David’s inspiring Marathon Day story in his very own words

David, John and Spencer proudly showing off their medals

Saturday 2nd October, 2021

One day to go until the London Marathon! Gloomy grey skies, unrelenting rain and howling winds. Not exactly the kind of weather to allay last minute nerves about the Big Day! I pictured our “Dream Team’s” well planned running route quickly degenerating into muddy towpaths, branch-strewn pavements and wind-swept, sandy promenades. “Has the Marathon ever been cancelled due to bad weather?” ventured my wife, with a decided lack of optimism. “I don’t think so”, I replied [feeling just a touch worried!]

Sunday 3rd October, 2021

Long awaited Virtual Marathon Day. Very breezy but wow! Blue skies and sunshine! The apprehension of the previous day melted away and fortified by a hearty bowl of porridge, I felt ready for anything.  I brushed away fleeting thoughts of what if I can’t do this, and tried to stay focused and positive. After all the ups and downs and stop/starts of previous months it seemed unreal that this day had finally arrived. It was humbling to think that my own individual running challenge was about to become part of something much bigger, an event in which thousands of people would run in London whilst thousands more would run simultaneous virtual London Marathons along chosen routes in other towns and cities. After a year and a half of the Coronavirus keeping everyone apart, the Marathon motto “We Run Together” couldn’t be more poignant. Thousands of runners, each with a different story, united in their sense of purpose. Perhaps determined to run in memory of a loved one, to support a good cause, to overcome personal challenges, or even to run for the sheer joy of running. The sense of togetherness in such an event can be totally inspiring and uplifting!

Along the paths at the start of the race

8.45 a.m. The Marathon clock was ticking! John, my Running Guide, had arrived and excitement was mounting. We assembled at what might be loosely described as our Start Line i.e. the path outside my front door. Despite the lack of grandeur it was really heartening to realize that a few kind friends and neighbours had gathered in the front garden to wave us off. John and I linked our wrists together with our trusty, bright orange tether, a simple aid that takes the notion of “We Run Together” to a whole new level! With adrenalin now pumping, John took one last look at his watch and on the dot of 9 o’clock we were off!! A cheer from our small group of well-wishers rang in our ears as we jogged out of the cul-de -sac. The adventure had begun !

It is difficult to describe the next few hours. In some ways they were exhilarating, in other ways they passed in a kind of blur. As expected we encountered mud, puddles and numerous obstacles along the way. I am in complete admiration of my Guide Runners, Cliffe, John and Stuart who have safely guided me with complete focus, concentration and dedication over many different kinds of terrain during months of training. I have trusted them all completely and know that it is no small undertaking to assume responsibility for a blind person’s safety, as well as their own, when  running together in partnership.

Six miles in and passing Bournemouth Airport

As we progressed along our route, the support we experienced was amazing. A Park Run friend ran with us for the first 5 miles or so and fellow guides, Cliffe and Stuart, joined us at different places en-route. John’s wife followed our progress brilliantly and kept us well-fuelled with drinks and energy snacks, while friends and family members gathered at designated spots to clap and cheer the Dynamic [or weary!] Duo as they passed by.

John’s wife and supporters at St Catherine’s Hill – 8 miles in

Spencer, my Guide Dog, unsure of what all the fuss was about, put in a couple of star appearances too, greeting us with his usual, enthusiastic, tail wagging  onslaught before we shot off into the distance again. Random car drivers tooted their horns in encouragement as they drove by and groups of strangers apparently waiting for other runners, generously applauded us as well. All in all, we were absolutely “buzzing”!

David’s wife, Spencer and supporters at The Littledown Centre – 10 miles in

I guess it wouldn’t be realistic to say it was all plain sailing, even the hardiest runners wouldn’t have enjoyed the heavy rain shower and cold wind that left us drenched, freezing and fervently hoping that the sun would reappear pretty quickly.

Wick Harbour Christchurch – 16 miles in

Luckily, it did! Running westward along the clifftop and promenade with that same cold wind in or faces also proved to be a bit of a challenge but the welcome landmark of Bournemouth Pier was looming ever closer.

Into the wind on Bournemouth Promenade – 22 miles in

The arrival of Cliffe and Stuart to run the final stretch with us was brilliant and really boosted our spirits! [My wife told me afterwards that the sight of the four of us finally coming into view, running all together, side by side, was a moving and inspirational moment]. For me, that final push to the Finishing Line by the pier was a bit of a surreal experience. It’s a bit tricky if you can’t even see the pier, let alone the finish tape! I was aware of a hubbub of noise and activity as we approached and knew that somewhere in the usual Bournemouth crowds some friendly faces would be waiting. Suddenly I heard a shout of excitement “They’re coming!!” and the voices of my grandchildren shouting with all their might “Come on Grandad, come on Grandad!”

The finish line at Bournemouth Pier

Overcome with relief and exhilaration I had absolutely no idea which way to go but John, Cliffe and Stuart gently steered me to the London Marathon Tape and I was through! We had finally done it!! It had taken 6 hours and 5 minutes to complete the 26.2 miles . After a moment of shared exhilaration  with family and friends my legs suddenly turned to jelly and I felt decidedly unsteady on my feet. Strange how legs can keep  you going until your brain tells you that they no longer need to!

So……Mission accomplished! I won’t be relegating my trainers to the depths of the wardrobe just yet but I don’t think Marathons will continue to be on my agenda!

My heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported the marathon effort and gave us “magic moments” along the actual route and “thank you” to every kind friend, family member or complete stranger who encouraged us over many months and helped us raise funds for the life changing Guide Dog organization.

It goes without saying that I could not have attempted or completed a run of any sort, let alone a marathon, without my inspirational Guides…Cliffe, John and Stuart. I have learned alot from them and gained three new friends. I would also like to thank kind people at the weekly Bournemouth Park Run who volunteer to run with me on Saturdays so I can continue running for fitness and pure enjoyment.

Team David

What more can I say as this Blog comes to an end [at last!] and normal life resumes?  Just one more thing – “Thank you Team Guide Dogs and thank you Spencer, my four-legged friend who has changed my life”………….We Walk Together!

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