So, Sunday morning arrives, 7.30am and I meet Steve Russell in the reception of our Hotel, the sun is shining, the sky is blue and off we trot to Charring Cross Station, Steve kindly giving a homeless person a bag full of doughnuts and goodies left over from yesterdays train journey down, we get a smile and all is well with the world, good karma for the day I thought, nice move Steveo.
The train journey, for me, was a nervy kind of affair, Steve was busy phoning fellow WRC Runners, learning Gareth was on the same train, Steve Smith was ready for action and a worrying no answer from Gail, I, on the other hand, sat, quite quietly with my own thoughts about the race ahead. Arriving bang on time we waited for Gareth and entered the Blue Starting Area, already filling up with fellow runners. The Scene, I have to say was amazing, we had half a dozen hot air balloons in the background, the coloured balloons high in the sky indicating the Red, Green and Blue starting areas gave some idea of the scale of the event that we were involved in.
We made a litlle base camp on the grass so we could use the toilets and all meet back up. Gail returned Steve's call, we all breathed slightly easier knowing she was fine and ready to rock and roll. Gareth was in touch by phone with Julie and Nina, they had pressing toilet issues to deal with so unfortunately we didn't get to meet up with them before the race. Steve, on the other hand took a different approach to needing the toilet, different in the fact he left it until we were walking to the starting pens, jumped over a barrier, darted around like a Rabbit on drugs left then right until he found an appropriate spot, Gareth and watched on with some amazement, not at his brazenness, but more his speed of foot and agility, it was like watching a hybrid of a young Wayne Sleep and Michael Flatley, if River Dance had been playing in the background it would have been almost poetical. When his work was done he sprang back over the barrier, smile on face and we were then ready to join our pen.
Janine, Steve Smith, Andy and Rob we knew were over the yonder at the Green Start and were like us, now moments from starting our journey. Nina and Julie, though we hadn't seen them, we were sure were in a pen behind us. And Gail, well we had confirmation she was ready and we knew somewhere over in the red start she would be wearing both her smile and charity top with great pride.
Steve was keen to move to the front of our pen, Gareth and I were somewhat more reluctant. Steve, in great form, I knew would be too quick for me, Gareth , great runner coming back to form I thought would be just behind me, so I was quite happy to let Steve go at the start and pace myself.
The starter fires and off we go, passing under the famous starting arch is surreal, you cannot help but smile, a truly amazing feeling. The 1st 3 miles were extremely congested, I had decided not to wear a watch and just run at a pace that I felt I could get round in, that said, I wanted 8 minute miles up to 20, I knew that there were mile markers and times every mile so pacing wouldn't be too difficult, unfortunately actually running to that pace soon became the problem.
After 3 miles I was already behind, however that was more due to the congestion than my running, I picked myself up, found a marker in front of me that looked like a good pacer and for the next 4 miles I managed to claw some of the lost time back, each mile marker I remembered the time and then watched out for the next one and did the math, just under 8 minute miles. During these 4 miles I found out what the London marathon was all about, the crowds, truly truly amazing, I have never witnessed such support for runners, truly inspiring, though, unfortunately, not even they could help my already tiring legs.
Running past Cutty Sark I hear a 'Go Andy Dodd' and turn to see a beaming smile from Gail's Husband Chris, lovely to get a cheer from someone you know amongst the sea of people all around you. When did I know this race was not going to be a great one for me? 8 miles, I was just about on 8 minute miles, which in theory should be well within me, but on this day it just wasn't, for whatever reason it just wasn't. I didn't give up, I didn't break down, I just accepted that 3.35 was gone, even 3.45 was looking doubtful so I decided at that point to run and not stop, not walk for even a moment and that would be enough for me. At that point it became more about the experience than a time.
12 miles in and turning from quite a bland road to then face London Bridge is truly amazing, a sea of runners in front of you and a crowd over 8 deep at each side cheering, and then to get a cheer from Elspeth in the crowd just put the finishing touch to a great moment.
I was eagerly looking out for my wife, Sally, but we seemed to have got our wires crossed on which side of the road to stand on and her finding me in the crowd wasn't helped by me wearing a different top underneath my running vest at the last minute without telling her, so I sadly missed her at the bridge.
Turning right and running away from home the crowd truly keep you going, and just at what must been around 14 miles when tiring legs and a tiring mind beginning to think still 12 to go I got a fabulous cheer from Katy Green on my left, a really nice surprise and just gave me a little lift for the next couple of miles. I cannot say where and when the cheering and support was best, as it just simply didn't stop! the crowds were deep and loud every mile, again another welcome cheer at around 17 miles from again Katy this time with Nicky and Richard, Janine's husband.
I was now looking at 3.55 to finish, the sun had not relented and though not a true summer's day it was still warm. At around 18 miles I decided at 20 miles I would need to stop at a water station and walk the distance of the station to take on a full bottle, my legs were aching at this point and though feeling tired I knew if I just kept at a steady pace, took on some water I could run the final 6 without keeling over!
20 miles was a welcome relief to take on a full bottle of water and take 10 seconds to stretch a tightening right calf which had begun to become a slight problem. 6 miles to go and I knew the hard work was done all that was needed now was to count down the miles. Gareth came past me at around 21 miles, I jogged by his side and said hello, he seemed in good form and within 30 seconds was leaving me behind, it was nice to see him looking so strong at this point and I hoped he finished in a good time, which he duly did.
From 23 miles onwards people began to fall like flies, I saw a host of runners on the side being given medical attention, many completely passed out, it really is quite disturbing and you truly do worry that they are ok. At around 23 miles when you run under a bridge some 50 yards in front of me I could see a fellow runner in some trouble, lurching from side to side and then his legs began to buckle, I just managed to grab his torso and shepherd him to the side of the pavement before he fell, face as pale as snow and dark bags under his eyes he truly looked awful, though still coherent which was a good sign, I offered him a Mars Bar, my last one I might add!!!, and told him to stay put until St John's came for him, I ran, probably the fastest I had for 10 miles out of the tunnel and duly grabbed two St John's ambulance staff and sent them in the appropriate direction.
24 miles and it really is time to enjoy the fabulous support, the grandeur of the event and knowing that you are really now nearly finished. I had given up on my time some 6 miles prior, It was now just about taking in the scene that unfolded around you. Again, a huge cheer and a high five from Chris Hill at 24 miles and again Elspeth, wow did those two get about on that day!, the biggest and most enthusiastic cheer from Sue Strang at 25 miles was lovely, and then Sarah Miles with 800 meters to go. As you run down to Buckingham Palace and you see the sign saying 385 yards to go, you cannot help but smile, my time of little importance, good or bad day, its time to smile, and still the cheers come. I attempted a sprint up the final 200 meters, in my mind it was a glorious sprint, it was like a scene from Chariots of Fire, in reality it was like an old man going to the local shop for his paper, but at that very moment in time I felt like a superstar and crossed the line in just over 4 hours.
Honoured to of run such a world class event, saddened that I didn't get to see my wife, disappointed in my time, but so very very proud to of been there.