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!

Sunday, 16 April 2017


So here we are in the final week! I can't believe the London Marathon is now so close. I'm feeling in good shape for it and hoping next Sunday is going to be a brilliant day I'll never forget. We stayed in Enniscrone with our friends Ciara and Sean and their boys for a long weekend and had a really relaxing few days. Gill and I had a beautiful run along the coast which was really spectacular. You can't leave Enniscrone without trying the famous seaweed baths. Built in 1912, you immerse yourself into the murky bath filled with seaweed.

The wild West of Ireland
Easter Saturday brought about our usual Easter Egg hunt and this year we had 25 children at my mother-in-law's house.  I was amazed to receive over £300 in donations for my London Marathon cause from the day.  People are so kind and generous and I really appreciate all the support. Every year I dress up as a chicken and help the kids find the eggs..and taste one or two to check they are all ok*. A few years back I had tried to get some sort of Easter costume but the only thing Elliott's Fancy Dress had that was remotely close to an Easter outfit was the chicken suit.  The kids now call me 'chicken man'. Gill and I had a nice run on Saturday morning at 7.30 am around Mountsandel Fort and Coleraine before erecting two gazebos and getting ready to host 25 excited kids for the hunt.

Chicken Man wowing the crowds again
The donations are really rolling in and I'm so close to the target I set of £2000.  The charity HOPE FOR YOUTH NI are delighted and have been so supportive to me. At present, the total is £1769.20. For the first time I feel the target is within reach. It's a weight off my mind and I can now focus on hauling myself around the streets of London. Thank you to everyone who told me I could raise the total (especially you Lisa!) whenever I had my doubts. I've hounded everyone so much over the past few months. Don't worry guys.. the end is in sight. 

It was also good to catch up with my friend Vicki who ran the London Marathon in 2015.  She had lots of good tips and advice for getting round the 26.2 miles.

So this final week is all about

  • not drinking any alcohol
  • not eating all the Easter Eggs**
  • carbing up
  • no stupid injuries
  • three small runs
  • checking I've everything packed before we fly over to London on Friday

*  quality control of course
** maybe too late

Tuesday, 4 April 2017


Eighteen days to go and I have completed the dreaded 20 mile run. The tapering process can now start. This is basically a reduction in the miles as I approach race day. No training programme will tell you to run the full 26.2 miles in your training schedule and most will suggest getting to around 20 miles with three weeks to go. From here on in the runs will decrease in length.  That said, I still have a 15 mile run next weekend! I'm still running four times a week, comprising three x five mile runs during mid-week.

Saturday started with porridge and then to keep me fueled for the 20 miles I took some bananas, raisins and gummy bears with me. I ditched the gels and it seemed to work.

Porridge, berries and honey for breakfast

The 20 mile run is done and dusted and gives me great confidence. It went much better than the previous week's run and the aches and pains afterwards weren't as bad either. I think my marathon training is unquestionably being supported by Lucozade Sport.

Thirsty work
Next weekend I'm off to the west coast of Ireland with the family and am looking forward to some new scenery. There seems no end to the running at the minute but with less than three weeks to go the finish line will be in sight soon!

Listened to another Martin Yelling (running guru) Q&A last Friday which was great and is comforting to know there are thousands of others in the same boat with aches, pains and worries about April 23rd just like me.

Sponsorship is now at over £1300. Every time I post on Facebook I get more money so that's why I'm doing it so regularly. Hope For Youth NI is a great local charity and in the run-up to the marathon I'll be posting some great examples of what they do. I know it's a bit annoying to see constant requests for sponsorship but so many people have said to keep reminding them as they've promised to donate*. 

* that's my story anyway!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017


I used to really look forward to the weekend. That was until I started training for the London Marathon. The weekend now means PAIN. It also is looked upon with fear and loathing. It means THE LONG RUN!

Last Saturday saw my longest run coincide with the hottest day of the year so far (here's hoping). If you were in East Belfast you would probably have seen me trying to throw up at about 14.5 miles.


I now have the big one to 'look forward' to this Saturday.  20 MILES! If I'm honest, I'm dreading it.  Thankfully it will be a bit cooler this weekend according to Barra Best but you know what he's like sometimes. I'm hoping London will be freezing on April 23rd.  Talking of big ones, a big shout out to Lucozade Sport for their 'Lucozade Sport - The Big One'.   Oh, you beautiful thing!

This Saturday night we will be having a couple of relaxing drinks (not Lucozade Sport) with one of my best mates Neil who is celebrating his birthday. 20 miles could have worked up a serious thirst. You have been warned!

Staying hydrated is important on the long runs and also getting some fuel on board so it's back to the gels I think.  Hoping to meet Vicki in the next few weeks who has some great tips for the London Marathon which she completed a couple of years back. 

Sponsorship is standing at £1145 at the minute so looking for a big push towards the £2000 target.  To help this, not only am I running the streets of London but I have again agreed to dress up in a big chicken outfit* for the family Easter Egg Hunt.  Hoping to raise a few quid at it for the charity. 

Also a problem with sweat getting into my eyes.

What do you think about bandannas**?

*  I know what you are thinking. No way am I running the marathon in a chicken outfit
** seriously

Wednesday, 22 March 2017


Now that the miles are being increased, new problems are arriving. 

1. blisters
2. pain
3. doubts
4. lemon and lime gels*
5. is the Lucozade Sport in the fridge?**

For the last two weeks I've hit problems around the 12 miles mark. Basically sheer exhaustion and my body refusing to go any further. Yes, I have forgotten how bloody hard this is.

Gill and I also made the mistake of running Victoria Park parkrun on Saturday morning - a day before our 'big run' on Sunday.  We lined up beside Irish Olympian Paul Pollock who was aiming to smash the course record of 15:01. When I say we 'lined up beside him', the next we saw him again was when he lapped us after one lap as he was completing his second lap. Anyway, he didn't break the record***.

Sunday saw us incorporating a new route into our 15 mile run.  We set off from home, down the Newtownards Road and through the newly opened Greenway through to a few laps of  Victoria Park, down Airport Road, Kinnegar, Seapark and back home through Holywood, WhiteCity, Old Holywood Road, and Outer Ring.  

It was a very tough run. I also developed blisters on my feet at about 12 miles so need to sort that out pretty quickly. I finished it in pain and asked myself how the hell can I get to 26.2 miles.  I need to dig deep, push through the pain and just get it done.  

Apologies to anyone who saw the row with Gill at 13 miles over whether the Lucozade Sport was in the fridge or not for after our run. Tired minds and bodies - lol. 

Sponsorship is sitting at £828 as I type this so hoping for a big push again to get over the half way mark.  Thanks for all your support both in terms of sponsorship and motivation. You can still donate here 

We booked our flights last week for the four of us so we plan to make a weekend of it in London. Feels very real now with flights booked and only 40 days to go. 

Running around Belfast on Sunday I was thinking in 40 days time I'll be swapping Titanic Belfast and Sam Thompson Bridge for Cutty Sark and Tower Bridge.

*   Grant - you are right. Lemon and Lime gels make you want to throw up.
**  The  bottles weren't in the fridge, but I'd like to thank Gill for buying them anyway
*** 15:22 still ain't bad Paul

Monday, 6 March 2017


Another week, another series of training runs. I got a message this week to tell me I had less than 50 days to go till the London Marathon. It's coming around very quickly! I'm glad to say so is the sponsorship! At present I'm now over the £800 mark and almost half-way to the magic figure of £2000 for the brilliant charity HOPE FOR YOUTH NI. It believes the best hope for reconciliation and peace in Northern Ireland is to support cross-community projects, where young people aged 11-18 can learn to work together to learn new skills, build friendships and develop their confidence in a safe environment.

Sunday saw Gill and I out tackling 13 miles in what I'd describe as "mixed weather conditions". We set off from Cutter's Wharf in Stranmillis and headed to Lisburn and back along the Lagan towpath. Whilst it is very flat and scenic it's not a route I want to see for a while. I found the last couple of miles very tough and challenging. I had a couple of those gel pouches which almost make you sick.  To be honest I don't know if they really help but I took a couple when I needed them and think they helped me.

Isotonic gels - they make you boke

Aiming for another big run next weekend with 15 miles on the horizon! The plan is to reach 21/22 miles by the last weekend in March before I start my tapering. I must remember from two years ago that tapering doesn't just mean sitting on the sofa and resting. I also got a nice mention on my company's website in the news section last week. Head over to Promethean World to read more about my London Marathon journey.

Sunday, 26 February 2017


So 8 weeks to go and things are back on track.  Completed 14 miles yesterday incorporating Victoria Park parkrun.  It was really nice to run it with Gill and our good friend Lisa who was was running her first ever parkrun.  Also big shout outs to Ella, Adam and Harry. Great to catch up with some Victoria Park parkrun friends including Adrienne and Darren.

Yesterday's 14 miles took in Victoria Park, Airport Road and a nice seafront run out to Seapark and back.  Weather was kind enough and better than today. Gill was wearing THAT hat again! Saturday evening was spent relaxing on the sofa with a glass of wine and takeaway.

The donations are starting to come in now.  I'm at £328 but i hope you can help me reach my target of £2000.  If you have enjoyed reading the blog (I've had over 1000 hits already) then give my charity a few quid.  It only takes a few minutes and you can donate anonymously if you like. Just click here - it's that simple!