Matthew Kingston-Lee: My Journey to My Latest London Marathon

It’s time for do or die. Matthew Kingston-Lee will carry his broken body another time this Sunday, praying to a perhaps non-existent God that this distance, that shouldn’t really pose too many issues for a fit and healthy athlete, will be tolerable for one who is totally under prepared for the demands running a fair long way presents. Like all slightly stupid ideas, his latest London Marathon adventure is bound to be painful and probably soul destroying as he sets out to do what surely every other average athlete is hoping to do and that is beat Paula Radcliffe.

Here I ramble on pretending I am being interviewed when it is just the figment of my bored imagination. I make a mountain out of a molehill and reminisce on events that are significant probably only to myself and of little or no interest to anyone.

April 2010 – The Last Time I Ran (The London Marathon).

A Blister I Once Had

2010 was the last time Matthew ran the London Marathon. It was an event he really shouldn’t have made. In great shape (But with a bad hip…) he found himself stuck in Shanghai after the Grand Prix there because of the Icelandic ash cloud.

Via an unplanned visit to a Vietnamese prison, the seemingly impossible mission to make it to Blackheath in time culminated in a last minute rescue trip courtesy of a (very expensive and paid for) first class trip home via Moscow with Aeroflot. Fourty eight hours earlier he was being told by a jobsworth at Hanoi airport there was no way he was flying until Monday at the earliest. Now he stood (a little way behind) the start line of the only marathon anyone really cares about.

His story of how he got to the London marathon could be the stuff of a (really bad) Hollywood movie. At the very least it should have filled some airtime on one of those BBC life story clips that interrupt the pictures of people running in the race itself. Instead his marathon became better known for the infamous trip to the blue portaloo at 14 miles, from which he reappeared 88 seconds later and a couple of pounds lighter. Now one of the most unwatched athletics clips not available on YouTube, his brave battle to the finish with a hip that really wasn’t happy in a time of 2:55 was largely forgotten. What was not forgotten by his wife was being unable to walk for the next four days, especially as they were meant to be on a walking holiday.

Little did Matthew know that he wouldn’t be able to run London again for another five years – a combination of injury, clashes with F1 races or simply not bothering to enter put pay to that fun day out on the streets of the capital.

October 2014 – Whoops! How Did That Happen?

The end of September 2014 saw him in the running form of Matthew’s life clocking 1:15:29 at the Robin Hood Half Marathon, as frustratingly close to just missing out on securing an elite start at the London Marathon as it was when he ran 2:46 at Rotterdam earlier in the year. Still, he had the knowledge that his entry to the 2015 London Marathon was secured, and as it didn’t clash with an F1 event, sub 2:45 looked a formality.

Nike Free 4.0 V2 (Grey and Yellow)
Some Nike trainers, placed into the article, in no way trying to endorse Nike

Two weeks later and he was almost literally unable to walk with what transpired to be a fractured sacrum. Matthew, a man who is happy to not have gravel in his guts, was as stubborn as ever when it came to resting up. He took all of three days off, reuniting himself with the bicycle he had ridden on other occasions when he was too injured to run, and taking up a second residence in the shed – home of his faithful elliptical trainer.

December 2014 – Hitting the Pavement For a Sixty Second Hobble

Eight weeks after the sacrum fracture occurred and bored witless by the hours spent on the elliptical trainer, Matthew headed nervously out on Christmas Eve for a one minute jog. Forever the rebel he defied the recommendation of his physiotherapist and ran for one minute and four seconds. “It felt great!” said Matthew, “the best early Christmas present ever… Well except for the 42″ TV I bought myself a few years back as an early Christmas present. And the Garmin 910XT I bought myself too as an an early combined birthday and Christmas present. It was the third best early Christmas present ever.”

The rest of December was an embarrassment as far as running was concerned. Drinking too much alcohol, he could barely muster more than a couple of miles before repeatedly doubling up in agony with cramp. “I was scared I’d never be able to drink again. Luckily I can!” confided Matthew candidly. Every night after the kids had gone to bed, Matthew’s wife, Emily, would serve up a large glass of white wine, which he would drink in about five minutes or so. “It did nothing for my running, but it tasted fantastic.”

January 2015 – Four Months to Go – Back on the Streets.

With memories of a Christmas spent travelling from one set of relatives to another, Matthew winces as he remembers he only actually ran for two minutes on Christmas Day.

January though was another matter and enjoying the freedom of being able to run and not hobbling like someone very, very overweight, Matthew got back into the regular routine of sometimes picking the kids up from school and getting out for a run whenever he could. He found a new training partner in the form of former Latvian international Janis, who soon had Matthew running far faster than he should have. Rejuvenated by his new training partner, who spoke not much in the way of coherent English but could happily communicate in the language of running, Matthew found time to talk to his daughter.

Nike Air Pegasus 29 (Turquoise)
Some more Nike trainers, almost subliminally selling the swoosh to you.

“I said to my daughter ‘this might be the last time I can train to try and beat 2:45 over the marathon, a time that holds little significance to anyone other than those who understand it to be the qualifying time for the national marathon championships, which are actually just the London Marathon, but you get to start somewhere a bit posher,’ and she said ‘Dad, can I play games on the tablet?’ I hope to God London won’t be my last marathon, but it will be the last London Marathon I will run in 2015.

February 2015 – Heartbreak (Nearly on) Valentine’s Day.

Things were looking so promising for Matthew, he actually began running with his club mates again. Disaster would strike though on a (nearly) Valentine’s Day club run when an ominous pain crept up and through deep into his left glute. Barely able to walk by the run’s end, the pain was all too familiar. “I didn’t need any X-Rays or MRI scans to tell me I’d gone and fractured my sacrum again – albeit this time on the left side.”

Despite this boast of not needing an X-Ray or MRI, Matthew called upon the stretched resources of the NHS with firstly a an X-ray and then an MRI scan to confirm it was indeed a near mirror image fracture of the left sacrum. Whilst running on the potholed streets of Grantham his sacrum had again become the first port of call to surrender.

And with ten weeks to go until he was set to run the streets of London, Matthew went from running about 51.3 miles a week to none. His Latvian training partner, with no-one to run with, left for Norway. The lure of a better paying job with better working conditions and hours had nothing to do with it.

With no miles being run for seven weeks, help was sought from his GP who, after establishing it could be a Vitamin D deficiency causing the unwelcome fractures, suggested reserving a large patch of skin on his back to become permanently burnt to a crisp to help get his Vitamin D dose.

Finishing the 2008 London Marathon

April 2015 – One Week to Go – Disaster, Shit!

After waiting precisely seven weeks to allow the fracture to heal and with not that much help from anyone really, Matthew takes his daughter to a park in the near redundant village of Manthorpe, on the outskirts of Grantham. He doesn’t manage to run a step – his daughter is two and cannot be left alone whilst he galavants across the grass. He heads home, dumps her with her mother, and heads out for a run which lasts all of three minutes before he is forced to stop in agony.

Thanks to modern technology, Matthew was able to make this run literally not happen by making it a Private Run on Strava. There is pain, he can barely walk, let alone run. But the marathon has been paid for and the train tickets already bought. Someone has even gone and got his number for him. Deferring his entry is tactically not a good idea as he can guarantee entry until 2017 by not doing so. The marathon is on.

April 22 – Three Days To Go – Irrelavent Filler

In the shadow of the valley of death, Kingston-Lee walks towards a bunch of kids shouting what he now recognises as his name. “Dad! Dad!” they cry, in a variety of voices that confirm 90% of the children are not actually his.

He scowls back at them, ignoring their requests for sweets, ice cream, money and drugs. If his barely healed sacrum isn’t filling his mind with fear, he must just be permanently miserable.

Kingston-Lee’s wife, children, 1 & 2, and Mum and Dad, will not be watching Kingston-Lee run on Sunday

“It definitely better than it was a few weeks ago, but then again it couldn’t get much worse. I’ve run a few times since Easter but every time I’ve thought, bugger this, it’s too painful, and got back on the bike or the elliptical trainer instead. I’m ill prepared to run a marathon, but chances are if I make it I’ll likely finish in the top 25% of the field, which doesn’t say much for the state of running nowadays. I better had anyway as I’ve booked my train back to Grantham for 3pm”

As he runs walks hobbles around the course for what he sincerely hopes will not be the final time, some random memories may or may not flash before him. His father, who never carried any desire to run a marathon; failing miserably in 1998; definitely not running it under an assumed name in 2000; failing again in 2005; doing quite well in 2006; and 2007; and 2008; and 2010; and the stench from that blue portaloo which probably hung around for quite a few runners after him.

“I’ll just be trying to finish, in one piece” he says, “I’ve paid up for the Woodhall Spa Triathlon and I don’t want to lose my entry fee money again.”


96 Days to VLM – Week One Training Summary

Last week I decided it would be a good time to start my London Marathon training. For last year’s marathon I created a plan – albeit a rather rudimentary one. This year I’ve decided not to. This isn’t to say I haven’t got a good idea of what I hope to be doing and when, it’s more that I’ve looked back at all my distance PBs broken in the past year or so and all bar one was set when I was training on a how I feel at the time policy. The marathon was the only PB set to a plan, but that plan unravelled six weeks out anyway through injury and I, through necessity, reverted to type and trained on a micro level rather than macro.

Week one is all about building mileage, as I’m not yet at a level I’d do on a normal weekly basis, let alone for marathon training. Monday night saw me join the beginners at Grantham Running Club, a rather amusing misnomer as between myself and a few other of the runners there, I estimate there was around 100 years of running experience. It was a gentle paced run with more time spent putting the world to rights. Before I knew it eight and a half miles had been covered, slightly surpassing the sum of my longest run, split into three parts two days earlier at parkrun.

Tuesday was my only true hard session planned for the week. It’s intervals night at the club, but I intend to do marathon heart rate runs until at least March as I think they are more beneficial and something I think I lacked last year come race day. With an eight mile run planned and five miles at marathon HR, I was curious, and a little nervous, at what pace I would find myself running at, bearing in mind my first marathon HR run of 2014 saw me average 6:16.

The first two miles were a warm up and the legs were stiff, the calves remaining fearsomely tight from when they first tightened early the week previous. The transition to marathon pace felt laboured and forced, but after a mile or two I settled into an almost familiar rhythm. The first marathon HR mile was 6:27, then a pleasing 6:09, 6;15, 6:28 and closing with a 6:16. It wasn’t entirely comfortable (especially with a dodgy tummy) and I couldn’t do many more miles at that effort but I was happy to see that the pace wasn’t too many seconds slower than last year, albeit with a HR that was far harder to keep under my 165bpm limit.

Wednesday saw me training once again with GRC, partly because I fancied the company and also because a severe frost that morning had left the roads and pavements treacherously icy, ice that only cleared an hour or so before we set off at 7pm. This was not a run I’ll treasure. Twenty five minutes out and back, the calves were so tight they felt like they’d snap, the pelvis ached and the strong, cold head wind on the way back made the seven miles covered feel laboured and unnecessarily tough.

I was thankful that Thursday (15th Janurary) was a rest day, planned some time ago. It was the first day of rest since January 2nd. Friday was a beautiful sunny, crisp morning and I had it to myself so I opted to make it my long run day – which this week was 10 1/2 miles (The half mile more than ten a historic legacy of one of my favourite runs around Warwick University back when I lived in Coventry – which I always used to commence and conclude my marathon training long runs and measured 10.52 miles). For some unfathomable reason I fancied tackling the most fearsome hill (For runners at least) in the Grantham area, the relatively undiscovered Minnett’s Hill. It was as tough as ever, especially with some ice to add to the equation, but I made it to the top without even considering walking which I was pleased with. I was generally pleased with most of the run, although the pace was a touch slower than I’d liked (Average 7:06 per mile) and the last couple of miles were a tough affair. At least the calves were much improved – thanks to the hanging off the step calf stretch.

Saturday I’d left free to run to feel – be it short, another long run, some tempo or maybe even intervals. In the end it became a seven mile progressive run of sorts. After a gentle opening mile the pace gradually increased despite running up a hill and then facing a head wind. The right hip abductor, glute and groin were not that happy for much of the run. When they eased up in the final couple of miles the pace quickened accordingly, coming down to 6:26, then concluding with a 6:06 mile.

Sunday saw me enter the Clumber Park Duathlon in March – my tentative toe in the water towards hopefully taking part in Triathlons later in the year and beyond. This is why I was once again at the local cycle club, taking part in Witham Wheelers Reliability Ride #3. This weekly bike ride is a big diversion from my training of previous years. It’s a risk admittedly, but I’m hopeful that one ride a week won’t hinder the running – it may even help it – and a ride a week is the bare minimum required to be respectable at the Duathlon.

The overnight frost left conditions on the limit in terms of safety for the ride, which took in several of the hills found in the Vale of Belvoir. The start was amended but essentially it was the route as planned and it was more or less safe, save for some ice on the ascent of the final climb, which forced me to stay in the saddle, not an easy task when the ramp is around 14% and you’ve run out of gears. I was happier with this ride than last week’s – I prefer the hills to the flat and rolling roads and the pace was a little gentler too thanks to a merging of groups and the slightly iffy weather conditions.

After a quick sit down for tea, flapjack and some chit chat, I cycled home and quickly put on the trainers and headed out for the 5km (Plus a little bit) run I’ve done for the past couple of weeks as my attempt at training for the demands of transitioning from one discipline to another in Duathlon. The pavements were icy and the running felt ponderous and laboured at times but it was clear from the splits on the Garmin that progress is being made since the beginning of the year. 6:36 for the opening mile, I followed this up with 6;16, then 6 minutes dead, running 5:57 pace for the final quarter mile. I ran 19:25 for the 5k covered, which is a big improvement on previous weeks and left me pleased and encouraged.

For a first week it was generally positive. I’m not at the level I was this time last year but there are signs that the form I had back in September last year is not a million miles away. I also keep telling myself that I most likely peaked at the end of February last year and hopefully this slightly slower build up will see me peak at the right time near the end of April.

This coming week is hopefully a similar tale to last week, albeit with the mileage being upped a little here and there. The weather may have a little say on things but I’m optimistic I’ll have another good week.

Pre-Race Thoughts

It has been a month since I last raced; a month since I last posted. It was sunny on that night, but the mind was very clouded. The sun shines even brighter this evening, I’m sure that has partly helped to burn away some of the mental haze. My thoughts are mostly positive. They are, for the first time in a long time, not solely focused on one dark thing. That in itself I am sure will help with everything in the short to mid to long term.

Shortly after that last race I, somewhat hastily, it transpires, announced my sabbatical from racing. For tomorrow, all things going well, I will once again don the race vest, pin the number to my chest, put on the racing flats and do battle against myself and others. The distance of choice is five miles and the lure of a PB is the main driving force behind the late decision to enter. The allowance of the sabbatical to be broken is that there is absolutely no reason for me not to be out racing tomorrow. So I will. (For the record I’ve also entered the London Marathon on the Good For Age scheme – whether I’ll run that is totally out of my control at the moment).

Since the last race the focus has very much been on trying to get out and run as much as possible. With no real training goals or targets, instead I’ve allowed the clarity of mind that running can attain arguably more than any other activity to work its magic on me. In any circumstance, the summer months of running are an opportunity to enjoy the sun, when it shines, and the countryside. We have been fortunate thus far to have had plenty of sunshine and also fortunate that where we now live that there is plenty of countryside, much of it scenic and running friendly. There has been a fair amount of exploring and a little getting lost, but, as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Somewhere in the last couple of weeks I finished the initial cycle of eight weeks of my Quick Strength For Runners book. By then end the twenty minute programs had nearly tripled in length but there can be no doubt that my balance has improved, and the perennial problems in the back and hips have lessened in recent weeks. It may be coincidence but I’d like to think not. I’m now back repeating the cycle at week two and the exercises feel much easier than when I first began – a sign of progress. It won’t be long before I’m brave enough to balance on the Bosu Ball for advanced forms of the exercises – the ball that has been a fun trampoline for my daughter, but has seen little use from myself as yet.

Most of the running has been in the easy pace zone 7-7:20 minute miles. I did one 10 mile run at something around marathon heart rate, which went very well considering it was done on the spur of the moment and it was 25C or so. There has been a little bit of Stravalek thrown in, but mainly it has been easy or steady paced running.  Mileage peaked at 65 miles in the final week of June – sitting at 50-56 miles through July, mostly because I’ve not had chance to complete a weekend long run.

I’ve done just two intervals session in the past month – one a set of 800 meter reps with the club, which still felt a little too pointless (Back and forth, back and forth…) to be worthwhile (Enjoy the countryside whilst you can…). The other was just this Saturday gone, when I tested myself three times over a 2km loop which climbed for the opening km or so. Despite being tired and pretty dehydrated (It’s been hot and sunny recently) I was pleased with how the session went and so go into tomorrow’s race with, I reckon, a 50/50 chance of coming home with a new PB.

The five mile PB stands at 28:19, set at the Coventry Autumnal 5 back in 2012, which beat my previous PB, set in June 2000, by one whole second. The Summer Solstice time suggests that this is beatable if I have a solid run. A lot will do with how warm it is tomorrow (It is looking like another scorcher) and whether I can get in a good group of runners. Last year’s race suggests that what it lacks in numbers it more than makes up for in quality. I’ll take that if I can be towed around to something half decent.

Whatever happens I want to go out, race, and enjoy racing again. If I come away with a good placing or a PB – great. If not, well at least I was out there giving it a go.