One week later: I did it

November 10, 2009


So I ran and finished the New York Marathon, finally.  I did it in a glacially slow 5:15. Less than three hours slower than Paula Radcliffe! In fact I came 37,207th in the New York Marathon. But was only 3,834th in my age group!

So, here is how it happened:

Of course I woke up very early on the day and was ready to go 4.5 hours before my start time of 10.20.  Here is a picture of me being ready very early:

New York 2009005

marathon day 06.00

I then walked down Broadway to catch the Staten Island Ferry to the start.  I got there an hour early for my allocated ferry.  There were lots and lots of people dressed in running gear and looking excited, scared and determined.

I was able to get on an earlier ferry and headed off towards Staten Island and the start.  Here is a Staten Island Ferry:

New York 2009008

A Staten Island Ferry taken from another Staten Island Ferry

Imagine if you had to go out to sea to get to Stevenage and you will have an idea of going to Staten Island.

We were hearded off the ferry and on to buses which drove us through a grey drizzly suburb to Fort Wadsworth and “The Start”.  At Fort Wadsworth there were lots of runners queueing for toilets and lying on plastic bags and pieces of cardboard and there was a loudspeaker system blasting out repeating announcements in five languages.  It was quite cold and I was pretty nervous and there was still a couple of hours until my start time so I drank too much tea and lay on a bin liner on the grass:

New York 2009009

Me at Fort Wadsworth

Finally it was my turn to be coralled into the start. So I squeezed through a gate with a few hundred other runners who were allocated Blue Start, Wave 3 , Corral D. After standing in Corral D for a while we were walked slowly along through some parked trucks until suddenly we were crossing the start line and all started running over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

And it was fantastic and exciting and really hard to stop myself running off much too fast. And for the first ten miles it was absolutely great.  Lots of people lining the route cheering and shouting and encouraging the runners.  I need the toilet a lot (all that tea at Fort Wadsworth) and had to stop and use the portaloos several times, which of course slowed me down (I ‘m sure I would have done the race in under five hours if I hadn’t had to queue for the loos so much – ha ha).

There were lots of people with banners and flags with phrases like “Run Jim Run” or “Run Stacey Run” or “Run Tony Run”. Hmmmmm. Coincidence? Or had they all stolen that clever format from me? No. Actually they probably all thought it up themselves, didn’t they. 

My favourite spectator banners were “Wow! You’re running the New York Marathon!” Which was at about 14 miles when I was finding it quite a struggle and I thought that was funny and it cheered me up. It helped to remind me that I wanted to do this flipping run for a very long time, and finally I was.

My other favourite was a man holding up a piece of tatty brown cardboard torn from a box with one badly handwritten word on it: “Kung”.  I have no idea what it means. This was in one of the more industrial areas of Queens I think and was therefore another welcome boost of amusement.

Several runners had messages on their vests. One was, alarmingly, “Heart Attack Survivor!” So I thought I should have written “Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome Survivor!” on mine. It would have looked good I think.

The bit of the marathon between 11 and 20 miles was quite tough. It was great to see my wife, Helen and son, Stan and his friend, Lucas at about 15 miles. But after that there is a really long stretch up through Manhattan to The Bronx.  And I gotto 102nd Street and remembered the song, “Across 110th Street” by Bobby Womack and realised that I still had 8 blocks to go before I got to that  and then would have to go through Harlem before getting to The Bronx – the song is about 110th Street being the southern  border of  Harlem.

In order to avoid the Nestle manufactured energy gels which were given out on the course, I brought along another brand. They were quite frankly the nastiest, most disgusting thing I have ever tasted. But having acclimatsed my stomach to these monstrous sachets of gloop on my long training runs, I was able to keep them down and feel some kind of psychological benefit at least. I believe they gave me some extra energy to keep me going. (Well they have absolutely nothing else going for them, so they must at least give you an energy boost.)

Eventually I got to 20 miles which was the furthest I had run in one go before and strangely that was very encouraging and I thought, “Great, this is all new territory and I can do it!”  I had prepared myself for the last six to be really hard, but actually they were better than the previous 10 miles. So the last six miles were good fun again.

Along the way I often seemed to be just behind people with their name in big letters on their shirts. So the crowd would shout “Go Kirsten”, or “Go, Steve”, or “Go Moose!”. But when people did shout “Go Allan!” it was a good feeling and it was nice to be able to smile back at them.  One such incident at about 23 miles was, I am sure, with Steven Spielberg. He said to me, “Go Allan. You’re doing a great job”. But I suppose I might have been halucinating, what with it being 23 miles and nearly five hours of running. But, then why would I imagine Steven Spielberg of all people?

And then with 200m to go I saw Helen again and it was brilliant to see her and I was able to run to the end with a big smile on my face!

Sadly all the official pictures of me taken on the marathon are absolutely hideous.  Every single one could have the caption, “Fat bloke staggers round New York Marathon looking like he is about to vomit”. So instead, here is an artist’s impression of what I thought I looked like crossing the finish line:

Stan cartoon of finish

Allan finishes marathon by Stanley Wright Sutherland

And then suddenly I was in a queue to pick up my bag as thousands of runners were funneled into a very narrow fenced in path. But felt great to have finally finally done it.

 I would recommend the New York Marathon for anyone, especially if, like me, it is probably the only marathon you ever run. It is a great city and the marathon shows it off well.

And that’s it. I ran a marathon. I ran the New York Marathon. I have banished the demons of last year’s health crisis. I have enjoyed the training and blogging.

So thanks to all who have supported and encouraged and sponsored me (it is still not too late to sponsor me – click here to donate). It was great as I trudged the 26.2 miles (actually my Garmin GPS thing said I ran 26.59 miles in all!) to think about all the support I have had while I have been training and writing this blog. It really did help get me round.

I would especially like to say thank you to my long suffering family who have had to put up with me going on about running this marathon for years and then have me absent while I do hours and hours of training runs and then drone on about them and then write about it and insist that they read about what I have already bored them to distraction with anyway. So thank you Stan, Delilah and Mathilda and especially Helen for all your support and love.

Marathon haiku:

New York Marathon:
finally, the run is run.
Thanks all for reading.



Ran the New York Marathon today in 5:15.

November 1, 2009

Pleased with myself. Will do a proper blog soon. Thanks to all for your support. It really helped.

11 hours to go – Halloween and feeling quite calm actually

November 1, 2009

Only 11 hours to the start of the New York Marathon which I will be running, by the way.  And I am feeling quite calm. I have pinned my number to my NCT vest. I have had my pre marathon meal – I went for cous cous (so good they named it twice) over normal pasta, trivia fans. I have attached my timing chip to my shoe and got all my clothes ready for tomorrow.

We have spent a very enjoyable few days in New York eating and new yorking.

I am looking at nearly everyone and thinking, “Are you running the marathon, too?” Many are easy to spot because they are wearing T-shirts saying “I am running in the New York Marathon 11/1/2009”.  And lots of people are walking around in running clothes as if they didn’t bring anything else to wear.  But I am hoping that there are some more like me who don’t spend all their time running or wearing running clothes. I was the only person I saw at the registration expo who wasn’t wearing a running/outdoor pursuits anorak. Everyone else looked very athletic and like they have run many marathons.

I suppose my fear is that I am the only person like me who is slow and has never done this before and is going to take five hours or more. I really don’t want to be last.

Anyway. It’s been a long road to this point and I am very grateful to everyone who has kindly travelled with me. Including everyone who has kindly and generously sponsored me at my just giving page (here). And thanks to all for your many messages of support for tomorrow. I’m sure it will help me through the run.

I’ll let you know how I get on!

Marathon eve haiku:

It’s been a long road
to the new york marathon.
twenty six miles left.

22 hours to go – quick haiku to keep you going

October 31, 2009

Counting in hours now
Loving New York City life
big run tomorrow

2 days to go – Terminator vs Sandra Bullock!

October 30, 2009

Hello All. Yes it is just two days until I run the New York Marathon. And I am more than a little excited and nervous. Thanks to all those additional sponsors of NCT in the last few days.  If you want to sponsor me please go to my Just Giving page here.

I won’t bore you with too much detail about the journey here from London but I will mention something i found interesting. I was sitting in a different set of seats to Helen, my wife, Stan, our son, and his friend, Lucas. I was sitting next to large, solid and unsmiling man. When the flight got under way and we started up our own personal in-flight entertainment systems, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that unsmiling man had chosen to watch a “girly” Bridget Jones movie.

Manly long distance runner that I am, I chuckled quietly to myself and selected Terminator Salvation.  Unfortunately(?) I can tell you nothing about that film. On my state of the art 12.5cm screen with disposable headphone Dolby THX surround sound what I got from the film was this:

Scene Type A: an indeterminate number of people, some male some female, are inside a dark room or in a desert somewhere. They are dressed in some kind of dusty military clothing.

Person 1: (gravelly voice, world weary, has suffered much): mmmummmm mummmmm mummmmmm mmmmmm.

Person 2: (gravelly voice, world weary, has suffered much): mmmummmm mummmmm mummmmmm mmmmmm.

[At this point I turn up the sound on my personal in-flight entertainment system to try to hear what is going on, when suddenly with no warning…]

Scene Type B:


Very dark screen with very blurry images of things moving very very fast. Flames and stuff flying around.



[At this point I turn down the sound on my personal in-flight entertainment system to try to hear what is going on, when suddenly with no warning…]

Scene Type A happens again. Followed by Scene Type B. And so on for two hours!
So after that I followed unsmiling man’s lead and watched the latest Sandra Bullock movie, The Proposal, wherein our Sandra has built up an emotional wall around her after a childhood trauma and has to go through a personal journey of self-discovery to find true love and happiness. See: great film – I understood what happened!
Anyway, since landing in New York I have registered for the marathon (two days to go) and got my number (46803, in case you are interested) and my goody bag. The bag contained many things you would expect: bottle of water, promotional t-shirt, promotional pen and sachets of oil and vinegar to make my own vinaigrette dressing. (Yes, you read that right, some oil and vinegar because of course – mile 19: what I need to run the last seven miles is a nice green salad so thank heavens I brought along my little sachets to make a delicious dressing!).
I love New York. And I am really excited to be here. Had a meal in Balthazar already. I’ll keep you posted.
Flying to New York haiku:
Flying to New York
Bullock beat Terminator
In movie face-off.

4 days to go – the (welcome?) return of postmodernism

October 27, 2009

Only four days until I run the New York Marathon.

I’ll just leave you with that thought for a second or two.

And here is a link to a map of the course so you can see where I will be running on Sunday.

Last week I wrote a couple of blogs about blogging. Which was , as I am sure will bring a tear to many of my long suffering readers’ eyes, in a way a return to last year’s interminable RunAllanRun topic of postmodernism and its relation amongst other things, to my blogging and running. “Interestingly” this was the most successful day of blogging this year (ever in fact) on my blog with an unprecedented 53% rise in traffic to the blog over the previous “busiest day”.

But if last week’s posts were postmodernist blogs, ie, “blogs about blogging”, then what does that make this  one which is “a blog about blogs about blogging”. Post-postmodernism already exists I think. So it would have to be “metapostmodernism” or “superpostmodernism” or “intrapostmodernism”, perhaps. (Or “pointless waste of space”, I hear you cry.)

I would also like to point out that there has been a bit of a flurry of activity in the sponsorship area too. Some of this is down to it being pay day yesterday, I am sure. But I would like to say a big thank you to the small and very generous group of people who have sponsored me so far. If you would like to join this elite, happy and much loved gang, then just visit my just giving page here.

Running: well I did 35 miles in the last week – including home from work twice and a 15 mile run on Sunday. None of it what I could call “easy” but not hell either. So I am feeling quite perky about the marathon if a little terrified as well.

And there have been so many good wishes from people about the running which is great – thank you. 

It is interesting that the world is split into those who run and those who don’t. (There are also many sub groups within each and it is possible to switch between the two main groups as well.) So I have had people who have said, “How far is the New York Marathon?” with people from the “those who don’t” group. And very detailed conversations about training and mileage with people from the “those who do” group.  In fact I recently had a meeting with a potential client where I spent a very pleasant half hour over lunch talking about marathon training with the client (one of “those who do”) – who is also running their first marathon next year – while the rest of the people there (“those who don’t”) chatted amongst themsleves about ice cream or fishing or something.

But what has been wonderful is that everyone from both groups and whatever their running experience and achievements has been very supportive to what I am doing. Which is really helpful for me. So thank you all. 

And lucky me. I am going to run the flipping New York Marathon on Sunday!

So I am off to New York tomorrow. Yikes! I will keep blogging, if I can, so keep watching.

Today’s haiku:

Four days till the race
I am very nervous now
But also smiling.

still 9 days – the power of whining

October 22, 2009

Well, well, well. Still only nine days to go until I run the New York Marathon. But a very interesting thing has happened.  I have written a couple of “self pitying” (thank you, Danny) blogs about being ignored and boo hoo nobody cares.  But do you know what? I ran home from work this evening again (10 miles) and I had a really good time. It was an enjoyable run. Now this is quite a revelation.  For three reasons. First is that a few weeks ago I could barely run 2 miles without giving up. The second is that I always thought I hated running in the evening and can “only run in the morning”.   Both of these, I think, show the importance of the mind in all this. I have changed my attitude about running. Having run 20 miles a couple of times, 10 miles seems relatively short. And having forced myself to run after work a few times because it was the only option, I have come to realise it is enjoyable. Yes, I am physically fitter than I was, but I think my mental attitude to running is fitter still.

And the third interesting point is that writing blogs really does seem to help me run further! My blogging and running success seem to be inextricably linked somehow.  So as promised in my last blog there will be extra blogging from now on. It is a bit like that old gag where there is a competition and the winner gets a ticket to the latest Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy movie. And second prize is two tickets to the latest Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy movie. So lucky you! You have come somewhere near last in a very big competition because I think I will need to blog a-plenty before running the marathon. And thank you for the literally two or three supportive comments about my blogging.

Another interesting thing is that my whining “self-pitying” blogs have had an impact on the fundraising! hoorah! but there is still plenty of room for more sponsors at my Just Giving page – so come on, join in!

Now as you must know by now I am not what could be described as  a “serious runner”. By that I mean I am not someone who is obsessed with winning or ever better race times, trampling over small people to get to the finish line first.  I am serious about my running and feel I  have put a lot of effort into my training for this marathon thing. But the other night I did something which I am a little ashamed of. I was running home from work when a cyclist came off his bike very near me. He hit a rock in the road and went head first over his handlbars and hit the road face first. Luckily there were no other moving vehicles around and although I think he will now have a spectacular black eye, I hope that he is generally OK. When he crashed he was slightly behind me, at the very periphery of my vision, so I heard him crash rather than saw him. However as I ran the 3 metres or so to get to him to make sure he was OK and help, I stopped my GPS watch thing. In other words, I didn’t want this poor man’s misfortune to mess with an accurate record of my run! Now I have done first aid courses (some time ago) and one thing I remember is that people are moaning and going, “owwww!”, then they are at least conscious and that is mostly good. And this man was moaning and saying “owww!”. But nevertheless, I am rather ashamed of myself. I think I crossed a line there. Me and a couple of other people stayed with him until the ambulance we had called arrived. But then when he was safely with the paramedics I was able to start running again where I had left off, time-wise.

But I think I can come back. It is that this marathon training is a bit all encompassing at the moment. So sorry Mr Cyclist. I hope you are all right. So tonight, when I was running, I stopped and had a very pleasant chat with my younger daughter, Delilah, and I left the timer running! Too late now, though. The damage is done.

This evening’s haiku:

A cyclist falls off
I stop my GPS but
I’m not proud of it.

There’ll no doubt be more tomorrow, you lucky people!

9 Days to go – relentless indifference

October 22, 2009

Nine days to go to the New York Marathon.  And I am really quite nervous. I ran home from work (10 miles) two days ago and will do the same tonight. I will do a couple more short runs and a 14 or 15 mile run at the weekend.  Fundraising is still not going as well as I would hope so please sponsor me on justgiving here.  But I think (hope) I know what you are all doing here: you are making sure I run the marathon this year before sponsoring me. Well that’s fair enough I suppose after last year’s let down. I think the Just Giving page is live for at least a month after the race. So 2nd November there will be a big surge in sponsorship, I am sure!

Weight is still around 80kg I think. I have stopped measuring it to be honest because it seems so pointless.

Anyway, faced with an overwhelming indifference from everyone (apart from a couple of notable exceptions – particularly my long suffering wife, Helen, and daughter, Delilah) to my continued blogging, this week I had a think about whether I should continue blogging at all.

What I wonder is maybe I just haven’t been inspiring enough and reader indifference is the clearest (if most dispiriting) critical analysis one can expect. So not writing anything would seem the most obvious response.

However, I then thought about how I got to this point: nine days from running my first ever marathon – and in New York, yet! And it was by keeping at it, being a bit relentless.

I first applied for a place in 2005 and was rejected. I then applied in 2006 and 2007 and was rejected both times. That meant I had a guaranteed place in 2008. So I gave up smoking the better to run and train for the marathon. I trained and blogged for most of 2008. However my hopes of marathon glory were dashed by a blocked artery in my leg which required major surgery one month before the marathon race date. However, I was able to transfer my guaranteed entry to 2009. So this year, still not smoking, still training and still blogging I am now nine days away from running a long way to raise money for the NCT.

In other words I haven’t given up despite some obstacles.  So will general indifference stop me from blogging through to the end. I don’t think so! So I will try to blog more between now and the marathon. And of course after it as well! Ha ha. So stay tuned!

My reaction to
relentless indifference?
Relentless blogging

12 Days to go. A selfish rant about selfishness.

October 20, 2009

Just 12 day until I run 26.2 miles in the New York Marathon. So the weekend just gone I hardly did any running at all. About 7 miles in total. The week before I did about 42 miles in all including another 20 mile run up the canal and a 10 mile run home from work.  Weight still 80 kg – still several kilos above target. Not sure why. Probably just eating too much!

Anyway. Blah blah blah. I hear you say. So you ran a long way. Or you didn’t run a long way. Who cares, I hear you say.

Ok. Forgive me, for I am getting very anxious about this marathon malarky that I have got to do in 12 days. So I think the rant that follows is a symptom of my anxiety.

The other day I got to Acton Central to go home and there was a problem with the train and it was stuck at the station and was quite full of people and I got on and there was a woman with a handkerchief over her mouth and in her eyes I could see a look of disgust verging on revulsion. And it made me a bit angry. I thought, “If the people, like me, you share your train journey with are so disgusting, why don’t you get a cab? Or go and live somewhere without an overcrowded public transport system. Commuting in London means you are crushed, battered and squashed several times a week.” Maybe I am being unfair what with the Swine Flu thing, and some people on the train could do with washing more often, but for pete’s sake this is what living in a city is about. None of us particularly wants to be squashed up in a train on a line which only has temporary signage.

And given that I work for (and am raising funds for – click here for my just giving page) NCT which is all about pregnancy, birth and early parenting – and there is quite a lot of that which is about the fluids, juices and more corporeal side of humanity – I just found the hanky thing a bit insulting really.  A bit rude and selfish, if you will.

And when people shout at others for trying to get on or off the train, I have a similar reaction.  Some people shove and are rude and selfish and some people shout (rudely and selfishly) at others for trying to find a place on the train. And then there are the people who almost knock pregnant women and small children out of the way to get a seat.

And people who let their dog run around in the only designated dog free green space in my area of north London, and when you point out that fact they (the more polite ones) say that “The dog is on a lead and they will clear up after it, so that is ok.” But that is not the point. That is what they should do in all the places where dogs are allowed. It seems like there is no thought for others in these people’s heads.

And I am not even going to mention the banking crisis and the unprecedented greed and selfishness that got us here. No. Not a word.

I know I am coming across like a columnist in Country Life magazine, grumpy and grumbling about the erosion of traditional values and if only people were a bit more polite. (Actually I got shouted at by a traditional red-faced farmer in Gloucestershire at the weekend for straying a few metres off a (badly maintained) footpath – communist insurgent that I am- so I still have a bit to learn before I can write for Country Life.)

“But, Allan,” you say, “You are flying off to New York to have a fine time eating in your favourite restaurants running a flickering marathon which you have been going on, and on, about for nearly two years now. And what about your poor family which has had to put up with you disappearing for three hour training runs and having to suffer being connected to your relentlessly self-absorbed blog! Isn’t that a little bit selfish too, Allan.” Well, yes. I do like New York and this training and everything can be a bit excluding for my long suffering family.

OK, now I have offended health conscious commuters, dog-owners, all of ruaral Britain and the British Banking community (the last must be used to it by now though) and probably just annoyed you, my loyal reader. What’s my point?

My point – yes there is one – is that we have lost a bit of tolerance and understanding and a bit of thoughtfulness about other people. And one of the things that NCT is about is supporting people when they are struggling or in need. And by having our branches which are networks of people helping each other and helping their communities with the activities they provide, I think there is model for a responsible and supportive society. So if I can raise some money for NCT by running a really really long way on 1st November I am doing a small bit for a better society. No really, I am. (And having a great time in New York as well, I hope.) 

Selfishness abounds
but I am running New York
for a better world.

(pretentious? moi?!)


27 days to go – Milestones

October 5, 2009

Only 27 days until the New York Marathon! I ran 20 miles today.  Which is a long way.  I did some other runs this week as well, so my total for the week is about 42.5 miles.  Which is definitely an improvement. I think the early morning runs and a 10 mile run home from work in the week helped me to do the 20 miles in 3 hours 45 minutes today (it is still a slow time but I am quite pleased with it).

Anyway, that run is an important milestone (as it were) because 20 miles is the longest I will run before the marathon.  And it was the furthest distance I ran in my training last year.

This time a year ago I was just out of hospital after my surgery.   This week I got a copy of the letter the registrar at Charing Cross Hospital sent to my GP about my last outpatient appointment. It reads:

His  scan shows no evidence of popliteal entrapment and we will therefore allow him to do his Marathons and see him in one year’s time…

Very reassuring. Notice the way they have written marathons (plural), though. Sweet of them to think that I will be running more than one marathon before I see them next September. 

One milestone that I haven’t passed this week, though, is reaching even 10% of my fundraising target. Thanks to some very generous people my fundraising is off the starting block. But only just. I need more of you very generous people to support me to raise money for the very wonderful NCT. Apart from all the great work NCT does to support new and expectant parents, it also employs me which I am very grateful for.  So please click here to sponsor me .

Another milestone annoyingly unpassed is getting my weight below 80kg. In fact it went up a bit this week. It seems a little unfair that I ran 42.5 miles, ate cottage cheese and leaves for lunch and put on weight!

I can’t tell you much about my 20 mile run (“hurrah”, you cry) because I had a bit of a hangover, to be honest.  No amusing (or disturbing?) dialogue between two scottish accented voices in my head this morning. It was more a blurry muffled fuzzy hum  – rather like a pirated dvd. Interesting, however,  that I may have discovered the world’s worst hangover cure though!

Drink too much last night? Feeling hungover? Simply run for nearly four hours and hey presto: the hangover’s gone!

However, I know you are just desperate to know what it is really like going running with me. So this week I took some pictures on one of the runs (4.75 miles) I did before work  so that you don’t have to…



This (above) is me just before setting off. It is 5.45 am and I am attempting to smile for the camera.



This (above) is my road as I am about to set off. Note how I can stand in the middle of the road confidently and without fear because there is NO TRAFFIC OF ANY KIND or even any discernable human activity at 05.47.



This (above) is Hampstead Heath at 06.03. Note the majestic beauty of Parliament Hill rolling away to your left.



This picture (above) shows the view across the “fishing-” or “model boating” (as it is sometimes known) pond on hampstead heath. No-one fishing this morning, though!



Fancy a dip? That’s right, it’s Highgate Men’s Swimming Pond (above), but only the ducks are able to swim this early in the morning. Ha ha!



Nearly home and, oh look, is that sky (above) a bit lighter now? Yes it is because it will be sunrise in only 20 minutes or so!



Home in time to get ready for work and feeling quite pleased with myself (above).

Really looking forward to New York now!

This week’s haiku is actually about running:

Early morning runs
mad though they seem at the time
do pay dividends.