Great North West Half Marathon (Blackpool) Review – Four Seasons in One Day.

February 2014:

“Never again, never freaking ever again.”

Although I didn’t say freaking…I’ll leave you to substitute.

That was my experience of Blackpool last year. To be fair, I had done the Barcelona half marathon the week before and the contrast in experiences was sizeable.

So, why I found myself signing up to the 2015 edition of the Great North West Half Marathon I really can’t answer. It could’ve been the fact I’d slept in for Inskip and I really needed to fit some half marathons in before my ill advised attempt at Manchester Marathon. It could also have been the fact that a load of DH Runners were heading down and I didn’t want to miss out. Or it could just be that I’m a mental case. You decide…

The week leading up to the half I found out that I had a hip issue. Not a major one but one that required a little TLC so the osteo and I decided that my Blackpool attempt would be an easy run and not a race. I gave Carlisle parkrun a go on the Saturday to stretch my legs and see how it felt. As it was they didn’t feel too bad as I pootled round in just under 30 minutes.

Pre Blackpool parkrun = Expert photo-bombing from Lindsay.
Pre Blackpool parkrun = Expert photo-bombing from Lindsay.

If you’re a regular reader then you’ll remember that I slept in for Inskip Half Marathon in January. So there was back up plan after back up plan in preparation for getting the bus in time for Blackpool. Five different alarms were set, Mrs C was on hand to wake me up and some back up people were in place to hammer on my door.

It turned out to be ok though as I sat bolt upright on the first alarm and was ready for the day ahead.By 6am I was rocking my Cure Rett running vest and getting plenty of coffee in me.

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By 7:30 we were all accounted for and on the bus on the way to Blackpool. Good times.

Literally an hour and a half later we turned out to be on the bus on the way to Preston. The driver took the wrong turn off…how did that happen? Never mind, after some navigation we were back on track. Arrival at Blackpool was quite possibly the latest we’d ever left it.

After grabbing registration packs and getting changed the usual five or more trips to the toilet were called for. However, time was at a premium so I had to make do with two. I think some of the other runners were a bit disconcerted when myself and Andrew found ourselves in adjoining cubicles and decided to have a conversation.

The joke for the day was that I was going to chase Andrew for as long as possible. I even drew it on my hand as my plan A.

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There was just time for a pre-race team photo (there were a couple of runners missing in action, it appeared they’d gone straight to the start line).

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I just about managed to get my stretches in before hitting the pack of runners eagerly awaiting the start line. I had a little chat with some runners round about and explained to some runners that the course might not be as flat as they were expecting.

There was a hint of sunshine on the horizon and I thought that the weather reports might just have been wrong after all. But then it started raining, curse the Met Office for being so accurate.

And then we were off; except we weren’t…people had started jogging and then suddenly stopped, this happened a couple of times before we were running properly.

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A mile in and I was already apologising to my osteo as I hit a seven minute mile. At this point it was chucking it down so I wasn’t sure how long I could keep this up for.

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I’d secretly thought a 1:44-1:45 half marathon was a possibility and for the first five miles it truly was. Hitting five miles in sub 40 minutes I thought that it was possibly on.

Black and White scene pretty much captured the grimness of the day.
Black and White scene pretty much captured the grimness of the day.

But then I turned into the headwind for miles 6-8 and started losing time left, right and centre. Turning back on the loop again for miles 9-10 was disheartening as I heard the announcer shouting the winner to the finish.

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I managed to pick up a bit of time with the wind behind me but I knew that the killer was going to be the last three miles. And it certainly was, the wind seemed worse, my breath was gone, I was freezing and I was struggling. I’d certainly hit a wall but I knew that I only had three miles to go, it was time to zip up my man suit and get moving. I knew that the 1:45 time was gone and it was time to get my head around that and finish strong.

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The last mile was a strong one for me as I was passing people again and I’d managed to get my legs motoring. The hailstones had started at this point and there was a little snow…snow I tell you. As I was just coming up to the final stretch I started to hear people shouting my name, I didn’t have the energy to turn my head and acknowledge them but I knew it was the DH Runners support crew and it gave me the final impetus to sprint home.

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My chip time was 1:51:01. So it wasn’t the 1:44-1:45 I’d hoped for but I knew that in different conditions I probably would have done that so I wasn’t too downhearted. That’s the thing with being an asthmatic, once the lungs go you’ve got no chance and no option but to slow the pace. The wind took my breath away that day and I wasn’t going to get it back anytime soon.

Once finished I went to cash in on my much promised Kathryn hug and get into the warmth. I literally could not feel my hands for an hour afterwards. A quick shower warmed me up afterwards followed by a rant about a Soreen (I was expecting wagon wheels, but apparently there had been a post saying that the wagon wheels wouldn’t be in the race packs) and I was more than ready for my trip to Harry Ramsden’s.

Yet again the organisation of the run by Fylde Coast Running was second to none. The volunteers, as well as the announcer, deserve a medal for putting up with people complaining about the weather and also standing about in it for hours on end waiting for everyone to finish.

The bus driver didn’t get lost on the way back which was a bonus.

Fundraising continues in earnest for Cure Rett you can find my fundraising page at Just Giving

You can also find me on twitter @SteveNaive1980 and Facebook here

Overall, it had been a great day out with my running family and wearing the Cure Rett vest for the first time was great for raising awareness. But next year I think a trip to sunnier climbs are in order. Sorry Blackpool but I’ve had my fill…it’s not me, it’s you!!!

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