Major Triumph, Marathon Complete!
By Iain Carter.
It’s the shoulders that hurt more than my legs. I’m writing this while recovering from running (shuffling) my first London Marathon – an event that became a bit of a personal obsession, an itch that needed to be scratched. For some reason the toll of those 26.2 miles last Sunday is being felt at the top of my arms rather than in the limbs that took me through the streets of London. Indeed the rest of my body and especially my mind could barely feel better. I’m no athlete and could barely run around the block before taking a spur of the moment decision to enter the race. For years I have watched the television coverage and wondered what it would be like to take part.
Now that I comfortably possess age eligibility for the Seniors’ Tour (all that is lacking is the golfing ability), I knew that this was a now or never moment. So a deep breath was taken, my entry was submitted and somehow I was given a place in the Virgin Money London Marathon. It became an all-consuming project to the extent that when I returned from the Masters, it was the only thing in my mind. The prospect of sprinting up the Mall to cross the finish line dominated my thinking. Would I get there? How would it feel? Will it be worth all the training runs? And, crucially, did I do enough of those?
Another question you might be asking is what on earth does all this have to do with golf? Well I’ll be honest – not much. Prioritising my training has certainly ruined my game – but that’s of no concern to anyone other than myself and a lovely chap called Mike who partners me in the club’s knockout four-balls. But I can find parallels with the sense of fulfilment I’m currently feeling. There is an inner satisfaction that, frankly, I’m struggling to quantify – I’ve used the word immense more in the past week than ever before! And it had me thinking that if I’m feeling like this after staggering around a marathon, doing no more than putting one foot in front of the other, finishing well over three hours behind the winner, how extreme are Sergio Garcia’s emotions as he parades his hard-earned Masters green jacket?
Now, his is a proper story of self-fulfilment, winning a first major title at the 74th attempt, eighteen years after bursting on to the major scene by almost chasing down a rampaging Tiger Woods at the 1999 US PGA. From that moment onwards Garcia has never been short of fans, so many of them enraptured by the Spaniard’s youthful exuberance. Those supporters have stuck with him throughout. They have delighted in a magical Ryder Cup career and massive wins such as the Players Championship. And they’ve endured the torment of too many near misses at the majors and the frustration of a supreme golfing talent falling short of its full potential. Few gave Garcia much of a chance ahead of this year’s Masters. Augusta has brought the 37 year old little success in the past and plenty of angst. His superb ball striking is an undoubted asset on such a course but the good work is undone by a less reliable putting touch on those undulating and super-slick greens. If he was going to win a major it would be at a US Open, Open or PGA. Not the Masters.
But Sergio found a serenity that had eluded him in his previous assaults on major titles. Nothing could disturb it; not a Justin Rose’s birdie barrage, nor the dropped shots at the tenth and eleventh holes of that thrilling final round. Even when his drive on the thirteenth ended up under a bush, Garcia found the composure to complete a crucial par despite having to take a penalty drop. When the initial opportunity to win was spurned, missing a short birdie putt on the 72nd green he still remained calm. The fans willed him to get the job done and he duly did at the first extra hole which prompted fantastic outpourings of emotion both inside and outside the ropes. This was destiny finally, finally fulfilled. A long and tortuous golfing route completed with a fair few metaphorical bumps and bruises along the way.
No doubt, there had been moments of huge self doubt, frustration and temper but they all served to make this moment of triumph all the sweeter. I went through similar emotions on that marathon journey – but finally, finally the Mall came into sight. There was no sprint to cross the line, just a weary jog and I clenched my fists, bent double and breathlessly blurted out: “Yes, yes, yes!” Pathetic really for a grown man, who’d just come in at around 21,000th in the race, but receiving that finisher’s medal was my moment to treasure. It is very heavy, by the way, and I’m wondering if that’s why my shoulders hurt so much? Maybe I should stop wearing it?
Seriously though, I need to get the aches sorted out. There is a golf game to find because Mike and I are about to start our quest for a bit more sporting glory. Olé! Bring on the four-ball knockout!