The Chester Marathon – the second half

3 06 2010

I was beginning to believe I could do it. Still on target. It was wonderful and awful. I felt pressure mounting. It would be so much easier not to keep going at this pace. To let off. I couldn’t. I’d promised everyone and not least myself not to take the easy option this time.

I pressed on. My blister hurt. It didn’t matter. Keep going. By 18 I was starting to see runners regularly stop. This is awful. Temptation hits you. No I can’t stop. One poor guy just stopped abruptly and projectile vomited. God this was becoming a war zone. He looked ok so I continued.

Still on target I reached 20 miles in 3:01:30. My muscles were slowly beginning to fill with lactic acid. I tried changing my running style. No use. I was beginning to feel exhausted. I thought the 4 hour target was becoming unlikely. I was running out of gas.

I knew my running partner Peter had come to see me and would be at mile 22 with some support. Just get there I thought. I looked around. No sign of him. Damn, something must have come up. I put my head down and continued. Let it finish soon. I hate this.

Then I heard my name “Rob Rob”. I was so fast Pete had just seen my cap going past and had chased me down. “You’re going to do it”, he said. “4:10” I said. What a difference support makes though. The next mile I kicked on for a bit.

I suddenly started feeling light-headed and that I had to “perform” then I started feeling nauseous. I could no longer drink easily. I tried sports drink and it tasted awful. I just sipped on water. The wheels were starting to come off. For the next two miles I kept feeling wobbly then awful.

I kept going but was beginning to slow. I lost interest in time. I just want to finish to get the thing over with. I can’t stand it anymore.

Off the Greenway we came back into Guilden Sutton. The support was excellent but I could only focus on the hill. Then shortly afterwards for the first time since I have started running (nearly 3 years now) I stopped. I was mentally and physically exhausted. I walked then started running again. The shame of stopping made me continue. My legs were so heavy. I stopped again. Then started. I knew I wasn’t going to quite make my time. Will power had got me so far at this pace but I just didn’t have any left.

I longed for the 26 sign. It took forever. Now going at a snail’s pace I came across the mad woman marshal. She was great (but mad). She was whooping and hollering. God I could have swung for her. Then I saw the 26 sign. The pain will be over soon. Cars were leaving. Drivers with pity in their eyes.

I ran into the Rugby ground car park then saw the grass. I looked for the finishing line and saw my family. I just focussed on the line and kicked as hard as I could. I raised my arms as I reached the line.

I crossed the line in triumph, was given a medal and a bag then went over to the grandstand, leant against the wall and wept. I couldn’t calm myself. I had set a ridiculously high target and nearly pulled it off. The time to be confirmed was 4:02:22

After a few minutes I walked across to my wife and family and gave my wife, Helen a hug. I heard a noise come out of my mouth almost like an animal in pain and just cried and cried. I think at that moment all the pain and joy came out in one big wave of emotion. I had to share it with Helen who has believed in me from the start.

I was not sad at just missing out on 4:00. I was proud of my time. 22 mins off my previous marathon. I ran the race like a veteran and almost delivered.

I’m now 44 but my goal is still to run a marathon in under 4 hours. I ordered a book from Amazon today….. “Advanced marathon running”. Next time I will be even more prepared.


The Chester marathon – the first half

2 06 2010

What a wonderful feeling to be running a marathon again. A small enthusiastic crowd cheered us on as we passed through the lovely village of Guilden Sutton in the morning sun.

The atmosphere was friendly and supportive. You really felt the good wishes coming off the other runners, everyone seemed happy and there was a lovely hum of voices as many renewed old acquaintances.

Suddenly at mile 1. Mick and Phil arrived alongside me – truly legends of the marathon world. I introduced myself, shook Mick by the hand and said hello to Phil. Just as quickly a hill appeared and they lost their momentum. So tough pushing a wheelchair around a marathon ! This was Mick and Phil’s 40th marathon together.

We looped around a road then bridleway building up speed and were then onto the Greenway (a disused railway track now cycle path) and sent on our way towards Wales.

I was ahead of my target time at 2 miles by a minute. Too fast ! I mustn’t gain anymore and concentrated on keeping a minute ahead of my target time for as long as I could muster.

The route was flat and straight. Runners in my group looked steady. A nice sensible pace for a four hour marathon. It was now time to settle in and do the ground work. Concentrate and make sure I stayed at nine minute pace.

Well before half way the leaders in the field were passing by on the way back. My God ! All stony faced with their race faces. I wonder if we looked as determined. Encouragement was shouted from within our ranks. Nothing came back until a Wrexham club athlete passed in third or fourth place and shouted “well done” – a gentleman among the “elite”.

The Greenway passed over a busy trunk road and soon we were looping down into Queensferry and the River Dee. Roughly the half way point. I completed the half marathon in 1:58 or so. My pace making was still to plan.

I now noticed I was starting to overtake people . Many had gone out too fast and the warmth (about 18 degrees) was starting to have an effect.

I still felt good and set off back towards Chester. The field had now begun to stretch out and I was surprised to find myself picking up runners one by one without any effort.

The Chester Marathon – The start

2 06 2010

The morning had finally arrived. I was as ready as I was going to be to run my fastest marathon time. A mild cold and cough had briefly appeared on Thursday and Friday but thankfully it had not progressed and so I felt in pretty good condition.

After suffering high winds on the Sunday the weather had calmed down. The forecast was warm but not hot. The scene was set.

We arrived in good time at Chester rugby club where the race was to start and finish. We took photos as both my dad and mother-in- law had come to support me.

Time quickly passed and before I knew it I was alone waiting at the start.

This was the inaugural Chester marathon and featured around 800 or so competitors – many of them good club athletes. Word had got around that this could be a fast course and so many were looking for Personal bests.

My race plan was to set off fairly quickly and then speed up to a 9:03 pace and then let myself fade by a few seconds each mile from around mile 17. I had managed this before in training up to 20 miles. It was just a case of whether I could hold on for the last few miles at 9:20 pace or so.

The “gun” went off but it took a surprisingly long time before I reached the start line. By the time I saw Helen and my family I was running gently. After a wave it was now time to focus on the job in hand. An attempt at a sub 4 marathon !

The Chester Marathon (The Crows)

2 06 2010

The preparation for the Chester marathon was not perfect. When I decided to run the marathon I thought I would have a wonderful chance of doing well. I would not be disturbed by strange hotel noises and I could sleep soundly in my own bed. What could possibly go wrong ?

I have read many articles and one or two books on marathons but surprisingly none of them mention crows. For the week running up to the marathon we were disturbed at night or should I say early morning at around 4 am by crows throwing themselves against our bedroom window.

I went to bed on the Sunday night apprehensively – prepared for anything. I donned my earplugs and buried my head deep under the duvet. Please sleep, please sleep. Please no more crows.

I was delighted to wake up at 6:45. We had finally had a quiet night. Today was going to be my day…or was it ?

Please leave me alone !

Pride comes before a fall

4 05 2010

I have completed my Madrid challenge in late March and now just need to collect all the remaining sponsorship. I am most grateful to all my sponsors. Thank you so much for your generosity.

When I started the challenge it meant everything to me. It almost felt like a spiritual calling. I had not done anything for charity since my university years. I had just started running and was walking to the front to cool off when the idea came to me to run the Madrid marathon and run the equivalent distance (Parkgate to Madrid) and map it all. I thought of how lucky we were to have our boys and how neighbours had lost a child. I must do it for a kid’s charity.

I thought friends and family would be delighted and supportive. Unfortunately, the wind was taken out of my sails almost from day one. Support came from some, indifference from others. I chose Madrid for a very special reason , my mum. I wanted to run the Madrid marathon whilst she was alive and make her proud. The early entries of my blog show the joy I felt in starting the venture. The joy was taken when my mum died. The challenge lost all its appeal when I found out subsequently she didn’t want me to run in Madrid. It didn’t impress her. She was concerned for my health. Instead of flying I now felt I was dragging a stone. I changed my plans from the Madrid marathon to running the distance to Madrid then the Brighton marathon. I was trying to salvage something but it wasn’t really possible. It was becoming a bit of nonsense !

The irony is that I feel so much stronger this year. I could have done it. I am as certain as I can be. I may well continue running and participating in marathons but I know I can never run the Madrid marathon. The emotion would be too much.

Helen said something interesting this week. She said she had never really seen me give my all in a race. Never seen me struggle over the line. In many ways she is right and had hit the nail on the head and showed an insight into my character that perhaps only she has. Fleetwood (my first marathon) was controlled and cautious. I ran with fear. Fear of failure, fear that there was maybe something wrong with my heart, fear of the wall. I plodded in, gave her a hug and that was that.

The Chester marathon I hope will be different. I have always wanted to run a marathon in under 4 hours. That is my goal. I will give it my all. No complications. No baggage. To run a sub-4 marathon I will have to be at my very best. It is only just achievable based on my half marathon and 20 mile paces.

Training has been going extremely well and I feel much fitter than for my first marathon. I have completed my two 20 mile training runs with no major impact and the maths tells me I could run in close to 4 hour pace. My last 20 miler was done in 9:15 pace. I need to do it in 9:10 pace per mile.

I am going to give it a real go. Not hell for leather, it has to be more measured than that or you will burn out. I believe I can go pretty close. If I fail to reach my target it will be a gallant failure and God willing I will do it next time. If I succeed then it will be one of my greatest achievements. I am unworthy of my dad’s comments on the Fleetwood marathon entry. I feel I could have done so much more for charity and for myself. I just haven’t been strong enough.

A nice surprise

7 02 2010

I can hardly believe it. I didn’t dare look to see how far I have left to run. I have just updated my map and done the calculations. I am within 200 kms of Madrid ! My original target was finishing the challenge just before the Madrid marathon which is on 25th April – just 11 weeks away. I now need to average out at just 18kms a week (approx 11 miles). Convinced that I should do that if I stay injury free.

I start a 12 week marathon training programme on 5th March.

Out of the mist

6 02 2010

Out of the mist we ran. Two runners. One common goal. A marathon in May.

It has been a long winter. I have lost fitness and form but I have continued running. Only a little but I have kept going on my virtual run to Madrid.

I just want to put this challenge to bed now. I don’t know how I’ll feel when I reach Madrid on the map. I think the run lost its focus when I decided not to run the Madrid marathon. First I substituted Brighton for Madrid believing there were no local alternatives but much to my surprise I discovered in December that there was an inaugural Chester marathon in May and so now Chester it is.

The thing that surprised me the most after Fleetwood was not the physical exhaustion but the mental exhaustion. Stiffness lasted for an extra day (2 days) but the following day I found I couldn’t remember things and sometimes couldn’t express myself or find the words I wanted. I took my car in for service and couldn’t remember my own phone number !

I took two weeks off then started again but as the winter evenings closed in I was less and less motivated to run sometimes running just once a week then even just once a fortnight. I got away with it until January but then suddenly felt a total loss of form. I was now struggling to run at all – even 3 miles required an effort.

Over the last two weeks I feel I have regained some fitness and managed a 9 mile run today in the mist without feeling totally washed out. It is a start.

On my map I have passed Burgos in Northern Spain and am now heading south towards Madrid. Marathon training starts with a vengeance once there is light in the evening then I can eat up the miles.

Still my pride and joy !