I did it!
The months of hard work, niggly injuries, spending lots of money on new trainers and writing thousands of words all paid. If you are an avid reader of this column, you will know I had a target time 2hrs 40mins to complete the Run Gatwick Half Marathon.
Somehow, I managed to get over the line in 2hrs 20mins and 44 secs. I smashed it and I am not ashamed to boast about it.
This is the first time I have done this distance - because of my injuries, my warm up runs have been limited to a maximum of just over 7 miles.
Before the race, which was a huge event with a great atmosphere (see page 3 for a report), I was apprehensive. Part of me was confident, but part of me was extremely nervous. How was I going to do this?
READER OFFER: To celebrate my ‘Run Gatwick Half Marathon’ time of 2 hours and 20 minutes, K2 Crawley are reducing their joining fee from £30 to £10 – that’s £1 off for every minute I came in under my target of 2 hours and 40 mins. T&Cs apply - JUST PICK UP THIS PAPER THIS WEEK FOR COUPON AND DETAILS.
But I had Owen Callaghan, fitness manager at K2 Crawley, by my side the whole way. I also had a fellow runner Gwyneth Boorer egging me on. And a phone call from my wife (who was in Berlin) and my son in the morning boosted my confidence.
The first few miles were fine and we found a steady pace. Once round Charlwood I started to flag and just after the 8 mile marker came a big hill. And it was a killer. I got up it ok and got down it but it took a lot out of me. And then at 10 miles I hit a wall.
I couldn’t feel my legs apart from the injuries in my left knee and right hamstring which returned with a vengeance. But I did not mention them and Owen did not ask about them. That was key. I believe if I had started talking about them I would have stopped. And that simply was not an option.
But all I could think about was letting people down if I stopped, so I powered on. As soon as we reached the town centre there were more people egging us on and that was a real help.
And that final stretch towards Southgate Playing Fields was a struggle but I made it and I was so proud.
But what made it for me was my little boy Noah running towards me with a huge smile on his face. He looked as proud as I felt. It made it all worthwhile.
Owen had this to say afterwards: “Mark smashing his target time of 2 hours 40 minutes by 20 minutes is a fantastic achievement, the ultimate goal for Mark was to run the whole way without walking/stopping which he also achieved! What we really wanted to demonstrate with this challenge is how quickly you can improve your fitness.
“When I first met Mark he had just about manged to complete a couple of 5k runs – but with a bit of structure to his training and some support work in the gym he has now run a half marathon!
“Even with a few injury setbacks Mark remained positive and dedicated to achieving his goals and has reaped the rewards and this really is something anyone can do! I hope this is now a lifestyle change and he continues to stay active and set new goals. At K2 Crawley we can help anyone, whatever their starting ability and ultimate goal, to take the steps to see improvements.”