It felt like being a cross between a hamster on one of those little wheels they have in cages and goldfish in a bowl. Such a strange experience of just watching the reactions of people walking by. Some would stop and give the thumbs up, other people would walk in and say hello, and then there would be a few, quite a few actually that would stop, stare and not even smile or acknowledge you and then walk off.
It was really hard trying to run and speak but i was keen to chat to people who took an interest, but as i was running slightly slower than my normal pace i managed to carry on a conversation – it was great chatting to people hearing about their own running experiences and then intrigued to why i chose to hop on a treadmill and run 26.2 miles in a shop.
What made the day most special was the outstanding and humbling support i received from friends old and new and people passing by. Eammon Kennedy, someone i hadn’t seen properly since we were in Peru in 2003 coming along and saying hi. Or the incredibly enthusiastic Jessi Watts who marked her appearance by landing a sloppy kiss on the window of the shop! Faye Shenton who has given me so much support this year turning up with my favour energy food -Jelly Babies in a little home-made red paper box. Truely fantastic. even the group of spanish schools kids who didn’t know what to make of me.
Chris Goodall who arrived on the dot and saw me begin the race. Ben Kind and Alex Doorey acting as official photographers for the day. Jonathan Tanner who went horse from all the cheering. Will Hardy & Shanni Shanni who spent the whole day tempting me with cold drinks and the prospect of a cool beer. Michael Cooper and Ian Mills who cut short their trip to the Map exhibit to see the finish. Simon Platts who tripped me up with his bag of fricking pants. Steph Fraser who has been constantly concerned about my knees from the start of these marathons. Nicola York and Dom Goggins who have both stupidly agreed to come to the Congo with me. And big Mike Forster with his big knees.
I was completely taken a back by the support because lets face it: watching a guy on a treadmill isn’t exactly exciting, especially for 3hrs and 15mins – it is akin to watching paint dry or grass grow. After about 2hrs 30 mins, i started to tire meaning i couldn’t be as engaging and smile as i was at the beginning but still the interest and crowds began to swell. Seeing more and more people when i could look up was such an amazing feeling, especially as i’d scan my eyes across the street and be greeted by smiling faces and people mouthing words of support. The run passed so quickly up until the final miles when i couldn’t take my eyes off the display and slowly counting the metres fall away.
It was such a relief to finish. The weeks leading up to this race haven’t been great. i’ve been taking pain killers most of this week to stop a pain in my lower back whilst i had a cold i couldn’t shift – this continued to dog my breathing yesterday. Also looking ahead, there is so much going to do with the challenge of running 12 marathons in 12 months that it has put real strain on me my personal life. One of the sad aspects of yesterday was that i missed the opportunity to see my sister before she departs to Singapore for 2 or 3 years – i don’t think i’ll see her again until she returns…This challenge is so hard, but something i can’t give up on now.
The one thing people wanted to know when i was running yesterday is how do i do this? Well up until this week i thought it was because i was fit, determined and hated to lose or be beaten. But now i realise that whilst that’s important the real reason is that i’m so well supported from friends, family and people i meet along the way. Without their continued support and interest then i’m sure each mile would feel that much longer.
People say what i’m doing is amazing. But for me the only amazing thing is the support that people give so generously. That’s the one thing that gives me hope in trying to boost awareness about the DRC, because people do care and people do listen. knowing that means i’m sure i can get more and more people across the UK interest in the DRC..
Having had such great support yesterday i spent this morning cheering people on in the London 10km – so much passion and sweat.. It’s strange being on the other side for once, so often i’ve been the recipient of great support and it is fantastic for once to repay it by cheering runners on and seeing them fighting towards the finish line.