running blog

Clive Whaley

Unfinished Business Part 2

Day 65 - Marathon Training - NO RUNNING - KNEE STILL INJURED

As I am on enforced rest, I will continue with my story of Unfinished Business …
So how did I come to be 'dazed and confused', sitting on the cobbles by the Tower of London on Marathon Day in 1986?

It all started with a bet.

I was working in my first permanent full time job as an Executive Officer for The Sports Council at their head office in London. We were offered complimentary places each year in the London Marathon and I took up one of the places, alongside my colleague and friend Nick, who worked in the Research Unit. Nick and I were good friends but we were also both very competitive. One night in the pub we had a very public bet, witnessed by a number of colleagues, as to who would run fastest in the Marathon. Five pounds was a reasonable amount at the time but it wasn't the money so much as the pride and competitive spirit that was attached to the bet that mattered most.

The following extracts are from a diary I kept at the time:

"I was a little worried towards the end of the week - I had a sore throat and headaches - nothing really bad, but not exactly how I wanted to feel a few days before the Big Day. Nick had a bit of a cold too - at least we were both suffering. I put it down as a mild cold, pre race nerves and a couple of bad days at work - and, as I was feeling fine on Saturday, I thought - NO Problem!

The day of the marathon dawned wet, windy and cool but not cold. Blackheath was fairly wet and miserable. The coffee tent was bursting at the seams - a few drinking coffee - but most were sheltering from the rain and the wind. With 5 minutes to go the old track suits, t-shirts and bin liners were flung off. A minute to go and we were released and allowed to walk/jog towards the line. Then crunch … a gun went, everyone cheered and then started shouting "Charlie" (the starter was Prince Charles). I looked to the right and saw him in his raincoat - he looked rather bewildered by it all. He could have been a spitting image puppet - I could swear his ears were flapping.

The first 6 miles at the very least were fine. Although the first mile had taken about 8 and a half minutes, by the 6 mile marker we were on 6 and a half minute mile pace, so we must have 'shifted up a gear' and we were still on that pace at 9 miles. Just after crossing Tower Bridge I had to stop to re-do a shoelace (I got an 'Aah' from the crowd!) and then had to work really hard to catch up again with Nick. We went through half way at 1 hour 26 minutes.

I think the lace incident might have been the starting point. A little after that I think I knew I was slowing. At about the 14 mile stage I started to drop back from Nick. I don't remember anything being severely wrong. I just felt strangely tired. I even thought 'come on! you're on form today and there's only one London Marathon, so you can afford to push it a bit' - but I was probably already losing my marbles at this point.

Looking back it is one of the strangest experiences of my life. I've tried to piece it together from my own recollections and from people who actually saw me over those last few awful miles but I don't think I'll ever know exactly what happened or indeed why."