Thursday, 17 April 2008

3 hours thinking about Dermot O'Toole

Dermot O'Toole - "I never say never again."

Three years ago I spent many an evening sharing stories with Dermot O'Toole as he compiled his wonderful book about the Parish Walk. If you have not yet purchased a copy of "A Walk Through Time" you are missing out - get one now!

He delved into my statistics, my attic collection of all things Parish Walk and my memory.

At 51, my memory is already much better recalling things that happened a long time ago than events from recent years (ask my friends in London about that) but the one story I remember from our hours of ramblings was that Dermot said that he had given up saying "Never again" after a Parish Walk as he knew he would rescind the threat.

He has now completed the Parish Walk 13 times and he used to say ever year that it would be his last.

Sunday was the 9th time that I had run in the London Marathon and I had a good cross section of times in the previous 8. On watch times I had 3 sub 2.45 performances (one was officially a few seconds over in the days before the chips), two carefully managed sub 3 hour runs and 3 really badly run races when I ran far too fast for my level of fitness and ended up struggling (and walking) parts of the final few miles.

But in all 8 of the previous runs I had thoroughly enjoyed the first 15 miles even if the final stages were to go pear shaped. I always took time to enjoy the atmosphere, slap the hands of the kids holdings them out at the side of the road, share a joke and a chat with other runners.

I missed out completely on Sunday. I ran the first four miles at a pace that I was well accustomed to in training runs of up to 20 miles and yet by 5.5 miles I felt awful. I'm not committing myself in public to the reasons for my problems until I have distinguished between cause and effect, chicken and egg.

For a time I was certain I would not finish and kept thinking about where I would drop out and how I would keep warm getting back to the finish.

It was at an early stage that I made two decisions. For the sake of those that expected it of me, I had to keep going even if it took me all day. The second was that this would be my last marathon - EVER.

Through the increasing pain (Tower Bridge was just a trap full of noise that I wanted to escape from rather than the normal highlight of the run) I couldn't get away from Dermot's words.

Deep down I knew that telling myself that this would be my last marathon was just a mechanism for reaching the end. It wasn't something I really meant.

And from the moment I crossed the line my thoughts were not about avoiding the marathon but on gaining revenge.

Its a tactic that you should consider for the Parish Walk. But if you have prepared yourself well (much better than me), you won't need such a tactic.

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