April 2012 / Weekly updates

26th April 2012

So here we are.

Last Saturday was a very strange day. All training had finished, all I had to do was rest, eat well and relax. The “eating well” part was easy, the resting ok, but the relaxing part proved a bit more difficult. I must have gone through pages of three different books without settling on any of them, leafed through a few magazines and papers, watched bits of TV but no matter how many distractions I tried to put in my way, the one thing I was trying not to think about was the one thing I could think about; “Tomorrow I am running the London Marathon”.

Lots of lovely mails and texts were coming in and by the evening, we had settled down to watch Woody Allen’s Manhattan – not Chariots of Fire.

Many of you will know that in normal circumstances I am a insomniac so I wasn’t expecting much sleep but I did go to bed early, around midnight and more or less slept through until 5.30am – a decent amount of time for me and as soon as I woke up, I just felt in the right mood. I had a great breakfast of porridge, toast and orange juice and then it was time to get ready. It’s amazing how quickly you get into YOUR routine. What order you put stuff on; the plasters, the spray-on blister plasters, the Vaseline between your toes – so much that has become natural over the months.

Before we left home – Angela gave me a good luck card quoting Eric Liddel’s line from Chariots of Fire; “And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within.”

At Palmers Green station, Team Clutton started to assemble. As well as coach Angela and my Mum and Dad, we were joined on the journey by my nephew Ryan – my sister Julie and other nephew Andrew joined us later. At 6.15 on a Sunday morning in April, the only people at the station were other marathon runners – distinguished by their red bags (given out by Virgin for your kit on the day) and their anxious expressions. I had my team with me but there was one guy on the platform sitting staring into space. I went had a word with him, he visibly relaxed and we had a laugh about how mad the whole thing was. For the first time that day, but certainly not the last time – normal London rules were broken. You could speak with other people. And when I got back to the family, Angela was in tears at the atmosphere already and it was only 6.15am.

All the way in town, more and more people got on to the train with those red bags until we reached Kings Cross – from then on, everyone was on their way to the marathon – the “Marathon Express” and every one was absolutely pumping and up for it. At Maze Hill station, Marie, Ernie and Ryan went one way and Angela came with me nearer to the starting place in Greenwich Park . The city looked great from up there but it also made you think, I have to run all the way over there and then more. Angela had said goodbye and given me my last pep talk and taken my phone and then you’re on your own – apart from the other 36,000 people that is. Angela took a photo of me as she was leaving.

Once I’d warmed up, put my bag into storage etc, there was surprisingly little to do and as I was there in good time just in case things had gone wrong, I had quite a bit of time to kill. By chance – well as much chance as there is involved in seeing someone with bright pink hair – Sarah and I bumped into each other. It was only right and fitting that we met up and I think it helped both of us relax.

Soon, it was time to line up and then we were off – well sort of. It took about 25 minutes of walking to get to the starting line itself and then we were really off.

It is quite hard to get going at the start – there are so many people and you are all so close to each other but the training just started to kick in and I got my rhythm going. At about 1.5 miles I saw my first supporters – my friends Damian and Karen and their daughter, my god daughter, Amy – waving and cheering. Damian also shouted out – “nearly there now!” which made me laugh. And on. Through Greenwich and Charlton – people lining the roads cheering you on. It was also around here when it was the only time I saw an overview of a lot of runners – when we had all been up a bit of a hill and were coming down the other side, it looked fantastic.

At 4.5 miles, I saw Damian, Karen and Amy again “Come on, last bit now” and then at 6 miles was the first time I saw Angela, Mum, Dad and Ryan. It was great to see them – obviously it was early in the run but it gave me such a great lift to see them there. Ryan was handing our jelly beans to the runners and Angela was holding a big sign, (on one of the photos attached). This idea of a sign was great – from advice from our friend Jo – as it made it so easy around the course to see the team from a distance and make sure I was on the correct side of the road to see them properly. Throughout the day the support from the whole crowd was amazing – Sarah summed it up – saying it was like everyone had come out just for you as they would all shout your name as you passed. But my family/training team and friends around the course treated it like a military operation – getting around London to all these various points was not easy.

Just to give you an idea of some of the messaging between people – here is just a selection of texts between Angela and Damian – my best man.

Damian – 10.24 – Mr Clutton has just passed us with a big smile!
Angela – 10.30 – What mile and how long ago?
D – 10.34 – About 1.8m. 10.23am
D – 10.55 – Gone through 4.8m at 10.54. Still smiling! Over to you
A – 11.08 – 6miles / 11.08
D – 12.42 – We’re at Crossharbour (m17).
A – 12.45 – We’re at 16
D – 13.12 – Safely through Crossharbour
A – 13.22 – 18.5 done
D – 14.54 – Chris saw Jim at Blackfriars at 14.44

All through South London was fine and I felt great – the crowd were helping so much and it felt so easy to run – my time at the 6 mile mark was only just over a minute slower than my personal best time for 6 miles and everything felt wonderful. On and on we all went through South London, sometimes you were running next to people for a while, lose them and then be with them again. All of that first section felt great and when after a few hours we turned a corner and came up to Tower Bridge it was AMAZING – seeing that landmark, knowing we were nearly at the half way point (coming back to North London!!!) and seeing the charities that lined up across the bridge was just a brilliant feeling. At the half way stage I was still only a bit slower (well 7 minutes) than my best half marathon time – but along that part of the route was the first time that you saw runners coming back the other way – at around the 20 mile mark in their marathon. That was pretty depressing actually – and it started to get into my head as they all looked exhausted and we had another 7 miles to go before we got to that bit. Then I saw some OHP mates – Dougie with his inflatable palm tree (don’t ask me why but once again – very EASY to see!), Kate, Grant, Danny, Maud and Ruth. It was great to see them and their screams and shouts helped me through that next bit – I had already seen Team Crabtree at the Cutty Sark – and that had also helped me as they gave me a cheer.

So many things from throughout the day come in to my mind about things/people – it is really difficult to articulate all of the moments and emotions – so as more of a kaleidoscopic look – some moments; a man running with a 20ft tall model of the Blackpool tower trying to get under a bridge, a guy playing guitar all the way round, Priests outside churches throwing holy water over people as we passed, so many people – kids particularly, handing out Jelly babies and giving high fives, running next to Snow White for a while, chatting with a performer from Mamma Mia about business, the volunteers on water/ Lucozade duty being amazing and supportive and on and on.

I had started feeling like it was becoming more difficult around 14 miles but knew that I would be seeing my family again at around 16 miles and that just kept me going. Angela and Marie told me afterwards that when they saw me at mile 16 I looked strong and happy and without a problem but I think I looked like that BECAUSE I had just seen them actually – I gave them both a kiss as I went past and high fived my dad and got some sweets from Ryan – all good! The next few miles around Canary Wharf etc were even harder despite the support around their being wonderful and when I saw them all again at mile 18 – it was the first time I hadn’t seen where they were standing from a distance. My mind couldn’t have been totally on it. I was certainly starting to wobble. Afterwards, Angela and Marie – the two people who support me more than anyone, were saying to each other that it had started looking REALLY hard for me and that maybe I had started struggling – when Ryan again popped up (like a few weeks ago) and said – “he has run 18 miles!” When they both started to say that they knew that and they were just thinking how I was feeling – he was having none of it.

It was around this point where I actually started to feel terrible, my stomach hurt, legs felt like I had nothing left and I was obviously in a bit of trouble as people along the route started encouraging me all the more. Then a guy, I’ll never know his name and I can’t even remember his charity came past me but as he did he slowed up and said – “You ok? Feeling it?” “Oh yes – awful”, “Come on run with me for a while”. Me: “I just can’t mate, can’t do it” – Him, “Come on, just get going again”. So I started running with him as he talked to me, geeing me up, then I got a bit of rhythm back and then he said – “You ok?” “Yeah, cheers mate”, “No worries” and he was off and away. Thanks mate – whoever you are.

A mile or so later, I was going past someone (difficult to believe but true) when he just yelled out – “that’s it, I can’t go on!”. I felt honour-bound so repeated the thing that had just worked on me until HE got going again – It was that sort of day and event. Around here I also saw Liz and Ian and then later Chris and Mandy – thanks for coming out guys.
Just before Blackfriars there is an underpass – no crowds under there at all and when everyone went under there into the dark – I have never seen so many people slow up/stop – metaphorically have a ciggie etc – it was the last bit when there were no crowds to see you and everyone took advantage of it – we all then emerged into the sunlight and the big crowds – more or less singing and high–kicking – no one wanted to be struggling around that point. The support was just getting louder and louder – and there was also a great sign from Lucozade that went across the road – “2.5 miles more and you are part of history” – everyone got a BIG lift from that.

Along the Embankment and there were my family again shouting and waving and looking so proud and excited – it all felt wonderful again. Ever since my awful long run a few weeks ago, the time I finish in has been irrelevant to me – even on Sunday at 18 miles if someone had said you will finish in 6.5 hours I would have taken it like a shot – but suddenly I was at Big Ben and saw that if I got a bit of a move on I would be finishing in just under 5 hours. Seeing the family spurred me on for that last bit and all of sudden it seemed like the race had gone quickly, there you were on Birdcage Walk – you could see Buckingham Palace and I thought “I’m going to do this”. My sister Julie and nephew Andrew, as well as Jo were all on this last bit but I didn’t see any of them, I was just focusing on finishing.

When I came round that corner into the Mall and could actually see the finishing line – wow, that was incredible – I have seen photos and there are loads of people running along the Mall – but at that point it really, genuinely felt like I was the only person there.

Finish line and yes under 5 hours – 4 hours, 58 minute and 54 seconds – a time forever written in mind, but more importantly – I had finished. I had run the London Marathon and no one, NO ONE is ever going to take that away from me. I have often heard sportsmen, footballers particularly, say “it hasn’t sunk in yet” at their moment of triumph. I have to say that I immediately knew what I had done, what it meant to me, how much everyone had supported me and that this was the result of all of that 6 months of hard work (running in the dark, running in the snow and rain) and planning and I have to say, when I went over the line as soon as stopped I just burst into tears. It felt amazing. A lady was there to give me the medal – I think I surprised her when I gave her a big kiss! I had my photo taken in front of one of the step and repeat boards. All fantastic. Everyone was laughing, shaking hands, congratulating each other – it was a wonderful atmosphere round there.

Eventually I got to the meeting place at Horseguards Parade – just as it started to rain but it didn’t matter as there waiting (with the sign!) was Angela, Marie, Ernie, Ryan, Andrew and Julie – and Damian, Karen and Amy and James – my Godson. To say that it was a happy celebration is a bit of an understatement. I’ll never forget being with everyone at that moment. Everyone was so lovely – they had all been on this journey with me and everyone knew what it meant. Just after I had finished it started raining quite heavily but of course it would take more than that to dampen everyones spirits, but because of the rain it was tricky to get to somewhere where we could all sit down and relax. At one point we were cutting through behind Embankment and had to go down the stairs by the Players theatre. They are not steep steps but all of the runners that were there (all of us) were having a hell of a time getting down them – everything was stiffening up. It caused much amusement for everyones supporters that hadn’t been in the race – being on the flat was fine but steps were a no-go! Eventually we found a pub with some space and people that I have never met were coming up and saying – “well done mate” I think the medal around my neck and the “tin foil” blanket – quite apart from the way I was walking rather gave it all away.

We then all met up with Sarah – another person That had gone through all of this – I could not have done all this without her. After all those chats in the office about how training was going etc, it was great to know that we had both finished and we both look pretty happy in the photo taken at the time. Even though it felt difficult to leave the West End, it did feel like time to go home. Once we arrived, home we also had the ceremonial finishing off of the plan that has been on our kitchen wall for the last 4 months. Ticking off the last day of the last page – fantastic. I have also attached the full training programme – well for the 4 months – there was also 2 months of training before this – to get fit enough to start the training programme.

And so, and so – that was it.

I have gone on FAR too long but could have still written so much more – whenever you see me I am afraid I will have another story to tell – SORRY in advance.

Since the race I am delighted to say that the total sponsorship money for Chickenshed has topped £11,000 – which I am really pleased with.

Thank you, thank you to you all – it is an amazing amount of money you have all pledged. I am going to miss writing to you all – well more the messages of encouragement I have regularly received back from you all. I will be sending out some more photos soon – the official ones and some others when they are out, so you haven’t heard the last of me yet.

Next stop?? Everest????

Thank you to all of my family and friends – for all of the support.

I could not have done it without Angela being so supportive, thoughtful, loving and the best coach in the world, in the first place saying I would be able to do it (with such conviction that I believed it myself), working on the plan with me or waiting for me with drinks when I got home. Marie my mum for all of those days, racing around London, standing in places with drinks, bananas and waving with so much love, Ernie my dad for the pride and support and for making a map of the route that I will treasure. Amazing times. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

James x

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3 thoughts on “26th April 2012

  1. Dear James,

    I just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and how much it’s helped me. I’m running the London marathon this year and it seems as though I’m following the same plan as you did.

    I was beginning to doubt if I was running enough miles at this point of the plan (week 4) to make it round the course but you’ve made me realise that if I stick at it I will get there! Thank you.

    Here’s to the remaining 12 weeks…!

    Best wishes

    Kim

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