The Run – 42.2km of hanging in there

Posted on August 20, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Although not a dafty, I sometimes make decisions that defy explanation.

March 2010. Rome. I spend 30 minutes preparing my feet to run the marathon – vaseline between and over the ends of the toes, compeeds on the heels, carefully align the seams on the socks, tighten/loosen/tighten the laces until I have them just right. Good decision.

Regensburg. Refuse to take off my sopping wet socks that I have worn for the last 7 and a half hours, refuse to have my feet dried by a volunteer, refuse to put on clean, dry, warm socks that would have felt like running on clouds, and refuse to tighten my quick release shoelaces. Set off to run marathon. Really, really dumb decision.

The only explanation that I can offer is that my back was murder by this stage and I thought that just getting on with the run would loosen it up. About a kilometre later I had moved from being stuck bent double to being stuck fully upright and I could feel the flesh on my feet tear a little with every step. But hey, not far to go now…….

At race briefing the course was explained – the first half through the old town with music, commentary and massive crowds and the second half much quieter along the side of the river and around the lake in the park. Something for everyone. I remember thinking the park bit was a pity because it would be great to have support the whole way round. Stupid boy.

The lap was very roughly 10.5k and on the fourth time around you would go right into the finishing chute rather than back on to the lap. In training and visualising the race I thought I knew where I needed to be mentally – lap 1 – glad to be off the bike, enough energy to enjoy the lap; lap 2 – coming up to half way, getting more tired but still bundles of energy; lap 3 – this was going to be the ball-breaker, over the hump but energy waning and most of all it is not the last lap; lap 4 – the last lap, a valedictory trot round the course probably sprinting the last 2k in. Stupid boy.

Before I got to the first kilometre marker the internal whinger was already sitting on my shoulder and nipping away at my ear. “Sore stomach, sore feet, blisters forming and back in agony” it said, “you’d better take a rest”. And so the theme for the first two laps was set. My planned 9minute run, 1 minute walk strategy never got through it’s first cycle. This was going to be a long 26.2miles.

The first lap was unadulterated purgatory. Every step sent a shooting pain through my back and my stomach was balanced on a precarious precipice. If you are a of a sensitive disposition I am about to go into too much information – a theme will develop here; this may be a good time to give up reading my blog. OK, suckers for punishment – still here? Lets begin – if you hang around triathlon forums and youtube long enough you become very familiar with the “shart” where endurance athletes don’t have full control of their sphincters and this phenomenon is normally demonstrated on said internet forums by folks in white lycra. Feeling pretty nauseous by this stage the portaloos were not really an option for me as the smell from about 300m away was causing quite violent gagging. The only option was to run until the shoogling made the stomach unbearable and then walk until the pain ebbed away and repeat.

At the end of the first lap I passed under the bridge at T2 to uproarious cheering from the bridge and a saltire draped over the bridge. My sherpas were back in town.

Just after the start of lap 2 I saw Andreas Raelert, Ironman world record holder and world championship runner up just up ahead and after putting in a burst of energy I overtook him. Well, that’s the grandkids story – the real story is that he was being interviewed by a TV crew and he was just about to go into the finishing chute but the fact remains the same – I ran past him. It turns out that he was injured and couldn’t race but had to complete an IM race to validate his invitation to Kona so he did Regensburg for charity. He donated 20euros for everyone that crossed the line before him. He saved 20 euros on me!

My second lap I think was where the noise hit me. As you entered the old town you went up a narrow street that doglegged to the left into another narrow passageway and then right into the main old town area. Up the first street the crowds were 1 or 2 deep and there was a commentator who faithfully on every lap got a cheer for “Doggy the Pirate”. At the first turn the crowds were thicker and over the barriers sounding their cowbells and cheering and by the main square they were probably about 4 deep. I would loved to have run for the crowd but my stomach was my only master by this point so I took a quick walk. The Germans and the Brits were great cheering you, slapping you on the back, high 5ing and occassionally bowing down and prostating themselves on the ground. The Yanks, however, were a mixed bag. The best gave you a long “Gooooooood Jaaaaaaawb” the worst gave you some constructive feedback on running as opposed to walking. One chap from the US whose clothes must have shrunk in the wash several times, just after they had to get a JCB to lift him out of bed in the morning gave me just such feedback from behind a giant ice cream sundae just as I had a particularly bad moment of intestinal churning. The referees didn’t cover it in their very detailed rules briefing but I was pretty sure that punching out the lights of a man the size of a blue whale during the race might incur a yellow card. Had I picked up the shitty Oakleys I would have launched them at him with gusto but instead in a moment of serenity I just smiled and waddled on. About a 100m further on was the main Pirate cheering spot which really lifted the spirits for the run along the river.

Bored with listening to myself moan

Just over half way through the second lap with my stomach swollen and distended and my back aching I eventually met Pam and the Farkies and I slowed down for a chat.

Pam: “Keep going!”

Me: “no, I’m stopping for a chat”

Pam (or possibly a Farkie, I can’t clearly remember now): “how are you feeling?”

Me: “I’ve just been sick, my stomach is in knots, my backs really killing me, I’ve got pains in my feet and my blisters are murder”

Pam: “Shouldn’t you just keep going……….”

All of that had been rattling about in my head but it was only when I said it and saw the reaction that it had on others that I realised what a whinge it sounded out loud so I resolved to HTFU, stop thinking about it and just get this marathon finished. And then a small miracle happened. A few hundred metres further on I came to an aid station and as I walked up it I knew my stomach couldn’t take any more water or powerbar or gel. I then came to a cake which I hadn’t tried before – a bit like an apple crumble and as I was now looking for anything I could keep down I gave it a go. Definitely tasty but I was so dehydrated that it turned into sawdust in my mouth and I had to spit it out. And then I took a Coke – the impact was instant – I was getting sugar, caffeine, salts and hydration in each mouthful and even better it settled my stomach right down. From that point to the end of the race I consumed nothing but Coke.

As I went through the half marathon my splits started to pick up and for the first time since I left the lake in the morning I started to overtake people. The third lap was really just more of the same with the exception that I found myself shepherding a young guy that had crashed and burned. I got him to an aid station and left him there but then I saw him again in the athletes village at the end waiting for an ambulance……..but he was wearing a medal. He was an Ironman!

The supporters really made the run for me with two notable groups outside of the Pirates. Just after T2 there were a group of Scottish girls with a saltire who cheered like there was no tomorrow all day and I looked forward to seeing them on every lap. They promised as I started the fourth lap in the dark that they would stay out for me and they did. And then there was the “party aid station” at the end of the lake which was just the most gorgeous spot with a constant loud beat of euro rock and roll. They were particularly good at remembering names and favourite drinks and made sure we were well looked after all night.

Rory gets unwelcome kiss from daddy in lycra

Pirate chases man in head to toe white lycra

Towards the end of lap 3 I saw my sherpas for the last time before I crossed the line. Stopped for a kiss from the wee man and got on with finishing the marathon. I was elated – all doubt that I could finish within the time limit had evaporated and I was loving the final hours of my epic Ironman project.

My main coping strategy that I had planned was that I would dedicate each mile to someone and think about them while I was running. That didn’t go quite to plan as I didn’t really fancy talking to 26.2 people and the course was in kilometres anyway! However, it really sorted me out when I thought about people and the effect that me doing what I was doing had on them – bizarrely that was the only time really that I got choked up during the day including crossing the finish line and the aftermath. It certainly took my mind off the pain and frequently took my mind off the state of others that were talking to themselves and wandering aimlessly.

On the final lap I constantly reminded myself to thank the volunteers and I gave everyone that I passed a clap and a cheer. By the time I reached the park it was pitch black and the route was lit by glow sticks which was stunning. At the party aid station they stuck glow sticks round the runners necks and all you could see in the distance was pink glow sticks on the ground and yellow glow sticks in a long procession of runners. I met Pirate Iron Swiss Bobby in the park whose feet had given up on him and hating to leave him behind I walked with him for 20 minutes until we reached the last bridge. I then started to run with 2k to go.

As I passed around the back of the finish line I could hear the cheering and at the final aid station I stopped to thank everyone and delivered about 20 disgustingly sweaty hugs to fine volunteers who surprisingly were willing recipients. With 200m to go I was flying and as I turned the corner I saw the Pirate support and started a 200m high 5 right through to the finish line. I can honestly say I have never had an experience like the last 200m before and I doubt I ever will again. Where I expected profound emotion I reached the highest high and I’m not sure I’ve come down yet.

I can’t recommend a 6hour 10minute run. It’s an awfully long time to be on your feet.






Sleepless Night


The Longest Day

One Guy, 5 Stone, Two and a Half Years and Two Races

The Swim – Froth, Speedos and Bulging Eyeballs

The Bike – Rain, Rain, Hill, Rain, Rain, Hill, Ouch

The Run – 42.2km of Hanging In There

The Aftermath



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