When you've read his story, I hope you'll agree that it's an honour and a privilege to have his journey shared with us.
I've titled this my London marathon journey!!!!
You'd better settle down,this could be a long one!
It was more than just a run/race, it was a journey, a life changer. From what I'd come from to what I actually achieved, for me, is beyond thinkable.
It's now Thursday after the marathon and my head is still in a bit of a daze and not thinking right and still a bit disorientated. I'd heard this was to be expected depending on what you actually put into the race. I can safely say I gave it my all!!
I'd run for them the last 2 years at the Great North Run, the Great Manchester Run and the Great Birmingham Run to name a few, so to be offered one of their precious London places was amazing. They are not a gold bond charity so have to buy their London places for around £1400 each. They had 3 places out of the 40 thousand or so running and I had 1 of them."
So I'd got my place. It was raising the money to repay the charity which I initially thought was the hard part as they had asked if I could to raise £3000 (after finding out what they pay for the place I then understood why they asked for such an amount back).
My fundraising began with taking football cards to work and trying to gain sponsor money, and raffles, things like that. I also arranged a charity night at Bloxwich memorial club which was a massive success raising over £2600 alone. The night included live band 'The Two 'n' Eights', stilt walkers, fire breathers, face painting and DJ karaoke. We packed the place and everyone had a blast, with people even asking me to put on another night. A special mention at this point to my wife Steff, the night and everything I do wouldn't be possible without her, she is my backbone and the support from her and my children is what I thrive on.
The training got serious at Christmas/New Year time when I started following a sub 4 hour training plan. I'd kept ticking over anyway till this point, probably 2-3 times a week but just wanted to enjoy Christmas then knuckle down. From this point my diet changed, my life changed, my body changed and so did my thinking on life. Until the night after the marathon I didn't have a drink from New Year's Eve. Now anyone who knows me will be shocked by that stat, but yes I did it lol! (3 and half months). Also from Christmas time till marathon day losing around a stone and half in weight.
Training through this time of year can be tough, really tough.
Going out in rain, sleet, snow, frosts but I never missed a day in my plan. All I focused on was why I was training and what cause I was doing it for. I'd be out early mornings, dark nights and in some terrible weather, but still did it because of the cause and because I WANTED TO.
The plan was great with hill runs, speed runs, long runs you name it, it was there and has made me the better runner I am today.
To see the money I raise,where it actually goes and what it means to these people was wonderful. This gave me the mental go ahead then to say 'right you've done the fundraising part now,go and enjoy Sunday'"
I hadn't slept properly for about a week before, nerves, excitement, anxious, you name it. I was also worried if I would let people down that had sponsored or supported me. This was never going to be the case as I'm no quitter. Even if I'd have had leg amputations on Saturday night I was doing it!!!
We arrived in London around Saturday dinner time and decided to do a bit of sightseeing, bit too much if I'm honest as I wanted to rest up my legs as much as possible, but we still went to Buckingham Palace and saw all the race track being set up and the finishing line etc...
I kept pinching myself, I was actually running down that the next day. I took a photo of the finish line and sent it to Paul as he was at his hotel.
Pre race night was pretty none existent, sleepless, tossing and turning, sitting up, you know all the stuff that you'd probably expect from a nervous wreck.
I went down to breakfast just after 6 I'd say, for my porridge and fruit and yoghurt (God was I looking forward to the fry up Monday morning!). I went back to my room to get ready, Vaseline all the places that rub! I can see you all laughing! Shorts, vest, trainers...
I was ready, I said my emotional goodbyes to my family, Let's go and smash it!!!!!!
I got off the train at Greenwich with a sea of runners and the odd conversation with a randomer then my phone rang. Paul was at the blue start whereas I was in red so I decided not to waste my legs and stay in the pen where I was. We gave each other good luck wishes and focused on our last hour before the race. Trying to take in every single moment and memory of the day but also get in the zone. Before any race I tend to go a bit quiet and think about my strategy and things that could happen,but also saying to myself,go and smash it!!
I rang Steff when I was about 100 metres or so from start so she knew roughly how long I would be at certain points around the course.
The running traffic for the first 3 miles can only be described as jam packes. This didn't matter to me one bit as I was running in the London marathon. It got worse when all 3 coloured starts merged on about 3 miles. Again didn't matter, the crowds were just that amazing and supporting. I was just focussing on taking it all in.
I was running with a big smile on my face, high fiving kids, roaring on the crowds. This was a special occasion I was involved in.
The first 6 miles flew by without even a whimper and I was feeling great, I was so comfortable and gliding around the 7 min 40 pace. I was again trying to take in all the sights and remember everything I could about the run, running past the Cutty Sark ship and just staring at it in a daze, but then someone would shout your name, so back on the game.
Before the race I knew Steff, my kids, best mate, Snaffa and Jo were pitching up around mile 13 with the British Skin Foundation cheer point. As I was getting closer to 10 miles this was all I could think of, I just couldn't wait to see them and let them see me amongst the masses.
Around mile 12/12 and half I ran round the bend and there was Tower Bridge. I had the biggest smile on my face yet I had tears coming from my eyes. I was so overwhelmed what I was involved in but so happy at the same time. Tower Bridge was special.
Coming off Tower Bridge I knew to keep looking left to see where they were set up.
There they were - balloons, posters, horns, shouting my name, I was shouting back,what a moment!!!
I'd seen the 4 most important people in my life and this was for them. A bit of a cliche but things like that do really pick you up. I'd got to half way in 1hr 39 and was flying. Looking at my race stats my fastest part of the race was between 12-14 miles,the reason can only be because of seeing them!!!
They then started to make their way to the 25 mile mark to see me near the end.
At around 20 miles, I started to feel it,a bit earlier than I thought I would to be honest but it was what I'd trained for so nothing new feeling pain.
By mile 22 I think I can safely say that I hit the wall, I'd done everything right during the run, drinks, gels but still hit it.
Before I left on the morning my daughter said to me "dad if it gets tough just break it down in miles". This is exactly what I did.
With the crowds and knowing I get to see my family at the end at the back of mind I dug deep. I was at mile 22 in 2 hours 51. I was experiencing pain in my legs I'd never felt before but there's no way this was beating me.
Mile 23 then 24 which was my slowest mile but I gave it my all knowing I'd only got 2 miles left.
On the race photos I'm still smiling at this point and thinking about the reason why I started in the first place.
As I passed the 25 mile marker I could sense what I was going to achieve and everything was going to pay off. Then I heard the shout and cheer,it was my family and support. It gave me that extra boost that I really needed as I ran past them fist pumping the air.
"Come on Matt" I was saying to myself, "you're nearly there!"
As I ran up The Mall I don't think Ussain Bolt would have caught me as I had it left in me to sprint the last 200 metres.
I crossed the line arms in the air beaming with pride at what I and my family had achieved through this journey.
I'm nearly at the £6000 mark for what we've raised, I'd had the experience and occasion of a lifetime and I'd run a marathon in 3hrs 32mins and 4 secs. Not only a marathon but the LONDON marathon!"
As I collected my medal and race bag I tried to slowly walk round to the meet and greet point for families which was roughly half a mile walk. This took me about 40 mins to do with my legs in bits.
There they were, the people I live for waiting for me, needless to say the tears came. We had a big family hug that lasted for some 3 minutes and I just cried tears of happiness. My 3 year old son Liam says "Dad, you're my hero'". This type of comment has no price or cost it is just?????????? (I don't know what to say about that anymore)
I will never run the London marathon again, not because of the pain, not because of the wall but because I don't want those memories messed with. They are up there on a pedistal that I don't want to touch. This is one of the best experiences of my life and I'll be honest I will struggle to ever beat it. Lifetime memories to treasure. Whenever my next down day is I will think of that day and where it all began to where we've come to.
I achieved everything and more of what I set out to achieve, raising all the money, meeting great people, making my family proud and to top it off a great time in 3-32 with special special memories of a special day.
Steff,we did it!!!!!!!!!
Such an incredible journey, and so honestly told.
I'm touched and humbled.
Thank you for sharing your marathon with us.