London Marathon 2015

Blackthorn to Blackheath: A Marathon Tale.


Heath gets into training

It started with an email from club secretary Don Lovejoy: “Just to inform you that you have won the London Marathon place for 2015. Well done and get training”.

It was succinct but it didn’t half get the heart going. I had a place in one of the greatest races on earth, how exciting! All I had to do now was work out how to break the news to the family, that I had yet another event to train for. We were with friends at the time, that Don’s email came through, and so I assumed that I wouldn’t be murdered in front of witnesses. My mind tried to rehearse how I would announce the news. I was going to play it cool and, casually, find exactly the right time to say what I needed to. Yes, that would work. However, my broad grin just gave everything away:

“what are you smiling for?”


“No, what is it?”

“Well, umm….”

“Go on..”

“Well, er.., I think I’ve got the Running Clubs place in the London Marathon”

I survived, somehow unscathed, which is testament to the support that I get from my better half. Juggling work, family life, running club duties and training I know that I really push the boundaries here. Thanks Abi, I love you and don’t deserve you. x

It was well into December when I found out that I had the place, a good four months training available to me – I’ll start in the Christmas holidays, or so I thought. Laid low by that horrible bug, that seemed to flatten most people over the festive period, I didn’t really get going until mid-January with our expert, & club coach, Colin guiding my way.


Always happy at the finish.

Colin always says that most people run their slow runs too fast and their fast runs too slow – I knew that I fell hook, line, sinker & copy of Angling Times into this category. Still, setting out on a run at a pace of 9 minutes & 45 seconds per mile felt so strange – I could have sworn that the scenery used to change when I went out running. I know that I am far removed from the pacier club runners (I’m thinking of Jamie Shingler & Craig Collier and alike here) but even so. This pace was also at the upper end of what I should be doing. However, I kept the faith and, this coupled with the interval sessions I really started to feel the difference. Slowly, but surely, the long runs became longer and easier to run. I’d be there with my head-phones plugged into my ears, not listening to music but my metronome app. Musically, I’m more “Wilco” than “Will-I-Am” so music isn’t going to cut it on one of my runs but now, bizarrely, I really miss my metronome app if I cannot find my phone armband. How sad.

All was going swimmingly until I was three miles in to a run of sixteen miles, some four weeks ago now, when I suddenly felt a searing pain in my right ankle. Looking down, I could see a series of branches jutting out from my ankle. As I continued to run, but slow down to a stop, the branches didn’t wobble – they were very much fixed into my foot by a huge blackthorn. If you don’t know, blackthorns are 1-2 inches in length, incredibly sturdy and are seriously like a nail you use to hang pictures. I yanked the thing out and carried on my run without incident. I was fine when I returned home but two hours later was in agony. My foot had ballooned, turned red with infection and was difficult to walk on. What on earth was going on? The next day it had improved somewhat and a Monday visit to the doctor gave me an optional dose of antibiotics and a suggestion of rest. We’ll be having none of that, obviously.


Blackthorns: Pesky Things.

I must have run eighty miles since the blackthorn incident when my training plan had me doing 5 x 1 mile intervals. I managed two. My foot didn’t feel right and so I bailed out. I got home and, within two hours, I was in terrible agony. It was far, far worse than when I first had my dalliance with the blackthorn. I couldn’t move my foot, the whole area there just felt solid. If I even tried to move my toes I was howling in pain. Seriously.

It was time to get googling. Did you know that blackthorns can cause an almighty range of problems? No, neither did I. Although not poisonous themselves, they have a bacteria/fungus that can grow on them (which is worse in Spring – great). This can cause infection, tendonitis and arthritis type symptoms. Madness! Another trip to the doctors has resulted in a compulsory course of antibiotics, a trip to the x-ray department at Ludlow Hospital and an instruction to rest (that’s not going to happen – I’m a Ludlow Runner and we’re made of sterner stuff). So, four days later I embarked on my longest run – 20 miles. I felt great! A few hours later the ankle didn’t but, so what? I am still having various pains in my foot/ankle but I’m not going to bail out now, life’s too short and I’m raising money for the charity Scope. If anyone can spare a bob or two my just giving page is here.


The start at Blackheath.

I’m very much into my taper now (Hurrah!) and am, of course, trying to wrap myself in cotton wool. This includes trying to ward off colds by taking extra vitamin C, Echinacea and sacrificing the occasional chicken.

Lookout London, here I come!


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