My first marathon

14 09 2009

This weekend I fell in love with Fleetwood the most unlikeliest place for a first marathon.

When marathons are mentioned athletes speak of London, Paris, Berlin, Boston, New York…. but there aren’t many that can say they ran in the inaugural Fleetwood marathon ! No hiding amongst thousands of fun runners in this one. Definitely one for the purist. My number 2025 was actually in reality number 25. Just 135 runners finished the event.

The field was joined by a similar number of athletes running the half marathon. This could all end in tears if the route was not clear as the courses split after 10 miles. I had no intention of running a half !!

The course was flat as a pancake. Of the field many club athletes had entered hoping to run a personal best. I was hoping to run the whole thing and hopefully get a time of 4 hours 30.

DSCF1392

The weather for the day was fantastic. Bright and sunny for the most part with temperatures peaking at around 19 degrees by the finish but hovering around 16-17 for large chunks of the race.

I have never felt so nervous at the start of a race. I decided to run with my camelbak which contained my mobile phone, energy drink, plasters, tissues, flannel and vital personal information. When you are greeted at the entrance of the venue by ambulances and paramedics it certainly focussed the mind. “I might be seeing you later” I joked with a lady paramedic.

Soon I was stripped off and waiting at the starting line. The gun sounded and within seconds I had crossed the line despite starting at the very back.

I'm the one with the hat

I'm the one with the hat

My race plan was to run at 9:30 pace for the first 17-18 miles and then embrace the wall and run at 12:00 pace thereafter. Helen was to refuel me at 17 miles with fresh carbo loading drink.

I used a pace band with target times for each mile. I found myself clocking the first mile in 10:15. Too slow. I had been too cautious. I eased up ever so slightly and started overtaking some runners very steadily. Slowly slowly now. By mile 3 I had reached the first drink station and was on target to within ten seconds.

I felt I could now relax. The key was not to run too quickly. Stick to the plan. The course was quite complex but involved three main loops and so three chances to see Helen and the boys. I hadn’t expected to see them at mile 7 but there they were. I was so happy. I felt so strong and was bang on 9:30 pace.

No longer at the back at mile seven

No longer at the back at mile seven

Away I went this time the course took you along the promenade towards Cleveleys. It was still fairly early and so not many people around. There were beautiful views out towards Heysham, Barrow and the Irish Sea and you could also see Blackpool tower in the distance. Running doesn’t get much better than this.

By mile 10 the field was approaching the split and soon after the half marathon runners veered left and I continued towards Cleveleys with the marathon runners.

A couple of miles later I found myself almost alone on a complex part of the course with not a visible runner ahead of me. The loneliness of the long distance runner came to mind. Thank Goodness I could see a race marshal ahead of me. The marshalling was excellent throughout. She pointed me in the right direction and I could see some runners ahead. Slowly a gained on them. I was running well and within a minute or so of my pace chart.

At 13 (half way) I began to feel the subtle stiffness of lactic acid build up. I am used to this but slightly disappointed it had started so early. It was going to be a long way home. Helen was to meet me at 17 with more energy drink and a banana. I focussed on getting to her in my goal time.

At 17 miles and still smiling

At 17 miles and no longer smiling !

I stopped and eat half a banana while Helen poured more drink into my Camelbak. My goodness it felt heavy when I started again. I was now five minutes off my goal time but now was where my cunning plan would work. I only had to run each mile at less than 12 minute pace and I would now gain time over my goal time (I had built the wall into my race plan). I was now noticing more people walking. I kept going but it was hurting. I caught up with two guys that were running a nice steady pace and stayed with them all the way through to mile 23. Helped a lot having company and I went out of my way throughout the race to chat to runners. Everyone was so friendly. I clawed the lost time back and was now bang on target again for a 4 hr 30.

At 23 I stopped to drink my water and just could not catch up with those guys again. To be fair one of them had run 142 marathons ! I settled into my own pace and was soon joined by a lady athlete who had been struggling. We ran the last three miles together encouraging each other at well under 12 minute pace.

It was a lovely feeling at mile 25 knowing we had 20 minutes or so left to achieve 4 hours 30.

The last mile went relatively quickly and then I saw Helen and the boys. What brilliant support. My new friend said how lovely they were. I felt such pride and a lump in my throat.

Teaming up for the last three miles.

Teaming up for the last three miles.

The end was in sight. The Marine gardens came into view and as we turned the final corner and dropped down there was no surge left in my tired legs – just numbness and aches.

After what seemed an age following a loop around the gardens we arrived at the finish. A time of 4 hours 24 minutes. I had completed my first marathon and competently. I did not feel any elation or ecstasy. There were no huge crowds to greet me but the loving arms of my wife who has supported me throughout. That’s all I needed.

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line


Her indoors

Her indoors

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7 responses

15 09 2009
Dad

Robert may I be the first person to congratulate you on running and completing the Fleetwood marathon.

When I began to think ” Your mother would have been so proud of you ” I broke down and began to cry. Then I pulled myself together because I know she IS Proud of you!

It isn’t what you have done which is important but what you are doing it for! The reading in church today is very appropriate – faith on its own is meaningless unless backed up by good works. What you have done means more to me than getting a degree or qualifying as a chartered accountant.
The praise that once was given to your mother I will now give to you:
” Estás mejor que el Real Madrid ! ”
You are my Raúl, my Cristino Ronaldo and Kaká all rolled into one! Congratulations from the bottom of my heart.

15 09 2009
Renate - Oma

Your Dad’s loving entry is very touching and hard to follow. Just to say again: Congratulations, Robert! This has been a fantastic achievement and I am so happy for you that you have succeeded in fulfilling your life-long ambition to ‘run a marathon.’ I think even Peter would have been impressed and proud of you.
Your lively and captivating commentary of the run reads like a ‘best seller’. I will miss those printed moments! Roll on Brighton!

15 09 2009
marianne

Wonderful news Robert and many congratulation from us all here in Japan:)

17 09 2009
dad

I wrote my first comment before you wrote your blog. Now I have read it I have somthing further to say.

When your in-laws first came to our house, Peter (Helen’s father) remarked how well Helen and you worked as a team. You were a team in Fleetwood. You owe much to Helen’s practical and moral support. Behind every good man there is a good woman. You definitely made the right choice when you came to choose a wife. Long may you run together.

21 10 2009
marianne

We are needing an update me thinks;)

30 04 2010
missmacj

Hi Robert,

Thanks for posting your link on runnersworld, your blog is an inspiration and really enjoyed reading how you felt. I was looking for a low key event and will probably apply for this marathon after reading several reviews on this race it seems ideal.

Eager to apply now,
Regards,
Jane

7 05 2010
MartinH

Came here through the link on Runners World.
Thanks for a great report, I was after some info on the full marathon as I was considering giving it a whirl – number 3 for me !

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