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London Marathon Sunday 13th April 2008


Me, Katie and John


To walk 26.2 miles in the London marathon, holding 10kg dumbbells in each hand. During the 26.2 miles I am not allowed to put the weights down at all. I am not allowed to use any form of strap to aid my grip or allowed to rest them down at all or to rest them on my shoulders. They must be dangled from my hands for the whole duration.

To make my challenge interesting, at every mile point I must complete 100 step ups on a box which is 14 inches high.

26 miles and 2600 step ups! Can it be done? With some serious hard work both mentally and physically I believed it could!
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Seeking medical advice

Before I started my challenge I tried to seek as much medical advice as possible. I wanted to know some answers to some of my questions. The type of questions were, is it going to give me long term bone or muscle damage, was I going to have a heart attack for holding the weights for such a long period of time. I wanted to know is there another hidden nasty that I do not know about.

I rang some top specialists in London, Doctors, Physio’s, Osteopaths, a celebrity Personal Trainer. None of them knew the answers!

How long did I train for?

Before attempting the challenge I had to start training straight after Christmas, but had already been doing a lot of endurance work on step ups throughout the year, which provided lots of conditioning work on my hands.  Therefore 4 months of real intensity from hell. 

My training involved

My training involved very early morning training sessions, starting at 4.30am to be finished for work at 9.00am some Saturdays.  On other occasions I started at 10.00am to allow me to train for up to 8 hours.

My first test was a 5 miler with 500 step ups to see what it was going to be like.  I completed it, but the pain was like nothing I had experienced in my life with pain in my joints, shin’s, hip’s, hands, back, shoulders, blisters, the list goes on. But I set myself the challenge and I was determined to give it my best shot. 

I needed a week for my hands to recover, so the next week I went in the gym and did hill walking for 4 hrs, combined with step ups all with a 2 stone weight jacket on and heavier dumbbells.  This gave me some different training with more endurance and high intensity. The next Saturday we attempted 7 miles with 700 step ups, I won’t bore you with the pain factor, but we made it.

I followed this sequence throughout my training, building up two miles every 2 weeks. I alternated this in the gym by doing some death training sessions on the treadmill.
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Me and John on our 15 mile and 1500 step ups training run

We finally got up to 15 miles and 1500 step ups, I experienced cramp at the 13 mile point for the first time and thought I really am not enjoying this, what the f!*k am Idoing. When I got back to the gym I slowly placed the dumbbells down and released my grip.  It took me 30 minutes to raise my hands up about 6 inches and I said “it’s not happening, I have still got to find another 11 miles in me and I already have hit the wall.”  Never the less after another two weeks of recovery I tried the 17 miler combined with 1700 step ups, but this time I increased my food intake.  John fed me more mars bars and bananas and the results were better. I thought “YES-it’s back on”.
We got up to 19 miles and then I had a problem. I picked up a calf injury through running and this seriously knocked my training and my confidence back. I had to adjust my next session to avoid any further injury, but I still had to train in preparation for my last training run of 21 miles and 2100 step ups.  To re-build my confidence we actually went for 22 miles and 2200 step ups as we had a 3 week break since the 19 miler. 

However this 3 week gap totally screwed my head so to try and make it easier I got 22 volunteers from Calso and each one of them came out with me for a mile with weights of their choice followed by 100 step ups with me. This would hopefully break my journey up, but after 3 miles I did not feel good, every thing was hurting. I was thinking “I am 3 miles, it is killing me and am not even any where near my PB of 19miles and 1900 step ups.” 
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Bit by bit I chipped away, got up to 14 miles and thought “yes it’s hard but at the moment it is not getting any worse, I dug in and finally made the 22 miles and 2200 ups. WOW! The body and mind is amazing.  Everyone was saying to me well done Gaz you can do this now, but I still had another 4 miles and 400 step ups to go. I was totally exhausted and knew it was still going to be very tough and still did not know whether I was going to do it or not. 
The things I learnt about my body in my training sessions were incredible.  Deep down I knew I could do it providing I did not have a heart attack or get severe cramps which would be totally out of my control.
How John and I, motivated each other, in training and on the day
John played the biggest part. Without John I would not have been able to do it, he was brilliant. Who of your friends would ring you up at 4am and say come on Gary it’s time to go training. He was with me all the way, he dedicated all his Saturdays to the challenge-now that’s a friend!  We would tell each other silly jokes where we would die with laughter. John had to keep reminding me to move my hands so I could get constant circulation, he did forget sometimes probably because he was in pain carrying the box which weighed 3 stone.  We were constantly encouraging each other which really helped both of us. He watered me, fed me, cleaned my snotty nose and would even scratch my b!*lcks if I asked him, he was a superstar.
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Me wiping my snotty nose on John’s arm


Some of my low points

Some of my lows were injuring my calf, constantly being in the unknown, questioning if I am going to do it or not, am I going to die doing this by having a heart attack, am I going to get cramp, which is out of my control? I also hated marathon day itself and could not enjoy it. I wanted to mix with the thousands of people and soak up the experience but we had to be right at the back with very little support.

A long and empty road ahead

My worst low was getting blisters in both balls of my feet at the 6 mile point!  In training I deliberately did not tape my feet as I wanted to find out where I would get blisters so that on marathon day I could tape my feet up in all the right places. I thought I had really prepared my body, but still got blisters largely due to the wet weather. In my training I experienced whether conditions ranging from the freezing cold and chilling winds, gales, rain, sleet, heat and humidity. 

However on marathon day just before the 6 mile point the heavens opened and it absolutely hammered it down, it was nice at first as it cooled me down which felt good as the first 5 miles had been warm and very humid with no breeze.  However, I had to walk through some puddles and my trainers got sopping wet which caused my feet to blister.

This was a serious low point - I was now getting blisters, sucking in fumes from the big lorry’s which were dismantling the mile markers and also trying to dodge all the water bottles. To add insult to injury when we got to each water and lucozade station they had packed up and gone – never mind only 20 miles to go – cheers!
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Me and John going through Greenwich,
just past the 6 mile point

At the 12 mile point I experienced my worst nightmare, CRAMP.  My right calf started to pulse and suck in.  This made my step ups really hard - which had previously been a break from the walking.  The only thing I could do was slow my walking pace down, focus and keep going.  I was hobbling along with my blisters, suffering from cramp and hating every minute of it, NICE!

Me and John at the 12 mile point and
my first sign of cramp

Another low point was that there were not enough marshals at junctions.  On 3 occasions we were not quite sure where we were going. Around the 14 mile point we were heading to Canary Wharf and came to the tunnel, but just before the tunnel there was a turning to the right where a band was playing.  Meanwhile on the other side of the road there were thousands of runners going the other way - so I asked John which way do we go, John shouted out in a loud voice "WHAT WAY DO WE GO?", but no one was looking at us because the music was drowning our voices out.  By this time I was getting so angry, I was getting tired and I was hurting and said “does any one no the F!*!ing way”. Finally, I heard one of the runners from the other side of the road shout - "turn right".   We shouted thanks and away we went.
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Calso groupies following me and John
around the 17 mile mark


John trying to cheer me up

Around the 18 mile point I was getting really worried about my cramps and shouted out to my Calso friends, "Can some one try and get me some salt.  I need some salt, please get me some salt some one", I was really panicking as I felt my body starting to crash, they were knocking on peoples doors and Russell Stenning a X-trainer who some of you guys might know managed to find a little super market. John gave me some salt with my sports drink and it certainly contained my cramp. 

As the roads were all open again we had to walk on the paths, I kept going on the roads to find a smoother walking surface as every lump and bump was taking it’s toll, I kept getting screamed at by the police, “GET OFF THE ROAD AND GET ON THE PATH” the paths were so uneven and uncomfortable on my cramping legs and sore feet.
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I wonder if Coca Cola would be interested in sponsoring us?

We persevered up to the 23 mile mark and I still felt shite and still didn't know if I was going to make it. I had to go back on the road again, it was worth taking the bollicking from the police, but I understood that they were only doing there job. Another policeman came by me on a motorcycle and said “get off the road get on the path and turn next left onto the embankment”. I acknowledge him and made our way along the river, the path we started to walk along
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The smooth path!  Very nice, how can you have a fetish about a path?

As I got to the 24 mile mark I had to do my step ups, this was outside a pubby-type bistro it had black smoked screen windows. I could not see inside the bistro but all the customers inside could see me.  I could him them clapping and cheering me on, this was the first time in my journey I knew I was going to do it!

The pubby-type bistro

Going past the London eye

John and I going passed Big Ben at 7.30pm.  1 mile to go!

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Some of my high points

I had high points when I achieved my training sessions, but my first high point on marathon day was at 24 miles as for the first time I really believed I was going to do it.  My Calso friends came to support me and John so we had an army of Calso supporters that walked the last 8 miles with us including my wife Becky and daughter Maisie.


Calso supporters, Becky & Maisie

Katie, the little girl who has Cerebal Pausey and was given a Whizz-Kidz wheel chair a short time ago, also managed to complete the last 3 miles with us.

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Walking the last few miles with Katie,
who was in her whizz-kidz, wheelchair.

On my final set of step ups they all counted down and cheered and that was a great feeling as I knew I had done it.

My last set of step ups.  YES!

Just after the finish line

Shaking Johns hand and giving him a hug was a great feeling of satisfaction as he had been such a giant and made it a real team effort.
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Giving John a big hug

Our finishing time was 9 hours 44 minutes and 30 seconds, without putting my dumbbells down or resting them once.  That felt a real achievement.

Flora London Marathon 2008 Results

Position Pl.age No. Name Age Club Time
23606 3961 45789 Nicholas, Gary (GBR) M40 Calso Fitness Centre 9:44:30
23605 3960 45875 Currell, John (GBR) M40 Calso Fitness Centre 9:44:29
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My highest point had to be giving little Katie a hug once I finished – she is a real inspiration and made the whole experience so worth while. 

Me and Katie

With my medal placed around my neck I was feeling pretty good at this point!!!!!!
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Receiving my medal  

Me and John at the finish

When I went through the finish line one of the marshal’s said “would you like a goody bag,” I said, “yes please”, he said “just go to the end of the Mall and someone will give you one” it was another half a mile at least down the road, GREAT! 
We also got beat by a guy called Buster who was 101 years old.  He beat us by 10 seconds.  WELL DONE BUSTER!

Buster enjoying a beer

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My final thoughts

The whole journey was a very emotional experience and one I will never forget.  Some of my friends asked if I would you ever do it again? My answer was” you must be joking I would not wish my worst enemy to experience what I went through”.

On the Monday morning while I was licking my wounds in bed having a cup of tea with my daughter, Maisie, I was listening to BBC London radio and the last caller said does anyone know if the dumbbell man finished?  I was going to ring and say it’s me the dumbbell man but I did not bother.
My body already feels good except for my sore feet and in a few days I will be back to normal.
Next year I would like to do a new challenge where I would be involved with the crowd more, I have one up my sleeve!

An emotional Gary, John & Katie

I would like to thank everyone involved in helping me & John out to make our challenge possible and for all the sponsor money you have so kindly donated. We have raised nearly £4,000 for the whizz-kidz charity.
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If any would still like to donate some money, please make cheques payable to whizz-kidz and send them to G. Nicholas, Calso Health & Fitness, 28-30, Letchworth drive, Bromley, Kent


Was it worth it? YES!



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