I certainly did not start The Mayfair Power and Tower Race this morning with a first place in mind. There are many reasons for this. I am too slow a runner, I did not train specifically for the race, my personal course time has been declining in the last 3 years and to be frank the past winners are way superior than I am.
In fact before the race I was telling Chris Galvin my strategy was to “run easy” and just do enough to beat fellow runner and CEO of Red Carnation Hotel – Jonathan Raggett. Then the whistle blew and we started running.
Surprisingly I felt fresh and strong for the first kilometre or so. I was breathing well and could feel my heart pumping calmly and slowly, the blood was going round and I felt at peace within.
To start with, I was in the first 15 runners and the only runner I wanted to beat was far behind me.
So I kept on running… Running while concentrating on what was going on inside – my heart and legs, my breathing, the blood flowing, my stride.
Already I was thinking strategically and took all the legal “short cuts” by either going wide or narrow on the course. Little by little I overtook most of the pack until I was number 4. Last year’s winner was in first place again and way ahead of me. He seemed untouchable just 2 kilometres from the entrance of the London Hilton on Park Lane. At that point I could now begin to feel the pain.
I kept going.
The teachings from the boxing ring kicked in. I kept on talking to myself : Relax, keep going, monitor your tank, run your race, stay strong, breathe, be tactical and take a “breather” as and when you can.
I did just that.
I accelerated as fast as I could going downhill and just 500 yards away from the hotel, I overtook the race leader and I was now the one in front. I began to feel that I could win this but knew deep down I had to keep a cool head. Anything could happen still.
Again I accelerated going downhill in the tunnel crossing Park Lane, I then took a “breather” in and out of the tunnel and crossed the road to the door of the hotel as fast as I could while avoiding a collision with a huge black Mercedes…
I ran through the hotel lobby, I could see all the spectators but could not respond to any cheers. I was focus on three things only - running, breathing and winning.
I jumped 4 stairs at a time down to the lower lobby at the back of the London Hilton on Park Lane before going out and turning right onto the emergency stairs leading to the 28th floor at Galvin at Windows.
I took another “breather” for a few seconds on the stairs landing and started my ascent with 2 runners right on my heels. I looked back briefly and occasionally to know where they were.
I knew then that I could very well win the race or lose my lead or worse, be forced to give up of exhaustion in the stairs. I went as fast as I could to the 4th floor running up one or two stairs at the time and using the strength of my left arm with the balustrade to propel me up faster … both runners were still right behind me but they started to walk so I did that too. I was in front and ahead, I thought just like in the boxing ring – fight your fight – run your race. Just do what you need to do to win.
Still I took no chances and walked as fast I could, sometimes one stair at the time and sometimes two.
I wanted to vomit all the way to the top floor. I almost did that at least 10 times but I carried on. Being nauseas or vomiting while pushing myself hard doing sports happened to me many times before while boxing or running. I know the feeling very well, it’s ok, I can take it – the little voice in my head kept telling me to keep on going. YOU CAN WIN THIS! I started to believe it but could not begin to tell myself I would win for certain , so much could still go wrong!
Suddenly around the 14th floor the 2 runners behind me started to lose ground and so I moved tactically to the right of the staircase so they could not see where I was when looking up. I wanted to “take their heart” and discourage them and make them believe I was gone far already.
When looking back I could see they were close but once I reached the 24th floor I knew victory was mine.
There was no way they could catch me now.
My body was gone but I wanted it so badly and I would have raced them like a mad man to the top in order to get my Cup and Winners medal.
I kept going and I won! First time in 9 years!