Kerry Reed, a founding member of Tyne Bridge Harriers, takes us on an emotional 26 Miles journey.
This year I decided to run a marathon for the first time, this is my account on the experience……..
2013 Chester Marathon: 6th October 2013
About January time, on hearing all of the talk around group 4 of people training for marathons I decided to bite the bullet and enter one myself. I chose Chester marathon as it was in October and hoped the weather would be coldish. Chester had been voted the top UK marathon in Runners World magazine so definitely thought it would be a good one to try. I always enjoyed the longer races. I have done the Great North Run for the past eight years so hoped I would enjoy the training and was really looking forward to the experience.
Club member Steffen Haugk helped me with a plan which I began in June gradually having to build up my miles on a Sunday to 22 miles, yeek!! I thought. I made the mistake early on of trying to build up miles too quickly. I was going to harriers on Tuesday and Thursday and then trying to fit another long run in through the week as well as on Sunday. It was too much; I ended up with sore hips, knees, achilles and was generally tired so I decided to just stick to the club sessions and a long run on a Sunday which worked better for me. I started off slowly by building my Sunday regular morning run from 10 miles to 13 miles, that then become 15, and then 16 miles and then by the end of July I was attempting my first 20 mile run. The most gruelling thing about running for two and half hours plus is that you need to refuel whilst out running which was never something I had done before. I never thought I could do energy gels, I thought I would get a bad stomach from stories I had heard. It was Catherine Eaton, the TBH queen of marathons, who recommended shot blocks which were a lot easier to use as they were more like sweets.
By the end of August I had ran four 20 milers. They weren’t particularly fast and the majority of the time I combined it with running in a group for all or some of the distance as it is really difficult to do on your own. As I found out to my cost two days after the Jelly Tea Race in September. I attempted a 22 mile run on my own and I hit the wall at 18 miles and suffered badly with stomach cramps and dehydration. Roll on four weeks I thought.
The week before the race I think I ran two miles in total as everything started to hurt and I was tired and nervous as the day got closer.
And then the weekend arrived I was travelling down with two other club members. Dave Moir, a marathon pro, and Guy Rintoul, who equally had a couple of marathons under his belt. It was good to have their company listening to their running stories and Dave advising me to plan my race. Errh??? I thought I was kind of hoping for four hours but I had no idea really. Training had been nine minute miling, often a bit more I just had no idea how I was going to run continuous for 26 miles never mind the pace. Guy helped me with that over dinner as he mentioned he was going to run with a pacer and then hang on from there. I thought that might be a good idea .
Race day came; Porridge, Banana and then off I went. We headed to the race course in Chester. It isn’t a massive race but the organisation was perfect. Lot of tents on the race course for baggage, thousands of portaloos and generally a great vibe around the place but not too overwhelming. I left Dave Moir to gather his thoughts, after all he was to run an astounding race I didn’t want to bother him with my concerns. I joined the race behind the 3:45 pacer and waited for the gun to go.
I didn’t feel as nervous as a half marathon, it felt just strange, I was entering unknown territory I guess. I just thought whatever happens just enjoy it. Then the gun went and we were off.
We ran round the race course first on the grass which felt a bit uncomfortable then we were out into the city . It was there I bunched in with the 3:45 pacer – a group of about 15 people . It was nice to feel part of a group and listen to people chatting and let someone else do the pace while I could just run and get into it a bit. The first 10 miles were with the group and they seemed to go really quickly. I made sure I took sips of water at every water stops and ate one gel sweet (as Mr Moir had advised, thank you Dave for that). I looked at my watch 51 minutes for 10k , it went really quick. The pacer asking us if we were OK and chatting about the course and other trivia. I then checked my watch again and saw that it was going to be about 1:50 for half way. I felt OK at that point but I was starting to find it hard to keep running in a pack. I am not too good at running in a straight line, (you only have to watch me in a tempo surge), and after running into someone’s feet I decided I would try and run on my own for the rest of the way. Mile 14, 15 and 16 seemed OK about 8:15/8:20 miling which still felt manageable. The scenery was also very pretty in North Wales and the weather was nice but getting hotter. There was also lots of support in the villages we passed, people coming out of their houses and shouting your name as you went past which felt really special. It wasn’t a flat course there had been a few undulating bits up to 18 miles but at this point I spotted a quite steep hill in the distance which was tough. I passed Guy at this point, I think as he said later, he was struggling with an injury as everything was tightening up. Nightmare I thought, I hoped he was OK, but knew I had to keep pushing on.
I just kept my head down from that point on concentrating on getting to the next water stop to get some water over my head and a few sips and a sweet. Mile 21 came and I felt OK in my legs it was just an overwhelming feeling of tiredness in my head through exhaustion and just needing something to pick me up. It just zaps you suddenly. I grabbed an energy drink at 22 miles and I tried to drink it, stopping in the process for a second. My body seemed to just shudder in that moment I stopped and I was like oh god just keep going, it was getting harder. Another hill was in front of me and my pace dropped a bit but I just kept slogging away and thought about getting to the next mile. 23 miles past and then suddenly 24 mile appeared but my watch said 23.5. That’s weird I thought had my own timing went to pot somewhere. It is things like that that really bother you in any race let alone a marathon but I just kept thinking just get to the next mile. I then realised it was an error as when 25 miles came my watch evened out. One mile to go and the relief that my watch time was accurate I started to speed up we approached a down hill section and then it was along the river back to the race course. It seemed to take ages to get back on the race course people cheering “you are nearly there, you are nearly there” all the way. Under a bridge and then I saw the race course, I felt like I sprinted across the race course to the finish line. It was over!! I saw the clock 3 hours 42 minutes, but I had started a bit behind so mine was 3:41:35. Mental I thought, I was so relieved and felt so great & quite emotional that I had finished. I quickly saw Dave Moir who congratulated me, and me him. He had just ran 2 hours 53 , a massive PB, and had been massaged, showered, changed and looked as fresh as a daisy. Well done to Guy too, he has done great this year and still managed to get in under 4 hours with an injury which sounded awful when he told me about it later.
So on reflection, I loved the race it was a perfect course for a first marathon. A brilliant route on country roads if a little undulating at times. I loved the distance. I am really looking forward to my next one, which hopefully will be London or possibly the Marathon of the North.
Thanks to Dave Moir and Guy Rintoul for the company and support on the day and to all other club members who have helped with training and encouragement..