Smile Through It II: The Next Chapter

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Over the line (Tresco Part 2)

Posted by Oli on Tuesday 15th April, 2008

From behind the trees at the end of the straight stretch that finishes off the hardest hill on the course (how glad was I that the 25 mile marker was at the top?), the rhythmic pounding of heavy boots announced the arrival of the team who would shepherd me down the hill the final mile to the end of the Tresco Marathon.

Ahead of me, the organisers raced away on their buggy, whilst a two-man team from Red Shoe, a production company making a running show about the Marathon, sat on theirs waiting for the final push to the line.

As they approached, having donned their famous green berets, my brother called to me.

“Here you go, bro, this is it. Slot into the middle here and we’ll head down the hill at your pace.”

“However fast you want to go,” was the call from Baz, the Sergeant at the head of the second column.

I took my allotted place in the middle of the two columns of hyper-fit, stark-raving bonkers, hard-core Royal Marines and broke into a trot. No sooner was I running than I heard Baz calling the time back to the lads so they could match my step precisely.

I learned afterwards that for 10 guys coming to the end of a marathon, I took off at a Hare’s pace – flying off down the hill carried away by a rush of adrenaline and fear that I was going to cock-up their push for a sub-5-and-a-half hour time. It’s probably fair to say they’re right, as it wasn’t a pace I could keep up and I soon broke back into a walk.

No sooner had I slowed (and, presumably, the lads had caught me up) than I received a chorus of encouragement from the ranks behind me. Even though I had tried to beast them into the ground over the first 200 yards (albeit accidentally), everyone to a man had something to shout to me by way of encouragement.

The whole of the last mile, my bro and Baz talked me down it. Tim spent the whole time making sure I knew I could slow or speed my pace up as much as I wanted or needed to, whilst Baz was a constant stream of advice and encouragement. Quite how anyone can have the capacity and wherewithal – let alone enough breath – to talk a novice runner through the toughest mile of their life when they have just come through one of the toughest 25 mile courses in marathon road-running is beyond me, but it is something I will be eternally grateful for.

As we approached the 26 mile point, having tried another burst of running and returned to walking pace, we once again broke into a trot. With Tim counseling me not to take it too fast we approached the marshaled-turn where the course deviates from its previous 7 laps and heads the last 300 yards to the finish.

The cheer from the gathered crowd and volunteer marshals was amazing and brought a lump to my throat, giving me for a moment something to worry about other than the pain in my legs. As we rounded the corner and caught sight of the finish – rather further away than I was expecting – I may or may not have uttered a mild (ever-so-mild) expletive. From the back of the group a voice piped up, “That’s what we’ve been saying the whole way round!”

Sensing my inability to make it in one go to the finish line, Baz and Tim encouraged me to take another walk to a point around 150 yards from the finish. The below photo was taken as I broke back into my final run to the finish, shortly before the Marines broke their stride, hence the fact that it looks like I’m running and their walking – I wasn’t that slow.

From there, I was determined that I wasn’t going to break my run again until I’d crossed the line. As we approached the finish, the course headed ever-so-slightly up hill and my legs began to protest at a never-before experienced level. After the fact, I reminded myself that 10 Royal Marines and 130 other runners had gone through pain much worse than mine that day, but in the heat of the moment all I could focus on was the sight of K across the finish line, standing out like a beacon in a sea of faces. All I kept telling myself was that if I could get to her, I’d be over the line. Just run to Kati, Just run to Kati, Just run to Kati.

And I did. I got there. I crossed the line and collapsed into her arms amid an ocean of cheers and congratulations. No sooner was I over the line than the tears started flowing – and not just mine, either, I’m somewhat relieved to say.

As I stumbled into the post-race area, collecting my runner’s post-marathon goodie bag of food and energy-goodies, I felt like something of a fraud amongst a group of people who had endured far more than me and for far long that day, but at the same time the emotion of having achieved a mile with the guys all running behind me was overwhelming.

I thanked all the guys individually for putting themselves through so much in aid of such a great cause, but also in helping to push me through the longest mile of my life. Ironically, though, the longest mile turned out to the quickest. After running 14 minute miles on the treadmill in training I had been alarmed as I ran and as I finished by how exhausted I felt from the effort. It wasn’t until my bro came up to me afterwards that I realised the reason – we’d run a sub-10 minute last mile. The Marines had run 26.2 miles around Tresco in 5 hours 24 minutes, beating even their best estimations.

Not five months ago things were looking more than bleak and only a little less than hopeless. With time fast running out, the enormous courage and generosity of one man and one family changed the course of my life forever. From a withered young man in terminal decline with the best years of his life behind him, I’ve become a strong, energetic 25-year-old with his entire future before him and a host of amazing challenges ahead.

Words cannot express the gratitude, admiration and love I feel towards those unknown people who gave me the extraordinary gift of life, nor the enormous swell of emotion I felt as I crossed the line. But I think maybe this does:


22 Responses to “Over the line (Tresco Part 2)”

  1. Katie H said

    Wow Oli, what a wonderful post to read, I’m so pleased that it went well for you, and what an incredibly fast mile, well done! And what a great run by your brother and his team. I’m so delighted for you, for this weekend and for all the things that your transplant is allowing you to do and to look forward to.

  2. Lorraine said

    Oli – You are wonderful, inspiring, overwhelmingly so for people like me – don’t you EVER forget that you inspire so many and you were so determined to do this walk/run with your brother and his comorades – you might think YOU were holding them up, but they were working for YOU. You have been through so much – they were waiting and working with YOU. I’m off to sponsor you again because I think you deserve it – you are special – muchly so. Regards, respect, always. xxx

  3. Ellen Preston said

    What can we say Oli that has not already been said – we are so thrilled for you and when I got the long-awaited text on Sunday eve – I also shed a tear or two!! What a truly magnifiscent achievement for you and K this weekend – and it was great to read about all the support you had from your ‘running companions’. Well done. love Ellen and Mike

  4. Rose said

    Oli – what can I say other than you are amazing!

  5. Nick and Mel said

    We are so proud mate.

  6. Suze said

    Speechless! xxxx

  7. Emily said

    Bloody awesome. 😀 I hear from my sources that everyone there was in tears and it was a truly emotional moment. Absolutely fantastic achievement sir, so proud of you and everyone reading make sure you’ve sponsored Oli!! 😉

  8. Jac said

    Wow. What a great post to read and what a wonderful achievement! I’m sure you will continue to be surprised and overwhelmed by what your new puffers allow you to do – enjoy!!
    Love Jac x

  9. downsbutnotout said

    I’m not crying. Really. I just have sweaty eyes (as the Flight of the Conchords would say).
    Oh bloody hell, you’ve got me going now. I’m SOOOOOO impressed by you!
    And I couldn’t run a mile that fast. No really, I tried jogging the other day, but passing children laughed at my ridiculous running and the fact that I kept walking. That and my tracksuit bottoms were too short.

    Give Tim a big hug from me, sounds like he deserves one too!

    Right, run out of tissues now. Rubbish.

    Big hugs to you and K.
    P xxxxxxxxxxxxx

    PS. Great haircut. really nice. xxxx

  10. downsbutnotout said

    and that seems to have come from harry’s account. But it’s obviously me, I’m more articulate xxx

  11. Lisa said

    Wow, i am so amazed and pleased for you, had me in tears reading that post remembering some of your pre op posts. you really are a real life superhero in my eyes!
    Love to you both, Lisa. X

  12. ben said

    actually amazing. really proud of you mate.


  13. Frizzymum said

    You have me in tears my dear – and you know that’s not like me at all! Well done to you all – especially you, Tim and the team. Any single super fit Marines want to consider being my personal trainer?!

  14. Di and John said

    Wow, Oli. What an amazing, moving account of your Tresco experience. It puts into context all the emotions you both experienced prior to that event. It’s when those close to you become even more so because of the love, support and encouragement they offer. Well done! You have our love and admiration.

  15. elaine said

    absolutely incredible!
    well done a billion times oli!
    you’re an absolute inspiration.

    i’m absolutely amazed!
    there’s no chance i could do that with my original puffers in!
    although i am attempting the race for life this year..
    i’m trying to find someone to do it three-legged with so that i can have an excuse not to run..

    that’s not the point, incredible blog and what a great achievement! xxx

    P.S. sorry i haven’t been in touch much, been burying myself in chemistry books…having an offer means i have to get the grades now..and.. erk. to say the least!

  16. suzie said

    Amazing read Oli, well done mate….very very well done.

  17. Darkies Gem said

    That was a lovely blog.
    I can understand why everyone was crying, that must have been hugely emotional.
    Well done!

  18. Lou and Anna said

    How amazing Oli- sub 10 minutes! Anna and I are just sitting here wondering if we could do that! Make sure you keep up the training and maybe you can join us for the Reading half marathon next year? (by us we of course mean Cass, Jo and Dr B!) So proud of all you have achieved you really are an inspiration. Hope to catch up soon!

  19. Lynn said

    Giving so much hope to others as always. Well Done Oli.

  20. Hayley said

    Wow! Wow! Wow! and oh yes did I say WOW!!!! we are so proud of you and so grateful to the people who gave our Oli the chance to live a life that was always meant to be. We are so very proud of you and so very very blessed to have you in our lives.
    You are the person that we should all aspire to be, a person so humble, so loving, so giving and so you, we love you more than you will ever know and are proud of you much more then you will ever know. Thank you Oli for being you and being such a special part of our lives.

    David, Hayley and Robert. xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  21. Gemma - used to be Winfield! said

    Well done Oli!

    Gemma xxx

  22. Audrey Eade said

    (Eyes fill up) xx

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