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William Johnson, London Half Marathon 2008

Photo: William Johnston tries to keep up with Huw Rolfe, London Half Marathon 2008 On Sunday October 5th, after months of psychological preparation, perfect nutrition, gruelling training and personal sacrifice, Tsegay Kebede won the Great North Run. Meanwhile, in London, three intrepid Wales fans lined up at starting line for the first ever ‘Run to the Beat’ half marathon. The morning had not got off to the best of starts. The forecasted wind and rain materialised just before leaving the house and its impact was made worse by the closure of Greenwich Tube Station, adjacent to the starting line at the Millennium Dome. Nevertheless, after a two mile walk from the nearest overland station all three competitors arrived for the delayed start – exhausted.

All three ‘athletes’ had prepared for the race in very different ways. Huw Roffe adopted the rather unoriginal approach of intensive training, supplementing his existing jogging with 11 mile sessions around Roath Park and a precisely measured carbohydrate intake. However, his resolve was put to the test when he arrived in London the night before the big race and Will Johnson insisted on taking him out for the biggest steak and chips they could find.

Johnson was perhaps the least prepared of the three having spent most of the previous month in Russia, in a pub or in a pub in Russia. However, he had decided to address this issue two nights before the race by running further than he had ever run before – 8 miles – and was still suffering the consequences. Expectations were however low after it was realised that Will had never run any distance on anything but a treadmill and, more worryingly, had only a pair of plastic astroturfs to wear.

Perry Morgan, veteran of the Rekjavik 10k race, arrived at the race in the company of one of his infamous ‘special friends’, whom he claimed had been helping him acclimatise and fine-tune his body the previous night. There were concerns over the tightness of one of his hamstrings, although he would provide no further information as to how this injury was sustained.

Roffe and Johnson ran out together, making good progress over the first few miles, managing to pass quickly many of the stragglers. This progress continued into the fifth mile when course became hilly and the duo decided to step on the gas to maintain their good pace.

Morgan adopted a different tactic having taken heed of a certain fable involving a tortoise and a hare. However, even a tortoise would have struggled not exceed Morgan’s pace in the sixth mile when he decided to take a break to apply additional deep heat. Surprisingly this heralded a turning point in Morgan’s race and he was able to continue at a steady pace, his groins sufficiently warmed.

Roffe and Johnson passed the halfway mark having maintained a seven and a half minute mile pace. It was becoming apparent by this stage that Johnson’s unorthodox training regime and diet had not best prepared him to run a distance and speed never before attempted. His calves also appeared to be taking the full brunt of every landing on the unforgiving astroturfs. The inevitable split eventually happened on the nine mile mark when Johnson gradually slowed and was heard to urge his team mate to ‘Do Wales proud, pal’.

The last section of the course, thankfully, was easier than what had come before, most of it being flat or downward sloping. The road back towards the millennium dome saw Roffe give one final push which saw him successfully increase his pace, crossing the line first out of the three in a time of 1 hour 36 minutes - 255th out of the 8000 or so competitors. Johnson was next home, having managed to motivate himself over the last few miles by trying to stay ahead of two mankini-clad Borats whose rears he was determined not to have to follow. His time of 1 hour 42 minutes placed him 571st and is surely testament to practitioners of sloth, lethargy and ill-preparedness everywhere. Perry Morgan, as usual, brought up the rear, being met at the line by his mystery lady who seemed shocked that he’d been able to exert a physical effort for a sustained period 2 hours 15 minutes. He promptly disappeared back to her flat for a – needless to say much shorter - ‘warm-down’ session.

All three competitors thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the event and together they raised over £135 for the Gôl! Appeal. Special mentions should go to Owen Williams, Neil Dymock and Andy Hurst for all dropping out of the challenge at short notice. Each of them has kindly agreed to make a substantial donation to Gôl! and promised participation next year!

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