My Marathon Hell by Mike Ormond Aged 39 and a bit

We (we being my fiancé Gemma and I) lined up on Sunday morning in Greenwich Park @ 9.45 in what had already become an uncomfortable temperature for running even a short distance. We took our place with tens of thousands of other runners in red start area 8 (just in front of area 9 for those wearing "elaborate costumes"); it wasn't long before we were joined by Chewbacca, a pint of Guinness and a fair number of Wombles. 15 minutes later, in a giant wave of people, we'd crossed the start line and were on our way.

Sunday's was the hottest London Marathon on record and it felt it; hot, humid and sunny. After 10 miles I was still feeling good but Gemma had started to suffer so a short walk was called for. Now Gemma has completed the Marathon before, and in a respectable time, so this was something of an unexpected setback. But we were soon off and running again with me offering gentle words of encouragement and Gemma intimating that she didn't think she'd make it round this time. The walk had cost us dearly though – we were caught up in herds of walkers - dodging left and right avoiding people soon saps more precious energy. For me as a marathon virgin, this wasn't a great start.

At about 14 miles I couldn't hold it any longer - the amount of fluids we'd been taking on board meant I had to stop for a "comfort break". “Only” a 15min wait for a toilet and we were back on our way – by this time in the thick of the walkers. My right knee had started to ache, we both had thumping headaches (due, I presume, to the heat), felt sick on and off and by this stage your body is running out of energy reserves and switching over to burning fat. The problem is your body’s not very good at converting fat in a hurry. In other words, it's getting tough.

By about 16 miles Gemma had perked up and it was me who was starting to suffer. This wasn't helped by the fact we could not lose the pint of Guinness. Every time we sprinted ahead he would catch us up. Hat's off to the people in costumes - they're incredibly tenacious to stick at it even if they do make you feel terribly inadequate.

By 18/19 miles we'd dropped into a pattern of walk a bit, run a chunk and were just hoping to get round. The exhaustion at that stage is indescribable. You just want it to end. Switching from walking to running was a question of mind over matter and each time we pushed ourselves to run to the next mile marker then walk a bit and so on.

By 22/23 miles it was the hottest part of the day and my feet were starting to suffer - I could feel my right foot in particular bulging inside my shoe.

Around the 23/24 mile mark, we were passed by the unbearably cheerful hearing dog mascot (6 people inside a giant hearing dog waving at us and shouting encouragement). Oh, how will we ever live this down...

At the 25 mile marker one last concerted effort saw us run the final 1.2 miles to the finish. I cannot describe the relief I felt. Nor the wave of emotion that swept over me, clutching Gemma's hand as we crossed the finish. We started together, we finished together and if it hadn't been for her I'd never have got involved in this ****** thing.

After picking up your medal and walking what seemed like an endless distance to the tube to start the journey home, you begin to realise which bits of you really ache. 6 of my toes are just giant blisters, blown up to twice their normal size. I had chaffing like you wouldn't believe despite the Vaseline that was liberally applied to all my chaffable places. Add these to the usual aches and pains that prevent you from negotiating staircases or sitting down.

The good news is I lost about 5lbs on Sunday and we also made it round faster than Floella Benjamin (we'd been told she crossed the line before us but she clearly started well before us too). Sadly our time was very disappointing at 5hr 34min - almost an hour slower than Gemma's previous attempt 2 years ago. TBH, I'm just glad we made it in one piece, I know others did not.

Will I ever do it again? Not a chance. My only regret is that my (future) wife will forever be able to say that she's got a better marathon time than me.

Thank you for all your support (financial and otherwise). The good news is that together, Gemma and I believe we’ve raised the £5000 (including matching by our respective employers) needed to fund another Hearing Dog. If you’ve not sponsored me yet (I know lots of you have) I’d really appreciate it if you could spare a few pounds to put towards the cause at:

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Comments (6)
  1. Philip Stears says:

    Many congratulations – no matter how long it takes, finishing a Marathon is a massive achievement.

  2. Steve says:

    Way to go, Mike!  I’m running in my first marathon this coming Saturday (April 28th, 2007) in Nashville, Tennessee (the "Country Music Marathon).  I’ve been training since the end of December last year, and we hope to make in in about 4 hours 30 minutes.  Unlike you, however, we’re *planning* on doing the run/walk, where we run for 10 minutes and then walk for 1 minute.  Oh, and I’m "37 and a bit"…

    Also, we’ll make liberal use of Gu ( along the way to keep the energy levels up.  Seemed to help quite a bit during out 20 mile training run a few weeks back.

    Hopefully I’ll fare better than it sounded like you did–no offense intended!  Can’t wait to get there, run, and then GET IT OVER WITH!!! 🙂

  3. MikeO [MSFT] says:

    Steve – good luck to you. I hope you have an amazing time – I’m sure you will. Just looked at the forecast for you and it looks like 24C and showers. Have you been training in heat? For us, 23C was an all new experience as all our training has been around the 5C – 10C mark so the heat hit us hard.

    Best of luck with it – and above all else be careful in that heat!

  4. Steve says:

    The marathon was last weekend–I and one of my partners finished in 4:43:52, about 13 minutes slower than expected.  No, we had not been training in the head, and that seemed to affect my three other partners whom I had been training with.  I felt great, however!  Well, except for my knees and feet, but those didn’t slow me down much.

    What did slow me down was keeping with my one partner who was having ham string issues.  I didn’t want to leave him for fear that he might not make it.

    Partners 3 and 4 had breathing problems and cramping problems, and they ended up finishing about 1/2 hour behind us.

    At least two of us are looking for another marathon to run–now we have a time to beat!

    Take care, thanks for reading, etc.


  5. MikeO [MSFT] says:

    That’s fantastic Steve! Well done – I’m pleased to bits for you. Nice you have a stake in the ground – now you’ve really got something to aim for next time. 🙂

    All the best


  6. Andy's just secured a place on the Great North Run (fantastic!) and asked me (of all people) for

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