Editor David on a quest to lay his marathon ghost to rest for St John

His collapse 18 months ago sparked the start of a global running journey but now he hopes to complete London

In October 2021, as Yoanne Wissa scored a late winner for Brentford against us at the London Stadium, I was being scooped up off the London Marathon course. I’d collapsed with heat stroke just before the 25 mile marker with St John Ambulance volunteers having to manufacture a stretcher from tarpaulin to retrieve me.

My internal body temperature was pushing close to 42C and over the next hour, the volunteers helped bring my temperature down before paramedics gave me the all-clear to leave. In truth, I have no recollection of what happened in the minutes leading up to my collapse. 

I remember my head feeling heavy – like it was made of lead – and me reasoning with myself that I could run the last few miles holding my head up. I’ve been told when I collapsed that my body kept going and my legs were still running as I slowly dropped to the ground.

Others have told me that two runners stopped to try to help me back up onto my feet but I couldn’t stand up, my legs had gone, and I was placed on a barrier until help arrived. I was told by the St John Ambulance team that I was in a confused state for a long period as they worked to bring my temperature down. I had no idea where I was.

Even after they were able to sit me back up, with my temperature back down to normal levels, I struggled to operate my phone to let family and friends know what had happened to me. Indeed, in the days after my collapse, I struggled with technology, struggled to put words in the correct order in a sentence, or even find the words needed to talk to someone else, and I was generally struggling cognitively.

Running the London Marathon was a dream I’d had for as long as I could remember. Growing up, I’d never been interested in running half marathons or indeed, any other marathon. It had been a dream come true when I’d got my place but then the whole experience turned into a nightmare.

I was extremely down in the dumps in the days that followed. But a week later, I laced up my running shoes again to head back out for no other reason than to prove to myself that I could. Mentally, I needed to sign up for another marathon, and Brighton gave me the first real chance to prove to myself that I could complete a marathon in April 2021.

Since then, I’ve gone on to complete marathons in Vienna and Atlanta as well as half marathons in the Great North Run, London Landmarks, and Cambridge Half. I also completed a mentally-tough 435-mile Lap of Anglia in August last year to raise money for the East Anglia Air Ambulance.

Had I completed the London Marathon back in October 2021, would I have gone on to take part in these events? I don’t think I would’ve done.

As much as London was one of the lowest points of my life, it was very much the spark to start a running journey that’s also seen me virtually run the length of the USA’s famous Route 66, and from Land’s End to John O’Groats. And I was delighted last summer when the team at St John Ambulance, after reading my story, got in touch to ask if I’d like to run for them in 2023.

They’ve provided me with the chance to finally lay my London Marathon ghost to rest. I’m mentally and physically a much stronger runner and person since my last attempt. But as much as I’ll be running the London Marathon to finally cross it off my bucket list, I am so glad that I’ll be running for St John Ambulance.

To me, it is the perfect way to say thank you to the charity and their volunteers who will line the route on April 23 and save others just like they did for me. Running a marathon can be a gruelling experience both physically and mentally, and I feel it will be tough emotionally as I get close to where I’d collapsed just 18-months before.

But I am determined to make it to the finish line and to finally soak up the atmosphere on The Mall and get my hands on a London Marathon medal.

*You can support David’s fundraising drive for St John Ambulance by sponsoring him via justgiving.com/davidblackmore86

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