Great to be back in competition, 2012
By Jason Richards
It’s been a long time since I set out to cover the 26 miles (and 385 yards) of a marathon but it felt great to be back in competition over one of my favourite racing distances.
In fact the last time I raced the marathon was in 2006 when I did the London Marathon, finishing seventh in a time of 1 hour 53 minutes. That year I had just returned to England from a warm weather training camp in the USA. As most years in April my return to the country was greeted with showers of rain and sure enough as we lined up at the start, the grey skies over London were threatening.
So six years later it was no surprise that the same London skyline was a mass of dark clouds. However, as I warmed up I realised that I had not just returned from two weeks of warm weather training and that in fact my body was not finely tuned and ready to attack the start.
It has been a tough few years in between 2006 and 2012 bringing up twins, getting divorced and moving house. This was not about competing at the elite level but reminding myself I was still alive!
However, having travelled to London from North Yorkshire there was no way I was going to let my nerves and body deter me from the challenge that lay ahead. The gun went and after 500m my body told me to stop, then after five miles my body again told me to stop. Had I been out training I’d have turned around and gone home at that point, but this was not about peak performance or times; this was about starting over, moving into the future and finding my passion for life and racing again. That is when I found heart. My head was telling me to stop, my body was saying I couldn’t go the distance but my heart was beating so loudly in my chest and images of the twins, life and the future raced through my mind and drove me forward. The miles rolled on and never got easier until around mile 19. This is usually where the pain and fatigue kicks on, but on this day in April the feeling of sickness in my stomach and the lactic acid in my arms disappeared and left me for a few miles. It was the first time I’d stopped counting the miles, until I was back searching for the marker at mile 22, and the next drinks station.
In wheelchair racing we carry our water and drinks with us in the chairs as we need both hands to propel the wheels as we move. However, I was longing for water, drinks and energy gel. I missed a couple of bottles of water as my cumbersome gloves deflected the soft plastic before finally clutching a drink and slurping it down as my chair gradually slowed down. I thought it would help but it was no use. I put my head down, sucked in the air that was being warmed by the sunshine now drenching the streets of London and dug the deepest I ever have to go the distance.
I crossed the line with a feeling of relief, rather than the usual elation, and sat in my racing chair as the world seemingly passed me by. There was no sense of achievement, any jubilation or celebration. Instead, simply a deep-seated belief that this was the start of something special and that it had to begin somewhere.