London Marathon 2023 – The hardest race of my life!

It’s about 6.30am and I have woken in my friends flat in Tooley Street to a load of clattering about. Making my way to the window, I can see that work has already started building the water station at the 12 mile mark. It must be time for the London Marathon!

I have tonnes of time, as I am not starting till 11am, so I wander to the shops and get some breakfast, chat to Andrew and Mark (who generously let me stay in their spare room the night before), get my gear ready and head out the flat at 0930 to catch the train from London Bridge to Blackfriars.

Making my way to London Bridge proves to be problematic, as I cannot cross Tower Bridge Road or Tooley Street cause of barriers, making it impossible to get to the station. I ask a chap in a high vis vest to let me through. He won’t, and sends me the other way to a “gap”. I go the other way. No gap. Ask another chap in a high vis vest, who sends me back the way I had come. Get back to the original chap, ask him again and he just flatly refuses. Clearly an NPC.

I decide to get brave and just jump the barrier. The NPC shouts at me, but he can’t catch me, I’m a marathon runner, and I am over the other side and on the way.

I ring my wife for a pre marathon chat, then realise that I have left my race belt (that carries my phone and gels etc) at Andrews flat. Ringing Andrew, I then have to run back to his flat where we face the same problem with the barriers (though this time I am on the other side of the road). I hurdle the barriers again, collect the belt, go back across the road, over the barriers AGAIN, and then a very fast walk to the station.

Arriving at London Bridge I go to the wrong platform, change platforms and miss the train. It is now 10am and I am supposed to be at my start gate at 1015!

Getting on the next train, which was at 1013, we make our way to Blackfriars. Except somehow the train goes to Lewisham and misses Blackfriars completely (I am with quite a few other runners on the train). We all get off, wait for the next one to Blackfriars, get back on and eventually I arrive at the start about 11am. No chance to make my alloted start time, so I just join in with another wave. Luckily, Suzie (fellow Daisy’s Dream runner) spotted me, so we started together.

The plan was 6 min walk 6 min run from the start, so that is exactly what I did. Suzie was doing a walk/run too, but 30seconds walk 30 seconds run, so we kept leapfrogging each other at the start as she moved ahead of me, then I moved ahead of her.

I felt good. The race was underway, my calf was feeling OK and I was going nicely.

Making my way through the first 10km, the crowds were absolutely phenomenal. Having a silly name on your top means a lot of people shout “GO ON SNOOKY” from the sides of the course. I made sure to give each one a fist pump or a smile or a “thank you” if I was close enough. It gives you such a boost when the crowds cheer you on.

At about the 10km mark I was still feeling good, so decided to switch to a 6min run / 3 min walk strategy. This worked well, and soon I was heading into the city and along Tooley street, past the 12 mile marker. Andrew and Mark were outside their flat to cheer me on, and as I rounded the corner onto the iconic Tower Bridge I took a quick video and sent it to my wife and Michelle. I then saw on my phone I was up to £4500 fundraising and I was overcome with emotion. My eyes filled with tears and with blurry vision I ran up and over Tower Bridge, people shouting my name all the way.

The race then turns towards Canary Wharf, and this is also when my race turned. At 25km I felt a little twinge in my calf. Nothing major, just a twinge. I stuck with my walk/run strategy and kept on going. I was paranoid as hell it was going to tear again. But I was more than half way done.

I saw my brother shortly after this. He was helping with marshalling at the race and I stopped for a quick chat and a photo. When he asked me how I was doing, I remember saying to him “It’s starting to hurt”. And it was starting to hurt. Leaving a voicenote for Cat and Michelle, I remember saying “this is where the marathon really starts for me. This is when I have to dig in”.

And dig in I did. Niggling pain I can deal with. Every runner does. Into Canary Wharf I went. Past the 20 mile marker. Just over 6 miles to go. And BANG!!

I felt my calf rip from the left to the right. A horrible feeling. I had been expecting it. It was incredibly unlikely that I would make the whole distance without it going again. I was pleased to have gotten 20 miles into the race before it tore.

I was about 4 hours into the race at this point, and figured that I would be probably another 1.5 hours to the finish now my calf had gone. I could manage a sort of shuffling run for about 3-5 minutes before I had to walk again. But this was just the beginning of my problems.

The pain started to wash over me in waves. Searing pain. It is hard to describe, but it was bad enough that it made me feel incredibly nauseous. I could not stomach any of the energy gels that I had with me. I could barely stomach any water. Running 1.5 hours, after already being on the go for 4 hours, with no water or fuel was going to be interesting.

As the minutes passed I felt worse and worse. I don’t really remember anything about where I was at this point in the race. The mental battle was underway. I knew I could keep going like this, but if the calf got worse, or the tear became more severe, it would be race over.

Because of my shuffling, limping run and walk, my left quad cramped hard. I was really limping now, but the insane crowd just kept shouting my name. The atmosphere was electric and the noise was a cacophony of sound filling the air around me. I just had to keep going.

Shuffling on I passed my brother again (going the other way). I barely spoke to him at this point, other than when he asked me “how’s it going” I simply responded “bad”. I was very deep in the pain cave now. I had not been updating my wife on my progress. I had gone deep into myself. It is a strange sensation when you have to dig as deep as this. Like I was completely alone, even though I was surrounded by 1000’s of people. Like you are underwater in a way. Everything seems very surreal. The crowd kept shouting my name. I kept giving them a fist bump every time. But inside I was in real trouble.

Getting to the finish at this point seemed impossible to me. It was about 5km to go, but it may as well have been 500. Would my leg hold out? I felt so sick, the pain was getting worse. I started to mentally prepare myself that I might have to pull out of the race. Started to think how I would explain it to everybody. How I would tell you all I had let you down.

With a lot of mental wrangling I managed to snap myself out of this. No way I was going to quit. Stop being a fairy and get on with it. Pain is temporary. Time to dig in again. See what I am really made of. I have completed an Ironman. I have run 80km with 3 broken ribs.

But I had to be honest with myself. This was worse. Far worse. This was the most pain I had ever tried to exercise with. In fact, other than when my cruciate ligament snapped when I was younger, this was the worst pain I had ever experienced.

I remember nothing about the next 3km. I think we were on the embankment, but am not 100% sure. What I do remember is getting to the 40km marker. This is just 2km to go. At this point I realised I was going to make it. Even if my leg fell off, I would crawl to the line. Emotion washed over me for the second time in the race, and I just burst into tears. I was 2km away from the finish and I was crying like a schoolgirl. This just made the packed crowd shout at me even more, and I broke into the best running gait that I had had for ages. This was it. I was gonna make it.

Buckingham Palace soon loomed large in the distance and we had 400 metres to go. I couldn’t believe it. Over the line I went, in 5 hrs and 35 mins. Almost the exact time I had predicted when my leg went pop.

Immediately after the finish line I could not process the emotions I was feeling. There were too many. They were too strong. I phoned my wife and Michelle and they told me how proud they both were of me. I also phoned my mate Dave, who has been my running buddy for a long time. We have done a lot of fundraising together in the past and he is one of the most lovely people you could ever meet. Dave had been there every step of the marathon. He was texting me with updates, leaving me encouraging messages, and was my coach on the course. Thanks Dave, I owe you one.

So that is it. I have run and completed the London Marathon. This morning, I have also just gone over my fundraising target of £5000, which is simply fantastic. I am exhausted, in absolute agony (I can barely walk) but I just can’t stop smiling. What an achievement. What amazing generosity and kindness so many people have shown me.

London Marathon 2023 will stay in my memory forever. The hardest, but also one of the best experiences of my life.



PS – There are a few people who I owe a momumental amount of gratitude to.

First of all, to my fellow Daisy’s Dreams runners and Vicky. You guys are legends and I am so proud of what we have achieved together.

To my friends and family who have supported me and shown me so much kindness and encouragement. Thank you. It means more to me than you can ever imagine.

To Trevor. Without your guidance and your physio and coaching, I would never have made it round. There is nobody better in the country than you at what you do. I love you man.

To Michelle. For giving me the opportunity to run London on your behalf for such a wonderful charity. You are an amazing person and one of the strongest women I have ever met. Thank you for everything.

And finally. To Cat. My long suffering wife, who has seen me put myself though the wringer at so many of these events. Who never stands in my way, who is always there to take the piss out of me when I start complaining, and who shows me compassion, kindness and patience when I am at my lowest points. Thank you Doc. For everything. I love you.

It’s all getting very exciting

So I am sitting at my desk on Friday night. Donations are literally flying into my fundraising page and I am now safely over £3000 and on my way to £4000. Such wonderful generosity from everybody who has donated, and I am genuinely touched by it.

As I type this, it is slightly under 40 hours until I start my London Marathon run.

If you want to track me on the way round, just follow this link (using a mobile phone) and it will take you to the app and you can track my progress. My start time is just after 11am Sunday.

Download the TCS London Marathon 2023 App:

Final preparations are underway at the Snook household. Well I say underway, but essentially all I have done is gone and gotten my leg taped up by good old Trevor, and that is about it so far. There is still plenty of time for preparation, so no need to rush.

In case anybody is wondering from the photos, I should probably cover two things

  1. Yes I did shave one leg before I had the tape applied. One shaved leg is a strong look, so I might just keep it.
  2. Yes, I do have a tattoo of Ron Swanson on my calf (along with a few others).

Its a shame to cover Ron over, but I am sure he would understand. In fact, I doubt Ron would look very kindly on running marathons, as he would probably find it all a bit unnecessary, but luckily it is me running it and not him.

The girls presented me with a little present earlier, which is now attached to my shoe. I absolutely love it, and every time I look down at my feet in exhaustion this message will be looking back at me.

Any nerves that I was feeling have shifted now, and I am just excited to be running London and very proud to have inspired so many people to donate to my fundarising.

All that is left now is to pack my bag in the morning, head up to the city, collect my race pack, one nice relaxing sleep and then I am off. 26.2 miles round London. All the sights, all the sounds. The crowd cheering and (with a bit of luck) my body holding together. It is a strange thing to say, but I do love running marathons.

I have been threatening to retire to anybody who will listen to me complain about my running. Have a year off and pick back up from scratch. But being so close to the race I know now that this is incredibly unlikely to happen. I love the challenge of these events, love supporting the charities I have fundraised for over the years and only a moron would give all that up.

I might take a bit of time off though, cause I have London to Brighton Bike Ride on 18th June . 8 weeks or so to train for that. Should be fine! One thing at a time though. London Marathon first.

Once again, thank you each and every one of you who have donated. It means so much to me, so much to Michelle and her son, and so much to Daisys Dream.

Love to you all.


How’s the leg Snooky?

Since my last blog post, and my outpouring of the disaster that the calf tear has wrecked on my marathon training, I have been inundated with people messaging me wishing me all the best.

These messages have meant the world to me, and the donations continue to come in from all over, which just fills my heart with joy.

My fundraising team has raised around £26,000 for Daisy’s Dream so far. If we could get to £30,000 that would cover the cost of a Therapeutic Practitioner to provide both direct and indirect support to circa 200 children over the course of a year. Would be phenomenal to get there. I really hope that we do.

So, onto the question of the day. How’s the leg Snooky? I must have been text this at least 20 times this week, and the answer is always the same. If I had not raised so much money for Daisy’s Dream, I would not be running. But as I have raised so much, and so much generosity has been shown, I will be making the start line and completing the race. My determination has never been higher.

In reality, I do still have a calf tear and it is not fully healed. Even if it was, I doubt anybody would recommend healing from a calf tear, then testing it out with a marathon!! That being said, I am still going to be able to run. I will adopt a walk/run strategy from the start to make sure I keep moving. Am not exacly sure on the timing, but am thinking perhaps walk 6 mins, run 6 mins, something like that.

My good friend, physio, coach and all round legend Trevor has threatened me with everything that he has that I must stick to this strategy, so fingers crossed that I don’t get caught up in the moment and run too much. He says that I need to stick to the plan to protect my calf and also make sure I finish. So I may break the habit of a lifetime and actually pay attention to good advice for once.

I am nervous as hell about this marathon. I have done more than my fair share in the past, and never been nervous before, but this one is already getting to me and we are still 4 days away (as I write this on Wednesday 19th). It means a lot to me this one, and it also means so much to me all of you who have donated to such a wonderful cause.

If you have not managed to find the time yet, of course you can donate right up to the day, during and afterwards.

I will pop my tracker details on here close to the race so those of you who want to can track my (probably extremely slow) progress.

Thanks again for all the love and support and the donations. It really means the world to me.



Worst case scenario – activated

So it is Monday evening last week. Monday 3rd April. My final long run of my trianing plan. All the hard work (barring this one run) is done. I am feeling fit and looking forward to my training slowing down in my run into the Marathon on the 23rd.

Setting off, I felt great. Springy legs that felt good and I was happily chatting away to Ant (my running partner for the evening). It was a beautiful clear sky. The sunset was stunning and we were just two mates, slowly making our way along a 28km out and back run route.

Then it happens. 5km into the run. A calf twinge. “Nothing to worry about” I thought. These sorts of little twinges happen often when running and usually you can run them off within a few kilometres. Except I could not run this one off. The further we got the more and more my calf hurt. Getting to the half way point, it was agony. Our pace was slow, and turning around we got to the 18km mark and I had to start walking. We walked-ran-walked-ran the rest of the way home. Taking a little shortcut we got back to my place having completed 26km. My right calf was in pieces!

The pain of keeping moving on this calf was the worst pain I have ever run with. Worse than when I broke 3 ribs at Race to the King after 6 miles and had 49 more miles to go. Running with broken ribs hurt less than this calf injury. I knew that I had done something major. How major I was not sure, but limping up to bed after my shower I had a deep sadness in my heart.

Sunset looking at Portsmouth from Hayling. Absolutely stunning.

Waking up the next day I couldn’t put my foot down to walk on it. This was one week ago today (as I am writing this). 18 days from the marathon and I had my 3rd running injury of my training plan, and by far the worst. I am simply gutted. Sadness washes over me. I feel robbed. All I wanted to do was to run London injury free. I have done EVERYTHING right in my training. I have not pushed myself too hard. I have listened to my body, trained properly, built up the training properly, done everything you are supposed to do. My aging body has let me down at the final hurdle. Feels like I have been punched in the gut.

After a day or two of limping about and feeling sorry for myself the calf feels a tiny bit better. I contacted Trevor (my coach and the only person I trust to advise me on all things related to running, swimming, cycling) and asked what he thought. He diagnosed a calf tear over the phone, but told me to rest one more day, try a run and if it goes again, it is defo a calf tear. If it is OK, then it might just be a bad cramp. Fingers crossed for the bad cramp.

Wake up next morning (this is Friday 7th April now, 16 days before the marathon), trainers on and out the door I go for an EXTREMELY gentle 5km run. 1.8km into the run my calf goes, again. Bit more instant pain this time and it definitely does not feel like cramp. More like a ripping sensation from the inside towards the middle, about half way up the calf. That is it. It’s a calf tear. 100%. I turn around and limp home.

Appointment is booked with Trevor ASAP (which was today, Tuesday 11th April, 11 days till the marathon). He puts me and my calf through our paces and diagnoses me with a calf tear. Trevor tells me that recovery time is somewhere between 3-8 weeks for the severity of tear that I have. I have 11 days. Now it is clearly impossible to cram 3-8 weeks recovery into 11 days.

Trevor knows me well. It was him that gave me the belief I could complete an Ironman years ago. Him that taught me the mental resilience it takes to be an endurance athlete. So he knows I am stubborn. He also knows that I have raised a tonne of money for charity so far, and that there is no way I am not turning up to the start line.

Trevor carefully explains to me what I need to do. A bucket load of strength work on the calf. 3 sessions a day ideally, with no days off. It needs to be worked hard to encourage the recovery. This is going to hurt. He knows it, and I know it, but neither of us care. If it is what I need to do, then it is what I need to do. He will strap my calf up before the marathon, which will help. I will devise a walk-run strategy for the day to make sure I get round the race. I will make the start line, and more importantly, the finish line.

That being said. my dreams of running London Marathon injury free are in tatters. I am probably going to be the only person on the start line with a torn calf. I know that pretty much every other runner would withdraw from the race. But this is simply not an option for me. Not this close. Not after I have worked so hard.

The funniest part about all of this, is the people who know me well. Trevor, my wife, my running mates, none of them have tried to persuade me to withdraw. In fact, not a single one has even mentioned the idea to me. They know how determined I am. How seriously I take the fundraising and the honour of running for Daisy’s Dream.

So in 11 days time I will be on the start line. My leg will be taped up like a mummy. I will have done God only knows how many calf raises and strenghtening exercises. Despite all this, I will be INCREDIBLY nervous. Will my calf hold out? How long might it be into the race before it goes again? Will I have to walk the entire marathon (I really hope not)? I could be staring down the barrell of my slowest ever marathon. In fact, this is more than likely.

My start time is not till 11am. If it takes me 7 hours (which it might) I will be finishing at 6pm. Everybody will have gone home. I will probably have the clean up crew following me round. How utterly embarassing.

This is not the London experience I was hoping for, but it is the one I am going to have. I am facing hour upon hour of pain. Will I be able to enjoy the sights and the crowd? Let’s hope so. Will I finish last? Let’s hope not.

After London I am taking a year off running. Time to recuperate, strenghten up, swim and cycle and lift weights, climb some mountains, enjoy my yoga and rehabilitate my body. Running is too much for me. These injuries, the terrible lows that they cause me to go through both mentally and physically. They just don’t feel like they are worth it any more. It is a sad realisation, but one I have already made peace with.

I need to face the fact that I am not a good runner. I never will be. Whether I will return to running, I don’t know. I absolutely love it, but it does not love me, and sometimes when you have a relationship with something or somebody that you love, but it does you no good, you have to let it go.

Fear not though dear reader, if you have used your hard earned cash to sponsor me, it has not been in vain. I will be at the start line. Nothing will stop me. And I will make it to the finish. I have absolutely no doubt on that. None what so ever. It may take me 5 hours, it may take me 7, but I will cross that line.

If there is anybody reading this who has not sponsored me yet, and you feel sorry for my dumb ass and want to help me, popping some money into my fundraising pot would cheer me up beyond belief. I am currently at almost £2500. So close to half way towards target. It would be amazing to get to £3500 before the race. At least some good can come from what (if I am honest) has been the hardest training experience of my life.

Plus, this may be your last ever chance to sponsor me. So you better make the most of it. 🙂

Hope you are all well out there in blog reading land, and I will update you soon on my rehab progress.



It all leads to this

Tonight will be the final long run of my training plan. I will be heading out with my good friend Ant, to run 28km. And that will be that. Other than a couple of weeks reducing my running load down steadily, my training will be mostly complete.

This is a good opportunity to reflect on how my training has gone. I think it is easy enough to summarise in one word. Inconsistent.

Starting in earnest on the 2nd January, if all had gone to plan I would have completed around 36-42 training runs at this point. In reality, I have completed 22. So slightly over 50% of my upper training target.

Now any running coach worth their salt will tell you that conistency is the key to marathon training. So why have I been so inconsistent?

Broadly speaking I think this comes down to two main reasons.

  1. Consistenly applying myself to anything has never been a strong point of mine. I set myself a series of rules or ideas to live by, then instantly rebel against myself. I have no idea why I do this, but I always have done and probably always will.
  2. Injury
Definitely me. A rebel without a clue. Plus gives me a chance to remember Tom Petty. RIP

Now of the two above, I expected number 1 and can deal with number 1. Number 1 has been with me my entire life and I can plan around that.

The injury situation has been less than ideal. Starting with a right knee issue, various exercises and strenghtening have got rid of that, but no sooner did I manage to get the knee working than I developed insertional achilles tendonitis. Queue more exercises and physio, some new running shoes and a drastically reduced running schedule and the tendonitis is much better. Big shout out to Trevor Payne from Athletic Performance and Therapy for helping me with my injuries. As always, I owe you big time T.

What all this means though is that I have trained less than I should have. But I have still trained. Though I have had to battle through two different injuries in 3 months, I have not stopped training entirely for any period longer than 1 week.

According to Yale Medicine, over 50% of all regular runners get injured at least once per year. So I have had mine. That’s all there is to it. Or as my good friend Tim likes to say “It is what it is Snooky”.

Where this leaves us, dear reader, is that I am going to be going into London Marathon rather under-trained. What this means, I am not quite sure. To be honest, this is the most under-trained I think I have ever been for a marathon. This being said, there is absolutely no way that I will not make the start line and also no way that I will not finish. Wild horses could not hold me back from crossing that finish.

Mostly, in fact almost entirely, this is due to the amazing generosity that my friends, family, extended friends and family and some complete strangers have shown to my fundraising. I am humbled by this every time I fundraise. You guys who are reading this, those of you who have donated, you are the real heroes in this story. Not me. I just do the running. The generosity you have all shown carrys me along through those painful runs. The ones where you want to give up. The wind and the rain and the hurt and the pain. I genuinely do think of my sponsors at this time, and it is you that keeps me going.

So thank you.

For the rest of you who have not yet donated, there is still time. The race is in 20 days. Why not join the elite group of people who can say that they helped a middle aged, over-weight and under-fit man complete the London Marathon and raise a bucket load of cash for a great charity? Go on, you know you want to.