After running my first marathon in London in 2005, and having forgotten all about the aches, pains, blood, sweat and tears that go with running 26.2 miles, I thought it was time to run another marathon, and what better place to do so than New York! I had never been to the Big Apple before, and felt that the best way to see this amazing city was to run it, whilst raising lots of money for good causes at the same time.
As someone who enjoys keeping fit and runs on a regular basis, I was hoping to beat my London Marathon time of 3 hours 25 minutes, and wrestle the Williams family marathon record back from my cousin, who completed the London race 9 minutes faster. Mind you, he did have the model Nell McAndrew running in front of him!!
I wanted to run on behalf of a Welsh based charity, and could not think of a worthier cause than Ty Hafan. Ty Hafan is the childrenís hospice based in Barry, and provides care and comfort for children who are not expected to live past their teenage years. It also provides much-needed support for their families, and gives some measure of hope for these children and their families. I was amazed to discover that of the £2.5 million needed to run the hospice annually, Ty Hafan have to raise over 80% of this figure themselves through fundraising events and the generous donations of wellwishers.
As a committed supporter of the Welsh national football team, I was also aware of the good work carried out by the Gol! Appeal, which helps children and young people wherever Wales play abroad. The Gol! Appeal have visited a number of childrenís centres and orphanages, and with Wales visiting Azerbaijan for the third time in 2009, I thought that raising some money for Gol! would be a good and timely idea as well.
With my charities sorted and donations coming in, I was left to prepare for the small matter of running the New York Marathon! Training was going well until early September, when, during a training session with the mighty FC Irlande of Brussels, I severely twisted my knee. After hobbling to Moscow for the unfortunate Welsh defeat I was extremely worried that I would not be able to participate in the marathon. After resting for some six weeks and making full use of icepacks and swimming pools I was confident that I could still run around New York, although I conceded that my personal best would not be broken this time!
With my marathon kit all packed I arrived in New York with my fellow runners, and as I was only staying for four nights, I was intent on seeing as much of the Big Apple as possible before the big day on 2nd November. I quickly realised that New York is slightly larger than my hometown of Llandysul! All the tourist destinations were ticked off one by one: Empire State Building, Liberty Island, Rockafeller Centre, Times Square; enough places to see and enough things to do before race day. With plenty of walking and sightseeing to be done I think I was pretty tired even before the marathon had started!
Race day itself was a bizarre experience; getting up at 3am in order to catch the buses to the start line at the Verrazano-Narrows bridge on Staten Island! As the race did not start until 10am there was a lot of waiting around to be done in freezing conditions; I bumped into a guy from Llanelli and one or two others from Wales, with everyone delighted to see sunrise!
The big moment finally arrived and I made my way to the starting line. With the sun shining and everyone eagerly waiting to start running, the loudspeakers started blaring out Frank Sinatraís ĎNew York, New Yorkí...we were off! The first few miles through Brooklyn went well and with my knee strapped up, I was pretty pleased with how things were going. After about seven or eight miles however I was noticing that my legs were getting heavier and heavier; the effects of the six week lay-off were showing!
After nine miles I was dropping off the pace at an alarming rate; I just couldnít get the legs running, which is a slight problem during a marathon! My running pace had become more David Bellamy than Craig Bellamy!! I somehow shuffled on and decided that I would have to get through the pain barrier...for 16 miles! I left Brooklyn behind and ran into Queens, with more and more of my fellow runners passing me, including ones who were three times my age! I had regular stops at water stations in order to fend off any possibility of cramp, with the fantastic support from the volunteers keeping me going.
After a brief run in the Bronx the course led on to the final few miles; down Fifth Avenue before finishing in Central Park. By now I was absolutely exhausted but equally determined to finish the race. The support from fellow runners and spectators was great; I spotted a few Welsh flags throughout the course and was spurred on by fellow runners from Wales and from elsewhere along the way. The last mile felt like three miles; despite an empty tank I pushed myself over the finish line and breathed a huge sigh of relief; New York Marathon completed in 4 hours 26 minutes and 45 seconds!
Even though every part of my body was aching I was quite pleased and very relieved; my damaged knee had made it through and my commitment to Ty Hafan and to Gol! had been fulfilled! They say that the sights around the New York City Marathon course are superb; Iím afraid I canít confirm this as I was looking at the ground for most of the time! They also say that the post-Marathon celebrations are something to savour; I canít confirm this as well as I went back to my hotel for a warm bath and a thirteen hour sleep!!
I left New York the following day and returned to Brussels with warm memories, a marathon medal, and a lot of aches and pains! Will I run another marathon? Not for a very long time...but never say never!
So far Iíve raised over £1700 for Ty Hafan and expect to provide the Gol! Appeal with around £300 in 2009;
thank you to all who have sponsored me; diolch yn fawr iawn i chi!
www.justgiving.com/iwanwilliams website will close on 2 February 2009)
Running a marathon is not easy, but itís a fantastic experience nonetheless and one which I definitely recommend. Iíve come to realise that running a marathon is a lot like following Wales...huge optimism at the start...a long and winding road to overcome...a few drinks along the way...pain and despair in abundance....with the reward at the very end!!!