We’ve had the 10k and half-marathon reports, now it’s time for the main event, the 2014 EMF Marathon race report, courtesy of Stephanie McFarlane.
EMF Marathon: Sunday, 25th May 2014
My EMF journey started on a rainy December evening in the High Main in Bkyer; indulging in a post-session drink before Christmas. Among those present were a number of my group 4 compatriots who had recently signed up to their first marathon and were planning to descend in force onto Edinburgh Marathon Festival this May. I had been watching the Facebook updates come through over the last couple of months, filled with the excitement, the nervousness and giddiness which comes from signing up to the ultimate running challenge. I had ran my first marathon in 2012, at the inaugural Marathon of the North; and I could feel in the back of my mind a familiar itch starting to develop. A couple of pints later; talk inevitably turned to the race and the itch got stronger. After some gentle encouragement from John Goldsbrough and Kev Cheetham (“Get yourself signed up man, Steph”) I found myself sat in front of my laptop on Boxing Day last year staring at a confirmation email. I was in!
Christmas and New Year went by in a blur and before I knew it I was lacing up my brand new Asics for the first run of my marathon training plan. I had found a 4 month training plan which would gradually work me up to 3 x 20 milers before winding down to the big day. Michael Nemeth was instrumental in organising the weekly ‘Sunday Social’ runs and Wednesday evening 10 milers; and these became staples in the calendar over the next 16 weeks. Long runs are so much easier when you have some company to chat to/moan at!! I can safely say I have seen parts of North Tyneside I had never laid eyes on before; and am unlikely to again unless running at a safe pace
Phil Scott had given himself the monster task of organising beds and trains for everyone, and though I had been late to the party and missed everyone signing up; I managed to blag myself a space where another runner had unfortunately had to drop out. Over the whole build up to the race I literally had to do nothing more than pay my monies and turn up in time for the train the day before. Hats off to Phil for some fabulous event management skills!
All in all; training went as well as it could have done – there were a couple of interruptions to the pattern in the shape of an exhibition with work; an exam and the small issue of moving house (!) however as the weeks rushed by and May loomed closer, I was generally happy with my progress. I managed to complete a couple of 20 mile runs which set me on track for around a 4.40 finishing time; and I was confident that I would be able to comfortably beat my first marathon time of 5 hours 24 minutes.
Before we knew it; race weekend was upon us and a large group of Tyne Bridge Harriers landed in the Mile Castle the Saturday before, resplendent in our TBH on tour t-shirts (thanks Nicola!) and keen to continue our carb loading before jumping on a train heading north. Once we got to the station there was an impromptu photo session on the platform (see below), with Bam wowing us all with his new investment – a rod for his smartphone with a remote control so he could take selfies around the course! It goes without saying that it provided plenty of entertainment for the whole weekend and there were some brilliant shots captured! We piled onto the train when it pulled up only to realise that we were not the only ones heading to Scotland that weekend and all of the carriages were standing room only. We all crammed into the space between two carriages and tried to make ourselves as comfortable as possible for the hour and a half journey up. Spirits were far from dampened by this minor setback and there were plenty of laughs on the way. I looked up at one point to spot chief cheerleader Sinead Coffey expertly swaying in perfect sync with the train, yoghurt in one hand and spoon in the other! Ever the organised dietician!
When we arrived in Edinburgh, we took the short walk to the hostel to grab keys and claim beds (top bunk for me – score!). The hostel was direct across from the Three Sisters pub on Cowgate – not great for a good night’s sleep; but excellent for hearing reactions to the Champion’s League final match that night! Once we had sorted ourselves out; Jon Moss went off for a run and the rest of us decided to take a walk to the start lines and scope them out before the next day.
We headed along Regent Road first; walking up a gentle incline where the baggage buses would be waiting for us in just a few hours’ time and along to the peak of the road where the race pens would begin. To one side there were workers setting up the metal barriers; and it all suddenly got a lot more real. Arthur’s Seat stood straight ahead of us; lush and green and resplendent. Although it would be hidden behind mist the next morning; there are worse places to begin a 26.2 mile run.
After Regent Road we took a similar trip down London Road and then eventually found somewhere to rest our weary legs and have a nice cuppa. Thankfully Rachel (Adamson), another organised gem, had booked us a table at a small Italians for dinner that evening – and thank goodness she did as I’m doubtful we could have found somewhere to take us all otherwise! Once we had all stuffed ourselves with pasta goodness we headed back to the hostel for as good a night’s sleep as we could get before the 6am alarm on the Sunday signalled the start of the day’s festivities, with the half marathon runners setting off at 8am sharp. Being something of a lazy soul; I opted for a bit more sleep and stuck my head out of the dorm just before they headed off to wish everyone luck. A few of the marathon runners were heading down to the start line to see of the first of our runners, and when they returned our worst fears were confirmed: there was a downpour going on outside. Full of trepidation about the thought of running for 4+ hours in the rain plus increasingly nervous about the monster mileage; we dropped the bags at reception, threw on our bin bags and set off in a pack to the start line. Thankfully; between the marathoners getting back and everyone setting off the rain had eased and although the start of the race was covered in a light mist, it was at least mercifully dry. A quick trip to the portaloos, some more photos on Bam’s magic cam, and before we knew it we were creeping into our pen and listening to the 10 second count down which heralded the start of the race.
We were off!! Amid the whooping and cheering and general crazes excitement which was coming from the TBH members surrounding me, I reminded myself of some sound advice I had recently received from a very good runner – reign yourself in and run the last mile first. With that in mind I watched Michael, Laura, Shaun, Nicola, Gemma, Kev and Stephen race off into the distance, while I fell into a steady rhythm alongside Scott, who was targeting a similar pace to myself. We dropped down the bank, past Arthur’s Seat and through some industrial buildings before hitting the promenade. At this point Scott and I lost each other having been forced to listen to the call of nature; and I was on my own. Running along the prom I knew I would soon be seeing our TBH cheering squad of Sinead, Lindsay and Sara, who had made the journey up from Newcastle that morning on a Megabus! Along the streets and round a couple of corners and then BOOM – excited shouts of ‘Come on Tyne Bridge!!’ were suddenly roaring at me from the side of the road. I smiled and waved like an idiot and unloaded some layers onto Sinead (they were pretty sweaty by that point, sorry mate!). Buoyed by the support at mile 9 I continued on down the road, well on track for my target time and smiling like a kid at Christmas at the atmosphere surrounding the runners.
On I went, until after a few more miles I started to feel a worrying hint that things were not quite right. I ignored it for as long as I could until a manic stop at the nearest toilets confirmed my worst fears – it was the first of many toilet stops after that. I like you all too much to give you the gory details; but needless to say that those of you who have been there will know what it’s like, and for those of you who haven’t I hope never do! My pace crashed and burned and I found myself reduced to several long periods of walking, followed by angry shuffles as I tried to pick it back up, followed by yet more walking as I realised it simply was not possible to run at a decent pace and keep my dignity intact. At mile 22, on yet another toilet stop, I found my bottom lip wobbling and threatening to tip me past breaking point. This was simply not fair. I had trained hard, I had started so well, and now here I was; hiding in a 3×3 box while I battled the toils of my digestive system. I gave myself a metaphorical slap around the face and told myself to get a grip, because at this point there was no chance I would be dropping out now! I hit the tarmac once more and fell into step with a fellow northerner; a lady called Alison from Elswick Harriers. We walked and jogged and walked and jogged the last few miles together until we finally found ourselves on the home straight! On the side of the road once more were the lovely TBH runners and supporters who shouted loud and picked me up for the last little bit – although the photos don’t quite reflect that, haha! Round another corner, over those hideous rubber mats and that was it. It was done, we had made it, and we had that glorious medal round our necks! I said goodbye to my new companion and went off to find everyone else.
All this proves to me is that the marathon truly is an enigmatic and curious beast. It draws you in with promises of glory and drags you through long and often painful training runs to that start line. It takes you through all possible emotions during the race; through excitement and elation to the deepest and darkest corners of your mind, where your devils are hiding – telling you that you can’t do this; you haven’t possibly trained enough; you can’t possibly finish. And then, just when you have reached the darkest point of them all, the finish line pops up in front of you and your first thought is that you can’t wait to do that all over again! I read somewhere that in order to convince your body to do another marathon; your mind must first forget the last one. While there may be an element of truth in this; I can’t say that I entirely agree. Remembering how it feels finally cross that finish line is a feeling that I do not want to forget in a hurry. All in all, it was a fabulous weekend with fabulous company, and I cannot wait for the next TBH road trip!
P.S. If you made it to this point…..take a bow