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).
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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”
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.”