Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Retro race report: Flashbacks from the Dam Part Four

So I was facing the prospect of having to pull out of two marathons within seven months. This time I decided I'd try a chiropractor. By now we'd moved out of London to West Sussex so I took myself down to the local clinic where I met a man by the name of Johnny Phoenix. No, I haven't made that up. If you want someone to be the hero of a story then a name like that is a very good place to start. After a lengthy consultation and some x-rays Johnny Phoenix told me he'd be able to fix me up in time for the marathon. It was music to my ears. He also told me that he'd run the Brighton marathon the year before and that it was one of the worst experiences of his life. That wasn't quite music to my ears.

I lost several weeks of training, spent an awful amount of money on three chiropractic sessions a week but Johnny Phoenix helped me rise from the ashes of defeat. Over the next few weeks I managed two 15 mile runs (well 10 miles of running followed by five miles of staggering home) and soon found myself on a plane Amsterdam. Mrs Trihard and Toddler Trihard had once again decided to lend their support from a distance. The night before the run I didn't sleep that well but didn't think anything was going to make a great deal of difference to my performance at that point.

So 16 October 2011, a year ago today. At around 8.30am I was nervously walking round the Olympic Stadium where the race starts and ends. I appeared to be the only person attempting the madness on their own. With my estimated time of five hours I took my place at the back with all the other slow coaches. One of my racing philosophies is that it doesn't matter how long you take as long as you're not last. However I noted that they would begin clearing up the course, and anyone with it, at around 13 minutes 45 seconds a mile (anything slower than a six hour marathon.) I'd not seen this on the London marathon! With the training I'd had I had no idea how long I'd take.


 Eventually once everyone else had left, us slow runners trundled out of the stadium. One chinese chap was doing it backwards. At least I'd beat him, I smugly thought. However I'd made the fatal running mistake. I'd filled up with too much water and was now desperate for the toilet. After about 20 minutes I came across a portaloo but there was a queue. As I waited more and more runners passed me by, including the backwards runner. He seemed to be going a lot quicker than 20 minutes earlier. The number of people passing me, as I waited with my legs crossed, appeared to be thinning out. Finally it was my turn to go to the toilet. When I came out there was no one around. I was officially the last person in the Amsterdam marathon. All I could think about was a helicopter aerial shot of the runners with me a mile behind them. I panicked a little bit, would the clean up car pick me up before I'd even started?! Luckily after a mile or so I managed to catch up with the stragglers but it was a good 45 minutes before I pulled ahead of the man running backwards.


Luckily the next few miles passed without incident. I felt good, wasn't having any problems with my back but at the back of my mind I started wondering when I'd hit the infamous "wall." After all I'd only really managed a maximum of running 10 straight miles in training. I plugged on and finally reached the half way mark. I felt amazing, I hadn't had to walk just yet and the hardest part was behind me. So I thought.

At 15 miles I needed to walk, just for five minutes. I then started running again but had to stop and walk again soon after. The next 11 miles was absolute agony. I just couldn't get into a decent rhythm. Not only that but we were now in the arse end of Amsterdam, what seemed like a desolate industrial estate, with no one cheering you on. I felt so alone and I'd well and truly had enough. As I've mentioned in a previous post I even decided I was going to pull out. But I didn't know how to get back to my hotel and with all the roads shut off there was no hope of hailing a taxi. Somehow I carried on, making it back to where the cheering crowds were and to a point where I thought I could make it to the finish.

Two things stick in my mind about the last mile or so. By that point I was very much on my last legs, walking at a very slow pace. Suddenly I heard a very English voice shout: "Come on David, almost there. You can do it big fella." I don't know who that was, he certainly didn't know me - my name was on my race number - but it got me running again. Secondly with about 500m left I was walking again. A runner in their seventies went past me. After all I'd gone through I was going to let a geriatric beat me. I started running again and entered the stadium. There were still a lot of people in their cheering on the remaining runners. I broke into a bit of a sprint and not only took down the first seventy old but a few others. I crossed the line at 5 hours and seven minutes and I'm not ashamed to say broke into tears. A trip to a coffee shop a few hours later soon cheered me up though.



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