Leeds Half Marathon – Race Review

Many parts of this review could be a cut and paste job from my review of last year’s race. The crowds were fantastic, the weather was glorious, I met some amazing runners etc etc. But there was one difference in my race this year, it wasn’t about me, it was about my running friend Laura.

Without giving away too much I am part of a fantastic group of runners who formed a bond during the Marathon In A Day event last year and who have stuck together through personal highs and lows ever since. Laura is an integral part of that group and this year she is pushing herself way out of her comfort zone to raise money for St James’ Hospital liver transplant fund. Laura’s mum received a liver transplant last year and this is her way of saying thank you and giving something back, you can find out more on her Just Giving page. Anyway, Laura was due to run at Leeds with another member of our group, Brett, but unfortunately due to illness he had to pull out, in the true spirit of our friendship though Brett still came down to the start to pass on some words of wisdom and wish us all good luck. Late last week then once Brett’s absence was confirmed I offered to run with Laura and pace her around and so I arrived outside Leeds Civic Hall for the start feeling very relaxed and looking forward to a new experience.

Laura and I had a chat before the start and she was concerned about the couple of hills in the first half of the course, I reassured her that they weren’t as bad as they were made out to be but as she trains in a very flat area even the minor incline up the Headrow at the start was described by Laura as a hill!! The forecast rain and cloud had not materialised and as we set off the morning was quickly warming up with hardly a cloud in the sky. We decided we’d aim for sub 2 hours and just see how we went on, no pressure.

Ordinarily I train and race alone, the majority of the time with earphones in and so to run with someone and chat along the way was very novel for me and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I tried to use my experience from last year and knowledge of the course to help and prime Laura for what to expect. We negotiated the first couple of miles with relative ease before the quick twist and turn that leads onto Stonegate Road. I remembered this was the steepest part of the course so about half a mile in advance I made sure Laura knew what was coming and how best to keep her legs going despite the sharp elevation. I slowed the pace to compensate and Laura kept stride with me all the way.

The crowds on this section provided great support and really lifted all the runners. Having my name on my running top really helped and there were countless shouts of “Go Stu!”, “great running Stu!” etc. Never has someone from Bradford been so popular in Leeds!

With Meanwood ticked off we enjoyed the downhill section on the ring road before the second long climb of the route up to Weetwood. Whilst not as steep this climb drags and I actually lied to Laura as I told her we were at the top when I had forgotten that even though the road starts to level slightly there is still a push up to the roundabout at the top, ooops, my bad. We were still keeping a good pace at this point and the 2 hour pacers were well in our sights.

Going through the residential streets of Weetwood was fantastic, more big crowds, more cheers, bands and very happy and supportive marshals all lined the route, there were plenty of sweets, oranges and hose pipes too to help runners out. At around mile 8 the route headed downhill and brought us out onto Kirkstall Road, the long stretch for home started. I knew from here on it was pretty much flat out to the finish and I started to push but with a quick shout Laura reigned me in and I maintained a more consistent pace. The sun was high in the sky by this point and this wide open road offers little shade, that said it did offer more outstanding support and outside Kirkstall Abbey I got some great cheers from the Macmillan Cancer Support cheer point, thanks! I also caught up with a runner from Trawden AC, a club local to me, and we had a nice chat as we went along for half a mile or so.

With a mile left I looked at Laura and knew she didn’t have much left in the tank. From looking at my watch though I knew we would be close to her half marathon PB and so with some gentle words of encouragement interspersed with the odd expletive we headed to the finish. On the corner of the Headrow where the route turns up to the finish line I spotted some more running mates and they shouted some final words of encouragement. You can see me just after 40 seconds of the clip below.

At this point Laura told me to go and sprint but there was no way I was running 13 miles only to abandon her and so she stayed on my shoulder up to the line.

We quickly stopped watches and waited to see if that all important PB message popped up, within seconds it was time to celebrate as Laura had indeed managed a new PB of 1 hour 53 minutes 41 seconds. Laura being her usual self she was quick to heap the praise on me but this was her day, yes I supported her but she ran that time and hopefully proved to herself what a great runner she is.

After collecting the obligatory goody bag and medal we walked back down to the Headrow and met up with our friends who had already finished to share stories and successes of the morning. All agreed it had been a fantastic event and by the end of the day I had already signed up for my third go at the race in 2019.

Thanks once again to everyone involved in the event. The Run For All organisers really know how to put on a top race and the people of Leeds and West Yorkshire really know how to get out and get behind the runners.

Given this blog is pretty much all about Laura the final word has to be about her, Laura is a real inspiration, she is challenging herself and supporting a fantastic cause and in doing so I hope she realises the amazing things she is achieving. If you want to support her then please use the earlier link to her Just Giving page and give her a follow on Twitter to see how she gets on throughout the year via @liver_running 

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Darwen Heritage Half Marathon – Race Review

Despite running countless half marathons in training I realised late last week that this was going to be only the third attempt I’d made at this distance in an actual race. The contrast between my previous two half marathons couldn’t have been more stark, the first was a disaster, the second felt like redemption, what lay ahead this time?

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I’ll tell you what lay ahead, hills, hills, bloody hills everywhere!!! Now don’t get me wrong, I like a hill or two, I knew that the course fell into the category of, “challenging yet scenic”, when I signed up and I had scoped out the route profile in advance but boy was this tough!

The race started outside Darwen Aldridge Community Academy and the school’s Sport Centre hosted the race HQ. I arrived around 8.45am for a 9.30am start and there were two long, snaking lines split alphabetically to collect your bib, timing chip and souvenir t-shirt. As at the previous two events I have run this year there was plenty of representation from local clubs with Blackburn Road Runners and Ramsbottom Running Club seeming to have the largest contingents. The sports hall provided warm shelter on what was a bright yet chilly morning and I stayed inside to get myself sorted and use the facilities, my one gripe of the day was that there weren’t many cubicles in the gents and one that I found free upstairs had the door missing! I made my excuses and went in the ladies!

The start of the race set the tone, you guessed it, uphill start, in fact the first two and a half miles or so were all pretty much uphill as we headed out of Darwen into the rolling countryside. The first section was on closed roads but once we hit the A666 towards Bolton, runners were on the pavement and open roads. Just after three miles the route turned off the main road and we picked up the country lanes that are the backbone of the course. The weather was fine and I took time to take in some of the fantastic scenery and views that the route had to offer. Even out in the sticks there were plenty of supporters on the roadside and I realised later as faces reappeared that several people were taking the opportunity of an open course to drive around and cheer friends, family and club mates at various points on the course, one chap who was running around the same pace as me from Blackburn Road Runners seemed very popular and got plenty of encouragement around almost every corner.

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Just before mile 5 the route headed downhill, having seen the profile I knew this was temporary and so I held my legs back whilst others overtook me at speed. Once we hit the village of Edgworth the climbing started again almost instantly and it was steep, I tried to hold my pace and passed several runners who had overtaken me on the downhill section beforehand. Coming through Edgworth I spotted the local vicar and some of his congregation at the side of the road, it felt for a second or two like the York marathon and the high fiving vicar all over again but this time sadly not. They must have been on some sort of parade, a marshal was holding the group back to cross the road at an opportune moment between runners and although there were some shouts of encouragement a high five didn’t materialise, maybe next year he’ll receive a command from on high to follow his colleague!

Pushing on through Edgworth the incline was almost relentless. At around 8.5 miles the road peaked and I glanced to my right to see runners in the distance heading down a steep slope before an equally vicious ascent, joy! Although relatively short this part was probably the toughest and numerous people were slowing to a walk as the gradient bit hard. Again I tried to maintain a steady pace and pushed on up. There was some brief respite at the top of this climb but it was short lived as the road continued onwards and upwards for another mile and a half. One nasty little section to the final summit remained to be conquered and the cheers of the large group from Blackburn Road Runners here really helped to push me and others on. At last there was nothing above but blue sky, all 1,244ft of elevation was behind me and looking down to my left at around 10.5 miles I caught sight of the school down in the valley below. It was time to let the hand brake off and open my legs for a fast finish, in fact my final mile of running at 6 minutes 55 seconds was easily my quickest of the whole race.

My wife and children were going to be at the finish to see me home and my parents had also come to stay over for the weekend and this was the first time they had been to one of my races so it was great to see them all cheering and waving. I made it back in 95th place, not sure how many finished but 500 entered so I was happy with that along with my time of 1.42:04.

 

Once over the line I received my medal and souvenir bottle of beer which had been brewed especially for the race. The medal is a beast of a size and it also has a section cut out so that it doubles as a bottle opener, nice!!!

Overall I really enjoyed the race, it was testing on the legs but a great challenge. Darwen Dashers who organised the race deserve great credit, the route was very well marshalled, the entry fee proved excellent value for money and by using the school as the base for the event all the facilities needed were on hand. A mention too for all the supporters out on the course and again those there primarily to back runners from the Blackburn and Ramsbottom clubs, they still made noise for every runner and I loved the clanging of the cow bells they’d brought along, very apt for what felt like some Alpine hills!!

This highlights video I think provides a great summary of the day too and gives you a flavour of the terrain and local scenery.

NB – If you have found the link to this blog via Twitter, I am still on my hiatus for Lent, I’ll be back soon, the link is set up as an auto post so feel free to retweet and @ tag any of the clubs I’ve mentioned above to share this.

Happy Blog-iversary

Ok, ok, in the words of Monica in my favourite ever episode of Friends, “that’s not even a word!!!”, but today marks one year since I started writing this blog. I read my first post back a few days ago and it was interesting to see how things have changed over the last 12 months.

At the time of first writing I defined myself as an “advanced jogger”, I was already a year into my running adventure but I had very little confidence and knew nothing about what lay ahead, except that I had just signed up to run a marathon and I hadn’t got a clue what I was doing.

 

I decided to start the blog as a way of expressing myself and creating a sort of diary of my training building up to my first marathon in York in October. Initially, I was prolific, writing a couple of posts per week, that wasn’t sustainable but I have tried to blog most weeks and have diversified into race reviewsinterviews with other runners, product reviews and vlogs. This is my 49th post and at the time of writing I have had 5,874 views and 3,851 visitors from all over the world, including such diverse locations as Brunei, The Cayman Islands and Chile. I know that in comparison to some, those numbers are tiny but I am really proud of what I have created and how it has engaged people.

I have hugely enjoyed the experience of writing this blog, I am a frustrated writer, only last week I had a comment from a former colleague who I haven’t seen for nine months which referenced a post I wrote last April about motivational music I listen to when running. The mere fact he recalled a particular song I had mentioned staggered me and gave me a really positive feeling. Good luck Phil for London, you will smash it!

Through writing my blog and running I have found a whole new community of people. I wasn’t sure if anyone would ever read my ramblings but I have been overwhelmed by the feedback and support from people who were complete strangers. Some of those people have had a really positive impact on my life, they have become genuine friends and although I haven’t met everyone their advice and encouragement has sustained me, we have shared recipes, running tips and some of life’s highs and lows. You know who you are, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

In terms of support my family have also been immense. Whilst running started for me as a way of getting up and active it has become much more than that, my wife Catherine has given me the freedom to run when I want to/need to and having that backing is fantastic. My children have also been to see me run a couple of times and I love having them there, hopefully they are inspired in some way.

 

During the last year I have pushed myself way beyond what I ever thought possible, running a marathon, running every day for a month (amassing a total of over 205 miles in that month), numerous personal bests and simply sustaining a level of fitness and enjoyment that not so long ago seemed unimaginable.

 

The coming year has lots of exciting times ahead which I will no doubt document on this page. Whoever you are, wherever you are reading this, I hope you enjoy it, thank you for being part of my journey, it’s just getting started.

Blackburn Road Runners – Winter Warmer 10k Preview

As I mentioned before in a previous blog one of my main aims for the year is to run more local races. Having really enjoyed the buzz of the East Lancashire Hospice 10k a couple of weeks ago, I signed up the following day for the Winter Warmer 10k organised by the Blackburn Road Runners club.

This will be another new race for me and I’m really looking forward to Sunday for a number of reasons.

Firstly the race starts and ends on the running track in Witton Park, I haven’t run on an actual proper track since I was at school, that’s over 20 years ago! Secondly the race is sold out apart from a handful of places the club have saved for on the day entries. I am starting to get to know some of the local running “faces” and despite not being affiliated to any club it is good to feel part of this community, hopefully one or two people I know will be there too to catch up with. The next reason for my pre-race excitement is the challenge the race will present. I have run numerous 10k races on various routes but I have never experienced anything like the infamous Buncer Lane. Blackburn Road Runners handily shared with me a shot of the route profile just so I know what I’m in for, yes it’s that bit below that looks like it’s vertical!!! The course is also on various terrain which again excites me.

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Finally I am excited about the finish, if the weather holds then there should be a decent crowd to cheer us home around the track, then there is the promise of cake stalls (say no more!) and last but not least the goody bag looks immense. Nice bag itself, fancy bling, porridge bowl and a commemorative mug, what more can you ask for?!

My only other decisions are around kit. At this time of year I like to wear long sleeve tops with shorts but I tend to train at night when it is colder anyway. I wore a short sleeve top for my last race and it was rather parky hanging around at the start but once I got going I was glad I didn’t have long sleeves on as it prevented a bit of overheating, I’ll take a check on Sunday morning and see what feels best.

Sunday will also see the retirement from competitive action of my first proper pair of running trainers. My faithful Nike Pegasus 33s have seen plenty of action in the last 12 months including my first marathon but I can’t ignore the fact that the sole has pretty much worn through at the front of them and they need to go to the great trainer retirement home in the sky (or at least be stashed in the loft just in case!). Not to worry I managed to bag myself another pair, albeit in different colours, in the January sales so I just need to start wearing them in.

Given the route profile I doubt a PB attempt is realistic on Sunday but all being well I’ll push as hard as I can and see what my legs have got, I’ll post a review early next week to let you know how I get on and if the beast that is Buncer Lane, the cake and goody bag live up to my expectations!

#REDDecember – Review

If you have read any of my blog over the last month or so then you will be up to speed with my challenge of running every day (RED) in December.

The last update I posted was with 10 days to go. As it is now 3rd January you will be pleased to know that I completed the challenge, I even added a bonus day by running on 1st January to start the New Year on a positive note and because I don’t really like odd numbers and so wanted to end my streak on 32 days.

The final 10 days as predicted were challenging not only because of fatigue setting in but because of the many events happening in my life which meant that the majority of runs were early morning so that I had the rest of the day free. Day 29 also saw the return of snow and ice which made for tricky conditions under foot.

I have never run on Christmas Day before but I have to say that I really enjoyed it. After opening presents with my wife and children and the now traditional bacon and sausage butties with the in-laws I donned my Santa T-shirt and hat and headed out. It was a pleasant day and there were plenty of people out and about, many of whom smiled, laughed, waved and tooted at me, it was nice to help put a smile on people’s faces and the run set me up well for the rest of the day. The Christmas Day run was the last day of the Run Up To Christmas virtual race and along with my team mate Laura we clocked up over 350km for the event, I’m now eagerly awaiting the medal dropping onto the doormat.

The other run of real note as the month drew to a close was on day 30. I had picked up the RED baton from Brian Shaw who had completed his own #REDNovember and finished on a high with his longest run of the month on the last day. With friends coming to stay and the house to get ready for New Year’s Eve I knew that day 31 was going to be a quick get out, get it done kind of run but I wanted to finish the month with a bang and so I decided to attempt a 5km personal best run on day 30. I drove down to a local park where there is a nice flat cycle track, it was dead, I had the track to myself and after a slow sighting lap to warm up I opened up my legs and went for it. The track is an oval of just over 1km length with a couple of dog leg loops at either end, it was raining and a bit blustery so the run down the home stretch was into a head wind which I could have done without. That said I pushed hard and probably ran the first mile a touch fast, my PB was 21:23 and so I needed to keep the pace up, after just under 5 laps I stopped the clock, I knew I had run well and was delighted with a new PB of 20:12, my second PB of the month after a new 10km PB on day 12.

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Excluding my bonus January trot I ended #REDDecember having run 205.1 miles (at the end of my last run the total was actually 204.9 miles which was wholly unsatisfactory and so I had to do a quick few laps of my garden to get rid of the .9!!). For those of you who run in kilometres that converts to just over 330km for the month. My aim at the start was a minimum of 5km per day but to finish with a daily average of 10.6km was way beyond my expectations and something I’m actually really proud of.

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This experience has taught me that I am actually stronger and fitter than I thought, both physically and mentally. Whilst the challenge was tough I embraced it rather than dreaded it and simply running a different route every day helped my focus and kept my motivation up. Run streaking is not easy, the physical demands are obvious but if you are going to attempt one then you need to plan well, you need to be flexible and you need support from everyone around you. Good luck to everyone attempting #REDJanuary and whatever your plans for 2018 I hope you enjoy your running, cheers!

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#REDDecember – Halfway

The quick witted among you will note that the title of this week’s blog isn’t strictly accurate. Yes there are 31 days in December and so writing this at the end of day 15 isn’t precisely halfway. Given that I have no intention of pausing tomorrow’s run having completed 50% of it though to write my blog and then finish the rest of the run, this is the best you are going to get, and anyway I never was that good at maths!

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The 8 days since my last blog on my #REDDecember challenge have flown by in a flurries of snow, sheet ice, nativity performances, festive lights and the obligatory Christmas jumpers/t-shirts.

I won’t go into the detail of every single run but I have had some genuine highlights and remarkably I am still feeling strong and enjoying my running/ice-skating.

Part of the reason I am enjoying it so much is that I am running without pressure. The beauty of running in long sleeves is that I can’t see my watch and all I have as an indicator is the vibration on my wrist every mile. I’m not worrying about pace or time, I am running for the thrill of the challenge and the enjoyment of being out there and being the best I can be. I have no doubt at all that all my efforts are also releasing some powerful endorphins as I have a really positive approach to life at the moment and as I am taking part in RunUp2Christmas in aid of Mind this can only be a good thing as it highlights the clear link between exercise and improved mental health.

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Narrowing down my highlights of the week I would pick three of my runs out. On Sunday afternoon I had a lovely run, largely along the Leeds-Liverpool canal down from Nelson to Burnley. I have run part of the route before but carried on to a new section for me. The path was dusted with snow from overnight, as I set off from home there was the odd flake floating down, just over an hour later as I arrived back it was more like a blizzard. It was a really peaceful quiet run though away from the usual hub bub of the traffic and I’ll certainly be returning there and running along more of the canal in the future.

On Monday and Tuesday this week my children took part in their nativity plays at school, they were both superb, as were all the other kids to be fair. On Monday I ran after my daughter’s performance but it was getting late and to be honest I ran purely to keep the streak up. I decided then on Tuesday to use the window I had between finishing work and my son’s performance starting to complete my daily run. I knew that there was slight time pressure and so I didn’t hang around. As the vibrations passed by I felt good, and I got that feeling all runners probably experience when you know you are on for a quick time. As the sixth vibration shot through my wrist I took the opportunity to roll my sleeve up and glance at my watch, a 10k PB was there for the taking. And not just any PB. One of my stated aims for 2018 was to run a sub 45 minute 10k as my PB stood at 45.11, well after Tuesday I am going to have to revise that goal as my new 10k PB is 44.06.

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Tonight’s run was my final highlight for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I am completing the RunUp2Christmas virtual race with my running wife Laura. We live nowhere near each other but had planned that for our runs today we would co-ordinate and both go all Home Alone to add some fun, Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animals!! Secondly, I also decided to run up to a local house which has put on a fantastic Christmas light display (not sure my photo does it justice) in aid of a local stroke charity. I’d been looking forward to my visit and it didn’t disappoint, as well as the lights they had Christmas music playing and even a snack stall for visitors, I chucked a donation in the collection bucket and wended my way home.

At the end of day 15 of #REDDecember then I have completed 101 miles which I am thrilled with. I am being backed by some tremendously supportive people who I can’t thank enough and am determined to keep going even if the conditions are proving somewhat tricky.

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The Come Down

Well that’s it marathon done, it’s been 11 days now and physically I’m doing well. I had an hour long deep sports massage on the Monday after and whilst it was an education in pain it helped to work out the aftermath of 26.2 miles in my legs. I have so far managed four recovery runs and actually getting back out running has done my legs the world of good. I have read various tweets and blogs from people who run a marathon and then do little or nothing often for months after. The way I approached this though it was a bit like having an operation, the sooner you are up and mobile, the sooner your body recovers. Whilst I wouldn’t say I am anywhere near my peak I feel like I have retained a good level of fitness and the plan is to push my distances out again in the next couple of weeks.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said about my mental recovery. I have discovered the hard way that training for and running a marathon takes a huge amount out of you mentally. I feel like the bride who spent months planning a wedding, sorting all the fine details out and now is just left with a nice photo album, a dress that she doesn’t know what to do with and some nice bling, hopefully you understand the parallels I am trying to draw here.

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Essentially I feel like my head is wrecked. Although I have signed up for some races next year and I am going to attempt REDDecember I feel lost and lacking in focus. I have become the old me; short tempered, grumpy, not fun to be around and frankly I don’t like myself. I get that this must be something to do with my body and all the chemicals in it re-balancing themselves or something biological that I wouldn’t understand but can they hurry up please so that I can start to be me again!

I need to bottle the feeling of crossing the finish line, the euphoria, the sense of pride and achievement and to let it out slowly so that I can continue to enjoy it and bask in it a little longer until I am ready to let go and move on. At the moment the sense is very much one of, “after the Lord Mayor’s show”, I need to rediscover some head space and perspective, to get back to enjoying running rather than it being a process and I need to listen to my own advice and find some bouncebackability.

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A quick reminder that you can vote for me in the 2018 Running Awards, just click here to register and find Marathonbore in the blogs section, if you vote in 5 different categories you’ll receive a 10% discount with the top Online Running Retailer of 2017! Thank you.

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York Marathon – Race Review

I’ve been looking forward to writing this blog almost as much as I’ve been looking forward to running the marathon itself, forgive me if I go on a bit in this post but for a near 40 year old running your first marathon is a bit of a big deal.

Having stayed over with friends near Malton the night before I woke bright and early as expected on Sunday morning, sleeping in a child’s bunk bed wasn’t as bad as I expected and I did actually manage what felt like some decent sleep. I got myself ready, checked I hadn’t left anything, at least twice, then pulled over after I’d set off just to check again. The drive to the park and ride was simple and I was soon on one of the fleet of coaches taking many slightly anxious looking runners and some clearly more relaxed spectators to the start of race at York University. Before the coach had left Elvington Airfield though panic set in, fortunately not for me but for the chap who realised he had left his running shoes in the boot of his car! Cue everyone else on the bus looking down and checking they hadn’t made the same mistake!

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I had arranged to meet various running friends at the bag drop and I soon found some familiar faces which helped to calm the nerves, a couple were with me in the marathon but the majority were doing the popular 10 miler which started slightly later. Group photos and selfies followed and then it was time to head down to the start. If I’m honest the organisation here was disappointing. Signs were limited and despite following the only sign I did see for the zone 2 start area I ended up at zone 5 and had to scramble over a wall and through some undergrowth to get back to where I needed to be.

I reached the zone 2 start area eventually and there was just time for a quick stretch. Then we were almost ready for the off, after a few words of encouragement from starter and legendary Yorkshireman Dickie Bird the field moved forward and it was too late to turn back, I was doing this, it was now or never.

The first couple of miles led us down to and through York city centre. Some of the roads here were narrow and the field almost came to a halt at one point, one runner pulled over to the side and I noticed that his flip flop had come off, yes flip flop!! It wasn’t long before we reached the key photo opportunity at York Minister and still feeling fresh I made sure I smiled for the various cameras, hopefully one will have come out well. The route then took us out of York passing large crowds and into the small villages and country lanes that characterise most of this course.

I was looking forward to the 6 mile point as we reached the village of Stockton on the Forest simply for the fact that this is the home of the high fiving vicar. I remembered that on the videos I’d seen he was on the right hand side of the road and so I made sure I was in position early to get some skin! Beyond the village the route took on a very rural feel and I don’t recall coming across anyone apart from the odd marshal until we arrived at mile 11 where the Macmillan cheering point was based. I received fantastic support from them and the other Macmillan volunteers en route and want to take this opportunity to thank them all for their encouragement, a group of other runners commented to me that it was like I had my own cheer squad. Having passed through half way it wasn’t far before my actual cheer squad of my wife and two children came in to view in Stamford Bridge. It was such a boost to see them and the crowd at this point felt huge and the noise was amazing with so many people cheering, family, friends and strangers.

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Stamford Bridge was just before mile 14 and from then on there was what felt like a very long stretch through the back of beyond up to Dunnington. The course is known for being pretty flat and it was but this section was a long, slow drag and really started to mess with my head. Just after mile 16 I started to see runners coming the other way but knew I still had over 2 miles to go until I hit the top of the road where the loop was. I looked some of these people in the eye and they were flagging, it did make me feel slightly better that one of the runners I saw was former Leeds Rhino and England rugby league star Kevin Sinfield so I tried not to feel too bad about myself.

I was keeping decent time and hitting miles in around 8 mins 30 secs which was in line with my plan, the battle at this point was mental and I was drawing on all my strategies to keep it together. I had been due to see my family again at Dunnington which was miles 17 and 19 on the out and back but the spectator bus hadn’t got them there on time so I made do with another high five this time from the Archbishop of York, small guy, strong arm! Not long after seeing him I glimpsed a vision in pink heading towards me, it was Caterina who I’d met at the start, I made sure I shouted over and high fived her too.

By mile 20 the out and back had ended and I had turned for home but I was struggling, the sun was in my face and cramp was setting in in both my calf muscles and my left foot. I carried on for a mile or so with all sorts of things running through my head. I had been determined to run the whole 26.2 miles but eventually sense prevailed and I joined many others at this point who had decided that alternating running with walking was the best strategy, I knew that if I stopped dead my legs were likely to seize up and I walk pretty fast anyway so decided this was the best course of action to get me to the finish. Caterina came by me not long after I’d started walking and she turned to make sure I was ok, the supportive spirit of the running community summed up in an instant.

At this stage we were back in more residential areas and the support from the crowd who could clearly see me flagging was superb. Eventually I made it to the bottom of the hill that we had run down shortly after the start. It wasn’t long, it wasn’t steep but it felt like Everest. I managed to run half way up and then shuffled to the top and the descent to the finish. People were shouting from every angle and I managed to catch sight of local York residents and fellow runners Luke and Tristan, thanks for the cheers lads. Slightly further down the hill were more friends who’d run the 10 miler, plus injured VIP Caroline, who had all stayed on to cheer me, I bribed them with cake but what the hell you guys were immense, thanks for the support and the video.

A quick pose for the cameras and I was through the line, my wife and kids raced down off the grass bank for hugs and I broke down in tears, I also made the schoolboy error of not stopping my Garmin! I quickly checked my phone and the finish time text was already there waiting, 4 hours 1 minute 58 seconds. I was thrilled, yes sub 4 hours would have been nice but this was my first attempt at a marathon so any thoughts of disappointment were swiftly banished.

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Celebratory drinks, cake and more hugs followed. By now I was starting to flag though and in the queue for the medal engraving I felt rough. I tried to get some chocolate milkshake down me but couldn’t stomach more than a mouthful. This feeling stayed with me until I’d set off on the drive home at which point I had to pull over into a layby on the side of the A64 to puke, sorry to anyone who witnessed it. To be honest it was probably the best chunder of all time, I instantly felt better.

Writing this the day after has given me time to reflect and have a much needed massage. Did I learn much for yesterday? Absolutely. Will I run another marathon? Possibly. Am I proud of myself. Hell yeah!! The whole experience was amazing and one that will live long in the memory for many, many reasons. I have been blessed with amazing support and want to thank anyone and everyone who got behind me in any way whether with a cheer, a donation to my fundraising or a word of encouragement on social media.

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Whilst this feels like a natural end I really want it to be just the beginning, I already have plans for the rest of this year, some races and events booked for next year and some goals to achieve. I’ve started something and I don’t want it to stop.

If you have enjoyed reading any of my blog then I would love you to vote for me in the 2018 Running Awards, just click here, register and find Marathonbore in the blogs section, if you vote in 5 different categories you’ll receive a 10% discount with the top Online Running Retailer of 2017! Thank you.

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And so it has come to this…

Wednesday 8th February 2017, for most a pretty unremarkable day, for me it was the day that I signed up for the York Marathon, a day that has shaped the last 8 months of my life, dominated my thoughts and inspired me to write this blog.

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At that time I considered myself an “advanced jogger”, I wanted to give my training a focus and during a run the previous Friday night I had started to think about what to do next, a marathon seemed like a logical aim but the how and when was the quandary. Initially I had the idea of running from my home in East Lancashire to West Yorkshire, and more particularly to Valley Parade, home of my team Bradford City and handily just over 26 miles away. I casually floated this idea to my wife that weekend, thankfully she quickly talked me out of it, doing an unsupported first marathon distance was really not a good idea, although it is still an ambition I harbour. I searched for northern marathons on Google but all the Spring ones came up and there was no way I’d be ready.  The following day though good old internet cookies played a blinder and an advert popped up on my Facebook feed for the York Marathon 2017. Yorkshire tick, scenic flat course tick, time to train tick, booked it, packed it, trained my arse off.

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The rest is history, well recent history, which if you have been keeping up I have detailed in my posts up to now. And now the big day is nearly here. “Are you ready?”; “how are you feeling?” and “when is your run again?”, questions which have pretty much been in every conversation over the last couple of weeks. For the record, yes I am; nervously excited and it’s a fricking marathon it’s not a run! (that’s the answer in my head), it’s Sunday 8th October thanks for asking, is the polite response.

I genuinely can’t wait for Sunday for so many reasons. I am really looking forward to running past the iconic York Minster, high fiving a vicar and hopefully the Archbishop of York en route, if there isn’t enough divine intervention there for me then I really have been a bad boy!

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The course itself is pretty circular starting and ending at the University. There are a couple of out and back sections in the second half of the race and the sentiment from those who have entered the race previously is that mentally they are the hardest part. The finish has also been described as a hill, now I run hills all the time and can handle them but I’m hoping the finish line is on an incline as I’m not sure my calf muscles will ever forgive me if I try to push them up a hill after 26 miles!!

I have done the hard miles, I have prepared myself as well as I can, I know that I need to relax physically and mentally and let the race take care of itself, easier said than done but by this time next week I hope, no I am determined, to be part of the 1% club.

I’ll see you on the other side.

Taper Time

Tick tock, tick tock, countdown is progressing. It’s now under three weeks until my first marathon and over the weekend I completed my last long slow run (LSR) and now it is time for the taper.

As I have progressed along this literal and figurative road towards York I have experienced new things, met some amazing people, pushed myself to new limits and started to talk a different language. If you’d asked me 9 months ago what a taper was I would have thought it was something to do with the foot end of your trousers or those animals with the long noses!

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Tapir Not Taper

In April I blogged about running terminology and back then my uneducated summary of tapering read as follows, “kind of guilt free putting your feet up and doing not very much in the knowledge that you’re not going to become a sloth and you will soon be getting yourself back in gear to do something amazing”. When that blog was posted I received feeback from those more experienced than me that there was nothing guilt free about it and that the period between your last LSR and the marathon start gun was a time of tantrums, self doubt and the dreaded maranoia.

IMG_20170918_183336I am currently only on my third day of tapering and I am already understanding what they mean. I’ve meticulously built up my training to this point and I’m now already sitting here typing this and almost feeling the fitness oozing out of my muscles and the devil on my shoulder jabbing me and telling me to get out and run some more miles.

Rationally I know the reality is very different. In the 6 days up to and including my last LSR I ran just shy of 55 miles. I stopped writing this then for a second to let that sink in as for me that is an achievement in itself. I have a friend, Rick, who I’ve mentioned before who is a seasoned runner. He ran at school under the guidance of Mr Kingham, “who’s he?”, I hear you ask, he’s the man who trained the Brownlee brothers when they attended the same school, that’s who! When I was fathoming out my marathon training plan Rick sent me one he used previously and towards the end of his plan he ran a 62 mile week. I scoffed that I would never get anywhere near that and my mind boggled at just how you would actually get that mileage in and yet a couple of months later and I was just 7 miles short of matching him.Screenshot_20170915-193831

What I am trying to say is that I have put the work in, people have said to me, “you’re marathon ready”, and mentally and physically I think I am. I’ve still got some miles on my plan to get through to keep my legs ticking over but the bulk of my work here is done, I just need to survive now until I reach the start line and if I bite your head off between now and then please forgive me, it’s not me it’s the taper.