This year my fund-raising for MND Scotland involves running four marathons in Wales (Llanelli), Scotland (Edinburgh), England (Chester) and Ireland (Dublin).
Last weekend saw the first of these.
My training had not been going to plan - illness and work getting in the way but this was the first marathon, and there was no hint of not doing it! My plan – finish, injury free so that I can still complete Edinburgh next month.
It was kind of weird running so far from home for the first time (8 hour drive) and having to make sure that I had all the kit I needed for all eventualities. I think I’m going to prepare a checklist for the next time. We spent too much time on a cold and rainy Saturday trailing round the shops looking for porridge!
Come Saturday morning it was a nice bright clear morning and as we had booked a house just 5 minutes drive from the start I even got to stay in bed until sensible oclock! The weather was the first problem, it was still cold, with a fairly stiff breeze (and a coastal course) but the sky was clear! I ended up going with the shorts and the long sleeved top.
The marathon course is “interesting”. It’s almost perfectly flat apart from some short sharp inclines as you navigate the bridges over the railway line. It follows the Millennium coastal path so is paved for the majority of the way apart from a short section on gravel. It consists of a 7 1/2 mile out and back to the west then a 5 and a bit out and back to the east and you do this twice. As it’s both an out and back and a 2 lapper you have lots of opportunity to see your fellow runners which is good. However, as you have to run “past” the finish line three times it is VERY mentally tough.
It was a very small field – I heard the announcer say there were 500 entrants but I doubt very much if they all turned up. I doubt that 200 runners didn’t finish! I finished 300 (my highest placing) out of 303 finishers. I was only just lapped by the winner Mark Roberts who smashed the course record in a time of 2:31 just as I was getting to half distance!
I had been running fairly comfortably up until this point but my training runs had only been to the half marathon and 2 /12 hour mark. At around mile 17 was where i hit my “wall”, this is the only boring bit of the course as you head around an industrial estate. I took a fairly long walking break at this point and phoned Elaine who confirmed that she and Connor were at the finish line to cheer me “through”. I also sent a quick update to Twitter and Facebook – it’s amazing the mental boost you can get just from hearing your phone beep in your bum bag!
From this point onwards it was most definitely a run walk strategy. I was also starting to get twinges of cramp in my left calf as as soon as this started I stopped for a really good stretch. As I passed the finish line again at 21 miles – if Elaine and Connor had not been there I’m sure I would have given up – but then the brain kicked in – it’s less than 2 parkruns to go! and each of those miles were the longest I have EVER run! There is also one of those cheeky railway bridges just before mile 26 just to make sure my calf cramped again but there was no stopping me at that point!
I eventually finished in 5hours 53 in position 300 out of 303 finishers. This also included a 5 minute stop to get 2 plasters from the paramedics on the course.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the organisers and fellow runners.