These days I don’t seem to blog about anything other than holidays or running…the craft has taken a bit of a backseat. Even so I’ve not updated since last August, but then again this is the first time since then that I’ve had a proper good go at cracking my marathon PB time again. My last marathon PB was at London last year where I managed to knock off a small matter of 42 minutes from the previous year! I wasn’t hoping for anything like that sort of reduction today! I was aiming for at least 9 minutes off my previous 4hr 9 minute PB, secretly hoping to get somewhere near good for age of 3.45 if I felt really strong…but I knew my training and prep had been pretty limited to say the least!
I’ve probably been “running” for about 11-12 years now since I changed jobs, recognized how large I’d become at that point and decided to do weightwatchers and train for a 5K race for life to have a positive impact on my health. It took me about 2 years to do my first 10K and then the next year I did The Great North Run under encouragement from a friend, and then as I turned 30 in 2010 I decided to do my first full marathon and since then I have run all manner of races including an ultra (30 miles) and I’m now up to a total of 7 marathons including today – Phil Hammond in our running club – Hyde Park Harriers has managed a total of 100 in exactly the same time…
This year I’ve definitely done too many events… Alan and I got together this time last year and encouraged each other (probably my obsession of entering races contributing the most!) to enter lots of really fun events and all very varied disciplines – we’ve ridden the Tour De Yorkshire, completed a sprint and Olympic distance triathlon, run the Yorkshire 3 Peaks 10 minutes quicker than I did last year and entered all manner of races and all manner of distances from 1 mile to the marathon today.
The race today was particularly unfinished business for me. In 2013 I was really excited to be participating in the first Yorkshire Marathon until 3 weeks beforehand I was mugged in my work car park and hit hard on the head twice, I didn’t quite have concussion, but the shock of the event affected my immune system and I came down with tonsillitis a few days later and was left feeling extremely vulnerable and lost all my confidence in running outside. My first attempt at the Yorkshire Marathon was a DNS (did not start). If I’d not got into the London Marathon ballot a few days later I think there is a good chance I’d have just stopped entirely. I had a year of very lonely and difficult training and running either on treadmills (including up to 20 mile training runs) or entering loads of races to feel “safe” running outside by myself. Fortunately this all changed with a series of very positive events.
My friend Gemma introduced me to parkrun for her birthday and gradually I’d recognize faces and started to feel a bit more part of the community. I then spotted James Booth at a work conference and talked about running as I’d seen him at parkrun and he introduced me to Hyde Park Harriers who (I might be biased here) have been one of the friendliest and most inclusive clubs I’ve come across and made me feel very welcome and safe as well as helped me push myself and develop hugely as a runner and in 2015 I was delighted to pick up a good amount of PBs. I made some really good friends and when out for a training run with Sam Scarlett in August 2015 she suggested that I might get on well with one of her friends Alan and so through the power of Facebook we became friends in virtual reality and offered to help me with my search for a running buddy in training for the White Rose Ultra and so after parkrun we met up and ran 12 miles around the beautiful Eccup Reservoir and Sam was right, we did get on very well 🙂 and it was the first of many runs and adventures together.
Alan and I have been attempting to train for this marathon against a multitude of distractions including training for triathlons, entering too many events to go on “proper” long runs, the decision to move in together and the not insubstantial amount of work that needed doing on my house to get it on the market and then Alan had to go to the states for 2 weeks with work and ended up picking a cold/flu type illness which meant he decided yesterday running the marathon wasn’t going to be a sensible decision. We’d already decided to enter a further marathon along the canal in Leeds in December (which I’ve just realized has only 50 entrants!) so Alan could spend the morning getting Glastonbury tickets and booking us onto Chevin Chase for Boxing day! I’d only really got up to 20 miles in training with a lovely run with Caroline, Phil and Richard 2 weeks previous out to Addingham with the promise of pie and peas to keep me going! I was nervous about the limited long runs I’d done.
I carbo loaded on a very tasty meal of orzo pasta, courgette, tomato, chorizo, mossarella, basil and cheesecake. Then I made a last minute decision to get the train last night and booked my ticket – I was a bit worried as to whether the 7.43am would get me to the start on time, but the next earliest was at 5.33am which seemed a bit too early. I got an early night, but worrying about race logistics was playing on my mind and I kept waking up and remember vividly at 3.25am not being able to get back to sleep for about an hour – I even woke up poor Alan by mistake and said that I couldn’t do it and even though he was half asleep he managed to reassure me I could and so when the alarm went off at 6.15 I was able to leap into the shower and get ready.
I’d bought some soreen for breakfast and demolished nearly an entire loaf and managed to drink a cup of coffee and felt totally exhausted – I could tell that I hadn’t slept well. Alan kindly dropped me off at the train station and I met up with a couple of Hyde Park Harriers – Catherine and Robin doing there first marathons and Paul doing the 10 mile route. We wandered onto the platform which was busy, but not as bad as I’d imagined, but the train guard pointed out that the train arriving was very full and that we might not all get on – there were lots of groans! We’d met up with a few more Harriers by this point (Ben, Claire, James, Tom, Rachel, Rodrigo) – fortunately a huge amount of drunken people who were coming back from their Saturday nights out got off and we managed to all squeeze onto the train and arrived into York at 8.10am giving us a good amount of time to get to the start for 9.30am.
The shuttle bus queue moved quickly and we got to the University of York with time to spare, Catherine kindly let me be her “team” so I could use the Jane Tomlinson toilets and Phil Hammond kindly let me borrow some sun cream – necessary as the sun was strong for October! I dropped my bag at the bag drop and kept my “spare” t-shirt on to keep me warm. Phil got interviewed briefly before the race and then we all walked towards the start.
I was in zone 2 and at 9.20am I decided I needed a nervous wee! Fortunately the queue moved well and a lady let me jump in front of her as she was doing the 10 miler which started at 10am. I managed to splash that lovely blue stuff from the toilet down my legs – not the best start to a race! By this point it was about 9.35am so I had to jump the barrier into zone 3, but a minute later we set off – I’d set a target on my Garmin for 3hrs 50 – part of me wanted to push for 3hrs 45 which would give me good for age, but that just felt too ambitious based on my poor training. My last PB I still ran with a chunky 3 litre Camelbak so I figured I should be able to knock off around 10 mins without the extra weight. I felt good for the first few miles and was well ahead of my pace and contemplated slowing down – but decided as I wasn’t panting or out of breath to keep it going and see what happened.
The support from Hyde Park Harriers was strong and extremely helpful and running through York past the Minster was lovely and by about 5 miles I’d managed to overtake the 4 hour pacer who I knew would have been in front of me on the start line – my PB felt safe and I relaxed into the pace. I count down my runs in miles, kilometres and numbers of parkruns left…because you’re always close to a milestone! I was pacing today in KM as Alan runs in KM so it makes it easier when we run together and I ended up in the habit! My Garmin gives an estimated finish time and up until the harsh out and back section around 18 miles I was on target for a very scary time of 3hrs 38! I made sure to drink at all the water stations, cool down my hands (which always swell on long runs) and take on a couple of shot blocks as the stations were spaced out for every 3 miles and it turned out to be a decent strategy – I was never too thirsty or felt low on energy.
I was delighted to see some of the Hyde Park Harriers next to the flag around 19 miles and the lovely Anne Akers who was cheering awfully loudly! I enjoyed some of the out and back to be able to cheer fellow runners on, but at this point I started to slow down considerably, some of this was that the course seemed to be more challenging, there was a burst of rain, but more my knees and the soles of my feet started to ache! I knew I’d finish, but the dream of good for age started to slip, so I returned to my 3hr 50 target and pushed on through. It must have been around 22 miles that I saw a huge gang of Hyde Park Harriers – Kay, Clare, Teejay, Claire and then a few metres further up Tina, Jaz and of course the super enthusiastic Liam and Sam who kindly gave me a jelly baby! It can’t be underestimated how much these cheers and support help as you can’t help but pick up your head and your pace when you are cheered on! I remember seeing Emma who had cycled out to a small village and was a nice surprising boost.
The last 4 – 6 miles were tough, pretty country roads, but some patches of really quiet areas which felt a little lonely and so as we hit the suburban slog back to York I was pleased and kept telling myself that the quicker I ran the quicker I could stop! Daniel offered some words of support with about 2 km to go and as I came into the finishing straight and I could hear music I punched the air and started to run (I have no idea why, but then marathons and music have always done odd things to me!) I ran the last 500m punching the air and sprinting and even jumped for joy nearly crashing into a photographer, I knew I’d done around 3hrs 50, but was delighted when my text came through at 3hrs 47 and 36 seconds – Time hop on Facebook had reminded me this morning that it was 5 years since another marathon PB at the Eden Project of 4 hrs 47 – what a difference 5 years makes – a whole 1 hour off my marathon time!
I bumped into the speedy Tom, Rachel and Farhad at the end and Farhad grabbed me a foil blanket which I was very grateful for. I picked up my bag in a bit of a daze and drank a sports drink and Alan called to say that he was close to the drop off area, but there wasn’t much opportunity to park so I walked or hobbled (Alan couldn’t recognize me as I was doing an “old lady” walk) and he kindly drove me home. I loved reading all the updates and photos on Facebook and felt really proud for everyone who had taken part.
So I’m of course delighted with today – It’s the last of my distances to have been PBed this year (by a not insubstantial 22 minutes) – I’ve managed to improve all of my times on all of my distances in the last year. I’m not sure today was to do with my training or nutrition particularly, but I think it’s been mostly about a bit of self belief – Alan has pushed me a lot over the last year to challenge what I believe about my capability as a runner and helped and supported me to believe I can try harder and achieve more – this coupled with the support that you get from a running club like Hyde Park Harriers, or more importantly the individuals within it has really helped my confidence as a runner, but in lots of other areas of my life. Thanks to everyone today who cheered me, ran with me and looked after me – My legs are sore, but my heart is happy!