Thoughts on My First Marathon
The People’s Marathon, 11th September 1983
This account was written approximately 3 months after the event and recorded in the back of my training diary. It has been edited for minor improvements.
“Training had gone reasonably well in the weeks prior to the marathon with a long run of 20 miles, three weeks before giving a week of 76 miles. This might well have overdone it a bit because I started to get trouble with my right knee, which was made worse after the Cannock Half Marathon a week later, despite a pleasing run.
Training or rather decent mileage had to be curtailed, with runs on grass coupled with three visits to the Physio’. As a desperate effort not to strain the knee after treatment, I had a whole four days off training before the marathon instead of the intended two days’ rest. Looking back, I think this was a wise decision.
Come the day I believe that I was just right mentally although I could have been more confident on the physical side. Certainly the rest had done me good and I was raring to go after a last cup of coffee.
I started gradually, purposefully slowly, because I knew that ‘pace kills’ and I kept in the pack. Over 8 minutes for the first mile, 16 minutes for 2 miles, 7:30 pace was my intended speed, so after 2 miles I started to pick it up. This is the danger point because I’m sure (I can’t remember times) that between 2 and 4½ miles I was running around 7 minute pace, which at this stage was too fast.
At this point I caught Dave Stephens from Rugeley, whom I knew had run 3 hrs 20 mins or 7:30 pace, so I decided that to run with him would keep me at the correct speed. Although I felt to be holding back I kept with him until 18 miles, running steadily all the time, reaching 1 mile in 1:15 (7:30 pace), halfway in 1:37 (just under 7:30 pace)and 20 miles in 2:28 (again just under 7:30 pace). Just before 20 miles I started to get pretty tired, I knew that I was shortly to go into unknown territory as my longest ever run was 20 miles. I found that I needed to increase the effort to maintain my pace. My breathing became heavier and I really had to concentrate. I remember mixed feelings because I was passing a lot of runners who were younger; walking and looking very, very tired, which was an encouragement. But I realised that this condition could come on suddenly and this was worrying as I became more tired, worried that it could happen to me!
The weather hadn’t been very good, with a cool day and blustery wind accompanied with squalls of rain. The temperature and damp was just right but in the latter stages the wind was a problem. My hands became numb and white, which indicated cold or poor circulation, this I had never experienced before and was a new sensation. I had taken a drink at every drinks station, usually plain water or orange but I did have some XL1energy drink a couple of times and a sponge which was helpful and seemed to make the miles come and go faster.
The crowd support was very good and certainly gave a lift; I saw and spoke to on the route Mike Rawson; Liz Cowen; Len & Elaine Cullen. It’s surprising how this helps you to forget the pace.
The last six miles was very hard but I must admit there was no thought of stopping or giving up. My knee was sore but not unduly so and apart from feeling the need for the loo at about 6 miles, which wore off, there were no problems.
The last mile was hell, everything ached and I was concentrating like mad on just putting one foot in front of the other! On the grass finishing straight with about 400m left, I saw Linda Durnall and her mother, Frances, this bucked me up and I tried to look good for the finish. I couldn’t raise the pace but when I saw the clock just after seeing the wife and kids, I was elated. The 3 hours 17 minutes was all I could have hoped for and I was pleased as punch. I was terribly tired but at the same time I was up in the clouds, a tremendous feeling.
The Marathon is all what’s said of it, tough. Not to be entered into lightly. Treat it with respect.
The next one is Wolverhampton 1984, I hope my preparation is even better and maybe 3 hours 10 minutes might be on.”
Split times recorded in my training diary were as follows… 1mile in 8:18; 2 miles in 16:00; 10 miles in 1:15; 13 miles in 1:37; 20 miles in 2:28 and 26.2 miles in 3:17. I finished in 473rd place.
I had been running for just over a year originally intending to run the Wolverhampton Marathon in the March but a cracked bone in my left foot put a stop to that.
Tom Morris – Revised November 2015
 I later realised that this probably meant that the blood flow was going to my leg muscles to keep me going.
 All from my old club, Birchfield Harriers
 Friends from the Walsall & South Staffs Group of the Institute of Advanced Motorists
 Actually finished in 3:12