London Marathon 2014 - why?  

As you approach the half-way point in the London Marathon you get to run across Tower Bridge; an iconic landmark in the capital skyline and a point where the crowds line the road in abundance. I remember, one year, hearing my brother shouting out encouragement to me as I crossed the bridge. I looked around to wave and discovered him hanging from a lamppost just to make sure he could get a clear view. Tower Bridge is also the start of the hardest part of the race, as you enter into the Isle of Dogs you can see the faster runners emerging; they have just completed the miles 13 to 20 and are looking ahead to the finishing line. As a slower runner I go in knowing that somewhere within the next few miles I could encounter the much talked about ‘wall’. It doesn’t always happen, but if it does you have to dig deep, eat a chocolate bar and wait for the energy to return. Running mixed with walking is my technique during this low period, focusing on reaching the next water stop to earn yourself a rest. For this year though the bridge will have another meaning, crossing this magnificent structure will remind me of why I am running. In a remote area of Eastern region of Ghana lays the village of Kute Buem straddled across the River Amie. In the dry season this small manageable river provides the people of Kute with their only source of water, however, in the rainy season it develops into a wide, deep and fast flowing torrent which splits the village in half. In order to cross the school children, traders and farmers to the south have to travel several kilometers north to the nearest bridge. However, some choose to ford the river and every year several villagers, including children, are lost to the raging torrent. During my visit to Kute in November I pledged that my charity SEPIA would raise the funds to build a bridge in Kute to alleviate their problem and hopefully prevent further deaths. A major part of this process involves me running the London Marathon in order to raise the funds through gaining sponsorship. Hence, as I cross Tower Bridge this year and work my way towards the half-way point I shall reflect on my friends in Kute Buem and draw on the memory of my visit to give me the energy to complete the remaining 13.1 miles. Whether I complete it by running or walking doesn’t really matter but hopefully with your help through sponsorship we will be able to provide the necessary funds to help the people of Kute cross their river in safety? It will not be quite as grand as Tower Bridge but it will serve the same purpose, getting people safely from one side of a river to the other! To sponsor me and learn more about this project go to: www.charitychoice.co.uk/fundraiser/michael-clarke/virgin-london-marathon-2014

Above - Boosted by my supporters    
Below - Happy to finish! London Marathon 2014 - what happened?  

Running 26.2 miles is not a natural thing to do. Apparently your body only stores enough energy for you to complete about 20 miles and that would depend on how long it takes you. For me, I started to get hungry after 3 miles, this was not good news, luckily I was carrying a small supply of Kendal Mint Cake in case of emergencies so thinking of the 23 miles to go I decided this must qualify as an emergency! This injection of sugar did the trick and by the time I reached the Cutty Sark at 6 miles I was feeling good. Just after 8 miles I received another boost when I caught sight of my amazing support team. (My wife Helen, son Aaron, his girlfriend Sarah, and my brother Alan) Whether it is the knowledge that they are there to cheer you on or just the fact that you don’t want to let them down the feeling you get from seeing them is worth a good couple of miles. Fortunately for me my team is well practiced and just as the euphoric feeling begins to fade they pop up again and the momentum is restored. Crossing Tower Bridge is always emotional, the crowds are so noisy and you feel it must all be for you. As noted in my first piece it was particularly poignant this time as I considered why I was running. I passed half way in just over two hours, which considering my intermittent training I was pleased with. At 15 miles my team gave me my chocolate bar and as the runners dipped under a bridge, temporarily losing the crowd, I took the time to slow down in order to have lunch. Normally at this stage I am hungry and looking for an energy boost but on this occasion I ate my chocolate because I always do; I wasn’t really 'hitting the wall' hungry but my legs wanted some help. Due to the Docklands Light Railway the Isle of Dogs, once a desolate part of the course, was bustling with people offering sweets, oranges, jelly babies and lots of vocal support and my own team popped up again at Crossharbour just after 17 miles and again I was given a lift. By 18 miles though, although my spirits were still lifted, my legs had decided that lifting was too tricky. I first noticed when we ran over a speed bump in the road and I nearly tripped over my stride had become more of a shuffle. At 20 miles I somehow missed my family, I am sure they were in place but my mind was beginning to wander and I think I was running on the wrong side of the road. It wasn’t a disaster as I had eaten and drunk enough to last me but I felt bad for them as I know it is a relief when I come trotting along and they can see I am OK. I was soon distracted though by the crowds calling out and it seemed the slower I ran the more people urged me on. I was still looking for my family as I ran along the Embankment and although I knew how difficult it would be for them to get there it provided me with a distraction from my aching legs. Westminster and Big Ben show you it is nearly over and even if you have to walk you know you can make it. I continued my new running technique of shuffling making sure my feet just left the ground before gravity dragged them back again and made my way around by Buckingham Palace to the finish. As I crossed the line I truly felt exhausted, in one way this is how it should be but in another it reminded me that I could have put in more training. Walking up the Mall the kind volunteers gave me a medal, a goody bag and my own kit bag so by the time I reached Horse Guards Parade, the family meeting point, I could hardly move at all. But then my support team arrived and all was well again, I really couldn’t do it without them!

Result: over £1000 raised so far with more to come.