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One week later: I did it

November 10, 2009

Hello.

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.

 

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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:

KAAAAAAABOOOOOOOOM! CRAAAAASSSSSHHHHHHH! RAT-TAT-TAT-TAT

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

Person 1: YARRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH! SHOUT SHOUT SHOUT SHOUTY SHOUT  SHOUT!

Person 2: YARRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH! SHOUT SHOUT SHOUT SHOUTY SHOUT SHOUT!

[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.

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

33, no make that 32, Days to go and a bad running week

September 29, 2009

 Yes, only 33 days until I run the New York Marathon

Thanks very much to the two people who have very generously sponsored me since the last posting.  I could do with quite a lot more though… I know lots of people get paid about now. So please sponsor me. And tell all your friends and family as well. You can find my just giving page here.

I have had a bad week from a running perspective. Because of being ill last week and work commitments I have only managed two runs in the last seven days. Here is what my schedule for the week said I should do:

Mon: rest
Tue: 1 mile jog, then 3 mile fartlek then 1 mile jog.
Wed: rest or 5 miles slow
Thu: 10 miles steady
Fri: rest
Sat: rest or 3 miles easy
Sun: 18 miles slow

What I did was one three-mile run and one very slow 11 mile run. So out of all that, I kind of did the Thursday and Saturday runs and none of the rest.  That isn’t great at this stage of the game. So I have got to crank it up a bit for the remaining four weeks!!!!

I wrote all that yesterday.

So today I thought I would try  a bit harder and got up early and set off at 05.50 this morning for the: 1 mile jog, then 3 mile fartlek then 1 mile jog . 

It was relentlessly horrible.

I thought I was going to be sick. Even when I just stopped and walked for a bit it was horrible because the voice in my head (one with a harsh Scottish accent) started saying things like, “What are you thinking? You are running a marathon – that’s 26.2 miles by the way – in one month and you can’t even run five miles without stopping!”

I then made the mistake of weighing myself when I got back and found my weight has gone up a bit. Oh woe is me.

About this point I imagine you are saying, “Oh for pity’s sake. Enough is enough. Stop, already, with the moaning will you, Allan.” 

And it does feel like I have been a bit moany the last couple of blogs. And strangely, this morning, after that horrible run, I actually felt quite a lot better.  The other voice in my head (the one with the softer Scottish accent of the western isles) said something like, “Oh not to worry. You still have some time, don’t panic. Take it all a wee bit slower. See if you can do a bit of a better fartlek by the end of the week, maybe. Anyway, who cares if you take five or six hours to run the marathon.”

Now I imagine you are thinking, “OK. Voices in the head again. Voices with different accents and personalities. Uh huh. Maybe I should stop reading this blog, because Allan is clearly going mad.”

Well, you may think that. However, my friend Danny (who is nearly always right about everything because he spends a lot of time reading things on the interweb) was telling me, over a drink last night, that apparently, particularly with endurance stuff, the main instrument for success or failure is the brain – not the relevant body muscles, ie, those in the legs. So the key to success for my marathon is tricking my mind into thinking I can run it. So either of those Scottish voices might work for me so long as they can motivate and trick me into running a long way. (I tend to favour the nice one who tells me everything will be all right. I think they might make me some shortbread as well. While the other one would make me porridge with water and salt.)

So what I am saying is that I am probably not mad because my mate down the pub told me that he read something on the internet about tricking your brain. QED!

Remember to sponsor me: you can find my just giving page here.

 I think I have been talking about running too much. I am turning into that old marathon bore that Helen, my wife, warned me about last year.  Once again I am droning on about me me me and running running running while it has been a big week in our house this week.  Both our older two children have left home and started university this week. (Not twins, just both starting at the same time.) Which is of course wonderful and a bit gut-wrenching at the same time. And being a man of Scottish Presbyterian heritage I naturally want to talk to you all in great detail about my feelings over this important transition in our lives. Ha ha. Not really. Which might be why I have gone on about running so much this time. Hmmm…

This week’s haiku:

Training’s not so good
but it is all in the mind.
So please sponsor me.

38 Days to go and I am ill (but it’s only a cold)

September 24, 2009

Yes I have a cold, so I haven’t done the 10 mile run I should have done today by my runners world schedule    (pronounced with a sh like shed – I may be doing the New York Marathon but I will keep my standards). Any excuse it seems to avoid running those long distances.

I think that I have been anxious about a recurrence of the serious medical problem that prevented me from running last year and that has been a bit of an elephant in the room as it were. However, I got the all clear from the hospital earlier this month and don’t have to have another check up for a year! And  now I have done a 16 mile and an 18 mile run with only a normal amount of pain and muscle ache, all should be ok. But that doesn’t seem to stop me having crazy anxiety dreams about it. Being chased by large wolf-like beasts; or being trapped in a room with the walls closing in: the usual sort of thing.

I think the long runs have helped me feel a bit more positive about the whole thing and have prompted me to actually look  forward to the marathon and the trip to New York. A city I really love.

And on that note. Thanks for all the comments and support insisting that I still have my blogging mojo that literally one of you made. Good to know.  And another (the other) reader said I should be pushing the fundraising more. So here goes: Please please sponsor me. I am Fundraising Operations Manager for the NCT, so I really do need to raise some sponsorship for this run. It could get embarrassing.

I do think I am still a bit rusty with the blogging. After going on about campaigning for permanent signage on the London Overground  (MOSP), since this is an NCT thing, I should have said “And talking about campaigning, the NCT Campaigns and Public Policy Team is doing fantastic work at a UK-wide and local level working to improve people’s experience of pregnancy , birth and early parenthood.  Why not visit http://www.nct.org.uk/active/  to find out more and see how you can get involved!”  But I didn’t, so apologies Campaign & Public Policy Team.

Oh yes, I am also now in actual print on paper. Yes, rush to your local newsagent to pick up the exciting August issue of Charity Funding Report where, on page 34, you will find an article of stunning insight, wit and brilliance by me! If they have already sold out or by some crazy quirk don’t stock it let me know and I will send you a pdf! No haiku in the article, though.

I could not ignore
an elephant in the room
and was chased by wolves.

Only 41 Days to go!! Oh Crikey!

September 21, 2009

That’s right. Only 41 days until the New York Marathon. That doesn’t seem very long at all. (Because it isn’t.) It is less than six weeks, in fact.

I have been worried that I have lost my running mojo and my blogging mojo. Blogging has been very sporadic this time around. As has the running. I blame Neil Spencer. He writes the horoscope in The Observer. Like many people I don’t believe in horoscopes except when it suits me to do so. So sometime in early August when Neil told me that I should rest and take it easy until after my Birthday (28 August) I did what he said. I had a very lovely relaxing August with lots of food and drink and the occasional gentle run here and there.

This meant that a couple of weeks ago I spent a long night lying awake getting very worried about how far behind in my training I was and how I was miles behind where I was this time last year. I got into a bit of a panic.

(And did I mention that there are now only 41 days to go!!!)

So I have given myself a bit of a talking to (“Do some more running you soft southern soft softie!”) and have been out running a lot more.

Last weekend I ran a 16 mile run. It took me just over three hours, so it was quite slow.  (To give you an idea of how slow that is, my colleague, Andy, ran the Paris Marathon this year  – also raising funds for NCT – and completed it in pretty much exactly the same time it took me to run 16 miles. In other words he ran 10 miles further  in the same time.)

Helen, my wife, asked what I was thinking about on my long run. I wish I could have said to her, and could say to you, that I was really working through some important and difficult issue to do with work, or even world hunger, or the financial crisis. It would be great to say that after thinking about it all for over three hours I have found an amazing solution to the very important issue at hand.

However, I generally think about things like what can I write in this blog or how many minutes it is until I can stop. This week what I really actually thought about was starting a pressure group to force London Overground to make their signs permanent. (All or most signs on London Overground stations contain the message “Temporary Sign“.) I thought it could be called Make Overground Signs Permanent or MOSP. And we could have rallies and sit-ins and stuff, like in the 1960s, and we could shout:

“What do we want?”
“Permanent signage!”
When do we want it?”
“After a sensible and appropriate period of stakeholder consultation!”

Well it’s something to think about to keep me busy after the marathon!

Other, stuff I think about on my long runs is about the joys of New York and how much I am looking forward to being there again. And where we will eat! We hope to eat in my old favourite, Balthazar, again. So I have been trying to summon up the smells and tastes of New York to help motivate me to run and run and run.

So, this week I have run a total of 35 miles (ish). Including an 18 mile run today. (The longest so far this year – and it really is a long way, by the way (btw).)  My weight  is down to 80kg if I look at the scales at the right angle. (Not as good as at this time last year, but moving in the right direction.) But I have raised £0.00 on my just giving page. (Probably because I didn’t tell anyone where it is before now. Btw, if you sponsored me for the marathon I didn’t run last year, you are naturally excused sponsoring me for this one.) I have raised £5 off line, thanks to one very generous colleague. So please sponsor me if you can.

So, although it is all a bit close to the edge (I don’t know if I mentioned to you that there are only 41 days to go!) I think I am getting there with the running. I will leave it to you to decide on how the blogging is going.

running and blogging
are back on the road again
just in time, I hope

MOSP!

Week minus seven – collecting cats

December 21, 2008

“I hate china cats, but that one is actually all right.” Those were the fateful eleven words I said to Helen, my wife, some years ago.  “Why fateful?” you ask. Because ever since that day I have been a “collector” of china cats whether I like them or not (and it really is not).  Helen and our friend Suzanne delight in finding china cats in charity shops to add to my “collection”.  Helen recently returned from a trip to Cornwall with eleven of the little lovelies which she had found. There were tears in my eyes that day, I can tell you. 

So over the years I have built up a couple of bowls full of them, which I mostly put under the bed. So this year to ensure my collection was taken to the next level, as it were, Helen bought me a display case and this week after months of avoiding it, the case was put on the wall and the cats finally put on display for all to see.  And do you know what? Hideous as they mostly are, put on display like that I actually find myself having a little look in the case as I go past and smiling at the amazing weirdness of them. People sat down and designed an produced these extraordinary things.  And I feel a little bit pleased to have them out there now.

“That’s all terribly interesting, Allan,” You may (or more probably may not) be saying, “But what the devil has it got to do with running or fundraising?”  Well not much really.  But last weekend I went running and I had one of the worst runs of my life.  I ran with speed and general demeanor of a wounded Water Buffalo.  This weekend I went running with Helen and we ran together and talked and I ran better than I have since the operation. It was a very short run but it was one that felt OK.

And I have had a lot of support from lots of people during my training for the marathon and since. And people have helped me to get back out there running and encouraged me to stick with the blogging.  So that’s a bit like the cats really.  You know, something terrible surprising you by getting a bit better after all.

Clutching at straws really, I know.  But at least I’m blogging. And I bet you can’t wait to see pictures of the cats! (Next time maybe.)

Hope you all have a great festive season and holiday if you are having one. 

I’ll be back in 2009, hoping to run for NCT again!

This week’s haiku:

“I hate china cats.”
But the cats kept appearing.
Now I quite like them.