It was another memorable day for Tyne Bridge Harriers as PB’s were smashed left, right and centre at this year’s Marathon of the North running festival.
With members taking part in all three events; 10k, half-marathon and full marathon, there was plenty of action to keep the large contingent of supporters occupied, and as the runners came storming through the finishing line(s), it soon became apparent that the majority of the members had pulled off superb performances.
An euphoric Dave Moir writes this race report.
After last years “near miss” with a time of 3:00:36 this year I was determined to get under that 3 hour barrier that fate seemed to have put in front of me for several years.
I’ve been running better now than I ever have, setting a few PBs so far this year, so was a little disappointed to see the long range forecast predicting strong winds on marathon day in Sunderland. That did change several times over the space of 2 weeks but ended up returning to about the 15mph that was originally forecast. This I felt could have been a bit of a problem.
Anyhow, undeterred I was picked up by DD just before 8:00 and on arriving in Sunderland, the promised wind seemed to be in place and was coming from the South West. This meant that the first half would not be too bad as there was only one long section against the wind, but the second half had 3 problem areas, 2 “out and back” sections and then the last 2 miles (just where you need a tough section in a marathon).
With the words of advice from many people “don’t go off too fast” still ringing in my ears, I had decided to run 6:40 pace and stick to that until mile 20 and then see what happened. There were a few TBH vests around me for the first bit of the race as the half marathon was run in conjunction with the full this year, and I soon settled into the required pace and started chatting to a couple of Sunderland Harriers. These guys had done London last week in under 3 hours and were just out for a bit of a run, as it was on home turf. They kept me entertained, provided me with water, and best of all, in the windy sections were more than happy to do the work and let me shelter behind them. It was with some regret that I had to wave goodbye to Sean Smith and his mate Steve just before the 13 mile mark, as they’d done me a big favour getting me that far with minimal effort, and I was now on my own.
The only other marathon I’ve done where a half is set off at the same time was Nottingham several years ago, so I knew that at the split off point, there would be a good chance that I’d lose any group I’d been running with and end up on my own. This is exactly what happened, but I was prepared for this and put a bit of an increase in speed to catch the 2 runners ahead. 2 became 3, then 4 and finally we had a group of 5 all working together which is exactly what I was after. In that group we had Andrew Huddleston who runs in my lunchtime group now and again (but still remains unattached despite various people nagging him), Andrew Henderson from the Quakers, Mark Jackson from Easingwold, and Oliver Truby, an unattached runner from Hull who told us he’d just ran a PB for the half and this was his first marathon.
“Hello Dave” came a little voice from somewhere, “hello Dave”, and there it was again, and there were Mark Hall’s girls Lilly and Niamh sitting on a bench waving at the runners going past. Another real boost followed by a berating from their father because I was at the front of the group doing all the work (well I would be, the wind was on our backs and it was a downhill section – I do like to do my bit you know!!). The Hall’s remained in the area as it was a good place to see the runners several times as the course looped around it, but I do suspect that bit of spectating probably cost ‘Horlicks’ his own body weight in 2p coins as he’d made the school boy error of locating himself within earshot of the arcades!
Getting to the furthest point on the course, from studying the course profile, I knew that the worst hill was just about to come on the “out and back” section we were nearing. Andrew Huddleston is a very strong runner and negotiated the hill as though it wasn’t even there. It was quite a climb and it was straight into a head wind, we posted a 7:09 mile by the time we had reached the top (I think that was still respectable considering the conditions), but I knew this was probably one of the worst bit’s over with. We then hit the next “out and back” bit just before Roker Park. Again this was straight into a head wind and was uphill (not as bad as the first out and back), and I struggled to keep in contact with the group. They dropped me by about 10 or so meters and this gap kept on widening. Once at the top, despite having lost my windbreak, I was feeling OK and I saw Stephen Graham from Sunderland Harriers (who I regularly race at the XC) and he gave me a bit of encouragement pushing me towards the downhill section. I lost a little focus after this and it wasn’t until I caught my foot on one of the metal barriers that I re-joined reality and started focussing again (no damage done – to either my foot or the barrier before Sunderland council try to put a claim in).
Nice downhill section, wave to the Hall’s again then into Roker Park. This is probably the only criticism I have of the whole race as it was very quiet and not really well marshalled. A Dad pushing a child on one of the swings waved us on in the right direction as we were looking a bit confused. I had just been caught be a relay runner who went past me, and he went around a corner, panicked a bit because he couldn’t see anyone ahead so turned back so that when I came around the corner he was running towards me. Not sure who was more confused, but I wasn’t in the mood for messing about at that stage, put my “sympathetic” face on (which scared him into turning around and going back again) and carried on in the direction I was going which turned out to be right.
Final section to go and it was at this point the Roker Roar could at last be heard. It had been a mouse like squeak in the very sheltered park up until that point, but coming out the park, the full force of the wind hit me. Only a couple of miles to go, so what else could I do but push on. I’d slowed to 7:30 pace and I was giving it all I had left. I hit the 25 mile marker in about 2:46 and it was at that point I realised, even if I walked the rest, I’d still get under 3 hours. George Bainbridge from South Shields decided to wake me up again as he sailed past me, I tried to hang on just to get some shelter but failed miserably. Onto the side streets and the wind dropped considerably, I was starting to think “I wonder how much under 3 hours I can get” at that point. Suddenly my TBH family erupted around me and what a lift that was. The final run in section mustn’t have had room for any other club’s supporters such was the number of TBH spectators. I neared the finish line and I looked up at the clock which was heading rapidly to 2:56 so put a final bit of a spurt on just to stay under that. Final time was 2:55:55 (2:55:52 chip time).
After picking up our medals and a volunteer suggesting I should have a Large T-shirt (how rude) we had a bit of a struggle re-locating our bags, but when we did I was delighted to find a place selling hot drinks, so 2 cups of tea in hand and back off to home with my designated driver DD.
Further congratulations received on getting home and a present of some relaxing shower gel which was to be accompanied by some “relaxing” music that my children, Hope and Jake, had written themselves and were ready to perform during the showering process. Who needs candles, Tea-tree oil and Enya, when you can make your own mood music with saucepan lids and wooden spoons!! Think I’ll put them in for the Voice next year.
Thanks to everyone for all the support and messages – I’ve been working towards this for quite some time, and it felt like everyone knew it and willed me on. Great to see so many people on the day and not just TBH, the Heaton lads were all over the place (no change there then), obviously the Sunderland Harriers and Strollers were around in force encouraging us. The race had a great North East running community feel to it and I feel the NE clubs have really bought into this one. I’m sure it will go from strength to strength.
|john (sparrow) morley
Full results can be found here