I went into Blackpool Marathon knowing that it would be my tenth marathon but also in the knowledge that it wasn’t the marathon I was hoping to do.
I was hoping I would be in London for what would be my tenth but sadly London Marathon rejected me (again) so I consoled myself with signing up to Blackpool Marathon.
My wife has always been a bit apathetic when it comes to Blackpool so we’ve never actually been as a family. I thought that with this being my tenth it was the perfect opportunity to get out there as a family and enjoy the ‘Vegas of the North’.
So off we trotted on Saturday afternoon to head down the motorway to our destination, the Travelodge on the South Promenade. As hotels go it wasn’t set to be the best we’d ever stayed in but it was a bed for the night at the very least. As we booked in I was advised that breakfast started at 8am which was a bit on the late side as ideally I needed to be out of the hotel by around 8:15 on the morning to head up to get my bib number. Luckily I had an emergency tub of cornflakes (a trick I learned last year when I had to start a half marathon on no breakfast thanks to the hotel that I was staying in not starting breakfast until 9am) and there was a McDonald’s around the corner if I wanted a coffee or something in the morning so crisis averted.
We had a small walk up the prom before heading back to get sorted for our evening meal. I’d done a bit of research and picked a nice little restaurant that was about a 20 minute walk away from the hotel. The restaurant was called Montague’s and seemed well set up for kids too…plus it would be a change from the usual pizza effort that we would’ve usually done.
The staff in the restaurant immediately put us at ease with little things like taking our coats and speaking to the kids and we felt pretty comfortable. Usually these sorts of things are a bit stressful for us as parents as there has been occasions where other customers or staff members have stared at us quite judgementally and we’ve come away from a meal have a less than enjoyable time. It’s awkward I suppose because people don’t know the underlying causes that our son has so they just see a boy acting up or being unreasonable but even so…less judgement unless you’ve walked in the other person’s shoes please. As it was the boy was having one of his good days and we seemed to be getting a lot of hugs and kisses.
The meal was lovely. I had the refined version of fish and chips while Mrs C had a salad and the kids had some chicken nuggets.
We had such a lovely time that I felt the need to message the restaurant the next day and tell them how comfortable we felt as a family and how much we’d enjoyed the night out. They really appreciated the message and they’re a cracking little restaurant so if you find yourself out that way then definitely check them out at the following link.
We managed to get the kids to bed fairly sharpish which made a change. After about 30 minutes of silence to make sure they’d definitely fallen asleep I’d realised that Mrs C had done so as well so I watched Match of the Day for an hour then got myself sorted to get my head down too.
Except I couldn’t get comfortable could I?
Whatever combination of pillows I tried there was no going to sleep. Then the boy got up to go to the toilet switching on every light he could in the process. With him back in bed I tried to go to sleep but then a dog started barking from another room in the hotel which was quickly followed by a baby crying. Sleep was definitely not on the cards in the near future. I sat there just looking at the ceiling as a variation of noises kept me awake. It took forever for 5:30 to arrive and I rose from the bed having had maybe a few micro sleeps. Not ideal marathon preparation at all.
I got myself showered and headed out to McDonalds to get a coffee and maybe some scrambled egg or something. I was immediately told by the woman at the till that they definitely were not serving sausage that morning, which was fine as I was planning on grabbing some eggs and bacon anyway. Literally no sooner had she served my food the guy started frying some sausage off. I enquired, “I thought you weren’t serving sausage.” She replied, “Yeah, well we are now.” Ok then…
Remember I said the hotel wasn’t serving breakfast until 8am? Well I arrived back at the hotel at 7am to see everyone sitting down and eating breakfast.
It would appear Blackpool was housing some severe pathological liars.
So my day hadn’t started well.
When I got back to the room the family were getting up and were hungry. They’d all managed to get some sleep which was more than I could say for myself. After getting Mrs C to take a few photos in my Kick’s Count Vest we said goodbye and I finished getting my running gear together before the taxi arrived to take me to registration. (It was a bad idea booking a hotel 4 miles away).
As it was it didn’t take long for the driver to get me up to the other end of Blackpool and I found registration within a minute to grab my bib number.
I caught up with fellow DH Runners, Dan and Matt, who were also tackling the marathon and we decided to set off together and see how things went.
We were off at 9:30am and it was set to be a bit of a windy affair with a bit of a cross wind for the first few miles. Essentially the course is mostly downhill for the first quarter then mostly uphill for the second quarter before the lap is repeated for the next half.
Also taking place were the 10k and Half Marathon. Another fellow DH Runner, Paul, was taking part in the half. As well as this there were plenty of local runners taking part with Carlisle Tri and Cumberland AC out and about on the course.
The first six miles made me want to go faster than I would’ve liked and within 8 miles I’d pulled away from Matt and Dan which wasn’t by design more just due to the downhill section and my legs getting carried away with themselves.
The uphill bit was next which was basically from the pleasure beach up towards Bispham before turning back on to the prom for a few miles then coming off to start the lap for a second time.
Miles 13-15 were a lonely old affair. At this point there was no-one noticeably in front of me and no-one noticeably behind me so I was trudging along by myself. Add in to the mix the comments and shouts from a few of the drunker members of Blackpool pedestrians and those walking into the road without looking and it was all adding up to the fact that I wasn’t having a great time.
I wasn’t doing too bad and, at one point, I was on for around a 3:25 finish. Upon hitting 18 miles though the wheels came off. A combination of lack of sleep and the wind going in and the sun coming out hit me hard. I was sweating profusely and I knew that I needed to slow down so the only thing to do was to pull back from 8 minute miles and start running around 10 minute miles.
The guy who was a fair bit in front of me was suffering also. He was veering left and right and was incapable of running in a straight line. The safety crew had pulled up alongside him to check on his condition but he’d obviously indicated he was ok as he seemed to be carrying on unimpeded. Given that he still had about six miles to go at this point I was fairly worried for him. As I pulled up alongside him I checked that he was ok and he just nodded.
Around this point a little pack of runners was forming and I was pleased to be part of a group again. Just the fact that people were around me was starting to pull me along to the finish.
The last six miles were brutal and there were people in various states of discomfort as well as those on the sides stretching muscles or having a lie down. The heat seemed to have destroyed quite a few along the way.
I was happily ticking away at my pace at this point. I was no longer pushing my body past its limit so all was well. I just wanted to get it finished with and get a slush puppy.
I’d seen loads of newsagents selling slush puppies on the way round and the power of advertising had succeeded in implanting the idea in my mind.
The last few miles were on the prom and soon the finish line was in sight.
I couldn’t have been happier.
I finished with a little sprint in 3:38.16.
I’d have been more than happy with that last year but I couldn’t help being a little disappointed that I hadn’t managed a sub 3:30 finish given my condition and training going into it, the conditions were against me on the day. But hey, I never thought I’d do ten marathons so who am I to complain?
Reunited with the family I was dragged over to the nearby Hilton Hotel to get some food into me.
They’d had a great time at the Sea-Life Centre but the walk to the finish line seemed to have taken it out of them so they were all a little relieved to get some cake while I ate.
Then I finally got my Slush Puppy and we had some fun on the dodgems and then the amusement arcade before heading home.
Marathon number 10 was in the bag. It wasn’t London sadly but we had a great time as a family all in all. It’s probably not a course I’ll rush back to but definitely one that I’ll try again to see if I can have a better crack at it.
I’m still raising funds for Kicks Count for the rest of the year so with that said it’s on to the next big event, Liverpool Marathon, at the end of May where I’ll be attempting my first ever marathon negative split.