SO THE day had come and I was faced with the challenge of eating one metre of pizza in 45 minutes as part of a Man vs Food contest.

Despite having never entered such an event, being quite the pizza eater, I thought it would be easy but as I walked closer and closer to Rustico a measly one metre became a monstrous 100cm, not forgetting it was going to be 30cm wide too, and the daunting task of what was awaiting firmly struck.

When I arrived at the Commercial Road restaurant I met head chef Massimo Merola, who rolled out the dough and explained the complexities of cooking such a mammoth feast.

Seeing it did nothing to allay my fears and I was ready to run out after speaking to Justin Britchford, owner of the Italian restaurant which opened in September, when he told me that not a single competitor had overcome the challenge to date.

When the margherita pizza was placed on the table, glasses and cutlery were removed and an unlit candle pushed to one side, as this was no time for mood lighting – there was a competition to win.

During the first 10 minutes I’d made a strong start and there was a significant dent which left me, perhaps rather naively, thinking I might be the first to have my photograph put up on Rustico’s wall as part of their hall of fame.

My progress was even impressing Rustico’s staff and at this point I was genuinely starting to believe I could do it.

Unfortunately, after about 30 minutes, when Aretha Franklin’s Say a Little Prayer played over the restaurant’s sound system, I knew that only divine intervention would allow me to reach my goal.

I didn’t have much more left to eat but rather fittingly, given we are in Wimbledon season, my stomach had declared game, set and match.

Not one to give up, I decided to see off as much of the delicious pizza as possible and perservered with the clock ticking nearer and nearer to the challenge’s conclusion.

By the time Hot Chocolate’s You Sexy Thing played, I was anything but, suffering from excessive pizza eating sweats and even with Errol Brown singing ‘I believe in miracles’ I’d long since accepted that mine wasn’t going to happen.

Nonetheless, on reflection I did a decent job making my way through over three-quarters of my meal with staff saying that I’d eaten the most of any of their entrants – so far.

I’d like to thank Justin, Massimo and their team for welcoming to the restaurant, encouraging me bite after bite and presenting me with my certificate for being so near but yet so far.

If my triumphant face can’t be on their walls then perhaps the story of my quest to get there can take pride of place instead.

I’d encourage anyone who thinks they are up to the test to give it a go as it is very good fun.