Bob Johnson writes:-
For me the actual marathon itself was the culmination of many months of effort. I can’t remember exactly when but at some point last year I decided that an attempt on the existing Mr Potato Head record (3:38:20 from 2012) would be a good idea. I foolishly thought that I could make a faithful replica of the iconic toy and still get close to the record time. Construction started in early February with the Mk I version quickly taking shape such that the wooden sub-frame was complete by early March.
The VirginMoney London Marathon team “invited” me down to Silverstone later in March in order to prove that the costume would not hinder other runners and that I wasn’t gunna break anybody’s precious IPad thingie with one or both of my big pink ears (or any other protuberance for that matter). I took the bare frame of the Mk I Potato Head in order to show progress to date and ran a 90 minute half as as part of my standard marathon training. Shaking hands with the VMLM crew plus the Guinness World Records crew showed that I was willing to make a 600-mile round trip in order to show prove that I would be there in London with something like the same vigour.
As soon as I returned home, I was plagued with a bout of sciatica which seemed to creep up on me like some sort of nightmare as soon as I tried to sleep. In those tossing-and-turning fitful nights I decided to bin Mk I potato head and build a paper and mache Mk II. This set the construction right back and the remaining time up to the marathon is a blur of wood glue, hobby paper, paint, nitrate shrinking dope, self-tapping screws, pozzi-head-wood screws, birch plywood, aluminium strip, bubble wrap, pipe lagging, cable ties and duck tape. I don’t know how but Mr Potato Head man was just about completed (after a 12 hour day) on Friday 21st April. I practiced in the bare shell for 20 yards (yes yards).
Saturday didn’t really exist but somehow myself and Mr Potato Head made it down to London in 80mins so I presume we flew down. Race day on Sunday was a test from the start. BBC interviews put me late and it took me two minutes of running to realise that my arms wouldn’t be free to move in the usual running action but would be needed to lock the shell in a stable position. The shell hit my head in three places (nose being one of them) maybe 1500 times as it was once or twice every 30 yards or so. It was very hot and sweaty in there and “pneumatic leakage” gave evidence to the fact that the scrambled eggs for breakfast may have been past their best.
I could not make out my pace as I could not see my watch in the dark and cramped space. I saw my support crew (my three kids plus a friend) at 9 miles and missed them at 15 and 21 so I had to survive on jelly babies being push through my “slot” just under the hat. After much swearing and cussing (nobody could hear but I had my angry eyes on for sure) I finished in 5:19:16 well off the target time of 5 hours. I didn’t faint in the heat but I’ve been pretty slow and flat ever since. The fundraising has gone so well with so many fabulous comments from loads and loads of Carnethy runners. Thank-you all for pushing the total close to £2000 before the tax is claimed back..
I have unfinished business and plan to go back and get the record in 2018…
Watch this space.. best wishes to all Bob
Having run a few Ultra Marathons up to 70+ miles in length over hills and through glens, and combining this with fundraising for SMA and Molly, on paper, the London Marathon at 26 miles should be quite straight forward. Well, not so. All sorts of endless niggles for the best part of a year meant and training went in fits and stops. I managed some long runs and ‘attended’ the winter Carnethy Ultra series but went slower than hoped or stopped short having tweaked something.
What folk get out of tarmac slapping I can’t figure. It is so gruelling, but then my preparation was rubbish. What wasn’t rubbish was the incredible organisation and atmosphere that is the VLM . There is practically nothingthat wasn’t thought of, from loads of loos (you know me) to loads of Vaseline (…..!!!.) to a rock band singing ‘Eye of the Tiger’, to mountains of floods of water, lucozade and gloopy gells. Ok, more banana and tea would be an improvement.
I tried stretching, yoga and gentle jogging and hoped things would be ok….ish. For the first few miles I ran well and felt great ending in sight of a 3hr timing flag. ‘Bugger’ I thought, ‘way too fast’. Then at mile 4, a ping in my previously sore right calf slowed me to a preservation pace while seeing how it was. The 3hr 15min flag passed me. It was hot in the city for me so I showered under the sprayers then about mile 8 I trod on a lidded bottle that rolled across the road. ‘Bugger ‘ I thought, ‘you chuffin’ idiot’. I hobbled on as the 3hr 30min flag passed me. Only 18 miles to go. The crowds were great but my pace slowed. ‘Grind it out Hartree, eat and drink, don’t be a Jessie’ was what I focussed on.
The rest was just painful. Two more timing flags passed which was annoying but hey. Lots of folk were walking but I was still running. At 4:07:06 I finished. Legs trashed and more weary than most long hill races that I have done and way behind my notional target time. Who cares. I raised some more money, thanks to folk like you, for Molly.
On the train back to my brothers I watched a video of Molly and her sister Anya watching the TV, cheering for me invisible amongst the 40,000 runners, waving a hand drawn poster. I sat in tears. That is the effect of the London Marathon.
New legs please, once Molly gets her chair.