Monday, 12 October 2015

2015 Yorkshire Marathon race review and my first of many????

All the miles, the sweat, the blisters, the mistakes, and the time away from the family, led me to this, the 2015 Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon. 

I hadn't followed a proper training plan leading up to the marathon unlike many of my running friends but I knew what I needed to do and I was determined to get the miles under my belt. I knew I was fit and my legs could take the miles but I just had to do the long runs to prove it to myself mentally before the day so I could just turn up on the day and enjoy the experience. The only thing that could have thrown me mentally was the fact that on my long runs I had only managed to keep to my hopeful marathon pace for the first 13-15 miles then I had slowed down. Now granted there was things called hills that got in the way or failed fuelling runs but it was a negative on the training. Luckily I have some amazing people around me that can't fail to inspire me, keep me positive and just make me happy. Negative, what Negative?! I am normally a very chilled and relax person and take things in my stride good or bad but when it comes to running I'm very positive and very positive with other peoples running too. So when I woke up on Sunday morning at 5.20am feeling nervous I was a little anxious, luckily the walk up to Shelley to meet up with Steven Taylor who was driving Steve, Dan and me over to York gave me time to collect some thoughts. So by the time we were on the M1 I was excited again and I just couldn't wait to get there.

Arriving at Elvington Airfield for the park and run bus service we parked up and jumped straight on a bus heading for the university campus, it was really smoothly done, great organisation. It wasn't long before we pulled into the campus and we were off looking for toilets as you do, and then we hung around the event village and got changed and ready in our outfits, got our gels ready and then dropped off our bags before once again going to the toilets. 

It was getting close to the start of the race so we went to find our assembly zones Steven was in zone 1, Steve and Dan were in zone 2 and I was in zone 3 because I signed up before my running had improved so I was down as an estimated time of over 4 hours. As my running has come on leaps and bounds since the start of the year and my training has been going well, I was aiming for a time somewhere between 3h30 and 3h20 so to be back in zone 3 was confusing whether or not it was a good place for me to be. As I tend to set off a bit too fast was it better that I would have so many people in front of me to hold me up but at the same time they could hold me up too much. They could also help mentally as I will hopefully be overtaking lots of people and the more positive thoughts I can get as I run round the better but I could also fall into a slower pace by following the wrong person, so it was a strange and hard to predict what would happen.So I made sure I was right at the front of the zone to give me the best chance ofnot being held up, but it still seemed really far back from where my friends were and I could see the 4 hour pacer in zone 2 and the 3h30 pacer in zone 1. Plus in between zone 2 and 3 was the corporate relay runners but at least they should be faster in theory as they were only running 5km each before handing over to another runner. Just before the start there was a minutes applause for a fellow runner who was due to run the race but sadly died before he could test himself on the streets of York. It was a great show of respect and a reminder that it doesn't matter that much if you reach your goal or fail just as long as you try. It was that moment that I just focused and said to myself just stick to my target pace as much as you can and if I needed to slow down it doesn't matter just enjoy the occasion. If this was going to be my only marathon because I just couldn't do and it was just a bit too far for me at least I could enjoy the atmosphere and remember the day for that and not the failure.

There was a countdown and the 2015 Yorkshire marathon was underway but it was a further 3 minutes before I was crossing the start line and off running through the centre of York. The crowds did help me not shoot off trying to catch the guys, they kept me honest and settled my adrenaline boost until I was running nice and steady at a good pace just overtaking a few people at a time. I found my target pace of 4.45m/km and kept my focus on the route and the surroundings rather than the other runners, just so I didn't start picking someone out and trying to chase them down. There were exceptions to that and they were people that I knew or had met on the day, for instance Steven Taylor's friends that run lots of marathons with him. There was a guy dressed in a full clown costume, I forgot his name but you don't forget a clown costume, another guy with a red top on that I briefly saw before we started and Mike Wells who wore a halo and wings but I knew I would be any near him as he's a phenomenal runner on a run streak of 1500+ days which is just incredible in itself nevermind the distances he puts in. So when I could see the clown in the distance I felt myself pick up the pace a little and as I passed him I got a psycological boost and then kept to my plan and pace. I was soon closing in on the guy with the red top and again I picked up the pace until I was passed him. I was just hitting the first 10k check point at this point and was bang on track, it seemed to fly by the first 10k which was a great feeling. 

It wasn't long before I was catching another stadium runner in Andy Pigg who was aiming for sub 3h30 and I could see the 3h30 pacer not far in front of him so I thought he was doing well. I slowed a little to chat to him to see how he was doing and feeling but he was a bit down beat as things weren't going to plan and he could feel a couple of niggles. I tried to keep him positive and gave him a wish of good luck as I picked up my pace again and set my sights on the 3h30 pacer. This however was the first real time I was held up since the start as we hit a narrow country road section of the route. The swarm of runners that surrounded the pacer was so big that for runners like me that we're trying to slowly make our way past were having trouble and had to be very patient so as not to trip anyone up whilst we made our way through the pack. I even had to wait until wider parts of the road or grassy verges so I could go round people safely, I didn't want to affect other people runs just because I was a little inpatient. Eventually just after the 10 mile mark I was clear of the pack again and the difference in the size of the field was amazing, I had plenty space to pick up my pace again and get back on track with my plan. It was long before the halfway point was in sight, some timing strips and a clock, I hit the timing strip at half marathon distance in a time of 1h40m44s which was pleasing I just had to hope that I can keep my pace up and that the second half wasn't too much slower than that. I expected that from that time I would end up crossing the finish around about 3h25m which was still under my target so a great confidence boost. SJ was at home keeping an eye on my progress via the Yorkshire marathon app and this is what she got at this point.

From my memory of the course route I knew there was an out and back section coming up and it was long before I could hear it too so as I reached a road junction I could see runners going in both directions so I knew where I was and this was a chance to see my friends going the other way and to see if I was catching them at all. I saw Steven Taylor and gave him a big clap and cheer and then a bit further back I saw Dan and gave him a big cheer as he was doing really well and was looking strong, he was also doing his first marathon and was in an excellent position at mile 14. After I hit the switch back point I started to keep an eye out for the runners I knew, to see how they were doing, I saw Andy Pigg and gave him a big cheer. Once again I was upping my pace as I was closing in on Dan and after a little chat with him was passing him and on my way up a very slight incline towards mile 16 and the start/finish of the second out and back section. I hadn't paid enough attention to the route as this section seemed to go on forever, luckily there was a couple of spectator points here with quite a large crowd of people at each point cheering everyone on, it was great and kept my spirits high. Not that they had dropped or anything as still at mile 17 I felt amazing and was have a great time. I saw Steve for the first time at this section and he looked like he was flying, I gave him a cheer and carried on to the switch back point where just before it I saw Steven Taylor and he just said this is where it's all in your head. Which was a great reminder and bit of advice because I said to myself, you're feeling good and all you have to do now is run 13km which you do pretty much every other day at home it's nothing. So with a long steady climb back up to the end of the out and back section I took all the excitement and positive feelings I had and put my foot down so to speak. Reaching the top of the incline and the end of the out and back section I still felt amazing and passing the 20 mile marker I just said to myself only a 10k left. This is where at the start of the race I was afraid I might fall apart as I hadn't had the best long runs in training past this distance, but I saw Steven Taylor a couple of hundred metres away and used him as a target like with the others. As he got closer I thought if I just stay with him I know I should be on for a great time, but as I drew alongside him and had a little chat with him I knew I had more in the tank. So when he said kick on I didn't hesitate at all, and before I knew it we were down to the final 7km, not that 7km to go is a distinctive point in a marathon but it just stood out to me. I found myself counting them down now and as I did that my pace started to slow so I had to focus and remember to lift my knees more and to keep swinging my arms otherwise my posture would slump and I would start to drag my feet rather than thrusting my knees forward. I could feel the muscles in my upper legs becoming slightly painful from about 4km to go and I knew that if I was to slow now or speed up too much I could quite easily get cramp, so I really had to maintain my pace more than ever. 

Turning the corner at the 40km mark a very helpful man was shouting not long to go now just a mile, normally that would be really hard to find exciting but after 25 of them the last one sounds brilliant. It was also at this point that the quiet( village roads started turning into more busy city roads full of sounds from the spectators shouting their words of encouragement and taking photos. Then as I reached University road I knew I was almost there, all I had to do is push myself up this final hill which was steeper than I remember when running down it at the start. I did it though and I was on the final 500m stretch where Kath Pinnington captured this photo. 

I was now running down the hill to where I started round the little round-about and then down to the finish where Mr Simon "the bunny" Brass was marshalling and shouting. I was so happy to see him and hear him it was one of my favourite moments of the race and if I hadn't been trying to hit my target I would have stopped for a big bunny hug. So a high five was it for now although I did start to cramp up as I passed him so I ended up crossing the line a little tenderly, I had done it, I had run a marathon. It didn't hit a first as a just walked on like I had crossed the line at parkrun and done it a hundred times before even stopping to say hello to Tom Williams (parkrun uk Manager) and have a brief little chat although because of the slight cramp I had to keep moving. 

SJ then got this message on her app.

On to the T-Shirt and medal area I went where I met Steve where I also remembered to look at my watch for the first time. I had completed my first marathon in 3h19m57s which was better than I had expected, I was gob smacked and even more so when Steve showed me his time of 3h19m24s which meant I was within 30ish of him. He's such a good runner that if I can get close to him I know I've done really well. Then as Steven T crossed the line and in a time of 3h24m10s it hit me that I had finished my marathon with a negative split, I was speechless for a little bit and didn't know what to do with myself briefly. Then Dan came across the line finishing his first marathon in a time of 3h27m44s which was brilliant and a sub 3h30 which he had planned and trained for, well done Dan. We headed off towards the event village to pick up our bags and meet family etc. and when we got there we went straight over to get our medals engraved with our times on. It was whilst in the queue and checking phones that the emotions hit me and at one point I was very close to bursting into tears. It was so overwhelming and a little surprising that I felt that emotional but at the same time I was thinking damn right look what you've just done, well done you. 

After we had all got our medals engraved we went for a well deserved beer and sit down. We all went through our phones tagging photos and responding to all the message and comments on Facebook and Twitter etc. and after that it wasn't long before we were talking about which marathon to do next. It was a truly amazing experience that how couldn't you talk about another one, even if it did hurt a bit, it was worth it. All the emotions that came with the race and day made up for most of the pain and all the comments from friends and family at home gave me such a great buzz that I will never forget the day I completed my first marathon. According to my chip time result I came 324 out of 3951 which puts me in the top 10% (8.2% to be prescise!) and that is just fantastic. We finished our drinks and headed back to the buses and to the airfield to pick up Steven T's car so then we could get off home and into a well deserved bath. 

Now that the marathon is out of the way the rest of the year seems a doddle up next is the Guy Fawkes 10 mile race and then the Abbey Dash to try and get my Sub 40 10k. If I can get my sub 40 before the end of the year I will be one happy boy. Other than entering races I also have another race to organise this time it's the Windmill 6 on the tops above Birdsedge and Ingbirchworth resivoir, keep your eyes out for that one, it should be a cracking race.

So until then, keep running everyone.