One week after his London Marathon triumph, Tim gives his final thoughts on a superb achievement:
A little over a week ago, I finally got to take on the London Marathon – the focus of months of preparation and training since I was given the opportunity by Education Exchange way back in September. Most of my family, friends and supporters during this period will know that I managed to complete the course in 4 hours 22 minutes – just a few minutes outside my goal time of 4h15. The overall experience of taking part in the event, along with 40,000 other runners, was amazing. And through the generosity and unbelievable support of so many people, we are on schedule to raise well over £9000 to fully fund the refurbishment of the Mwatate Children’s Home and Rescue Centre. I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all those that have supported me. I daren’t have dreamed that we could have more than doubled our fundraising target. It will, without doubt, have a major impact on Education Exchange’s ability to support the development and improvement of the Children’s Home. Every penny of the funds raised will go to support the project. So thank you all, for everything you have done to make the #RunningforMwatate campaign such a success.
For those of you with more time to read, and who might be interested in the gory details – the London Marathon was just a phenomenal experience. From the Expo event where I had to collect my running number (see photo below), through to the post-race medal goodie bag and conversations with friends and supporters, the event was everything that I had hoped and dreamed it would be. It was hugely well organised, overwhelmingly run for amazing reasons and in the spirit of optimism and possibility, and although a tough physical and psychological challenge ultimately proved to be a profoundly inspirational experience.
My preparation was as good as I could have hoped it would be. Jem, Evie and Stan accompanied me to register on Friday 21st April, we stayed with my sister and two nieces on the same night and I continued the process (not always pleasant, it has to be said) of carb loading to make sure I had the right fuel on board for the race on 23rd. This continued on 22nd, with the odd tourist attraction to distract from the impending challenge (the Duck Tour is to be highly recommended!), and culminating in a double portion of gnocchi, pizza garlic bread, and chips as my pre-race meal! The day of the race started with porridge, toast and bananas – in the company of runners from Italy, Spain, France staying in the same hotel as me. I travelled to the race start via Ellie’s house again to drop off unnecessary baggage, and get my ankles and calves taped up (belt and braces!). And then I hung around at the start, nervously, trying to get the balance right between keeping hydrated and needing multiple toilet stops!
I lined up in the red start area, along with thousands of others aiming to run the race in around 4h15. By 10.17 we had crawled our way to the start line (17 mins behind the frontrunners) and we were off. I can honestly say that the pace (9.43 mins per mile) was really comfortable for 20 miles. I kept taking water and energy gels as planned (approx. every 3 miles) and found the weather conditions, although much warmer than expected, pleasant and conducive to a great experience. I managed to see my Mum & Dad, sister and nieces and other Education Exchange trustees at mile 6, 16 and 23; Jem and the kids with other friends and family at mile 9 and 22; and other trustees around mile 21. Given the amazing numbers that turn out to cheer on the runners, I wasn’t guaranteed to see my friends and family, so I was properly chuffed about seeing them so many times; their support was really energizing…
…and hugely important, as around mile 20 I hit the infamous wall. I was convinced I wouldn’t as my preparation had been so good. But I did. And it was the hardest thing I have ever done. Something in my head just went, and I was no longer able to convince my legs to keep plodding forward. All I wanted to do was walk. I was tired in ways I hadn’t expected or trained well for: whilst I had tried keep within sight of the 4h15 pacer, not everyone around me was running at the same pace and by the 20 mile mark I had spent 3 hours concentrating on negotiating my way around slower runners – apparently after 35km I had passed over 9000 runners! (what a stat!) – which meant that I wasn’t able to run at a consistent pace (it was more like fartlek, which I hadn’t trained for at all). So by mile 20 my legs and mind were tired from running in the crowd without tripping over someone! And I had to walk. I walked for probably a mile or so, had some water and an energy gel, took some jelly beans from someone in the crowd, and soaked up the amazing support and encouragement from the crowd. It was inspiring. With my name on my running top, people were shouting “Come on TIM, you can do it, you’re doing so well, don’t give up now!”. And it helped. Loads. By mile 22 I had reenergised a bit, managed to see Jem and the kids for a quick hug, and then walked/ran up to mile 25 – tracking the 4h30 pacer who I had noticed run past me whilst I was walking (along with the Rhino and the guy bouncing two basketballs, which made me laugh!)
I was proud to be able to give the last mile a really good push, including my PB for 400m, 1k and ½ mile (since I started training in January). Not sure how that happened – something to do with adrenaline I guess! And inspirational support and surroundings. Running up birdcage walk, past Buckingham Palace and down the Mall was the stuff dreams are made of. And then the finish was there. Walking after running for nearly 4 ½ hours was painful. I was worried about sitting down in case I couldn’t get back up. But it was worth it – as you can see from the photo!
Immediately after the race, Dad asked if I would ever run another marathon; I said no way. The next day I was thinking – I could run it faster, deal with ‘the wall’ better, enjoy that kind of experience again. The ballot for 2018 opened on 1st May, and I have entered – keeping fingers crossed that I get another chance. Watch this space. Whether I do or not, it has been an amazing, life changing experience #RunningforMwatate. It is special to know that the hard work will generate so much good for the amazing young people at the Mwatate Children’s Home. That would not have been possible without the hard work and commitment of the Education Exchange trustees. So it is to those two groups that I dedicate this marathon journey. And I look forward to continuing to support their efforts in future.