Well I was asked last September would I do the London Marathon for charity, after some thought
and deliberation I was signed up and ready to take on my fourth marathon in aid of Pieta House. I
then approached a fellow Craughwell A.C man and asked him would he join me for the trip! He
didn’t have to think twice, John Ward was on board.
We started our marathon training after Christmas and slowly ramped up the miles. It wasn’t long till
we were on the long runs which we mainly concentrated around Ballymore/Crinnage/Moyode and
Kilconerion – these roads gave us a selection of hills which we hoped would stand to us when
running the relatively flat streets of London.
Training was going well until our 20 mile run when I gave my hamstring a twinge, I decided it was
better to get some help. This involved three sessions of physio and a break from running, which
meant missing my 17 mile run – John was on his own for that one. One week from the marathon I
was back on the roads for a 10 mile run no hamstring pain thank God.
Friday evening and bags packed while doing some hurling with the Craughwell U 10’s I felt a pain in
my hip – what had I done now? Or was it just in my head?
Saturday morning collected John and we were on our way to London via Knock. We arrived in
Stansted around 11.15 am. We then took the Stansted express into Liverpool St. Station and after a
short tube journey we were booking into the Cumberland hotel on Oxford Street.
After a quick bite of lunch we were back on the tube to the outskirts of London to the Excel centre to
collect our race numbers. The excel centre is a massive venue and was overflowing with thousands
of hopefuls who were gearing up for the 26.2 mile trek the following day. We collected the numbers
with ease and then followed on to browse the hundreds of demo stalls. My hip was giving me
concern at this stage and finding it sore to walk, how was I going to manage 26 miles tomorrow?
We made our way back to the hotel after stopping off at the Super Drug for some deep heat and
strong pain killers! The girl at the counter warned “only take the painkillers after food’’ as they are
hard on the stomach – the pain killers were never opened!!
The hotel had laid on a buffet dinner that evening where it was pasta all the way! We took our seats
at the bar around 9.00 and hit the still water big style! A friend of mine who was also doing the
marathon joined us later at the bar and offered us a PINT – we declined gracefully “ Ah Jasus lads a
car won’t run on water alone, a drop of oil won’t do ye any harm’’ as he sipped his Heineken!! I
suppose we all have our own preparation techniques.
Awake at 4.30 am. I actually thought it was 5.30! Breakfast comprised of a small bowl of porridge
and some toast. I met a runner in the lift on the way down to breakfast who said “ Only eat half of
what you think you need on marathon mornings” – “you don’t want to do a Paula on it half way
around the course” In hindsight his advice was spot on – no stomach cramps before/during or after
After the usual routine of Vaseline, band aids, etc. etc. we were boarded the bus at 7.10 am ready
for off, incidentally the hip was still sore but better than the previous day, 3 rounds of deep heat was
starting to pay off! We arrived in Blackheath around 7.50 am – the morning was cold and wet, we
wrapped ourselves best we could in bin liners to keep dry and gladly accepted a cup of warm tea
from one of the Tea tents. Sitting on the grass within the park at the blue start area it was akin to a
camp site, everyone huddled together in groups trying to conserve energy and avail of the group
body heat. We had two hours to kill which entailed a couple of trips to the toilets along with keeping
an eye on the big screen where the elite athletes and TV personalities were been interviewed. After
placing our bags on the truck – which would take the bags to the finish line (Oh to be a Bag!) we
entered our zone – zone 5 we were now in the marathon zone!
The race started and to be honest while busy wasn’t as bad as I had imagined before long we were
passing over the starter mat, Hit the watch and smiled for the camera, we would later find out we
were captured on the BBC’s coverage of the race. The first 2 to 3 miles passed relatively quickly – the
pain in the hip slowly disappearing but only to be replaced with the tightening of the hamstring
around mile 4 – positive thoughts now this was not going to get worse. The race was congested in
parts and weaving in and out and dodging empty bottles was going to be the order for the day. On to
mile 10 while the hamstring was niggling away at me but it wasn’t getting any worse a girl from
Ballina introduced herself – nice to see some familiar club gear she said. We talked for a while and I
wished her well in the race. Shortly afterwards another woman spotted the Craughwell gear and we
conversed for a while, her father was from Clare and they used to stop in Craughwell on their
journeys from Kildare – what a small world I thought.
As the miles were clocking up the crowds were getting larger on the side lines, the encouragement
was unreal, and this crowd were going to play their part in getting everyone over the finish line.
Across London Tower at mile 12 and gave the TV cameras a big wave. We were now approaching
halfway and had clocked a time of 1hr.56 minutes. Everything was going according to plan as we
hoped to break the 4hr mark. We had 4 minutes to spare for the last 13 miles at this rate. On passing
mile 13 and noticing only a couple of runners on the opposite side of the road heading for home still
indicated we had some way to go. It was heads down maintain the pace and count down the miles.
It wasn’t long before we were approaching mile 16 we were now getting into single digit miles. Mile
18 brought us around Canary Warf where again the bands were belting out music and the crowd
roared us on. I took my 3rd Gel at this stage followed by some of the familiar Buxton water. At this
stage for some reason my watch went mad, showing an extra mile clocked and running at a pace of
6.45/mile – I don’t think so! Time to forget the watch! At this stage we turned a corner and now we
were meeting the runners who were passing through the 13 mile mark on the opposite side of the
road, this gave a bit of encouragement as mile 21 approached. I took my last gel out of my belt and a
quick splash of water on the hamstring- I’d say the water didn’t make a bit of a difference! Four
miles to go which doesn’t seem like a lot, but when there are 22 miles already on the body it takes a
bit of “one mile at a time sweet Jesus”!
The last 3 miles were electric, the crowd were in your face wishing you on as if you were going to
win the race. Great memories- London eye to the left, Big Ben ringing in front of us as we turned the
corner for the last mile and Buckingham Palace in sight. With the finish line in sight John said “C’mon
we will give it a go” The two of us sprinted for home as if we were first to cross the line and win the
London Marathon – was this the prize for all the training we did previously? It sure was, as we
crossed the line in 3hrs 51.04, nearly nine minutes off our target. I had taken nearly 2 minutes off my
personal best while John had taken some 23 minutes off his – what a run. On our last 4.5 miles we
passed 1004 runners while 34 runners passed us! Our hilly training had paid off.
We savoured a few drinks later that evening/night – the engines now needed oil!! Some 24 hours
earlier I was on the deep heat wondering if the marathon was a possibility or not but thanks to my
running buddy John and most of all, my wife Katie, for all their support and encouragement along
the way, it was mission accomplished and the Streets of London an experience never to forget.