My first marathon, well, official one….
You don’t just turn up and run a marathon do you? So much of the marathon story, especially for the newbie starts months before. I started running around 18 months ago and quickly decided that I had to run a marathon. Once I get a bee in my bonnet, well that’s it, and 6 months ago I decided to run that marathon, so I went out for a Tuesday night run and just over 5 hours later I finished up outside the Oakwood Pub in Eastwood, quite randomly my 26.2 mile finishing line. I didn’t really do any real prep, a few half runs, and I had a bottle of water. So marathon done, a walk up the hill home, a cup of tea and bed, and the only people to witness it were two disinterested dog walkers. Not quite the VLM experience I had witnessed 2 weeks earlier watching my son run his first there.
So Forward wind to joining the flyers and seeing Keith aka papa smurfs newbie training plan and thinking that I had to do this marathon lark properly, an organised race, and so before I knew it I had signed up to my nearest marathon, Chelmsford, and joined Keith’s newbie marathon class of Oct 2014. In the newbie class we had Colin, Jo, Kev, Carol and Lisa, plus a couple of speedies, Ian and Chantel. I discovered the LSR’s. I discovered the joy of waking up with the alarm early on a Sunday morning and peering through the curtains to see if it was sunny or rainy. It’s been a good year, and most of the LSR’s were in good weather, with great company, and the occasional alpaca.
As my running became stronger, I noticed that I stopped being anxious about how far I was about to run, rather I’d start to looking forward to great conversations for as long as Papa decided that day.
My preparation in the run up to Chelmsford was disrupted twice. 4 weeks out running the Ipswich Half with Rachael, a course which I swear could rival the Andes, we both managed PB’s but my calf went at mile 11 and I know I shouldn’t have, but munching a couple of co-codamel got me limping over the line, only to find I had come up short on distance on my Garmin so I limped another loop of the finish field to get my Garmin half distance and ended up in the St John’s Ambulance, iced up. That hurt. Kieran worked his magic and 2 weeks later I was back on track.
Then, Thursday before race day I took the Prof’s advice and started my carb loading. 700g of carbs each day, now that’s hard. I also coincidentally had an ECG at my Dr’s, and a call back on Friday to be told it had shown up a serious heart condition and I should see a cardiologist quickly. My 1st thought was damn, that’s the marathon gone, daft really, as my 1st thought should have been, damn, I’ve got a heart defect. Just shows how running can warp your perspective…. So on Friday I had lost Chelmsford but decided I would still go and support and take photos, I could relax, no marathon to run. Long story short, I managed to see a consultant 8am Saturday morning for an exam to be told in fact that my hearts good, and the ECG from the surgery was read incorrectly. Emotions now all over the place, great I’m fit, annoyed I’d had all the preceding stress, can I sue the GP? (joke) and then it dawned on me, I was back in the marathon.
Sunday morning came, after far too many hours the night before checking my gear, I was organised. Mentally I had it sussed, break it down, my 12 point plan posted on FB, all was good. I was ready. Turn up, run, smile, support others and not too many jazz hands were at it’s core and try and get around between 4.30 and 5hrs.
I drove up with Lisa, Jo and Keith and arrived nice and early and quickly the orange flyers army started forming, a mix of experience, enthusiasm and encouragement. Group photo taken and then the last minute checks. I overheard Sean and Ian talking about the Vaseline. Now I thought I had everything covered, but Vaseline, that wasn’t on my list, so listening in I was told it’s for the ‘undercarriage’ to stop chaffing, really, I’m remain convinced today that this an initiation trick the experienced marathoners play on the newbie’s, but I wasn’t prepared to take that chance. Sean being a true flyer was happy to share his Vaseline, and undercarriage was quickly made ready.
Next the starting line selfie, a tradition now, and ready for the off. The newbies joined the sub 5 hours group. We started around 20 minutes late, but I know that it’s the J’s Hospice first marathon, and they do amazing work, and also marathon newbies like me, so all good. My plan was to stick with the newbie group all the way round but I quickly discovered that’s not as easy as it sounds, in the ebb and flow of 26 miles gaps can appear. For the first 10 miles, it was great, chatting with Kev, Jo, Colin, Sharon and Keith, a running selfie with Colin past Hylands House, all going to plan.
And then gradually the gaps appear, Colin and Kev, who have both been running so strong these past few weeks started pulling away, and then a gap appeared between me and Keith and Jo, and a couple of times I slowed and we rejoined but gradually my natural pace being slightly quicker I would pull away again. End result being I ran the second half on my own, so I was back on my solo Oakwood run again, but at least this time I had the Marshalls and local Chelmsford folk to cheer me along. Here’s a tip for any newbie, when you order your flyers shirt from HUKE, get your name printed on it. It’s just so encouraging hearing people shout “come on Rich” all the way around.
As I counted down the miles, I was in my zone, the smiley face and jazz hands working hard, the temperature warmed up and my £3 Lidl snood which started as a wrist band morphed into a head bandana, my bad ass look according to Loren! It was either that or fake bushy eyebrows to keep the sweat out of my eyes, but annoyingly I’d left them at home. So forgive me the bandana, my daughter i think quite brutally afterwards told me I looked like Keith Richards…. I can’t see it myself…..
Around mile 18, running back through the crowds at Writtle I was overcome with emotion, don’t ask me why, that’s another story, but as the crowd was cheering my name I started crying. Luckily I was wearing sunglasses and so no one noticed. At mile 22 I hit the wall, the wall, I’d prepared myself for this, I think my carb loading made it more of a small fence than a wall fortunately, I slowed to walking pace, trying to keep looking as if I was still actually running and dug deep, I knew that at mile 25, the local crowds would be in the parks and I would feed off their cheers to get me to the end. I also had friends far and wide sending their positive energies to me, all keeping me strong. But this section was the hardest part for me. I was so glad to start to hear the cheers grow louder as I got into the park. Now, I decided a while ago, I’m a social runner, so I look at everyone when I run, and smile, and I was rewarded by so many people cheering ‘c’mon Rich’ back at me as I got closer to the line, and then I saw some of the flyers who had already finished and were wearing their medals, and I thought, that’s me, soon, I’ll have my medal, it kept me going, as I turned for the last lap, up high I saw Amanda who had come along to support, and then other fellow flyers who had come after running the LOSS. It felt great, my smile got bigger, I felt strong in that last lap, and then a sharp left turn into the finishing line and I ran in with the biggest smile and hands aloft. This was everything my lonely Oakwood finish wasn’t. Fed up with so many shocking photos crossing finishing lines, in the preceding 26 miles I’d had plenty of time to decide how my finishing face would be, this time, no grimace, it was to be a big smile and arms aloft. I crossed the line, and knew I could stop running as I was at 26.6 miles on the Garmin, no extra lap required.
Medal and goodie bag grabbed and that was it. My marathon duck was officially broken this time. Chip time 4.48. Strava time for 26.2 miles 4.44. Either way, bang in the middle of my 4.30 – 5.00hr target. So Happy! Then it was the family, friends and flyers group hugs and congratulations, and that’s one of the things I love about the flyers, we’re all different running abilities, but we have a camaraderie I’ve not experienced before, all for one, one for all. I can’t thank Keith and my fellow flyers enough for all the support to get me there. The experience also cemented my future marathon goal which is to enjoy (as much as I can) to smile as much as I can, bandana, well the jury’s out on that one, to come in under 5hrs and to wear orange. Bring on Brighton 2015.