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.


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


Fleetwood here I come

10 09 2009

I have rested this week with only two three mile runs. I feel butterflies in my stomach. The weather is set fine. My body feels rested and full of energy like a spring ready to …well “spring”.

Tomorrow a big fish and chip supper.

Saturday will be an early start and I will be supporting Helen in her Fleetwood 10k. Go Helen Go !

On Sunday I hope to call myself a marathon runner.

Let’s hope my dream doesn’t end up like the Fleetwood pier.


A week to go

5 09 2009

Well the Fleetwood marathon is only a week away and I am really looking forward to the challenge.

We were away in Cornwall for over a week and this did mean I had to tinker with my training regime mainly due to travelling when I needed to do my long runs. I had to cut back on the mileage a little but made sure I did my long run of 18 miles. This was a killer ! 6 laps of 3 miles around our holiday cottage in Marazion including a very steep incline (6 times) and an additional hill. I did it though in a respectable time but Cornwall is a tough place to run.

On our return I did a 14 miler but felt absolutely exhausted from mile one and nearly had to call Helen out to come and collect me. I think the 18 miler the previous week, together with the travelling had just wiped me out.

I have decided to take it easy for the last two weeks and jump off the programme. I just need to make sure I get to the starting line fairly fresh. I think I have built up the endurance and rest is more important at this stage. I proved that this week. After my poor run on Monday I took 2 days off and ran superbly well on Thursday and pretty well today. I have run just 4 days this week and aim to take it even easier next.

For those that don’t know much about long distance running – this tapering down is generally the way to tackle a marathon. It gives the muscles time to build up stored glycogen (through carbo loading) and then hopefully off you go on the big day like an uncoiled spring.

I have reached the conclusion that my regime just didn’t suit me. I was slowing and feeling weaker and weaker rather than improving form. The programme I followed was an old style programme based on mileage. Next time I’m going to go for quality of training runs rather than quantity and see how that works out.

One reason why I chose the old style programme was the mileage involved. This now means I am way past Bordeaux and if my calculations are correct I will be crossing the Spanish border towards the end of my marathon. That would be nice ! Depends how much I run next week though.

I’m getting really excited now rather than scared. I will be aiming for a solid 4:30 marathon but my main goal is to run the whole thing without walking – whatever the time. Bring it on.


Beautiful St.Michael’s mount in Cornwall

I can run 21.5 miles !

12 08 2009

Sunday came and I was sticking to my plan. Pasta on Saturday followed by a good sleep on Saturday night followed by a hearty breakfast – potato waffles, sausages, eggs, baked beans.

I was to meet Simon my trusty cyclist friend at Hooton station, park the car and get on a train to New Brighton. It was a warm day (temperatures peaking at 23 degrees) and so I had over 3 litres of drink with me. Some glucose isotonic and some carbo loading.

I was determined to drink a litre of the carbo loading stuff before I started.

We got to New Brighton on the very tip of the Wirral an hour or so later. We made our way to the start near the Marine Lake and I reluctantly stripped down. I seemed to have picked up a mild cough but felt ok other than this. My stomach felt bloated though with the fluid and food.

I set off. Back to the mind games. Don’t even think of the distance. First target Leasowe Lighthouse (4 miles). My target time for the run in total – 3 hours 30 minutes.

I made a real effort to drink more than usual. At around 1 mile the sun came out so I stopped the watch and put sun screen on. I rarely burn but thought I wouldn’t take the chance (unfortunately I did miss a bit).

On I continued with my stomach churning, slushing and slopping. The lighthouse was reached in my target time.

The temperature increased. I started to sweat.

When I am running these long distances I am full of fear for the things that can go wrong. I just have to focus on the next target. The bigger picture is all to scary.

The worst part of the run was at 17 miles I had to run past home and keep going. I warned Simon that if I had hit the wall I might cry at that point (many men apparently do).

Shortly afterwards I felt a dip in form. My body was running out of energy. I timed my run from home to Hadlow Road station. I usually manage this in under 30 minutes at a jog. I took 34 mins.

Something had changed.

I asked Simon to slow down. Although I was feeling much more tired I was nearly as comfortable running at this slower pace as I was earlier. I just sought to conserve.

Once I reached Hadlow Road station I knew I was at roughly the 20 mile point. I was delighted to finish 1.5 miles later in good shape in a time of 3 hours 45 minutes !

Tired – yes, but on this occasion I could have continued at least for a bit further.

Wow ! I had run over 21 miles.

On Sunday evening I managed to put out the bins and had an early night. The following day I was extremely tired but not particularly stiff.

I may have “hit the wall” as there was definitely a drop in form after about 17 miles but I wouldn’t consider myself to have been exhausted. Perhaps I did and managed to continue but I’m not counting my chickens yet.

Last evening I ran another 5 miles and sprinted home. I am approaching Bordeaux on my virtual challenge. Fleetwood and my first marathon is less than 5 weeks away. I just want to do it now and then have a rest.

Finally a big Thank You to Simon. He has kept me company on my extra long runs and carried my cargo of fluids and never had a bad word to say. I couldn’t have done it without him.

21.5 miles – preparation

10 08 2009

It has been a little while since I have written but I am still making progress.

I thought the dead leg experience might be due to my trainers coming to the end of their life and so I have replaced them with a nice silver Saucony pair. This “hobby” does cost a bit of money though. Trainers last 500 miles tops and I am now on my third pair since I started running. At £60-£80 for a decent pair I worked out it is costing me 15 pence a mile or so just to run. I think I missed a trick here. Should have got sponsors for my kit.

I had a very poor run on Sunday 2nd. A shorter long run of 14 miles. If it had been my marathon I would have had to pull out. It was torment. I just felt exhausted from the start. The following day I was sneezing. Thankfully it was just a virus.

I decided to take Monday and Tuesday off and started afresh on Wednesday with an 8 miler. I ran extremely well again.

On Thursday I ran again and then decided to plan for a 20 miler at the weekend.

I just can’t keep up with the mileage required in my training programme. According to that I was meant to continue by running 6 miles on Friday then 3 on Saturday followed by 20 on Sunday.

The 20 is the longest run in the programme. My goodness if I was running a marathon on a Sunday I wouldn’t be mucking around running on Friday and Saturday as well. I chose to rest instead and went to see my beloved Wrexham FC.

To be continued…

racecourse_200x135 copy

Feeling weak (and dehydrated)

30 07 2009

Lance Armstrong’s charity organisation is called Livestrong. After today I might start one called Liveweak. That’s how I felt today. A miserly 4 miler was on the programme. You can’t underestimate any run though it is the cumulative effect over the week that does the damage. This marathon training programme is nasty and unrelenting. I hope it is all worth it.

Another 6 miler tomorrow and then I will have run 152 miles in July. A monthly record by 50 miles or so. Overall I am still making progress. I just yearn to get to the start at Fleetwood. The goal will be so simple – just get round.

As far as my virtual run to Madrid is concerned I am now bearing down on Bordeaux but such is the scale of France that it will probably take me a good two weeks to get there. Allez Robert ! Vivreweak ! Bonjour Lance je suis weak !

Feeling solid (and hydrated)

29 07 2009

There was no reaction to my run on Sunday and now I am back on track following the training programme to the letter.

Tuesday 6 miles
Wednesday 8 miles

Two good solid performances. Averaging at around 9 minute mile pace.

I am trying to focus on hydration this week and monitoring the colour of my wee as I think I might not have been drinking quite enough on my runs generally. Making it a rule on the Wirral Way that when I get to a bridge I take a drink under it.

Flatter courses do seem to agree with me.

I have also received my race number for Fleetwood (No. 2025). Helen is horrified to see that she is number 10 for her 10k race. She still has a cough poor love.