Monday, 23 April 2012

London Morph Mara 2012

If I could give two pieces of advice twice the first lot would be to never run a marathon and certainly never run a marathon in a Morphuit. At 17 miles yesterday I would impress that advice wholeheartedly on anybody. It's so very hard to remember specifics and the bad bits are fast drifting off into obscurity but it went a little something like this....
Friday I picked up my contact lenses from Specsavers. They have been brilliant sponsoring my kit for VLM and collecting sponsorship for me! Never worn contacts before so the plan was to wear them Saturday to get used to them and then wear them on the day. Nothing like being prepared although bearing in mind I had never run in my marathon outfit before there were a few standard marathon tips I was ignoring.
Saturday morning I packed all the essentials, Happy T picked me up with Jenna and off we went to Happy's mate's house in Hounslow via the Expo and registration. That all went smoothly enough. No stresses - number collected - tag collected and I was in! We arrived at Rachel & Derricks who I had never met before and they made me feel very much at home meaning I could really chill out. While Rachel, Happy, Jenna & Emily got hammered and giggly Derrick and I chilled out watching El Classico while I had my last pasta/mushroom/sundried tomato combo meal. Nothing too heavy as i didnt want to feel it the next day.
Had a call with Mrs B and the rugs wishing me all the best.It was a shame they couldnt make it but I never really run without them!
Twitter, FB and real life exploded Saturday evening with support encouragement and sponsorship. £3500 has gone on my sponsorship page for this event alone taking the overall total to £5150. It's made me hopeful that I can reach £7500 with Outlaw as well! Thank you everone for the overwhelming support! So, off to sleep very relaxed, alarm set for 6.10am on race day.
Woke up on time, chilled, no real nerves. Breakfast of wholemeal toast and strawberry jam, porridge with jam and banana and a Lucozade sport. Greased up and into the Morphsuit and with 2 drinks to run with in my pocket Happy and Emily dropped me at the tube station just gone 8. I saw a few runners initially but no talkative ones and then had a good chat with a runner doing his 4th London while on the DLR to Greenwich. After a brief uphill walk into Greenwich park I was at the red start Pen 7 with 5mins to go before the off! I asked a St John member to look after my drinks whilst I strained my greens one last time, he was then kind enough to zip me up and off I went to the start. Now bear in mind I look like this
The best news for me was that it wasn't raining. If a morphsuit gets wet you cant breath through it. That was my biggest fear. My second biggest concern was bright sunshine (it lights up the mesh and you can't see) and it was a blistering sunny day! As I got into Pen 7 a runner asked if she could take my picture. Of course I agreed and tried to suggest she look me up on FB to tag me in the picture afterwards. I resigned myself to the fact that she would never remeber my awkward name and I would probably never see the picture. Incredibly through mutual running Twitter pals she has tracked me down. Thank you @lisajderrick for the words of encouragement at the start and for your top detective work to get this pic to me

So I joined the masses moving towards the start. I had lots of words of encouragement and suggestions of insanity. I could see reasonably well in the shade but barely at all in the sun, breathing was ok with the headband inside just cushioning the suit on my face enough for it not to be too restrictive. The only way I can describe it is how bank robbers used to look on TV with stockings over their heads. Your nose is squashed flat and the suit is tight to your face. Your eyelashes catch on the inside of the suit. Its very claustraphobic and removes any peripheral vision. In fact with the sun out all I could really do was concentrate on the feet of the runner infront.
From the starting gun it took about 20 mins for us to cross the start. I clicked my Garmin on and off I went. Steady steady steady! The plan being to take it very easy due to the disrupted prep resulting in a 15 day 6 run training schedule! I was running comfortably I felt. I couldn't see any undulations in the road so any speed bumps were a suprise to me and the chance of tripping was high. I did stumble up a speed bump just after mile 1 which aggravated my bad ankle but not enough for me to be worried. It was run off pretty quickly.
Vision was a nightmare and each sip of drink through the suit only delivered a drop of liquid. I made an early decision to stop at drink stations, remove the hood, drink properly and then pop the hood back on and resume. I also decided to run at the sides of the course for two reasons. Firstly it would stop the numpty heads from crossing infront of me and tripping me up but more importantly I was near to the crowds. They were phenominal. High fives, thumbs up and shouts of 'Go on Sid my son' were the order of the day. I dont think I will ever tire of the wonderfully funny 'Should have gone to Specsavers Sid' shouts. I only had about 3000 of those!
Anyway, having now looked at the Garmin data of the run I was probably running a little bit quicker than I had planned. The first part of the run went well. I felt comfortable in my running and was getting by on vision and hydration. Unfortunately I couldnt see the mile markers and i was somewhat gutted to see that the point I guesstimated to be 10 miles was only 6! That was the first blip but I was still running OK, I just slowed a little. My first target was halfway and Tower Bridge - I should have broken it down more because the last few miles to that point were tough and seemed to drag. There were wonderful moments all the time. The crowds encouragement, other runners encouragement, the odd conversation with runners as to why i was doing it and why they were carrying a horse, or dragging a boat or dressed as Micky Mouse, or running barefoot, but the moments of isolation and self doubt were beginning to creep in. Despite the wonderful attention and support the suit attracted it makes you feel very insular and separate. Any moments where I wasnt high fiving the crowd or chatting to someone it was a torturous place to be.
I made a point of congratulating any runner in fancy dress, the ones that make the run harder not just wearing a ra ra skirt or carrying pom poms, and always cheer on the squaddies running/yomping with full pack on. One such squaddie was to pass me two or three times during pit stops and I caught up with him at the end to congratulate him.
I got to Tower Bridge eventually and was hopeful of seeing Happy, Jenna and Emily on the bridge. They were hoping to get to the right hand side so I ran on that side and high fived everyone on the bridge. The atmosphere there was probably the best of what was fantastic support everywhere else already. I ran past Denise Lewis interviewing a runner on live TV - gutted to have missed my chance to get on the box for the charity but I wasnt prepared to go back to her as I was getting a second wind from the crowd. Another boost came on the way to the Isle of Dogs when @Jaymcneill, a longstanding pal from Twitter who I had missed at L'pool Marathon patted me on the back and said Hi! We had a good chat, he enabled me to drink while running by holding my drinks while I removed the hood on the move. It was nice to be running without the hood but of course it had to go back on. Jay was running well, he looked strong and I suggested that unless he wants a 6 hour marathon to his name that he kick on at his pace. He ran a good mile or so with me and then did just that wishing me well. Top lad!
Unfortunately it wasnt long after that the wheels began to come off. I think it was in the area of the Isle of Dogs (why is it called that I didnt see one dog there?) that the crowds dwindled, more and more people were walking and quite a few were dropping out. One man on the phone to his partner was explaining he was pulling out due to a groin strain, another man being hooked up to a drip by paramedics roadside, and another on a stretcher being placed in an ambulance. The heat was full on and everyone was feeling it. I was stopping to stretch and hydrate more and more often. At 17 miles or so I had had enough. My form was poor, everything was beginning to ache, the suit was pissing me right off and I was annoyed that I was already down to 'end of E'burgh marathon plod pace'. I was getting tearful at the slightest thing. My own thoughts, the reason for my running, a sign on the roadside saying 'this one's for you Mom', the fact that I may fail. I was seriously doubting that I could finish, seriously contemplating pulling out (after all it was effin hot, I was in a stupid suit and I hadn't trained properly - no one would critisize me for doing so if I had given it my all) and seriously wondering how the fuck I think I can do an Ironman triathlon in 10weeks time. I took the hood off, had a drink and decided to walk from 17-18. I didn't put the hood back on while I walked and stopped to stretch a few times whilst considering what to do. I did remember I had jelly babies in my pocket and had about half of them while I walked and washed them down. This was the point I decided I was going to finish this.
Nothing special happened, no inspirational thought popped into my head as they were all there already and written all over me, no special shout of 'go on sid'. I do remember being angry when the crowd shout 'go on you're doing great' when I'm walking. Its like I am cheating when of course I am not. So I decided to run, regardless of how slow it was, even if it was slower than some walkers I decided I would run. I began to break the race down into miles knowing that after 18,19 & 20 I would be getting near to friends spectating that I knew.17,18 & 19 were horrendous miles, emotional and tearful (luckily no-one can see that because of the suit) but I was moving and when I was moving I was running (in a fashion) not walking. I started to engage the crowd more, ask them to hold my drink while I de-hooded for a drink, I absorbed their fantastic unwavering support, took the high five offers, waved at the little kids and wierdly began to enjoy it a bit.
I was gutted that I couldn't find Mr Happy at 20 and @2012milesin2012 at 20.12 but the thought of seeing them had done the trick of getting me there. At 21 ish I stopped and de-hooded for a drink and polished off the last of the Jelly Babies. A little girl was with her Dad and asked why I wss dressed funny. I explained why and she said she liked my outfit and she wished me luck! Wow.
I cracked on and whilst slow I felt I was running comfortably. The crowds were getting huge and the support immense. I was milking it to the max when I saw Happy, Jenna and Emily at 23. Welcome hugs after I ran back against the flow, a last drink and off I went. 3miles to go home stretch. Seeing them was a perfect boost.

I milked every bit of the Embankment through to the end. I ran clapping and thanking the specators who were magnificent and each time I did they got even louder. As i ran the last 365 yards I asked a marshall if the red thing was the actual finish line and he confirmed it was. I'll be honest I have never felt so relieved.
I crossed the finish, the cameras caught it if you went red button on the BBC after normal coverage and the Morph had conquered, in a fashion, London Marathon for BCH. Usual walk through, get medal, hug medal lady and burst into tears, get bag, hug bag man and burst into tears, have official photo, hug photographer and burst into tears, find quiet spot near St Johns tent and...yep...burst into tears!

If you ran that day, lined the course and supported, or helped organise it, or watched it on TV, or followed runners progress online, or sponsored someone, or sent them a good luck message then I applaud you and thank you.
Here is the actual run data
My heart goes out to the family of a lady called Claire who collapsed near mile 26 and died. I think she was running for the Samaritans. Such very very sad news. As I have said before we choose our battles knowing the risks to try in some small way to help those fighting battles without choice. Her death is quite a sacrifice!
London Marathon in a Morphsuit was as tough as hell and ulimately fanastic and rewarding. My second two points of advice are firstly that you should definitely run a marathon! Secondly you should definitely run one in a Morphsuit!
Ironman next - come on then if you think you're hard enough. Yeah!


  1. Hey Sid! Many great big congratulations! Im a friend of Liz Roberts. I did see you on the run but didnt realise who you were altho I had seen your name on FB quite a lot. Im afraid I was just a tutu and headband wearer but reading your blog it covers exactly how I was feeling too! Pleased to know I wasnt the only one close to tears! A totally inpirational day!
    Best wishes for your future events!
    Anna Smith x

  2. good blog.... Ironman will be easy in comparison. Just a long picnic, most of which is spent on your arse!! Enjoy it to the max they are huge fun.