As most people who know me, I write LONG reports and I have a very bad habit of entering long distance races with the best intentions of a structured training plan, how often I will train and how far I’ll go, etc. But, when the race day comes, I make the start line completely unprepared and under trained. Often only reading the joining instructions on the day of the race or at best the night before to get the postcode of the start. The 2016 Yorkshire marathon in York was no different, other than it was planned as a warm up run (not a race) for the New York Marathon I have next month. I did this purposefully, so I at least had one long run in before November…best laid plans and all that.
The race starts the day BEFORE race day, I like to have a massive bowl of cornflakes about 12 hours before the gun goes off as I have it in my head that my body works off previously digested food rather than a last-minute gel on the day. So far, so good, I had the usual root around the house for my TAC vest, Garmin, charger, matching socks – that’s matching each other not matching my vest or shorts – running shoes and so on, fashion is not my strong point. I’m very forgetful and untidy and this job took me ages – I eventually found my race vest in the garage in a bag I hadn’t used since my last marathon in July. Nice. York is two hours away so I needed to be on the road for latest 6:30am – going to bed at 12:30am was not part of plan.
Ding-a-ling and the 5am alarm goes off, make a quick latte and Weetabix, watch the UFC and see Bisping defend his title and then it’s all systems go...off to sunny York.
The trip there was two hours of uneventful boring driving along the M62. I chose to park on Field Lane, York, on recommendation from a previous competitor. On arrival, one hour before the start, I get ready in the car and had loads of time left. So I decided to have a lickle nap…or so I thought.
With a 9.30am start time, I woke up in the back seat all groggy and not knowing where the heck I was at 9:15am…total panic as I wasn’t sure where I was in connection with the start line and after seeing plenty of runners walk past my car an hour ago, it was eerily quiet now...not even cars as the road was closed too.
So, I sets off in the direction I saw people walking… sees a couple with a rucksack and decide to follow these until I caught up with them and I then ask them are they going to the start…of what they ask…not runners or spectators…oh dear…so I set off at a run, down the totally empty closed road, looking for anything resembling a university campus…or another runner type person…nobody, nothing. Panic sets in, heart rate up…1.8 miles later I hear the muffled noise of a loud speaker, I’m near the start I think.
I get there with minutes to spare and jump over the barrier into zone 3, and relax...nicely warmed up with a resting heart rate of 120…trouble is I’m so late, the toilet queue is so long I’ll have to tie a knot in it. On the start line, there is some local celebrity who was 75 years old and had just done 75 marathons in 75 days...well done sir! His advice for the newbies was to put one foot in front of the other. Great advice which I follow to the letter.
Bang! The gun goes and off we go at an easy pace of not more than 9 minute miles, as I know if I exceed this, on the limited training I’ve done, I’ll blow after 20 miles. Mile one goes nicely apart from some self-seeded non-runners clearly in the wrong zone who were walking after only one mile….gonna be a long day love. I follow a group of what I felt were similar abilities, they were running whilst talking about doing 50 mile easy paced races and drinking beer, etc, and today was gonna be easy, etc, etc. So I decided I’d stay behind them they can be my pace makers.
After a short while the leader of this group started to show off to his mates by running backwards, shouting and creating, doing silly jumps, leapfrogged a few bollards and generally messed about. I secretly hoped he’d fall over and twist his ankle or at least use up vital energy that he’d need later in the race.
The 10K marker ahead and I was on schedule less than the hour, 57:36, thank you very much. Even made a scheduled loo stop – bliss. Things were going well so far. After my disastrous attempt at breaking 4 hours in London 2016 by not drinking at water stations, I had a plan, believe it or not, to drink a little water at EACH aid station and stave of dehydration bit by bit. I also had four gels and the plan was 10k, 20k, 30k and 35k – I have previously had too many gels and been incredibly nauseous off them, but I know I can’t not have them, even though I hate them.
At around 9 miles, I remembered Tanya saying she was ‘looking after’ the 9-11 mile section and she would give words of encouragement if she saw me. So I was on the lookout for her whilst wondering what in charge of miles 9-11 meant! Anyway, I spotted her on her bike and like thousands of other comedians I asked to borrow her bike, such fun. By now, I had settled into my stride and decided to enjoy this race, rather than race the clock, I would drink at each water station and soak up the scenery, stop for a loo break when required and so on, hoping that the usual angry miles at the end would be less so.
Reaching half way at 2:02:07 I was pleased I wasn’t going too fast and I hoped to get to mile 20 as steadily as possible without overdoing it. The weather was kind, almost perfect conditions, mainly cool and slightly overcast. We even got a little drizzle at one stage followed by glorious sunshine, it was such a beautiful day. The countryside offered shade from the sun and cover from the wind, it couldn’t have been much better. I was running without thinking about anything and was pleasantly surprised as each mile lap came and went.
The group I was following ebbed and flowed with aid stations and loo stops, we kept passing each other and at around 18 miles there was a turnaround section and I saw they were around a mile behind which was pleasing as I wasn’t pushing at all.
Got to 20 miles, which is my nemesis distance, in 3:11, which was 11 minutes over what I would like to get if I was chasing 3:59 – I estimate I can easily do a 10K in 60 minutes – though this wasn’t the case in London when the wheel fell off. As anybody who has run a marathon knows, it’s a race of two halves…first half is to 20 miles and the second, most difficult half, is the last 6.2 miles which, if not conditioned, go on forever without the end in sight.
Happy with my easy-going time I feel quite good and hope to beat 4:30 and I know the pacer is somewhere behind me. Exactly where or how far I didn’t know and I was now periodically looking around to see if he was there, why I don’t know because there was nothing I could do if he did pass as I was going as fast as I could go to be able to finish.
After one of the last aid stations I slowed down to drink the water and my legs started to seize up and become more rigid as is usual in the last section – this is simply because I don’t condition my legs for more than 20 miles – I know this but I don’t do anything about it, always promising to do it right next time.
Running becomes a power walk which becomes a walk, each step is agony, I try to kid myself by smiling at the scenery like a psychopath, this works momentarily but the ache in my legs continues. I then try and remember things like how many marathons have I done and which ones – but for some reason I can’t think – my mind is blank – very strange. I try to count to 100 but around 50 or 60 I get muddled and can’t string numbers together – it’s bizarre but every step is closer to the end.
By now lots of people are walking, it’s like an episode of Walking Dead, there are people lying on the floor surrounded by officials, some with drips in their arms and silver blankets over them. I think to myself, well I’m in a better place than them and carry on putting one foot in front of the other, like Dory says off Finding Nemo – just keeping running and don’t overdo it.
Beep beep! My Garmin signals 23 miles, yippee only a parkrun distance to go. Trouble is when I do parkrun I find it incredibly hard work – obviously at a different place but hard work nonetheless. I start to encourage walkers saying "Come on mate, let's have it!" and so on. In the distance, I see a Blackburn Roadrunners shirt and try to catch up, a fantastic motivator and when I get within earshot I start to give 'em some banter about Agent Coyle and all that, which cheered me up no end. No Nay Never No More.
Beep beep! 24 miles, not long to go now and I see finishers walking back from the finish to encourage their team mates further back – we can’t be that far out now surely…I found this section hard work and my pace went to a run/walk/shuffle, almost a death march, but I didn’t stop I just kept pressing on thinking walking faster would get to a run and would get there quicker – no point in walking or stopping to stretch as that would prolong the agony and I know as soon as I stop I will seize up completely.
Mile 25-26 was absolute agony, so close but so far and the end is near, but there’s a blooming hill to contend with. I’m passing lots of people which is great but painful – I can see the gantry in the distance and run with all my might. As I crest the hill, I see the scaffolding clearly and realise it’s not the finish it must have been the start line, so I must keep running, where the hell is the finish – it’s nowhere to be seen it was through the roundabout and around the corner – Jesus this is torture!
The finish chute was incredible, lots of supporters and spectators cheering, though it was like running through treacle to get there. Finally, I cross the line holding up victory arms, whilst I check my watch, making sure it was at least 26.2 as those Strava monkeys are watching. Boom, finished marathon number 22 in 4:23:53 better than I could have hoped for on my terrible preparation, if truth be known I was expecting over 5 hours so I was chuffed.
After getting my medal and t-shirt, obviously extra-large, I headed back to my car…unfortunately in the wrong direction…it took me 1hr 5mins to find my car…I was frozen. When I get back to car I promptly fell asleep for 40 mins.
Satnav takes me home the long way around through York and by now after burning up 4500 calories, this super tanker is absolutely starving, so I stop off in Harrogate for a Sainsbury’s meal deal. Getting out and walking from the car to the store was rather painful and I bet I looked a right state, like a colour-blind scarecrow.
Door to door was 12 hours, what a great day, roll on 6th November for New York Marathon.