Well it came, and it passed and I survived it, although I am a tad battle scarred yet happy with bits of the run.
My preparation was nothing like it should have been, my longest run was only 18 miles and that was 8 September, after then the most I had run in training was 9 miles although I had made a couple of failed attempts at longer runs. The week before the marathon, I actually ran a half marathon, which probably contradicts most coaches ideas, or training schedules but I had needed to complete that just to see if I could run with my leg strapped. My healthy eating plan and drink abstinence didn’t happen, in fact the night before we went into Chester for food, and actually had a couple beers; although I do believe I once read that if you are sensible and prepare well dietary-wise a couple of beers the night before can actually settle nerves and help sleep.
On the morning of the race there was no prepared breakfast. I don’t do budget hotels, selected a nice 4 star with leisure facilities… And breakfast on Sundays started at 8:00…..amazing, too late for us; couldn’t believe they didn’t cater for the marathon runners, and we did find out later there were a few of us. So breakfast was a cup of coffee and peanut butter sandwich, but I have had worse and less before races.
Met Ruth in reception, she was shuffling round waiting. I knew she was agitated cos I had already had a few texts nudging me to hurry up, but I don’t do hurry in the mornings. When we left the hotel, the first thing I noticed was how cold it was. We had trained mostly through a heatwave and this was the opposite. Strangely Ruth and Lee had experienced the opposite to this in April when they ran through snow drifts then turned up at London in tropical temperatures.
A lot of people will say that I can’t go anywhere without seeing someone who knows me, but I have never been to Chester before…anyway, 5 minutes before the race we bumped into a pace maker who we had spoken to while descending the third of the three peaks a month earlier.
We started the race (using poetic license here cos for me it was a run not race) and started at just under 8 minute pace and then the next 10 miles were all between 7:18 and 7:33 quite steady,and at 11 miles I was still running comfortably with Ruth. I knew it was too fast, but I was happy enough running that pace hoping that although I was going to slow down, it shouldn’t be to a stop. Following the theme of previous paragraph, at 6-7 miles, we were running along a country lane and I hear from beside Ruth… Hello Brian. I looked across and there was John James from Heaton who I race in the vets league at Jarrow on the track. He commented that this was a bit long for me, I realise how right he was after 19 miles.
At 11 1/2 miles I chase Ruth, I know she is stronger than me, and a couple of years younger so has the edge over me so she went off and I watched as she disappeared into the masses ahead of me. You know things are going to start getting hard when you get through the first half of a marathon 4 minutes quicker (1:39) than you ran a half marathon the week before. To be fair though this half felt a lot easier than last week.
There was a turn around point at about 14 miles, and I saw that I was about 1/4 of a mile ahead of the 3:30 pace makers… Another sign that I had got it wrong. They caught me at about 18 miles, so even though I was aware the wheel was falling off, I was still well ahead of what I had expected so just got to hope I can maintain something… I was gambling on these sports beans instead of gels, and didn’t risk it until 15 miles. I took on some water refreshment and a bean. By this point the clouds were clearing and it was warming up. I had one bean and chewed it, it was juicy, and I hoped that was the goodness I needed cos I couldn’t swallow it, so spit it out 100 yards up the lane; didn’t bother with any more. To be honest I never felt short of energy, just my legs felt weak.
…Again, at 18 miles, I can refer back to previous paragraph, as from behind I hear a roaring “GO ON THERE BIRTLEY”. That gave me a lift as I looked back and saw the Crook vest, and the larger than life character that was Lord Paul Smythe. I followed him along about 100 yards, but as I dropped off told him to let Ruthy know I was ok but struggling, which even after 8miles he remembered and did do so.
It was round about 18 miles when I started realising I was in trouble. Started cramping in my calfs. It was awful, and I am starting to enter unchartered territory, passed my longest run. I was stopping each 2 1/2 miles for drinks and at one point actually took a Lucozade energy drink and drank the lot. That was something I have never done before; I always drink water only.
The second half of the run for me was more than undulating, it was downright hilly… And uphill not down!!!! Anyway by now I am walk jogging, at 24 miles I am thinking Ruth will be finished by now, she was flying and I have watched her progress, and seen how well she has been running. Little did I realise, she had already been finished about 20 minutes.
At 24 1/2 mile, as if I wasn’t already a broken man, they had managed to find yet another hill. Great organisation though by race organisers, race Angels, who were running up and down the hill encouraging and supporting the tired runners. I had my own Angel helping me, it was very encouraging, but once I reached the top, I still didn’t have enough left in my legs to run the last mile in one go.
The last 3/4 mile would have been pleasant for anyone running well, along the river bank past some nice looking bars and cafes, then round the race track to the finish. It had taken me almost 4 hours, which in fairness is what I was half expecting. At the start I wanted sub 3:30 and think I could have had that… Enough to want another go next year, or if I don’t get through the ballot for London, maybe Manchester.
Meanwhile, to some it was so far removed from my performance it could have been a parallel universe, but Ruth Dadswell, finished in a very credible 3:14:40… But she would never tell anyone that…
The nicest part of it, which did help, and I think should be mandatory after every big race, we went back to the hotel and had an hour or so in the pool and sauna. That was great, at least I managed to walk to the car and drive home. Feel better today and am sure that’s why… Even managed a recovery run this evening.