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1993 London to Brighton Race
by Kevin TillerOctober 1993
Me and my wife, Dawn, were planning a trip to the UK to visit relatives and friends - our first trip back since coming out to Oz almost 4 years ago. We picked September for no particular reason and booked our plane tickets. I then thought that as we were over there we might as well look for a race to run. I'd vaguely remembered the London to Brighton being on at vaguely that time of year. Some investigations turned up with the date of 3rd October. Our tickets out were for the 2nd but this was easily changed till the 4th. "Contacts" managed to get an entry form to me, which was sent back to the UK before the deadline and I was in !
1993 saw me running just about as much distance as I my body could stand, whilst still keeping some speed work in there. I ran 6 standard marathons or ultras in the months preceding the race as well as short stuff including a 10Km pb of 36:06, a 1:21 half marathon and a 2:49 marathon in late August just before my departure. I was well impressed with this form and knew that I was in shit-hot shape. My training of at least 100Km a week, but most often 120-130 Km with a high of about 160Km since the previous December had paid off handsomely.
After my 2:49 I caught a bad cold, moved house and went to UK and spent 4 weeks dashing up and down the country with heaps of late nights. My steady routine had been decimated and in the 4 weeks prior to the race I ran about 5 or 6 times, mostly with my coming-back-from-injured wife. My longest run was for 2 hours the Monday before the race !
The morning of the race dawned dark and cold (as it was England). I picked up my race number and bought a T-shirt in a small backstreet around the corner from Big Ben. I had a poo in a corner of a car park (that's for Dale Thompson but the rest of you won't be interested). Most of the runners looked like 50 or 60 year old poms who wouldn't even make a standard 42Km marathon, let alone double that. Walked around the corner and up the road a bit. At 6:59am some mounties stopped the traffic and close to 150 runners jumped the barricades and prepared for the off.
We started on the 7:00am chimes from Big Ben and I had trouble running slowly (as usual) - I ran with the lead group through the first few miles before easing off slightly to make 10 miles (16Km), around Croydon, in 11th place in 1:07:47. I was running with a few fast South Africans and a couple of Botswanans. They had flew in on the Friday to run on the Sunday and fly home again on the Monday ! Alf Field, President of the Striders appeared briefly by the roadside to take a photo and then buggered off quickly. (Was I hallucinating ?). I continued, anyway, and slowed down a bit and made 20 miles (32Km) at Redhill in 17th place in 2:23:44
By now the sun was up. I'd been in England 4 weeks and it had literally rained every day but one. Today was a stinker. Just my luck. My support crew would have been a big disaster, had not my wife been there and knew exactly how to look after me. My father drove and thought initially all he had to do was drive to Brighton to pick me up. I said that he had to stop and give me drink and bananas and cheer me on. He thought every 10 miles would be OK until I said that every 2 was more to the point ! My mother-in-law came along to watch this peculiar form of self-destruction occur before her eyes and as it turned out she probably came away the most satisfied...
I estimate the marathon mark flashed by in about 3hrs 10mins, and 30 miles in 3:48:06. I had now slipped back to 25th place. There was a reason for this - my legs had seized up and I could barely stand up let alone run. My Dad shouted out "Hey Kev, have you passed anyone yet ? They all seem to be going past you !". I answered truthfully "Yep, there was a Botswanan lying back there on the kerb. He's a goner". Anyway, it turned out he was the only one I passed all day. All the old codgers came past just like there was no tomorrow.
It felt lonely out there, but I could always see a few other runners ahead and there were more than enough running by, and they were a friendly bunch although no-one got much more than a grunt from me. The support vehicles yelled out their support as we leap-frogged each other. Hell, it was actually quite a nice day and we went through quite a few sleepy English villages. Although the roads weren't closed to traffic, cars were never a problem.
Being a Strider, I continued to try my hardest and slog it out but I must confess to gross failure - I walked before I'd even dropped dead, just around the 40 mile mark in 5:29:40, a distant 34th which was a long way from the front of the pack by now. This bodily breakdown was probably due to my enthusiastic starting pace and I was now running exactly how Dawn had predicted about 15 miles back ! I scanned every horizon for each and every 5 mile mark. Five miles is a long way to run for a cup of water and a slice of orange but at least I could convince myself I was that bit closer to THE END.
The last half of the course is surprisingly hilly. Even the race director had said "hilly" knowing he could not get away with that old trick-word "undulating". The worst was yet to come, the 50 mile mark being on top of a hill, the highest point in the race. It was called Ditchling Beacon (part of the poorly-named South Downs). We'd been warned of this prior to the start, for it was a mother and it went up, uP and UP ! There were quite a few supporters here, as the view was good, and you could be guaranteed to see some real basket-cases coming up the road. I made the top in 7:27:45 for 41st spot and was told the other classic lie which I didn't ever believe, not even for one minute : "It's all downhill from here, mate". I looked up, said nothing and shuffled off. Down the road I nearly wept. "If that's true then why can't I see the sea yet ? Why is there another valley and WHY DOES THIS ROAD GO OVER THAT F'ING HILL OVER THERE !!!"
Years and years of Sunday morning 30Ks came into their own as by now my brain was so fried by the sun and the rest of my body was so wretched and torn that I did the only thing I knew how: I huffed and I puffed and I shuffled and staggered all the way to the top of the next hill. From here, I could see the sea and it was a lovely blue and I could see the road and it was down all the way and I shuffled as fast as my little legs could damn well carry me. I screeched down the road into Brighton and headed towards the sea as if nothing could stop me; everyone yelling out "Good on Ya", "Come on Aussie" and then I turned the corner to hear "Kevin Tiller..Sydney Striders" and then I stopped and I didn't even care about the time anymore or my position because it was all over and I had finished. I could stop running. I couldn't sit down because my legs were all done in but at least I could stop.