Good morning one and all. I hope this fine morning finds you well and that if you raced or ran yesterday, that you're not aching too much.
I was going to write this last night when I got home after the aforementioned marathon but I was just exhausted and doubted my ability to string a cohesive sentence together, let alone a full Race Report and Debrief! (RRD) Plus, I also think I needed some time for it all to sink in; it was quite the occasion.
First off, the race itself is great; brilliantly organised, marshalled and just great to participate in. The route was a little to rural for a city lover such as myself but that is in no way a criticism; I knew before I entered it that it was largely rural but I'm all for trying new things and race experiences. You have to, don't you, as it keeps things fresh and interesting. The support on the course was really good too and had everything from a high-fiving priest to an Elvis-alike rockin' the PA system at Stamford Bridge. It was an occasion to behold, truly.
Rewinding a bit now though to the build-up to this race, which was hardly ideal and had left me at numerous points wondering if actually running the thing is going to be a good idea. Many of you here know about my run-in with anaemia and other setbacks along the way, which put the brakes on the training occasionally. I think I got about three months or so of solid training in, which is okay but not as much as I'd have liked; it meant that I wasn't able to 'hold' a distance for consecutive weeks, doing, say, two or three weeks at a new higher distance (19 miles, for example) and then progressing on. It really was a case of increasing each week, which in itself has its own risks and downsides. But, we work with what we have at the time, and that's what I had to work with. Then came the taper, which I discovered I strongly dislike and experienced quite a few of the 'Taper Crazies' that you often hear about. I was a bit of a nightmare during it, so to anyone I might have annoyed during this period, I thoroughly apologise! The main issue during this period was my appetite; all through my training, even when running 40 miles per week, I never experienced anything like it. During taper, my appetite went through the roof. I ate ALL THE FOODS. All of them. I was just starving, all the time, which I certainly wasn't expecting at all. That settled in the last couple of days before the race but by then I was so stuffed and felt so sluggish that I probably was beyond eating any more whatsoever.
Lots of doubts going into this race, least of all having never ran any further than twenty-one miles. That particular run, conducted at the pace I wanted to race at, was a success. However, as we find out shortly, race day is very, very different. Those who know me know that whilst not the most experienced runner ever, by a long way, I've got a decent bit of experience behind me, have completed three half marathons and numerous 10Ks and was ready, and looking forward to the step-up to the full marathon. It's quite some distance, it really is and one you only really appreciate when you're actually undertaking it. It presents its own unique challenges, both physical and mental and I'm really not too sure, even now, which of those two challenges is the most difficult to overcome.
Let's get on with it then, shall we? On to race morning. I left Sheffield on the Saturday, late afternoon as there was no sightseeing involved, just the train up to York, straight to the hotel and then a Very Early Night. (VEN) I was quite alarmed at first as my room looked onto the street and there was a pub nearby, with lots of rowdy people outside, watching the rugby. "Jeez, I can't put up with a night of this nonsense; I might ask to move" were my initial thoughts. I hate to cause a fuss but I don't want to be kept awake all night either. As it turns out, the noise abated as the night went on and after a while it was silent. Thank goodness for that. After what was actually a really good night's sleep, the alarm went off at 0513 and it was time to get up and get ready. My kit was all laid out as I did it all the night before; number pinned to my top and everything neatly ready for the morning.
All that was left to do was to boil the kettle for my porridge pot. I don't really use kettles, because I don't drink tea or coffee. So, you can imagine my surprise, and horror, at the room being filled by the noise of what appeared to be a Boeing 747 at takeoff. It wouldn't have been quite so bad if it wasn't before 0530 on a Sunday morning and I really didn't want to wake next door up. Or the entire floor. How can one small appliance make quite so much of a din?! It couldn't boil fast enough; I was glaring at it the entire time, expecting the Noise Police at the door at any moment. Finally it finished its takeoff roll and the water was ready; about time too. Breakfast nommed, kit on and it's time to check-out and head out into the cool York Early Morning Air. (EMA)
Travel to the event village is by means of shuttle bus, specially set on for the occasion. I was one of the first on the bus already at the stop, but twenty minutes later we were still taking on passengers but it was no big deal as there was plenty of time yet. Bus suitably full and we were off. About three minutes into the journey there was a warning buzzer being emitted from the cab. The supervisor stood next to the driver leaned forward, had a shufty and announced, "it's probably just the temperature again". Probably? Just? Okaaayyyyy then.... It then ceased (the buzzing, not the bus) and then came on again as we got to the event village, which was at York University.
Once there it was off to the bag drop and then to meet up with my friend Tracy for a short while; she was also running this race but had travelled up on the morning in question with a couple of friends who were also running today. After a brief chat and a Good Luck Hug, (GLH) it was time to head off to the start, via the toilets. Four of them; I drink a lot of water, remember. There were plenty of toilets for this race. Loads of them, all over the place, which makes a nice change at a race. Still though, with over half an hour of standing about at the start, invariably you need to use the facilities again just as the start commences.
The starting pens filled up quickly; the warm-up passed without major injury (always flailing) and soon the music stopped and it was time for a minute's applause, in tribute to David Colley, the poor guy who died while participating in the Great North Run recently: bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-h... A very moving tribute it was too and I felt a deep sadness during it. He was due to be participating in the race; indeed, two of his daughters were running in the race today. I always worry about this, incidentally. I know it's taboo among runners and something that isn't widely discussed but I always, usually two or three days before a race, start to worry about briefly. We know the risks involved and hope nothing untoward happens but sadly it occasionally does. The minute's applause was a lovely way of honouring and remembering a fellow runner.
I love races; doesn't matter what distance the race is, but there's always a sense of togetherness and belonging. No matter what experience level the other runners are at, no matter what event it is, we're all in this thing together and the encouragement of fellow runners and the spectators is just fantastic and speaking from my own point of view, on of the reasons I enjoy doing races quite so much. There's just nothing like it, especially when your name is on your bib (or your top) and spectators and marshals use it to personally encourage you; makes you feel like a superstar for the day!
The race got underway in good time and soon I was over the timing mat and off. Actually running a marathon. A full marathon and never did I ever think I'd find myself doing that! At the start, Harry Gration, who Yorkshire-folk will know off of BBC's local news programme, Look North, was starting the race and giving out high-fives. Really nice to see him there; he was also running today, participating in the Yorkshire Ten Mile (YTM) race which starts just after the marathon runners depart, which our very own Turn Turtle is also running. Great of them to incorporate the two distances like that and really adds to the atmosphere of race day. Talking of atmosphere, the weather was.... sunny! Even had my shades on today. In all honesty I'd have preferred it foggy and spooky like last year's race was but ah well, bright and sunny it was.
Underway now then and things, so far, feel good. I have a plan in mind and I'm sticking to it. Out into the city first, away from the university, running past a road where one of our customers is that I deliver to for work. Through the city walls and into York city centre. Some of the streets here are narrow, cobbly and bollardy which slows things down a little but I'm not complaining. Up past the Minster, which is always a fine sight, and then out toward the countryside. Again, much like the Belfast HM, things are a little bit of a blur later on, but I'll remember what I can, although it may not all be in the correct order! The first few miles pass by fine and without problem or incident. As per my plan I speed up a bit after the first five miles and therein lay part of the problem, I think. Perhaps I should have extended my steady miles until a lot later. Ah well, it's all a learning curve, this marathon business! After a while we pass the High Fiving Priest (HFP) whom I got a high-five from, which made me smile for a good long while.
Along the way I passed a good few amusing signs. At just gone mile eight there was a sign which read "ONLY 8.4 PARKRUNS TO GO!" and I genuinely wasn't sure whether that was meant to be motivational or not! Plenty of other funny and motivating signs en-route but at this moment just can't think of any of them. Still plodding on and over the 10K timing mat and still feeling fine. More miles pass without any problem and despite not being the biggest fan of rural surroundings, I'm quite enjoying it all really. The 20K and halfway timing mats again, pass without any bother. There are toilets at frequent intervals here too, by the way and I'd been fighting the urge for a Scheduled Urination Stop (SUS) for some considerable time but just gone 10 miles, 10.41, I seem to recall it was, I was away behind a hedge to use Nature's Lavatory for a Quick Pee Stop. (QPS) All along the route people were doing this, some in discreet locations like I did, but others just brazenly open in front of everyone but hey, we're all runners here!
It's approaching Stamford Bridge, and between about miles 15-16 where things start to get.... interesting. For some reason, I start to feel physically sick, with a really strange tummy. This part of the route is a mini out-and-back, a two-way route where we go down one round, spin around and head back up, against runners still coming down, the first of two along the route. This is where MC Elvis is on the mic. And the crowd support is enormous.
Please God don't let me throw up here in front of everyone.
Please, please God don't let me chuck up on Elvis.
Don't Hurl on my Blue Suede Shoes.
This feeling continues and I ease off the pace, as that seems to help it. A bit. In we go to mile 18 and then the unthinkable happens. All training, as often we do when putting many miles in, I'd had many aches and niggles; ankles were one, knees the other, and of course, the left calf, which was one big source of worry, but mainly the knees, of late. What hadn't caused any problems, at all, at any point or juncture, were my hamstrings. So, at mile 18, just before we enter into the second, longer two-way route and gradual incline (by the way, there was 377 feet of elevation gain on this race; so much for "fast and flat"!) my left hamstring thought, seemingly:
"you know what would be a reight jape? If I weer to go TWANG now. Right now. See how you like them apples, marathon man!"
And so it did. And I didn't like them apples at all. So, alongside feeling that:
A, I've a goat in my tummy trying to eat its way out,
B, I've eased into the quicker pace a bit too early and made a bit of a balls of pacing, and,
C, I'm only at mile 18 of a 26.2 mile race,
I've now got this bloody thing to deal with. It forced me into an immediate walk as alongside it going TWANG, it seized up. An attempt at stretching was quickly abandoned as a bad job as there was nothing to hold onto, so I walked a bit, before attempted running again. No go. So, another bit of a walk and then strangely all seemed fine again so off I went running again, albeit at a much slower pace. There, waving away, coming toward me on the other side was my good friend Tracy, who was looking a lot fresher than certainly I was feeling and it was such a boost to see her. She, later, after we met up at the finish, described my complexion as "a beacon of redness" which is where the title of this post came from.
Around mile 19 I saw the rather incredible poster that TT had very, very kindly made for myself and Tomas. TT has kindly popped it in a post, which I've yet to reply to as I'm still catching up with everything from yesterday but bear with me and I'll be on it as the day goes on. Here's the post in question: healthunlocked.com/couchto5... and believe me, seeing that was an incredible boost! I do believe I may have briefly greeted one of TT's crew too, but unsure if it was your husband or not, TT. But how motivational it was seeing the poster and a massive thank you thank you thank you once more for it; it made the race and was so touching to see. Never had a poster at a race before and certainly nothing that elaborate!
The next few miles were dictated by my hamstring. The tummy was on/off a bit, but the hamstring would chuck a wobbly every now and again, prompting a bit of a walk. Not really anything I can do about it; better to walk when necessary rather than try pushing through and tear the thing and need the ambulance. During one of these walks I got chatting to a chap named Phil from Doncaster who was having a similar issue. As were many others, quite a number of people were liming, clutching body parts and walking along but we were still in the game, still heading toward that finish. I felt drained too. I remember at around mile 23 thinking I'd totally ran out of energy but didn't dare take any food on board; I hadn't taken any on since about mile 16 (perhaps where the tummy issues stemmed from, but again, I hadn't experienced any problems in training or on any other race) and was feeling it now. I remember, vividly recalling, at mile 23: "I am never EVER doing this again!" (Of course, I will do another marathon but at the time it's so unpleasant that you never want to again, briefly!) Everything hurt. And I was shattered. But still able to run, gently, along.
Last little walk came about a mile from the end. Worked a bit of energy up, hamstring felt better although I'd taken some Jelly babies on from some kind spectators and my tummy wasn't happy in the slightest, but I had energy so I started running and just pushed through all the discomfort. No sodding way was I giving up after coming so far. The din of the finish line music, the Yorkshire Marathon banners, the 500m flags, the finish line is in touching distance!
At 100m I chuck all caution through the window and put in the best sprint I can muster, arms aloft at crossing the line.
I've done it. I've just finished a marathon. A full marathon. The whole thing. And to my astonishment too, I came in under four hours, which was the goal all along, even with the issues and walks I had to do. Chip time was 3.58.21. Thrilled with that, truly. Not a clue how I managed that, but manage it somehow I did.
The Chocolate Milk Protein (CMP) drink from the goodie bag lasted all of seven seconds, as did the Mars Bar. The medal. Oh the medal, just look at it! So pink, so me! The finisher's shirt is pretty cool too.
I mindlessly wander off to the bag drop after sitting exhausted at the finish for a while, to get a text from my friend Tracy who'd just finished and was even more emotional than I was. Found her and the Finish Line Hug (FLH) was the greatest of comforts.
So, there it is, my first marathon completed and what an experience it was. An amazing race, really, and one I'd recommend to others. A great occasion. And a reminder that no matter how well you plan, you can still be surprised by something you never expected, on the day, but it's how you deal with it that counts. I've learnt so much from this experience and have taken so much on board for the next marathon, and indeed, the 50K ultra in March, among which:
1, train slowly: slow the long runs down
2, don't be so fixated on time and pace
3, GO OUT EASY! For longer than I first think might be necessary
4, above all else, enjoy the experience and when things get tough, as they will do, remember this is about the enjoyment and experience.
5, it's the first attempt. It's a learning curve; be proud of the achievement.
And you know what? I am. Every single step of it. There's things I'll change for the next marathon outing but what happened happened yesterday and I like to think I dealt with it all as well as the circumstances allowed. Hope everyone else racing yesterday did well; I'll get caught up properly later. Thanks everyone for your continued support and encouragement.
I don't think the hamstring is badly injured, as I;m sure I'd not have been able to carry on in the way I did, if it was, but it'll get a couple of days longer, at least, of rest now, before a Tentative Recovery Run. (TRR) Other things are achy and stiff too, as to be expected, but overall the feeling is of pride and accomplishment. Overwhelmingly so.
EDIT: GC linky: connect.garmin.com/activity...
Thanks for reading, y'all!