Wow, this week went fast.
Still in Bracknell Forest, Monday was a simple 20 minute run up and around West Garden Copse, a stony trail lap just off Easthampstead Park, serving as an ideal out and back. I said goodbye with a repeat of the previous Saturday run, heading up towards North Lake and then South Lake, via Birch Hill and back towards Great Hollands. This was my last chance to go for marathon pace, which I still haven’t found and still don’t know whether that should be hard, or tempo or what. In any event, I grabbed a 7:26 and then a 6:51 mile 2 and 3 respectively, and I imagine if I’m fit enough, my pace on Sunday will be somewhere inbetween for the most part.
That run was the last of the holiday and it was time to return home. In some ways it was sad to leave Bracknell behind, but things move on and of course leaving Bracknell meant moving ever closer to the day of the big event. The remaining training was only significant in that on Thursday it was 20 minutes very late in the night up and down the main road, and then 10 minutes this morning in the local park. For that means training is now finished. It’s almost time.
The plan is to get an early night and get up very early, shower, prepare porridge and just as its ready, book a taxi and hotfoot it to Huddersfield for the 5:58 to Manchester Piccadilly. I was going to get the 7:01 but that would potentially mean rushing for a tram, for the baggage area, the starting zone, and potentially not getting a good warm up. In contrast, I’ll probably be alone in my own thoughts for a long time pre-race, which no doubt will allow nerves to surface, but it means I’ll be truly in the zone, otherwise unflustered, physically and nutritionally prepared. That’s much more preferential to setting off later and having come to that decision means I’ve been able to prepare across today for tomorrow’s journey as best as I possibly can, with two kids and family plans to otherwise keep me relatively distracted.
I also plan to race one last time (at least) in the MND Association vest, purely to raise awareness in this case, but chiefly because it represents where I started and where it has taken me. My mother’s passing took me to new places, but never to the edge of this. I never dreamed of running a marathon in September 2012, as my epiphany occurred during the Paralympic closing ceremony. This is as much for her as it is for myself or anyone else, and should it ever threaten to rain over my parade tomorrow, I’m sure she’ll be there in spirit to remind me to keep going. I’ve come this far for a reason and there’s no turning back now!
I’ve invested over 9 months thinking about, then committing myself, to the Greater Manchester Marathon, and the majority of the last 16 weeks training rigorously for it. It hasn’t always gone to plan, with injury striking early on and then in the last few weeks. I’ve had the highs of pushing myself further than before and obtaining a massive PB at the Liversedge Half Marathon, to the lows of occasional negativity and even contemplation that due to those injuries that I might not even make it to the start line. Even my Brooks seemed to give up on me. And I’ll be wearing a pair of Salomon trail shoes that haven’t even seen two weeks or 50 miles of action.
Bad luck and worn/new shoes be damned, I’m still going to Manchester in the morning. I’m not sure my left foot is entirely 100%, and it didn’t help I also overstretched the arch in the stairs the other night tending to one of my kids – although hopefully it’s only a distraction and not something else. But I’m otherwise in pretty good shape and if I didn’t feel right about running 26.2, or if I had any remaining doubts, then I’d have quit before now.
In other words, I’m as ready for this as I possibly could, and in just over 12 hours, I’ll be lining up with a few thousand others, many of whom will also be taking on their first marathon. For whichever reason we run, we all share the same end goal. We’ve given so much just to get to the start line, putting our bodies, minds, and families under strain. And this is what it’s all about. Whatever happens tomorrow, it promises to be momentous. We will find out more about ourselves than we knew before. We will discover what we are truly made of. If we have the desire to succeed. The drive to carry on when the voices tell us to stop. To be that apparent 0.01% of the population to have run the distance. To say that we would, we could, and that we did.
And we will.
Thank you to all who’ve read and followed this series, and offered me messages of support, advice, encouragement and occasional banter. For those of you running or turning up to watch, I hope to see a few of you there! And my splits will be going live on Facebook as the race unfolds if you happen to follow me on that service.
A huge race report is sure to follow, so keep your eyes peeled.
Let’s do this!