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  Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Black against 'the wall'
Roger Black remembers the 2000 London Marathon
BBC Sport Online's Matt Slater speaks to Olympic silver medallist Roger Black about the hardest race of his life, the 2000 London Marathon.

After his glittering career as a professional athlete, you might have thought that Roger Black would be better equipped than most to handle the rigours of the London Marathon's 26.2 miles.

All those years of training, all those thrilling one-lap contests with Michael Johnson, all those medals....a Sunday morning jog in spring has got to be a doddle, hasn't it?

Don't you believe it.

  Roger Black's career
1985: Wins 400m and 4x400m gold at Euro Juniors
1986: Wins individual/relay double at Euro Ch'ships and C'wealth Games
1990: Repeats gold double at Euro Ch'ships
1991: Wins individual silver and relay gold at World Ch'ships
1996: Wins individual silver at Olympics
1997: Wins final medal at World Ch'ships, a relay silver
1998: Retires and joins BBC athletics commentary team
As Black knows only too well now, 26.2 miles is a long way in anybody's books.

Remember: the poor Greek that tried it first dropped dead at the finish line.

"The training was very hard - a nightmare in fact," remembers Black, who was attempting his first (and he says last) marathon at 34.

"Just fitting it in was difficult - particularly as my wife and I had a baby just before the marathon.

"Finding the time to go out for an hour and half run wasn't easy, but you knew you had to do it."

Trying to juggle training with the demands of a job and a personal life is a struggle every marathon runner will recognise.

"I did all of my training in the Guildford area, which is where I live," said Black.

Roger Black in full flight
Black advises leaving something in the tank for the last mile
"I preferred to run in the mornings, but sometimes that just wasn't possible due to my schedule."

Black, who retired from professional athletics in 1998, made a positive start to his marathon training regime by beginning in November.

But a knee injury picked up playing football hampered his efforts in the all-important post-Christmas stretch.

This lay-off, and the arrival of a beautiful, bouncing baby girl, conspired to keep Black's preparation to "just about the bare minimum really".

But Black, as you would expect from a man who made a speciality of coming back from injury stronger than ever, was still determined to give the race his best shot when the big day came around.

  Roger Black's top tips
Find a friend to train with
On the big day run the first half of the race slowly
"The marathon itself was great," he said. "To be honest, it kind of crept up on me because I was so busy doing other things.

"I had TV interviews to do and then I actually started the race. I didn't have time to get nervous. I just jumped right in."

Once underway, Black did what most marathon runners do on the way around, he made friends.

"I was running on my own, so I just got chatting to people. I didn't run with anybody in particular, but I just tried to run with people of my own level.

"One guy was running his 54th marathon, I think. He just said 'Eight-minute miles, no problem, just stick with me', and I did exactly that."

Black waved farewell to athletics in 1998
Black waved farewell to athletics in 1998
No amount of coaxing or kind words, however, was going to save Black from the horrors of 'the wall', or the infamous cobblestones at the Tower of London.

"The last few miles were terrible - particularly from The Embankment onwards. I just felt so depleted, and very hungry," recalled Black.

"Thankfully, a kind spectator gave me some banana and a Mars bar. I loved him for that.

"The worst bit was getting to Parliament Square, which you think is the end, and then realising that you still have a very long half a mile to go."

But he made it, and managed to clock a highly respectable time of three hours 41 minutes.

So would he do it again?

"I really enjoyed it, and it definitely ranks as one of the things I am most proud of, but I think it is unlikely I will do it again," he admitted.

"Having said that, you can never really say never. Can you?"


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09 Aug 00 | BBC Team
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