SET A GOAL AND ACHIEVE IT! What completing the London Marathon has taught me.
01 Jul 2015
April 26th 2015 was a bitterly cold morning – too cold to be wearing skimpy running shorts. Perhaps it felt even colder to me because only two days previously I had been basking in glorious sunshine in Southern Spain. Instead, I now found myself in Greenwich Park applying Vaseline to my nipples and stretching my hamstring in preparation for my first London Marathon and, in fact, my first ever marathon. Here are some things I learnt from the experience.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
As I sprinted along St James Park Avenue at about 2.50pm on Sunday 26th April 2015 my eyes were not deceiving me. The red mile marker arch displaying the miles left was correct. When I crossed the line, the first words I could muster to the fellow runner who just beat me to the finish line were “ It really is over! ”.
For those that have not run a marathon before, it’s a gruelling 26-mile race. I discovered that it is so much more than the 26 miles. All the training including the early morning and late night runs in the rain or dark are also part of the process. In my case, with all the training factored in it was closer to 626 miles and if you train in km like me it sounds even more! Being mindful of the fact that every mile completed is one step closer to the target is a psychological boost. Visualising the finish line also helps, but when it can still seem so far away and daunting it’s good to break the race and the long training runs down into smaller chunks. My brother-in-law, Richard, a more experienced marathon runner gave me some simple but effective advice. “When things get tough tell yourself ‘one foot in front of the other”
He who has a strong enough ‘why’ can bear almost any ‘how’
I never really understood the idiom to get a second wind until after the marathon. The online Oxford dictionary simply describes it as ‘a new energy to finish something that was an effort’ and Wikipedia talks of a phenomenon typical in marathon running whereby a runner who is initially very tired suddenly finds renewed strength to continue with less effort. Some attribute the phenomenon to science and others to psychology. All I know is that I experienced something similar. The above photo reminds me of the excruciating pain in my left knee around the 25km mark yet 5km later as I picked out the faces of my mum and sister in the crowd I felt rejuvenated and the pain dissipated. If this second wind is down to psychology then perhaps seeing my family triggered me into thinking about my ‘why‘. From that moment on until the end I embraced the excruciating pain. I thought about the incredible amount of money raised for the Trust we set up (The Katie Haines Memorial Trust) in memory of my sister Katie, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning shortly after her wedding. I also thought about how Katie must have felt at this stage of the marathon exactly ten years prior. Tears welled up in my eyes as I contemplated this.
No man is an island
The atmosphere on race day was electric and I have never experienced anything similar – not since I witnessed Arsenal beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final in 2005 and l celebrated outside Arsenal’s stadium but even then I was part of the crowd celebrating. This time I was participating. The well wishing didn’t die out. It went on until the end. I must have heard “Come on Adam!” about 500 times. This is why it’s so important to have your name clearly printed on the front of your t-shirt on race day.
During my training runs I didn’t have thousands of white t-shirted children handing out water, playing musicians and generous offers of free sweets from marathon well wishers all flanked along the routes. However, the online community of family, friends, sponsors and journalists held me accountable to my goal. The interest in my run inspired me to push forward with it. I strongly believed it helped get me to the start line and prepared for the big event. Once my online sponsorship page was up watching the generous donations roll in was motivation in itself.
A memory for me that will live on is the last stretch of the race. I’ll never forget the remaining two miles. The disbelief as important London landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace were now within close eyeshot. The pure adrenaline that surged through my body enabled me to sprint freely and almost forget about the pain in my knee. I finished in a respectable 4 hours and 38 minutes. I would have liked to come in 20 minutes earlier but in the end I was so pleased and relieved to have reached the end. Personal Growth starts at the end of your comfort zone.