Friday, April 29, 2016

The Day I Choked at the London Marathon

To an American, reading that heading, it sounds like I was actually running IN the London marathon and that I choked (aka failed).  Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I couldn’t run it if I wanted to, but I just have never actually wanted to. *grin*

CHOKE – Informal – to fail to achieve something, especially because you lose confidence.
American English synonyms or related words for this sense of choke
To fail, or to stop being successful: to go tits-up, fail, flounder, languish, backfire, fizzle,
miss, collapse, flop, crash

Oh no, this was something entirely different, indeed.

It was during one of the first marathons they ran, maybe year two or three, yes a long time ago.  I was at that time a regular programme seller at Chelsea Football Club and for some reason, we were asked to sell programmes at the London Marathon.  I thought it weird at the time that anyone would want to pay £5 for a book of what basically was a long list of names of people you’ve never heard of.  In hindsight though, I realize that if you were actually in a marathon, you might want a programme so you could show you did something with your life.  A souvenir of the day, if you will, aside from the blisters and shiny tin foil blanket you get at the end of the race (if you make it to the end of the race, that is)

Anyhoo, I had been wandering around all morning selling my wares when a few of us got together and decided to stop for a quick bite to eat.  (Translation, we were going to eat the packed lunches we took with us).   Now you should remember this was quite a while ago, long before those fancy insulated lunch boxes were invented so our sandwiches were probably squashed at the bottom of a duffle bag with a leaky bottle of coke.  But who cares when you’re starving, eh?  I remember very clearly though that I had a Viscount mint chocolate biscuit.  That was a mistake I still regret to this day….  
These are made by the Devil
I think we were standing across the street from Kings Cross Station and we were next to a boarded up construction site.  It’s not actually necessary for you to know that, nor part of the story, but I remember it with such clarity it’s like it all happened yesterday.  I had eaten my sarnies and bit into my Viscount and for some reason, I managed to get most of the biscuit in one bite.  No problem, you say, just chew it a bit.  But that’s the problem right there… I actually swallowed the thing practically whole.  And what happens when you try and swallow something that doesn’t fit?  Yes, it gets stuck. And did it get stuck…. Crikey, that thing got wedged in my throat sideways and I could not get it moved either up or down.  Try as I might, I could not swallow.

You have to remember, I was young, I was with lads who I only ever saw on a Saturday for a couple of hours and I was British – so I wasn’t going to make a fuss.  So what was a girl to do?  I wasn’t going to ask for help from basically strangers.  So I stood there, choking and turning blue, trying my best to clear the blockage by swallowing and coughing and not one of those blooming boys even glanced in my direction and even if they had, I’m sure they would have looked away just as quickly. You know how boys are!

So as I was choking for what seemed like three hours, by some miracle, something happened that dislodged the biscuit.  I think the chocolate perhaps melted, but I was able to swallow the entire piece. Mind you, it felt like I was swallowing a 2 by 4.

How embarrassing would this have been?
I have never been so relieved.  I would say my life flashed before my eyes, but it really didn’t, I was far to embarrassed for that.  I can just remember thinking “I’m going to choke to death and these boys don’t care!”  Obviously, once I’d swallowed that devil’s biscuit and realized that my throat was not in fact bleeding and torn I carried on as if nothing had happened.  Because, well, stiff upper lip and all that.  I didn’t mention it, they didn’t mention it and to this day, I don’t know whether anyone saw what was happening.  But I tell you what, my throat was sore for about a fortnight and I’ve never eaten one of those biscuits again!


  1. I used to love those biscuits, but you've put me right off them. What a story!

  2. Oops... sorry. Just remember, small bites and chew well! :-)