The last-minute marathon man

Heading over for my fourth London marathon next weekend, I realise that I’m slightly hooked on the races

Fri, Apr 4, 2014, 12:25

Chastened by my previous experience and incapable of running an actual qualifying time (my best would get me in handily if only I were in my 60s), I emailed the press office back before Christmas.

At first they failed to respond and during the weeks that followed I continued along as usual, playing a bit of football and resolving to run a great deal more than I tended to after waking up and seeing the weather outside.

Then, one night in late January, I was surprised to get an email congratulating me on my successful Virgin London entry. By that stage, it didn’t seem entirely the right tone to adopt.

I was kind of chuffed but anxious too that the whole thing would turn into another disaster but having sought and received a fair bit of advice, I threw myself hell for leather into a training programme that has, more than once, felt like it might kill me and, more generally, has left me thoroughly knackered.

Things were compounded early on by the weather.

A morning in early February on Sandymount strand stands out, with me gasping for breath and barely moving, as I headed into a wild headwind while being watched silently by somebody (man or woman, I couldn’t tell they appeared to have so many layers on) pretty much cowering behind some structure or other.

To be perfectly honest, I enjoyed almost every run but dreaded quite a few and the feeling that I had so little scope to skip or miss any weighed heavily on my shoulders at times, especially when it meant getting up at 6am because it was the only way I was going to get out that day. I am not an early morning person.

Back injury
Things were still disrupted, though, by a back injury sustained in a bad fall during a football game I clearly shouldn’t have been playing (like the cliched cop in all those American shows . . . it was to be my very last day).

It kept me out for only a week in the end but I can still feel it on longer runs, including a recent longish mountain race that wiped me out in a way that I was not at all expecting.

Two weeks on from that, I am, I suppose, as ready as I’m going to be. I have done enough miles to be confident of getting around alright but have been cured of my briefly held delusion that I might somehow beat my previous best time. I’d settle for a respectable one now and doing it comfortably enough to genuinely enjoy the experience.

First and foremost, though, I’ll just settle for it happening.

There are still five days to go: plenty of time for plague or pestilence to strike the English southeast.

* Emmet Malone will be running the Virgin Money London Marathon on April 13th next.

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