running blog

Clive Whaley

Unfinished Business Part 4

Day 83 - Marathon Training - 50 mins with progressive pace increase

The clocks went forward last night and this was the first proper Sunday Spring run with fellow club members. A lovely day but …

Back to the story about my ill-fated involvement in the 1986 London Marathon, that resulted in this undignified posture somewhere around mile 21 …
The words are from a diary account written soon after the day. "They took me from the wheelchair into another ambulance. It was an effort for me to turn over onto my side, so that they could pull my shorts down and push a thermometer up me bum - it gave a reading of 103F. An hour and three readings later and after several moppings down with a tepid sponge by Pat (St John's Ambulance worker) it was still 103. A doctor spoke to me and reckoned that I must have been running with a fever "Did you have a sore thoat or a cold in the last week?" (Well, sort of … could it really have done this to me?) The doctor said if the temperature didn't come down soon I would have to go to casualty.

It seems odd to say it but, for a while in that ambulance, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was so relaxed and still a bit crazy in the head. I felt really happy and I think I may have even said so. I mentioned that all praise for the St John's Ambulance service was thoroughly deserved. In fact they were the best organisation in the world.

Eventually, as I started to cool down and It became clear that I was going to be stuck there for some time and that I may not be able to stagger into the Founders Arms as the wounded hero, my mood dropped. The only thing that kept me going was Pat - my large, jolly ambulance volunteer - who kept up a running commentary on the race outside, "Oh look there's Emu … that must be Roy Hudd …. Ooooo there's a crocodile, Oh my goodness! No! … there's six of them … there's a doctor friend of mine running, I must have missed him."

They brought another guy into the ambulance who was shivering - at times it was confusing for Pat because she couldn't remember which of us to heat up and which to cool down. He had a rich Welsh accent and didn't want to be there, "How far are we from the finish?… How far! … Oh God! I so wanted a medal … I really wanted a medal… I think I'll carry on … How far are we from the finish?"

I think it was a couple of hours before my temperature came down to levels where they felt it was safe to let me go. At first they suggested I catch a tube to Westminster and then walk across the bridge (where the finish was in those days). There was no way I was going to do that. They wrapped me in a silver Mars space blanket and pointed me in the direction of Monument underground station. I hobbled very very slowly and some cheeky kid shouted "I bet your legs are tired!" A few steps further on a well-meaning young woman said "Well done!" It was cruel and painful going down the steps onto the platform and once I'd slumped into a seat on the carriage I noticed that it was full of tourists, most of whom seemed to be taking photos of me. I closed my eyes and leant against the window.

In a thousand to one coincidence of timing and circumstance, as I stepped off the train at Embankment, I was staring Maia* in the face. I leaned on her wearily and rested my head on her shoulders. There was someone to lead me out of hell and take me home."

*Maia was my girlfriend of about one month's standing at the time. She helped me find the finish area and the bus containing my bag of clothes. I got changed on an almost empty bus with a guy that had taken 6 hours to finish. Three years later Maia and I got married. It still bugs me that, because I didn't finish, I didn't get a Mars Bar.