Whilst the Jam may have been Going Underground back in 1982 I will be covering the 26 miles 385 yards of the London marathon course above ground in April.
My application for the 2017 London Marathon was recently accepted which filled me with mixed emotions. Primarily those of excitement but I can’t deny that there is always a modicum of fear that traces through me knowing the race is just 3 months away. Whilst the last 2 years have seen me much fitter than in previous years, following my departure from full time training and racing in 2008, completing 26 miles requires a level of conditioning, strength and mental resolve much greater than a 16 mile training session. The pace is more vigorous with surges, attacks and sprints and the level of concentration required is more intense when racing in a large pack of athletes at close quarters.
My first serious return to racing was in 2016 spurred on by Tiaan Bosch, who I began to mentor and train alongside the year before. Tiaan is an athlete with incredible potential and being 9 years my junior very much has the capability and desire to go all the way to compete on the World stage. The more I helped him the more I needed to be in my chair training alongside him. The more he improved the greater the need for me to up my training and stay ahead, or at least in contention. It was Tiaan who convinced me to take part in the London marathon last year and we both crossed the finish line in unison in a time of 1 hour 55 minutes, just 2 minutes behind my personal best time set back in 2006. That year I had just returned to England from a 2 week warm weather training camp in the US at peak fitness so coming near to that time was a major achievement. It also made me realise what was still possible. Perhaps this year there may even be a chance of matching that time, or setting a new personal best at the age of 45.
I believe that part of my success last year was down to rigorous planning and preparation. “To fail to plan is to plan to fail”, as they say. I left nothing to chance last year. My gloves, chair set up, tactics, race kit and journey were all planned and prepared in advance to limit any potential surprises and mishaps on the day. I knew I had to leave for London at lunch time on the Saturday, which is later than I would normally like, due to having my twins at home. Luckily I had packed everything I needed into the Grand Tourneo Connect the night before I had to depart. So when lunch time arrived it was simply a case of hopping in and heading off. The capacity and flexibility of the Tourneo meant that it swallowed up my racing chair, spares, kit and overnight bag and allowed me to head South in comfort. As the miles passed the check in time for the Marathon approached all too quickly. Athletes are required to check in and attend a race briefing on the Saturday night ahead of the race on the Sunday. I made it to the outskirts of London in good time but the last few miles were very slow going and I had to go straight into the check in as I arrived at the hotel. My preparation paid off and I was soon eating dinner and heading to bed ready for the very early start on the Sunday.
The plan this year is to go down to London in the Grand Tourneo Connect on the Friday and be even better prepared for the race. If training between now and April goes well then my target will to match or even better my personal best time from 11 years ago and to enjoy the route, crowd and experience as much as I did last year, leaving the underground to my wife as she hops between tube stations to get the best vantage points and views of the race as we traverse the streets of the city over ground.