Marathon man

Computer Weekly's editor Karl Schneider ran the London marathon and raised £8,700 for charity. Here he retraces every blistering...

Computer Weekly's editor Karl Schneider ran the London marathon and raised £8,700 for charity. Here he retraces every blistering step

On 22 April I ran 26.2 miles with a tiny piece of technology made by EDS fixed to my shoe.

That is, I ran the London Marathon, sponsored by a warm-hearted bunch of IT companies and PR firms, to raise money for the children's charity NCH.

And the little bit of EDS? That was the "championchip", the plastic-encased silicon chip fixed onto my shoelace that formed part of the EDS system that tracked the progress of all 30,000 runners as they ran, jogged and hobbled from Greenwich Park to the Mall.

The first half of the marathon - in fact the first 16 miles - was fun. The carnival atmosphere was great, the weather was good, and the mile markers came with reassuring regularity. I started to get a blister on my left foot at eight miles, but solved the problem with a blister plaster.

As I crossed Tower Bridge, just past the 12 mile marker, the sun was shining, the crowds were cheering and I was still feeling pretty comfortable with nearly half of the marathon behind me. I was still putting in 10-minute miles, which put me on track to finish in about four-and-a-half hours. Fantastic.

I should have heeded the words of a friend who had run the marathon a few years previously, when he told me that the half-way point in a marathon comes at about 20 miles. The last six are as hard as the first 20.

At 15 miles, still feeling OK, I caught sight of a young woman in a white IBM T-shirt. Aha! Someone else from the world of IT. "Come on IBM," I said with a smile as I went past, intending this as a friendly encouragement. The grunt in response suggested this comment was not appreciated.

Then, between 16 and 17 miles, it all started to go downhill (not literally, unfortunately). Running a marathon requires three things. Training, training, training. Oh, and Vaseline - lots of it, smothered on every moving part. I was fine with the Vaseline, but had skimped on the training. I had only completed three runs of more than 10 miles, and my longest, three weeks before the big day, was only 16 miles. As I approached 18 miles my legs turned to lead, and with every step the pain in my thighs got worse. In runners' jargon, I had hit "the wall".

The last eight miles were sheer hell. I started to walk while drinking the water handed out at drinks stations at every mile. The only reason I didn't walk more was that walking hurt even more than running slowly. At 21 miles, grimacing at every step, I reached my low point. Stumbling along at barely a fast walking pace, I was overtaken by Orinoco Womble, Mr Bump (for those of you without kids, he's one of the Mr Men) and a vicar with a toilet seat projecting from his chest. It couldn't get any worse.

The last few miles seemed to take forever as we followed the north bank of the Thames towards Parliament. The blackness started to lift as we passed the 25-mile point. Only just over a mile to go. My legs seemed to regain some of their former strength and I found I could talk once again to fellow runners. At last I turned into the Mall, and the finish line came into sight. As I crossed the line my overwhelming feeling was not of achievement but relief. I could stop!

As I hobbled over to meet my family who had cheered me on at various points along the route, my three-year-old son looked up at me in anticipation. "Did you win, Daddy?" he asked, eyes wide open, clearly expecting the answer "yes".

"No son," I admitted, "but I finished." And my time? Five-and-a-quarter hours. Not very impressive, but, as I keep pointing out, only 20 minutes slower than Steve Redgrave. Before you go rushing to the marathon Web site to check up on me, I'll come clean and admit that my official time was five hours 27 minutes. But it took me 13 minutes from the time the gun was fired to reach the starting line, so I'm sticking to five-and-a-quarter hours.

www.london-marathon.co.uk

Thanks to our sponsors

Thanks to the following companies, which sponsored Computer Weekly's editor: AppSense Technologies, GSoft, Heroix, Hotwire PR, JD Marketing, Landmark Systems UK, Magic Software Enterprises, MTI, Pink Elephant, Repton, RSA Security, Symantec and Worldcom

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