I had fully intended to write the second part of this story not long after publishing the first part but, following a bout of illness where I was on my death bed (man-flu) and the spectacularly fiery death of my fridge/freezer and the various trips to and from shops trying to buy a new one, my spare time has been very limited.
So where did we leave off?
I’d barely had any sleep and I was about to run a marathon in Chester.
It seems to be a common trend in the hotel industry to start breakfast at 8am which isn’t great when most runs start at 9am. Luckily my hotel of choice for the weekend had decided to move theirs to 7am for that weekend to give the runners a chance to get some food in them and get out. That didn’t stop me getting in there at 6:45 though and grabbing the food as they were putting it out. As I was waiting for my coffee I thought it would be a good idea to book a taxi for 8am.
So having successfully got some food in me all I had to do now was pack my case and check out. As I was checking out a taxi pulled up and a couple waiting around in the lobby got into it. At 8:15 my taxi still hadn’t arrived so I chased them up. It turned out that the taxi that the couple had gotten into was mine. My bad luck with taxis carries over to another run. Why am I so cursed with hotels and taxis?
Another runner was heading down so kindly offered me a lift. It turned out that he had done the Loch Ness marathon the week before and was now about to do Chester. It’s shocking what some people can put their bodies through from one week to the next.
On arrival at the racecourse it was time to drop my case off. One thing I don’t do is pack light, I like to have backup running gear and trainers just in case but once you’ve packed a foam roller there isn’t much room left in the case. This was the first time I’d dropped my luggage off at a race tent so I was a bit worried that they may look at my huge suitcase and tell me where to get off but luckily the guy happily took it off my hands.
Now it was time to join the massive queues for the toilets. I don’t know whether it was just nerves or not but it looked like a few people were getting a bit snappy. The following conversation was overheard:
Guy opens the door to one of the portaloos.
Voice inside: “There’s someone in here.”
Guy: “Well lock the (expletive deleted) door then.”
Voice inside: “It’s not really much of a problem is it? Just don’t come in.”
Guy: “I’ll drag you out here in a minute and show you how to (expletive deleted) lock a door.”
Just quite what he meant by that last comment I’ll never know as another portaloo opened up and the snappy guy entered it. It would have been ironic if he had then failed to lock the door but, on checking, he had.
Once I’d warmed up I headed over to the start line and found the 4 hour pacer. We had a little chat about what I could expect around the course and I took my place standing next to him. I started chatting to another runner from the North East, let’s call him Rob because I didn’t catch his name, and he was saying that he was aiming for a finish between 3:45 and 4 hours.
Before I knew it the start time was upon me and it was “Clobbering Time”. As the crowd of runners had gathered I’d found myself pushed further and further back from the 4 hour pacer before we set off. Upon starting the initial run around the racecourse was crowded and it was almost impossible to pass people if you wanted to. By the time we hit the streets I had no idea where the 4 hour pacer had gone or how far ahead he was. As it was it took me about a mile to catch him up and by that point I’d got into my stride so I went past him. I spied Rob a bit further ahead so I caught him up and we ran side by side for the first half of the marathon.
The reason I’d picked a marathon in October was because I knew the weather would be on the turn so it would be slightly colder. No chance though, it was boiling and it took a few runners by surprise. About 30 minutes into the run I had a proper sweat on so I was picking up both a lucozade sport elite and some water at the stops and downing the water (or chucking it over my head) and keeping hold of the lucozade bottle for a while and sipping as I went along.
The support throughout the event was great and it was only around 10 miles in that I realised that I was seeing some of the same faces again and again. They must have been cheering people on for a bit then getting in a car and moving on to the next bit. On the third seeing of them they’d starting cheering my name when they saw me and hi-fiving me. I’m sure they were doing it to a few people but it does give you a little bit of a buzz when it happens. The run itself was very scenic but there wasn’t much in the way of cover from the sun that was sitting in the cloudless sky.
My plan going into the marathon was to hit 10k at 55 minutes and the half way point at just under 2 hours. So I was pretty happy when I checked my watch to see that I’d hit 10k just under 55 minutes and then the halfway point at 1 hour 55 minutes. I was surprised after the event to find out that quite a lot of my friends and family had been tracking me throughout the day so they all knew where I was around any given time. At around 15-16 miles I realised that it was impossible to keep up with the pace that Rob was going at so I started to fall back a bit and run at my own pace. If I’d tried to keep up with him I think I would have destroyed myself. My idea going into the race was to keep up with, or just ahead of, the 4 hour pacer until around 20 mile so I was quite happy that my plan appeared to be working as I’d gotten up to 17 mile and still hadn’t seen him. It was around 17 – 18 mile that the wheels fell off for some people. People around me were stopping, walking or, in one guys case, stumbling along before ending up over a fence chucking his guts out. I felt pretty fresh though and felt like I had plenty in the tank to get me through the run.
At 20 mile there was a pretty decent sized hill that was tough going but generally manageable. It destroyed quite a few people though as the ditches were littered with people sitting down. It was like a scene from a war movie as bodies were strewn everywhere. 21 miles in the 4 hour pacer went past and I knew I was going ok. I managed to keep up with him for another mile before I realised that I desperately, desperately needed the loo. There was absolutely no way that I was going to get through the next four miles without stopping and going to the toilet. Luckily I knew that the last drinks station was coming up and they had portaloos next to them. So I grabbed myself a final drink and headed over to the toilet. I was a bit worried about stopping as I didn’t know if I’d be able to get going again. During the stop I rubbed some deep heat on my legs to get me through the last stretch but I also accidentally put some in my eye. On leaving the toilet I must have looked a right sight as I departed with my eye streaming and a pained expression on my face as I screwed my eye up and did my best impression of Popeye.
I was right, it was hard to get going again. At around 24 mile I passed through a little village where a lady ran alongside me for about 200 metres and hand fed some haribo. Quite why she chose me I don’t know but I was fairly grateful. As she left my side she grabbed my hand and gave me a handful of haribo to “give you some energy to get you to the end”. As I shouted cheers she gave me a little wave. It made me think about that line from The Streetcar Named Desire – ‘I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.’ It was a thoroughly lovely gesture and all the supporters throughout were great and gave all the runners the impetus to keep going.
There were a couple of sizeable hills in the last two miles but by that point I was determined to keep going. I’d slowed down a bit but I knew the end was in sight. At mile 25 the 4:15 pacer passed me and I knew then I was on target for a decent finish. Once I’d seen signs for the racecourse I knew I couldn’t be that far off. The cheers from the supporters in the last mile were great and there were loads of “not far now” comments which help you get to the end.
As I rounded the entrance to the racecourse I heard the tannoy and the crowd and I thought to myself that this may be my only chance to do a sprint finish in a marathon. So I bloody went for it despite the fact my calves felt like they were going to explode. As I crossed the finish line I put a fist in the air and I had done it, I had completed a marathon in 04:20:47. I sat on the grass for five to get my breath back then thought it would be a decent shout to get myself a massage.
Warning – watch the video with the sound down a little as there is an annoying little noise throughout.
On paying for the massage I was then sat down in the waiting area. Big mistake, within two minutes I had severe cramp and the only way to relieve the pressure was to fall headfirst onto the floor. SPLAT. I think some people had thought that I had passed out but I was trying to explain that I had cramp in my legs and I couldn’t have stood up so I had to fall forward. Much appreciation goes to the woman who went and got me a coffee while she was waiting for her husband. Twenty minutes later I was getting my massage and my legs felt wonderful. Then it was time to pick up my suitcase. Quite embarrassingly my case was the only luggage left in the tent and the lady said to me “We’ve been wondering about who was coming for this case we’re quite intrigued as to what’s in it.” Rather than go through a massive explanation as to my OCD tendancies I just said that I’d been staying there all week so had to pack substantially, they seemed quite happy with that explanation so I was allowed to go on my way with no further interrogation.
On checking my phone I had a few messages left for me. One from a friend made me chuckle though:
“I see you’ve finished. Well done. If you die let me know.”
I’d achieved my goal of completing a marathon. A goal I never thought I would manage when I first started thinking about it a couple of years ago. I was now one of the small percentage of people around the world who had managed that distance. Would I do it again? It’s hard to tell. The training is a substantial time drain and unfair on family members but I’m a big believer in if you want to do something well you have to put the effort in to get you ready for it. The weeks afterwards I’ve found it difficult to get going and I’ve only managed six miles since the marathon. I certainly won’t be doing another one any time soon but I’m sure the itch will need scratched again at some point. Watch this space. For now I’m looking forward to the Barcelona half marathon in February as it will certainly be a bit different to my usual February half marathon destination of Blackpool. But who knows what 2014 will bring. Will I try an ultra run (probably not) or will I drift off into duathlons or triathlons? I’m not sure yet but thanks for joining me on my journey to being a marathon runner. I never thought I’d manage it but I’m absolutely delighted that I have.
Dream, believe, train, achieve.