Pip Nichol reports from the Blackpool Marathon, where thankfully there was some water for the runners (even if it was in the form of rain!!)
Blackpool marathon: Sunday, 6th April 2014
The day before the marathon was a bit strange. I’ve been so busy recently that I couldn’t really remember training for it. I was aware that I’d done all (or most of it, anyway) of it, and that I had three 20 milers under my belt, but none of it had any memory of being all that strenuous. I’d had a migraine 4 days earlier and chest pain that turned out to be anxiety. A doctor actually told me to man-up, which made me feel a bit silly! I gave myself a kick and rocked on over to Blackpool.
Despite forecasts of low winds and heavy rain, the morning dawned with pretty much the opposite. It was strange being the only TBH’er in the marathon crowd (though Gemma Brady was lining up for the half). Finally we were off. 3 miles into the wind, which wasn’t bad at all with the big crowd and starting energy. Past the North Pier, through the eerily empty Pleasure beach, and past the stadium. I had a brief chat with Gemma, and then pushed on. I felt good as we turned and headed back 7 miles down the coast. My speed crept up as I became aware of the wind at my back. It was definitely getting windier. As we turned to head back to the Pleasure Beach again we hit the promenade, and the full force of the wind along with it. My pace took a big hit, but as the half marathoners split from the full marathoners, and we were back up on the road again, I felt stronger again. I hit 13 miles at 1:48, bang-on for my target time of 3:40.
The rain started at about 14 miles. It was pretty refreshing, but the wind was picking up and my pace was taking the hit again. By this point, the marathoners were pretty dispersed. Often, despite the mainly straight course, I could only see 10 people strung out in line ahead of me. There were lots more pedestrians at this point, and not very many runners. They were looking at us curiously, wondering what on earth we were doing.
Turning at 16 miles I’d been hoping for a boost from having a tail wind, but I was done in. I wasn’t the only one either! There were a few staggering souls by this point. I never really managed to recoup, but I managed to cling on to pace until 19 miles, where I saw Euan (Clubbs) standing on the side of the road cheering me on. It gave me a boost until right before the 20 mile marker where, going up the tiniest of tiny hills with the wind on my back, I just tanked. If I hadn’t have seen the guy in front of me start walking I might have kept running. I walked about 100m and then forced myself to run again. I don’t recall ever being so tired in a race.
This time round we continued further down the coast before hitting the promenade with just over 4 miles left. By this point, the wind was fierce. Most of the people around me at this point were run/walking. No one looked comfortable pushing against the wind. After a couple more bouts of walking I checked my watch and realised all was not lost, and if I just pulled myself together I’d definitely have a sub-4, maybe even beat my time in London last year. After what felt like a lifetime, Euan appeared at 25 miles, and, in his converse, jeans, jumper and pea-coat, ran the last mile with me and coaxed me to a ‘sprint’ finish (by that point, anything over a 10 minute mile qualified as a sprint). I crossed the line with 3:57 on the clock, and 3:55 on my watch. Apparently there was a problem with some of the chips, so we’ve just been given gun time. I know my watch was right though Not a PB, and 15 minutes off what I’d been aiming for but also not my worst, despite walking. I’m really happy with that. I don’t think I could have done it any differently. In different weather conditions, it would be a really lovely race.
What really struck me was the support. While sparse it was awesome. I really noticed that people were cheering me on more than the men, and realised why when I checked the times when I got home. Although I finished 160th out of 393 in the marathon, I was only the 12th woman home, and 2nd senior woman. The senior woman who got in before me got 3:36. We were the only 2 senior women under 4 hours. I find it a little sad that out of 393 people, there were only 84 women competing.
For now I’m hanging up my marathon hat. I was diagnosed last week with the early signs of early-onset osteoarthritis in my hip and need to have a think about how to work with that. It was a shock, as that wasn’t at all what they were actually looking for when they did the scan. I’m not going to stop running, and will be back at club once I’ve recovered post-marathon, but the high impact of long distance running is definitely something I need to avoid doing a lot of. Though, knowing me, there might be another one in there somewhere…