My name is Steve Claringbold and I am a marathon runner.
It feels good to say that and if you’d said to me in 2009, when I started training for a one off 10k, that within four years I would have completed a marathon I would have laughed at you.
But that is exactly what I achieved on the 6th October in the beautiful area of Chester and its scenic surroundings. I even managed to do it on less than two hours sleep (more on that in a minute).
I knew coming into 2013 that my Winter training had gone well and I was at my optimum fitness. So, if ever there was a time for me to attempt a marathon it was going to be this year. Having decided fairly early that I wanted to do one around October time it was then just a matter of picking which one and then organising a training plan.
Chester had been stuck in the back of my mind since my mate Andrew ran it the year before. It is a relatively flat course and, as I said before, very scenic. To be honest it was a pretty easy sell as it would mean training in decent weather and being able to fit in one of my favourite half marathons in Warrington as well. Before long it was booked and I was preparing myself for the gruelling training. One thing I had forgotten to do was tell my long suffering wife that I’d booked it though. I don’t know whether I was more nervous about doing the marathon or telling Mrs C that I was going to do it. I think she understood though, it was an itch that needed scratched and I’d probably be a bit antsy until I’d attempted it. I did try to alleviate any concerns she was having with the caveat that regardless of completion or not it would be a one-time thing. Part of this was psychological on my part though as I was trying to give myself a mental edge to aid completion by making it a one off. If I thought I only had one chance at it I was more likely to give it my all.
The training went well all in all. I’d been using a training plan at My Asics which I’d tailored to suit my needs. I entered the time I wanted to complete the marathon (which I didn’t reveal to anyone until after I’d completed it – 4 hours and 29 minutes) as well as when I wanted to start my training, when the marathon was and how many runs a week I wanted to do. I was then supplied with a training plan to fit the criteria. I’d also decided to up my visits to the Osteopath to once a month rather than once every other month so that she could make sure there wasn’t anything amiss as I upped the training. I was keeping a running log to not only detail my times but keep a track of any niggles and/or injuries and when I tried something different (such as energy gels, carrying a hydration backpack etc.) to see what worked and what didn’t.
The training was very useful but it was completely time consuming. I often felt a little guilty about coming home from work and going straight out for a run. The days when I could see how excited my son was to see me open the front door only to look disappointed as I put my running trainers on and went out again were a wrench. I think if anything stops me doing another marathon it would be the amount of time that goes into training.
There was only one aborted run during my training. This was meant to be a 17 ½ mile run but ended up being a 16 mile run due to the fact that my body just gave up in the end. It was raining on the day but it was also terribly windy (horrible conditions for an asthmatic runner) and as I lurched towards 15 miles I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go the distance. This started a mini crisis of confidence as I realised, upon my return home, that on marathon day I would still have another ten miles to do. Luckily the next week saw a successful bash at just over 19 miles and all faith was restored.
I headed into the marathon in great shape. I’d been looking after myself nutritionally and managed to stay injury free so I was confident of how things would go on the day.
The Day Before
I went down to our local parkrun in Chances Park before I had to catch the train to Chester. That weekend was #loveparkrun weekend so I thought I’d go down and show my support for the cause. Then it was off to the train station to catch my train. My wife wished me luck and my son implored me to have fun while I was running (I wasn’t sure that I would have fun though but I’d told him I would do my best). On arrival at Chester I was thinking about walking to the hotel but decided against it and got myself a taxi. The hotel was just over 2 miles out of the city centre in an area called Mollington and I was pleased I’d got a taxi in the end as I don’t think I would’ve found it easily. The Brooks Mollington hotel is a lovely hotel full of period features and very friendly and helpful staff so the signs were good that I’d booked a good hotel for a change. I was even more pleased when I entered the room to find a lovely four poster bed. Unfortunately it also had around 20 unwelcome visitors. I had to go on a massive fly killing spree before being able to unpack. Once the massacre was over I’d decided to get my gear together for the morning but then I heard my neighbours for the night having a massive barney and I realised that the walls were paper thin. I immediately feared the worst so thought I’d have a wander out to take my mind off it.
The hotel was miles from anywhere. I had to walk for 40 minutes before I hit a supermarket and then it was another 25 minutes before I hit the city centre. I rounded the corner into the centre and accidentally joined a Gay pride march. I didn’t even realise that it was Gay pride weekend as their didn’t seem to be much going on in my hometown to celebrate it. Before long though I was in the middle of a conga that was snaking its way down the street. Once I’d managed to escape the conga I couldn’t bear the thought of walking all the way back to the hotel again so grabbed myself another taxi. I had tea that night in the hotel and then the rest of the night was spent sitting in my room watching tv watching X-Factor (some shocking decisions made about who was going to the live shows) and Match of the Day (Terrible defending!!!). I’d decided to get my head down around 11 that night and as I knocked my tv off and got my head down the room next door started blasting dance music at full volume. Great!!!
Half an hour later the music had gone off but then the music in the bar downstairs started playing and, despite my protestations, continued until 4am. As the music went off downstairs my neighbours returned and had another massive argument and then a very noisy reconciliation. I was literally banging my head off a wall at this point but, possibly due to concussion, drifted off into sleep not long after. By 6am I was up and about but absolutely shattered. I was hoping the adrenaline would get me through. My legs felt fairly tired but that was possibly down to the fact that, because I was awake, I’d been back and forth to the toilet most of the night and made a few trips up and down the stairs to complain about the noise. I was knackered (I’m betting that Mrs C is glad she didn’t join me now).
Not to drag this out I will go into greater detail regarding the marathon in the next part. Because you’ve taken the time to read this part though I’ll let you into a secret: I finished and I didn’t die.