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Sunshine, happiness and Mobots


The day came and went, and now all that’s left is achey legs and incredible memories.

This years Virgin London Marathon (VLM) came with a lot of hype. Haile was leading out the men at world record pace and two high profile debutants were on show. Sadly the debut of Dibaba, the masterful Ethiopian track athlete, was overshadowed by Mo Farah.

Great Britain's Mo Farah at the London Mararthon © Tristan Fewings /  WWF-UKGreat Britain’s Mo Farah at the London Marathon © Tristan Fewings / WWF-UK

Both athletes in the end fell foul to race inexperience. Mo settling in with the 2nd group who ended up running completely off schedule and severely denting any chance of British victory; and Dibaba dropping her drink at the station near 21miles. Irrelevant of the results it was amazing to see the support around the course driven by ‘Mo Fever’.

The big question though is “what was the race day like for us mere mortals?” Well, sitting in Red start with my old South African college housemate (Zak) and my new English friend (David), you could cut the tension with a proverbial knife.

Zak had just come back from three weeks travelling around Asia – not ideal prep for marathon day – and Dave although looking confident was showing definite signs of a nervous first time marathoner. Dave and I had been prepping for the day together, gymming and talking techniques etc. so I was more than confident he had put himself in a place to finish very comfortably. I am always of the opinion that race training is the goal and the actual race the celebration.

So with 15mins to go we split up and into our starting pens we went. I was in pit 1, which was awesomely intimidating. A lot of great athletes there, most of which are sub 3hrs marathoners. My goal? At the start of the week I was confident of a sub 03:10, but after getting sick Tuesday and Wednesday, I had to nurse myself and re-evaluate.

Team Panda runner Richard Whitty © Tristan Fewings /  WWF-UKTeam Panda runner Richard Whitty © Tristan Fewings / WWF-UK

I decided I was still going to give it a go and if I bombed out, these things happen. Flying out of the blocks I hit Tower Bridge at 01:30 and through halfway in 01:35 feeling awesome. Mo ran past on the other side of the highway at which point every runner stopped and cheered him on – massively inspiring, the man is a hero.

Then heading past the wharf I saw the most incredible thing I have ever seen in all my marathons. I man came up to my left shoulder and started running next to me, the noise however was odd, so I turned to check him out and to my utter disbelief he was on crutches… no joke! This man finished sub 03:30 on crutches.

The crowds around the wharf are always amazing; to be fair the entire course was insane this year, from Cutty Sark to Bermondsey over the Bridge through the wharf, it never let up.

My legs however did! By mile 19 I was struggling, goes to show that doctors are right. Even if you feel better this doesn’t mean your body has fully recovered. So from mile 19 to 26.2 (usually my best miles) I struggled along, ignoring my inner demons telling me to walk – I kept on moving.

Mile 23 couldn’t have come quick enough, I was desperate for some support from the charity team. After  mile 23 though comes ‘the tunnel’, it feels like miles in itself, and it’s the first time that the crowds completely disappear.

WWF-UK cheering point, cheering people on © Tristan Fewings /  WWF-UKWWF-UK cheering point, cheering people on © Tristan Fewings / WWF-UK

Struggling through I saw the light on the other side and could hear the insane screams and cheers, ‘back to business’ and with Big Ben in sight I pushed on (well, more like a wounded penguin waddle).

I love the last 2 kilometers, it’s a proper celebration. The crowds are so encouraging and walking is simply not an option. If you stop, 100 people will scream Rich and your obligatory forced half jog will have to begin.

Buckingham Palace next and then lap up the glory, with no tears this year (partly due to intense dehydration) I crossed over the finish in a sub par 03:26. The disappointment of the time will soon disappear but the memories will remain.

‘3 week holiday’ Zak survived, crossing in just over 5hours. Heroic effort, but he was visibly distressed when meeting us in Covent Garden after. Poor lad but lesson learnt.

Simon – my girlfriend’s brother – struggled through injury from mile 1 to the finish. Inspiring stuff, the will of the human body and mind to push past pain to achieve a goal. His disappointment in himself was not warranted, he should have been proud irrelevant of time.

There was however some sad news, a friend collapsed at mile 20 and was unable to finish. Having trained and worked so hard, it was not only sad for him but everyone involved in his journey. The comfort for him is that his body gave in, not his head.

The decision was made for him, but it only makes it a little bit easier. Not having a medal come Sunday afternoon is painful – full-stop – but I know him well enough to know that he is already plotting his 2015 VLM entry.

Team Panda pose for a post-Marathon photo © © Tristan Fewings /  WWF-UKTeam Panda pose for a post-Marathon photo © © Tristan Fewings / WWF-UK

So that’s it for another year, London Marathon once again leaves its mark and I cannot wait until the next one. But the real training begins now, as Comrades 2014 awaits!

To put this in perspective, I will have to run the London Marathon, turn around, run back to the start, turnaround and run to Woolwich. Oh yeah, there’s also a few hills. Am I worried? Definitely. But that’s what makes all this running malarkey worth it.

Feeling inspired? Want to join Team Panda at the Virgin London Marathon 2015? Why not enter the ballot on 22 April!

If you are looking for a challenge a little sooner, then why not take one of our few remaining places in Nightrider or RideLondon?

Why choose WWF? Because The Panda Made You Do It!

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