As I lined up alongside more than 39,000 people at the start of the Berlin marathon, my over-riding feeling was one of trepidation. I was about to set off on my first marathon and the furtest I had run in training was a lap of Rutland Water – about 17 miles. Paul, a seasoned marathon runner, had told me that this wouldn’t be a problem. But I wasn’t so sure. I was there to raise money for our education work in Gambia and so needed to make sure I finished!
Before I knew it we were off and negotiating the streets of Berlin. The atmosphere was incredible. The marathon organisers estimated that one million people were cheering us on. Not only that, but there were musicians all along the course – everything from rock bands to steel bands, and from solo singers to full-blown choirs. It was fantastic. By halfway I was still feeling pretty good. The adrenlin was pumping and I was being carried along by a wave of euphoria!
Another six miles along the road and things began to get tougher. I was now in unchartered territory and my legs began to feel it. Forget about enjoying the experience, it was now just a question of ticking off the miles and getting to the finish!
I got a much needed boost when I passed our support team of Vikki and Kerry at 38km and knew that Will Kirstein was probably not far behind me. Will and I had set off together but had then been seperated after a few miles amongst the mass of runners.
I had expected Will to catch me up at any point, and just as we reached the 39km marker, he did just that. Will said later that I looked like I was suffering – he wasn’t wrong! I knew that we weren’t going to meet my ambitious target of 3hours 30 minutes, but I still wanted to finish in the fastest time possible. I drank my last energy gel and pressed on. With less than a kilometre to go we rounded a corner and there ahead of us lay the Brandenberg gates, and more importantly, the finish! It would be an exaggeration to say that the pain suddenly disappeared, but the sight of the finish line gave me a much needed boost. As we run under the Branderberg and gates and passed the grandstands full of cheering people it began to sink in that I had completed my first marathon. We crossed the line in a time of 3 hours and 44 minutes. Yes it had been painful, but what a fantastic experience!
One of the real motivating factors as I was running was the fact that so many people have sponsored me. Thanks to the generosity of almost 150 people I have now raised in excess of £3000 for the education project we are setting up in West Africa. This money will give children in Gambia an oportunity to learn about the Ospreys and other wildlife that live close to their communities. I am a firm believer that education is vital to conservation and if we can get children in Africa excited about wildlife and migration then that can only be a good thing. We intend to use the marathon money to buy a laptop and projector so that our friend and colleague Junkung Jadama can visit Gambian schools and talk to the pupils about Ospreys, migration and the other wildlife of West Africa. He will then take the kids out on field trips using optics purchased with our money. In addition we’ll produce other education resources, such as posters, that can be displayed and used in the schools.
I’m visiting Gambia and Senegal with Osprey project staff and volunteers in January and so this will provide an opportunity to distribute all the equipment we have purchased.
So once again, a huge thank you to everyone who sponsored me – your support is greatly appreciated. If you would still like to donate money you can do so on my fundraising page. By the way I have now definitely got the marathon bug and I hope I can persuade some other people at Rutland Water to run the Amsterdam marathon with me in October next year. Watch this space!