THEY say the last few miles of the marathon are the hardest. 

Having never run one, I wouldn’t know. But I do know that feeling of hitting the wall, when your body and mind start having a conversation. Why exactly am I doing this? I am not sure I can go any longer. 

Does the physiology of our bodies limit us or is it our mind that gives up first? As an athlete, I always feel I could have gone that bit harder. Then you see the data, notice that your heart rate was over 180bpm for 40min and think ‘OK, maybe I was at my maximum.’

I have always believed my body stopped before my mind when it comes to suffering but at the moment I feel my mind is being pushed to a place it has never been before. Eric Liddell once said the power to see the race to the end comes from within. I need to find that power from somewhere now. 

This last week of radiation feels like the final miles of my marathon or the last 500m of a 2k ergo. It is when your whole body is screaming in pain, but you just have to endure this last bit. A combination of grit and willpower will see you over the finish line.

This has been the toughest race of my life. I feel like I am swimming in a bath of lactic acid and my whole body is coming to a hard stop. 

In sport I love the pain, I thrive on it. But the doctor prescribed me some morphine this week to help it go away. This pain and fatigue is something I am begging to see the end of but there is no hiding from it and it isn’t going away just yet.

After a long morning in hospital, I managed to get outside to enjoy some sun. I just want to be out in nature, but as I closed my eyes to visualise riding through the Alps, I got a whiff of smoke. 

Of all the seats they could have gone to, these two girls sit on the bench next to me and start smoking. It’s hard to see two young girls smoke after I spent all morning in a cancer ward seeing people fight for every breath. 

I put a mint in my mouth to try to take the metallic taste away, but as I suck it, all I can taste is metal. My mouth has a numb feeling from the meds. But at least the sun is out and I am a day closer to getting back on my bike. 

On this journey I have thrown everything at managing the pain, attempted every single coping mechanism the psychologists write about, but I now feel I have gone to a place that as an athlete you can only take your body to a number of times in your life. 

Mark Stewart’s ride at last year’s Commonwealth Games was a great example of this. He had to turn himself inside out to win. But you just can’t go to that place every week.
That is how I feel right now. The reality is that I am looking in the mirror and thinking ‘how can I get through this last part?’ 

I am completely broken, there is nothing left in the tank. I just want to hibernate and wake up in three months’ time. I have to go deeper than I have ever gone to get over this finish line.

I am struggling to sleep. One problem with not being able to swallow is building up saliva in your mouth when you lie down, so as I drift off to sleep I either choke on it or feel it running out of my mouth. It isn’t a great look. 

So I sit at 2am drinking a mix of pain killers followed by laxatives looking in the mirror. I’m thinking ‘OK David, we have got this. Now just avoid looking in mirrors.’

It has been a nine-year slog to get to this point. While the first six weeks of radiation went so fast, I know this last week is going to feel like forever. Even my voice has started to go the last two or three days.

I sit chatting with a guy next to me who is on his last few days and he said the last week felt like a lifetime. Just then the lady opposite bursts into tears, it’s at that point we grouped together and supported each other. It was a beautiful moment between complete strangers sharing the most personal emotions to help each other through this.

It seems a lifetime ago, but I remember a conversation in a sporting context where this guy was telling me if you believe you can tolerate pain then you will perform better than if you doubt your ability to manage pain. He said some people attach a negative emotion to pain so the pain then breaks them as they fear it. 

So when you’re really suffering, have a mantra, a positive mantra to push through. I have used that in every race since, but can the same approach work with a tumour? Can lying in pain and telling myself how strong I am really work in this environment? I’m not sure I’m still convincing myself anymore.

How you manage this journey is different for everyone, but for this last week I will try to draw on years of sport to help me through. I am strong. I am powerful. I can do this.