miles I found myself walking with many others as the calf became too painful to run on. I took the earphones out and decided to enjoy a Sunday afternoon walk or limp around London. It was strange as I was suddenly overtaken by the size of the occasion and without the music in my ears I started to enjoy myself even more. The interaction with the crowd was phenomenal and it was awe inspiring to hear so many people cheer your name and will you on.
The spray showers on the course were excellent, but not as good as being sprayed by the London fire service with their hose. I was completely drenched, but it was well worth it.
The noise as I entered the Embankment was fantastic and I began to feel overwhelmed with emotion as I realised I was going to finish this wonderful marathon! The sight of Big Ben and the sound of the marching brass band was really fantastic. As I rounded to see Buckingham Palace, I decided I was going to finish with some type of run even if it meant hobbling over the line. With the finish in sight, I saw my wonderful family at the side willing me over the line!
The feeling of unbridled joy as I finished was truly overwhelming. It was great having the medal placed around my neck for finishing and it was wonderful when my family arrived to help me celebrate. The shower and massage at the CRY after race reception were well needed and the standing ovation as I entered the CRY area was very humbling. It was during the massage that the extent of my calf injury became apparent as I was diagnosed with a grade 1 or 2 calf tear!
I still do not know how I managed to get around with the tear, but each time I had any doubts, I just kept remembering the words of Dean Karnazes…”Run when you can, walk if you must, crawl if you have to, just never give up!” I also thought about all those wonderful children at the Diani orphanage and that my pain would merely be temporary.
It is strange that without the injury, the run would have been better, but my overall experience was truly enhanced by interacting with the wonderful people around me and all those along the route and that may never had happened without the injury. I could never have completed the run without the support of my gorgeous wife, Tracy and the rest of my family, Ash, Josie, Scott and Dan who cheered me around the streets of London.
They really are my true inspiration!