Monday, 14 April 2008

A Marathon Day (Part One)



Sunday was Marathon day. Polly has been training since last September and at last the day was upon us. Now don't get the idea that Polly is one of those naturally athletic types who jogs and plays badminton or squash at the local sports centre. She occasionally took the boys swimming and had gone through a brief phase of cycling here and there for a while. (The cycling didn't last because S insisted on riding his bike alongside her rather than sitting behind her on the pillion. Going anywhere took three times as long as he zigzaged on stabilizers in front of her.) When Polly started her training regime she had to run for one minute and walk for two. She came back after twenty minutes gasping and wheezing saying that she'd run the 385 yards, and that it must be a terrible mistake, no one could possibly run a further 26 miles on top of that. And yet a few months later she ran a 13.1 mile half marathon in Reading. Then a few weeks ago she did a 20 mile training run. The training had paid off, she was ready. Then on her way home from the chemist she twisted her ankle and damaged the cartilage, the boys caught chicken-pox and I started to need hoisting into bed at night.

She set out for Greenwich at 6.30 on Sunday morning after a few hours sleep. I would head for Tower Bridge and cheer as she ran by. Meanwhile we had organised for someone to look after the boys and two friends had come to stay over night to help me. The plan was simple, we would travel by tube from Morden underground station to London Bridge on the Northern line. How hard could that be? As it turned out, very hard.

Morden has just installed lifts on to the platforms. Fantastic. And the lifts work. We were on our way. The only problem was that the step on to the train was about 11 inches. Now I use an electric wheelchair (a Harrier for anyone interested) which is very heavy especially with me in it. Such chairs are not designed to be lifted. Surely, since they had spent tens of thousands of pounds making the station wheelchair accessible, they would have a simple aluminium ramp available. I mean, Morden is a terminus. It's not as if the trains are whizzing in and out and there's no time to line up a ramp. But when we asked the station attendant if they had such a thing he looked at us as if we were demanding he produce a fully functioning hover -board. So, my friends Paul and Darren manhandled me on to the train. The station attendant leant a hand and you could see as a sheen of sweat formed on his brow that he was wondering if there might be a better way. Perhaps a sheet of some kind of light metal placed at an angle?

The journey up to London Bridge station was uneventful apart from a somewhat eccentric elderly lady who gave us detailed access information about a station we weren't going to. Getting off the train required negotiating a seven inch, spine jolting drop. We followed the signs and found the lift that told us in no uncertain terms not to block its doors several times as we crawled to the surface.

From the station it is a brisk ten minute walk to Tower Bridge. It was sunny and as we approached we could hear the sound of people cheering and shouting encouragement. It turned out it wasn't for us though. We weaved our way through the crowds and made our way to the Bridge House Bar and Restaurant. Muscular Dystrophy Campaign had taken over the place as a base for their supporters. It was about 11.00 and there was no way Polly could get to this point before 12.30 so we settled down to have a coffee and to enjoy the atmosphere. Runners ran by and the rain started to fall, it was warm and there were plenty of people to chat to. Oh, and there was a special Marathon menu. It seemed churlish not to try the breakfast. So we did. I was just mopping up the last of the egg when some one tapped me on the shoulder and told me that a woman claiming to be my wife was outside wanting to see me. I looked at my watch and saw it was exactly 12.30. For once she was bang on time. I ploughed through the restaurant scattering the abled-bodied before me, and there she was, hopping from foot to foot, with a beaming smile on her face. "Having fun?" she asked.