The race was the first weekend of school half term, so we travelled up to Preston after school on Friday evening, to stay with my parents. I packed about 4 different sets of running gear, just in case I felt uncomfortable in something on the day. I didn't pack a long sleeve top or a jacket though, because I'd not trained in one, but I would regret that decision!
The day before the race was dry but cold. I travelled to Preston with my family to attend the race expo, where I collected my race number and chip and received my souvenir T-shirt. I also met up with my schoolfriend Damian, who I was going to run the marathon with. We saw Liz McColgan and Helen Clitheroe at the event; apparently Liz McColgan was telling people she had to have a toe amputated. That's some reassuring running advice for you.
|1130: sadly not the time I would be finished by!|
Some friends had warned me SNOW was predicted for Sunday. Nooo! I didn't have any warm clothing to protect me from snow other than a pair of gloves and my hat. By Saturday evening I was resigned to the fact it was definitely going to rain. The weather forecast had a big blue patch over the whole of Lancashire for the whole day. But I decided rain would be OK because it would raise the temperature, so I wouldn't be cold! I finalised my kit, deciding to put in my gloves just in case it was cold first thing. I also sorted my food and drink, a bottle of an isotonic drink (not advisable to race with an untried food or drink, but I was worried after my Baldock Beast experience that I might need the energy) and three flapjack fingers that I'd originally bought for the kids' lunches!
Sunday morning, I was up at 5:30am for porridge. The clocks had gone back an hour overnight so I didn't feel too bad at the early start, plus I'd slept surprisingly well. By 7am I was on my way to Preston with my mum and dad (my husband and children were coming along for the finish, because of the cold weather and long wait between start and finish). It was FREEZING. Really cold. And it started to rain heavily just as we arrived in Preston. Marvellous. Inside Race HQ it was much warmer. I met up with Damian and we discussed whether we should wear jackets for the race. We decided not to because the rain had stopped and we would warm up as we ran.
|My race number under my T-shirt makes me look podgy!|
Heading to the start was exciting. So many other runners, probably similar to Standalone 10K in number but the noise was intense! We placed ourselves in the 4 hour group to avoid being passed by too many faster runners but to ensure we didn't have to pass lots of slower people. I had my phone in a bum bag tucked inside my running trousers, I had bought an app called MyWhereAbouts that was set up to tweet and post to Facebook every 1 mile, and I started this 5 minutes before the race start so I wasn't fiddling about. Garmin was ready to go, and then the crowd cheered and the gun fired and we were off!
|Just before the start. Happy and relaxed. And no rain!|
The first mile was crazy. Loads of people around us all settling into their stride. The route was downhill for the first few miles, so we were quite quick. We soon settled down into a good pace. The first water station at mile 3 had water and gels available. I took both to make sure I was hydrated and I was still worrying about any potential lack of energy.
|3 miles in. Copyright R&R Photos|
I had gloves on at this point, but by the time we got back to Preston at 5 miles I was hot. I saw my mum and dad again and handed them over. I regretted that decision about 10 minutes later, when the rain started. A downpour. And not just rain, but wind. Cold wind. Unfriendly weather.
Now, you all know about my knee troubles in the weeks before this event. My physio had advised me to carry painkillers and use them at the first sign of pain. At about mile 10 I started to feel a niggle in my knee, nothing massively painful, but I wanted to be safe, so I took my painkillers and felt good. Unfortunately, less than a mile later, Damian suddenly said he had to walk, his foot was really hurting. I didn't mind a walk at that point, gave me a chance to eat something. But bloody hell Damian! It was supposed to be me not you getting injured!
We continued running and walking for another 10 miles. It was a good strategy really. Meant I was not too tired, well hydrated, and full of energy gel. We kept passing and being passed by the same couples of runners. That was quite nice really because we struck up some good banter and made the experience even more fun and enjoyable. Everyone enjoys a moan about the weather. I was also happy to hear my phone beeping every mile or so, knowing that it probably meant another tweet had been sent and someone was wishing me luck. Those random beeps really kept my spirits high, it's a self-centered thing to say, but I felt happy knowing people were thinking about me.
I should say something now about the marshals, before I forget. They were simply brilliant. It was pouring down, really heavy rain. We were soaked through, but we were moving. These guys were stood for several hours providing support. They were drenched, cold, but never miserable. They always had something cheerful to say to us. And the spectators too were great. I made a point of chatting to as many people as I could, thanking them for coming out in the rain. And the little children too, they were so happy to be shouting at random people!
Anyway, now we are passed mile 20. The time is 4 hours; I'm getting cold and really want to be finished within 5 hours. Damian suddenly tells me he has to stop because he's not feeling great, and I decide now is the time we're going to have to run alone. I felt very very bad for leaving him, especially because he didn't look good. But it was definitely the right time (don't worry, he was fine!). I felt rested, surprisingly, and full of energy. I ran the next mile in less than 10 minutes I think! I eventually settled down into a steady pace. Just kept pushing myself on, telling myself I had 10K to run, then 5K, then 1 mile. I was also enjoying passing all the runners who had passed us earlier. I do like picking people off. I have no compassion.
I wasn't exactly sure how much farther I had to run. My Garmin didn't seem to accord with the mile markers. As I passed the mile 26 marker, we turned onto an off ramp from the bypass. It took us down and under the road. What goes down must come up. The final uphill stretch was so steep, my knee finally decided it had had enough and started to be very painful. I did shout a lot at that point. I was running so fast too. I could sense the end, and my watch said 4:58:00. I was going to make sub 5 hours! As I rounded a corner into the finish straight I was struck by two things: the clock said 4:59:30, and my children, husband, niece and nephew, sister, brother-in-law, and my parents were all there cheering me. I completely lost it.
|Me, blubbing like a baby|
As I crossed the line I heard the commentator say "And ladies and gentlemen a big cheer to this lady who is the last runner to finish under 5 hours", and I did get a big cheer. I was a bit shocked. I started to hyperventilate a bit. Needed to calm down! I received my medal and stood in a bit of a daze for a minute until I saw my family again. I then most importantly stopped the app on my phone, glanced at it quickly to take in the extent of the messages I'd received, WOW! I had 100 mentions in total. You guys are great x
|Mouth full of flapjack, soaked to the skin, phone in hand|
I don't think I'll ever run another marathon. The training was so hard and the event is very tough. Perhaps I had a poorer experience than other people because of my knee trouble and the bad weather on the day. If I do run another it'll have to be a special one!