Monday, April 23, 2007

London Marathon Day

Where on earth do I begin to explain what an amazing day it was? Well, we were up and out of the house bright and early to avoid the road closures and the crowds. We arrived at the Green Start very early which was nice as we could get settled in, have a cup of coffee and I could go to the toilet several times without having to join a queue! The Green Start is rather an exclusive venue as it is reserved for celebrities and the speedy people from the various Running Clubs so someone such as yours truly wouldn't normally be there. However, the people from Guinness World Records (tm) arranged for all of the hopefuls to be switched there to make our registration process easier. The BBC outside broadcast crews were there setting up in readiness and the security guards were busy patrolling.

The first person I met was Lloyd Scott, the champion of whacky fund-raising stunts (he famously took a week to complete the London marathon wearing a full diving suit). He is dressed as Indiana Jones and would be pulling a giant boulder (made of fibreglass) around the course in a scene from Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom. You can read more about Lloyd Scott's adventure here.

It was quite nice getting there really early as we watched everything being put in place. The baggage wagons rolled into place.







Then the balloons were inflated.







I got changed into my running outfit, Mike attached the wool to my apron (we did a trial run of this the day before) and I had a little jog round to check everything felt OK. We checked I'd got everything so that I could check my bag onto the baggage truck, which I duly did.
Then Blisters (from the Runner's World forum), who I'd never met before, came over to say 'hello' as he'd spotted my name on my vest. We chatted for a while and then he casually asked me if I'd put any suncream on. It was at that moment that I realised we had forgotten to put it on even though we'd remembered to bring it with us. DOH! Thankfully, Blisters came to the rescue and very kindly sprayed all my exposed bits. Thank you very much Blisters and I hope you got the time you wanted.

We knew we had to get to the Red Start, just along the Common, by 8:50 as I was doing a live interview on the BBC with Jonathan Edwards so we were acutely aware of the time whilst we were waiting for Scott and Amarilis from the Guinness World Records (tm) team to check us in. We waited as long as we could and then set off, only to bump into Amarilis en-route. Phew! By the time we got to the Red start there were loads of people milling around. The tannoy started playing "what have you done today to make you feel proud" and I got a lump in my throat (it always gets me!). The raised platform where they were doing the 'live' interviews was quite close to the tannoy and it was really loud.

While we were waiting for my turn, we chatted to a nice young man (I'm sorry but I can't remember his name) who was about to do his interview. He is a very brave young man as he is living with a brain tumour, inoperable but thankfully under control with a daily dose of medicine. He said he was nervous but he seemed to do well in his interview. You can see the balls of wool tied to my apron at the back. Mike secured them with pieces of wool that I could undo easily.

Then it was my turn to prepare so I went up the steps to meet Jonathan Edwards (former World triple jump champion!).

Whilst we were waiting for our live link, he asked me what my effort was all about and I gave him the background so he could formulate his questions. I told him about my 50th birthday challenge, the ultra marathon, raising awareness of the work of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, mum's dementia and the knitting whilst running to get into the Guinness Book of Records.

The cameraman did a few checks for position and to see if he could fit my enormous bulk into the frame!

Then Jonathan asked how I would be carrying my wool and that's when I turned and did a little wiggle. They all loved it and Sharon (the lovely director) said we'd end the piece with me doing a wiggle and that would be their cue to go back to the studio.

All of a sudden we were live on air and Jonathan was asking me questions. He was very nice and it felt as if I was just chatting with a friend. He started by saying that he'd heard I'd got a special birthday this year and that it must surely be my 40th - what a sweety! I managed to get the Alzheimer's Research Trust a mention and spoke briefly about mum's condition. In a flash it was all over and he asked me where I had stashed my wool, at which point I turned and flashed my booty on national TV!

By this time Angus had joined us as he was next up for a live interview. We wished eachother good luck in our respective goals, then it was time to go back to the start. By now it was 20 minutes before the start and I had to say goodbye to Mike and join the queue for a final trip to the toilet. As we hugged I got a bit teary, and Mike tried to calm me down and get me back on track. I went and found Amarilis and Scott Christie from the Guinness World Records (tm) team. Scott asked me the size of needle I was using and checked the number of stitches I had cast on. He then checked my stash of yarn in case I'd got a ready knitted scarf stashed away! Once I was given the OK I went to join the queue for the loos.

The queue for the portaloos was enormous and with 5 minutes to go I was still waiting. The chain-gang of 17 convicts also needed to go - the first few managed to get into the loos but the remainder didn't (if you get the picture!). At this point all the men disappeared round the back and all of a sudden I was right at the front of the queue. I legged it to the start and joined the back of the queue. All of a sudden we were off. It only took a few minutes to get over the start line and then the big knit began.

The first part was really very relaxed because the Green Start is really quiet in the first few hundred metres. As I was right at the back I had loads of room to get into my stride and find my knitting rhythm. There were a few people supporting at the side of the road and several of them shouted that they'd seen me on the TV and wished me luck. Wow, how fantastic I thought. Little did I know what amazing support I was going to receive all the way round the course. After a short while the Green and Red starts merged and all of a sudden there were loads of people around me and the reality of it struck me. Oh heck, I thought (or something along those lines!).

Along I plodded, bang on 12 minute miling as I'd practised, knit, knit, knit, counting my stitches all the time for fear of dropping any. Then it started. Runners coming past started exclaiming "Oh my god, she's really knitting and running", "have you dropped any stitches yet?", "oh wow, I can't believe you're going to do that all the way round!". I'd hear them coming up behind, notice the wool, exclaim "what's she doing.......she's KNITTING" then as they came alongside they wished me luck and said lots of very kind and encouraging things. Of course, many people also called me a nutter too, but only in a nice way and with a smile! Some of them, including Plodding Hippo from the Runner's World forum, took photos of me as they ran alongside.

I tried to keep near to the side of the road to keep out of the way and allow people to pass. As the field spread out a bit the spectators started to notice what I as doing too as my knitting had started to grow. I'd hear shouts of "come on knitting lady", "oh look, there's the runner who's knitting, I read about her in the papers", "I saw you on the telly this morning, good luck" and that's how it was all the way round.

It was predicted to be a very hot day and the weather forecasters were right - it was hot, hot, HOT! The organisers had said that they were worried about the heat and had put on extra water stations. What I hadn't thought about though was sweaty hands. By the half-way point my wooden needles were getting a bit uncomfy and difficult to work as the sweat had made them rough. I adapted my technique and had to push the stitches along more firmly. Then people started appearing with hosepipes to shower the runners. Noooooooooooooo, please don't spray me, I thought, as I didn't want my wool to get wet and heavy. There were so many people walking from before the halfway point that I spent a lot of time weaving my way through the crowd (which isn't easy carrying knitting and needles!).


My knitting was growing quite well now and I was changing the colour of wool every 5 miles or so to make it stand out and help people spot it. By the time I got to the 14 mile mark it was a fair length. I was on the look out for the Grapes Pub on Narrow Street which is where I would see Rachael Matthews with her spinning wheel (and any others knitters who had joined her), the supporters from the Alzheimer's Research Trust and, best of all my hubby Mike who had promised to be there too.
As I spotted the pub I lost concentration for a minute and for the first time I nearly lost a stitch and had to concentrate really hard to get it back. Then I spotted Mike and I was filled with an overwhelming happiness and got a bit teary. He gave me a great big hug and I stopped for a photo opportunity with Robin (centre) and Michelle (right) from the Alzheimer's Research Trust (you can just see part of Mike on the left too!). He caught quite a tan on his face through being in the sun all day without a hat (I did try nagging him to wear one, but would he listen? NO!!!!!!!)

From then on it was just a case of knitting and running at a steady enough pace to get me round in under 6 hours which was the time limit set by Guinness World Records (tm) - it is a running record after all so there had to be a reasonable time limit. Ordinarily I wouldn't have worried about it but I had been stopping at regular intervals to take on water (well, have you tried running, knitting and drinking water from an open bottle?!) and this was eating into my running/knitting time. At one point someone in the crowd spotted me, shrieked and came running alongside me. It was a forumite (so sorry, but I didn't catch your name) and it was so kind of her to run along and wish me luck. Thank you. I saw some of the support crew from Runner's World (Cath and Sweetie whose names I knew) but I seemed to have lost the power to string a sentence together coherently so apologies to you guys and thank you for turning out to support us all.

Then my nightmare became reality - there was a water cannon spewing water all across the road and I couldn't shield my wool properly. I got soaked, the wool got soaked, my sunglasses got soaked. I had to stop to wipe my glasses, squeezed my knitting as best I could and try to wipe my needles. Unfortunately the stitches became really hard to drag along the needles and it took a few miles to dry off enough to become manageable again. At some point after the water cannon incident I remember going past the supporters from FETCH and someone shouted out "REDHEAD". I tried to wave my knitting and I hope they saw me - thanks for the shout guys. Suddenly I was at mile 24 and as I checked my time it became obvious that I needed to increase my pace in order to get round under 6 hours. Oh great, all of a sudden I had to dig deep and find 11 minute miles so I stashed my needles and yarn in the pocket of my apron and I pushed the pace as best I could. At mile 25 I knew I was going to be OK so I got my knitting back out and carried on.

The scarf looked long enough to justify it's title so I wasn't worried about that any more (at the start I had no idea how long it would end up). When I saw the '400 metres to go' sign I felt such elation and I could feel the tears starting to well up already. I turned the corner into The Mall, raised my knitting above my head and ran towards the finish line. I heard the commentator saying "oh look, she's been doing her knitting!' (some of my neighbours saw me crossing the line with my knitting held high). I crossed the line, stopped my watch and just burst into tears. I was thinking of my mum and why I'd done this. What I hadn't shared with anyone was that I'd worn her engagement ring so that she was with me all the way round. The tears fell freely. My time was 5:50:06 which is almost an hour slower than usual. Most people would be gutted I'm sure but I'm very pleased with that!

I saw Scott Christie from Guinness World Records (tm) waiting for me holding my certificate and he came over and gave me a hug which made me sob even more. He took the knitting away to measure it then we met up again for him to present me with my temporary certificate. The final details of the length of my scarf (which I think was either 1.27 or 1.37 metres but I was too emotional and teary to pay much attention) will be entered onto the final certificate which they'll send to me sometime next week. Amarilis was on hand to take some photos but I haven't got the copies yet.

I just wanted to see my Mike but of course he wasn't allowed into the finish area. I had to try phoning him 5 times before I could get through then I collected my bag from the truck and headed off to Admiralty Arch to meet him.

There was more sobbing and hugging then I had to be cleaned up a bit so he could take some photos. First with the scarf, which I am proud to say has no holes in it and is knitted rather well!

Then with the scarf and the certficate, not forgetting the all-important medal! I'd already peeped in the goody bag to see what the tee shirt was like this year and it looked rather nice - black with white lettering saying something like "You see impossible, I see the finish line - Impossible is nothing". I must get a photo of that at some stage.

Then I'd had enough and just had to sit down wearing my attractive silver cape! I think my face says "please don't make me stand up for any more photos"! Then it was time to delve into the goody bag and see what I could eat as I was ravenous. After a short rest we headed off to the station for the train ride home and that was that for another year.

I'm sure any knitters out there watching will have thought my technique was ropey and that I didn't knit very much in all that time. Well, I know I could have knitted a lot more but I wanted it to be a fun day as well so it was more about getting round in memory of my mum whilst knitting a bit, but most important of all it was about raising awareness of the work of the Alzheimer's Research Trust - the Guinness World Record was an added bonus and something I will always treasure. I expect someone will come along and break it with ease but I will always be the first person to do it!

How was it? FANTASTIC!

Would I do it again? OF COURSE!

9 comments:

Ron Hill's Alter Ego said...

Brilliant Susie - well done. You deserve all the credit you've got - fabulous performance for a great cause. You know, even this kiddie here was getting a tad emotional reading your race report.

Sorry - make that - "I just got a speck of dust in my eye".

Well, I am an Olympic hopeful!

Look forward to seeing you in Beckley this year.

Keep on tapering.

Ron

Tsuki said...

Well done! I just got here from the Simply Knitting site. This is such a touching story, as well as being a nit banal! I'd have a job knitting that long a scarf in 6 hours when *not* running! I normally watch the marathon but was training for the Race For Life this year - I'm sorry I missed it now.

Well done again.
Tsuki (fellow knitter and amateur runner, though not together!)

A Chimp Writes said...

Brilliant stuff, Redhead!! I remember the anguish you went through at the time and to go to such a wonderful achievement from such desperate times is truly inspirational!

Your mum will be proud of you!

C A D said...

Fantastic stuff Susie

Was brilliant to see you at last!

Congratulations you!

Cath x

Karen said...

Remarkable! I am so impressed! Last spring I knit on a sock while walking 20 miles in a fund raiser - the Walk for Hunger - and would you believe only three people made any sort of comment at all? It is not an event with a lot of spectators, but there are a lot of walkers, and you would think seeing someone knitting and walking would have surprised at least a few people! I mainly did it to keep from being too bored, and that part worked out well.

Congratulations on your record!

Rosie said...

Just found your site from Simply Knitting's blog and read all about your race. You're such an inspiration! I had tears in my eyes as I read about you crossing the finishing line. Well done for the running and the knitting!

thereyougothen said...

thaks for posting all this - i can barely run for a bus, so running and knitting a (rather wide by the looks of it) scarf in less than 6 hours is bloody amazing!
who gets to wear the scarf?
good luck in your next run!

Deeda said...

Bravo. I"ve been following your progress for a few weeks and I can't even imagine how difficult this must have been. I got teary-eyed just reading this. Your family must be so very proud of you.

Hugs to you from across the pond -
Linda in Oregon

TutleyMutley said...

I got all teary too - reading your tale. What a fantastic feeling of elation you must have had! Brilliant story.
I think I'm going to award you the Thinking Blog award to join your other well deserved awards: You'll see what I mean later.
As a knitter I wouldn't dare to criticise your 'extreme knitting' - It looked fantastic to me. I often KIP whilst walking the dogs and often a) get (friendly) comments and b) drop stitches!!!