Wednesday, 19 July 2017


It's just over a week since I completed the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon and I thought it was only proper to tell you about it and bring this blog to a close. I was very lucky to be chosen by the excellent local charity HOPE FOR YOUTH NI to represent them in this year's event and to try to raise as much as I could for them.


We set a target of £2000. As I type this, the final figure I've raised will be close to £2300 and with the inclusion of gift aid, it will be over £2500. I'm so proud to have raised this amount and it will go a long way to helping HOPE FOR YOUTH NI with their outstanding cross-community charity work. Thank you so much to everyone who supported this great cause. I know both myself and the charity really appreciate your support and donations. 

We take the whole family over to London on the Friday and are lucky to stay with Gill's cousin and her husband who were wonderful hosts. Friday sees us travelling all over the city including calling in at the EXPO at Excel, taking the Emirates sky car over the Thames, Covent Garden and Madame Tussauds. Saturday arrives and I'm resting up in Chiswick.

One thing about the London Marathon is that is such an amazingly well organised event. I couldn't fault it. Race pack collection is quick and easy at the Expo.

I had an awful night's sleep the night before and soon it was time to get out the door. Race number on my running vest, gels, belt, Vaseline, Lucozade Sport and I was ready for action. Public transport is free to all marathon runners on the day so I headed off with Gill to get the tube from Turnham Green to Cannon Street. The train then takes us near the start area at Greenwich. The journey runs smoothly and seeing all the thousand of runners adds to the excitement. Other runners are chatty and I meet a runner who had to pull out a few years ago after 5 miles with a broken hip. I do a few extra stretched just in case!

Near the start line getting Vaselined up
I say goodbye to Gill at about 9.30am, leave off my kit bag and join my starting pen. The amount of fancy dress costumes is amazing. Some of the personal reasons for some runners are clear to see from runner's vests with heartbreaking stories. Indications are that over £60m could be raised from this year's marathon.

It's 10am and we hear the start but it's 29 minutes before we actually get over the start line.  It's clear to see that the level of support is incredible along the route.  I decide to break the long distance into sections and my first goal is Cutty Sark at about 6 miles.  The run to Cutty Sark is brilliant. Crowds are lining the streets, people are out cheering you on, music is blaring everywhere, bands are playing on street corners, pubs are busy, supporters are playing musical instruments in their gardens. It's mind blowing. People tell you the crowd is amazing but I didn't expect this!

We run around Cutty Sark, noise level rises and I'm now looking out for Gill at 7 miles at a pub we've agreed to look out for each other.  I see her on the right and it gives me such a boost! Next on my hit list is Tower Bridge. This marks 12 miles so it's almost half way. I stop to stretch just before the birdge and as I'm stretching I get some words of encouragement from none other that Stephen, one of the hairdressers from Gogglebox! He tells me I'm a winner and I can do it. I hope he's right and I head off towards Tower Bridge which is so iconic. The views down the Thames are breathtaking, the crowd are screaming. They are generally screaming for Abby, a rhino who has been running beside me for a considerable time.

Over Tower Bridge and a right turn takes me towards half-way and away from the finish line and towards the Isle of Dogs. I plan to meet Gill at 14 miles in Narrow Street which is a very narrow street indeed. Surprisingly, she is outside another pub and I stop for a hug and a stretch. She has befriended some people who are drinking merrily and now also screaming my name. Some of the banners and signs around the course are hilarious.

Off through the toughest part of the race. Miles 17 and 18 come and go and at Canary Wharf the crowd noise rises again.  Steel bands, morris dancers, rock bands, pipe bands, drummers, rappers, this marathon has everything.  Then I see the Shard and at last we are all heading slowly but surely in the direction of the finish line. 

I see Gill again at 21 miles (yep, you guessed it outside another pub*) and I'm on my way towards Embankment. She tells me the girls are at the 40k marker just before the finish. The girls have been anxious after seeing me in a mess towards the end of Belfast two years ago but I'm feeling good. Under a couple of bridges and finally you see Big Ben. I hear my name being screamed out from my right and I see the girls, Dan, Alison and Skye waving and screaming. Then it's a right at the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and I'm into Birdcage Walk which seems to go on longer than I anticipated. Then there's the 1000m to the finish line sign and soon Buckingham Palace creeps up on you. Right turn into the Mall and the finish line is surprisingly closer than I pictured it would be.

There is joy as I cross the finish line. Everyone is shattered around me. Someone places a medal around my neck. It's a fine medal. A beautiful medal. I kiss it over and over again.

Nothing prepares you for the emotion of running a marathon. The training is tough, the injuries get you down and the fundraising requires dedication. So was it worth it?  April 23rd was one of the best days of my life.  A load of money has been raised to help protestant and catholic children come together and we've hopefully raised the profile of HOPE FOR YOUTH NI. Have I conquered my marathon demons? ...Yes... but I've still unfinished business with the marathon.

Nothing gave me more pleasure than supporting Gill eight days later as she completed the 2017 Belfast City Marathon in a brilliant time in extremely hot conditions. An amazing performance. Her support in training was so important to me and brilliant she had her own very special day.

huge thanks to (in no particular order)
  • Gill, Katie and Ella 
  • Dan, Alison and Skye
  • Everyone who donated
  • Karen at HOPE FOR YOUTH NI
  • Lucozade Sport
  • Vicki
  • Vaseline
  • Adidas UltraBoost
  • Victoria Parkrun 
  • Stormont Parkrun
  • Mike Jones physio
  • Martin Yelling - you legend!