Paul Tonkinson and Rob Deering

Experience 26.2 Miles to Happiness with Paul Tonkinson

Comedian, TV presenter and podcaster Paul Tonkinson is no stranger to the London Marathon.

An experienced runner, Tonkinson co-hosts the Running Commentary podcast with Rob Deering (pictured above left) and is a regular columnist for Runner’s World magazine.

In his new book, ’26.2 Miles to Happiness: A comedian’s tale of running, red wine and redemption’ Tonkinson tells all about his attempt to break the three-hour barrier for the first time.

What follows is a hilarious and heartwarming account of Marathon Day, combined with moments in time and conversations that have inspired Tonkinson along the way.

In the below extract, Tonkinson contends with hitting the dreaded wall and draws strength from the support of the watching crowds as he attempts to navigate his final six miles…

Mile 18. Isle of Dogs to Canary Wharf. Crossing over

Goal time – 02:02:15. Actual time – 02:02:24

This is not a particularly salubrious area for passing from one dimension into another but there seems little choice in the matter. I’ve been running hard for just over two hours now so, see you on the other side, I’m going under. That is to say, I am officially knackered.

The mad happy dash that made no sense at all at Mile 16 makes even less sense now, in fact all sense is receding. I am knocking on the door of the Wall, the door is opening. I am no longer pure light, I am heavy and daft, slurping thirstily on a bottle of water, squirting it on my head, neck, the back of my hamstrings and then hurling it off the gutter, I could easily unravel here.

Help me, please. Throw me a life raft.

My eyes ferret out into the crowd, I’m looking for faces in the throng to connect with, anything at all that would give me a scrap of energy. Up to now, I’ve been taking them for granted. Now I need them. And yet, just as I need their concrete encouragement, their voices are blending. My senses are going a bit, narrowing. It’s the old Central Governer. He’s husbanding resources to where they are needed.

Forwards. Ever forwards. Let that be the focus. Loosen the body if you can. Push. Push.

In terms of sheer numbers, the bodies by the side of the road are getting more numerous, packed closed together. We are reaching the business end of the day. The comments are sharper, more directed. There is an urgency coming off them. I need to stay in my race. I could lose myself in their anxious faces.

Think form. Cova. Light steps. Onwards. Push, push.

And yet, much as I try, I am bleeding out into them. The noise is irresistible, it is penetrating my focus. To do well, to success today, I must use them. I must harness it. Their positivity can feed me. No swearing at innocent kids today – or anytime for that matter.

The trees love the rain.

Up to now my pace has been perfect. That could change very easily. At this stage, there are absolutely no guarantees. I’ve been here before – in 2005, in York. I’m older now, wiser, but possibly weaker and with 13 more years of accumulated wear and tear in the system, the untallied but continuous grind that is our lives. The travel, all that sugar and bread, late night cheeseathons, Two Bottle Sundays, therapy, exhaustion and exhilaration and sheer energy expenditure of three kids. A toll has been taken, charges have been administered.

I’m older, and for a second I’m really feeling it. In fact, if you want to see how you’re going to look in twenty years’ time, have a look at your race photo 18 miles into a marathon. I know, frightening.

But the race must continue, this saga. This ultimate test that no one cares about but me.

26.2 Miles to Happiness: A comedian’s tale of running, red wine and redemption is available now.