This weekend we were back in Saltaire, this time it was for the Sir Titus Trot Marathon, another It's Grim up North Running event. It was a straightforward "out and back" race along the Leeds/Liverpool canal. "What can go wrong?" I bet you're wondering. Well sadly, a few things!!
It was perfect running conditions, cloudy, with a lovely breeze. Unfortunately, I had a few issues with my youngest daughter, Eva. I got up super early to take the dogs for a long walk and to get the girls fed before we set off. Mill was great and was up early and ready to go, armed with snacks for the car. Eva on the other hand wasn't. When out on my walk she sent me lots of messages telling me that she would only get ready if I agreed to buy her certain presents for her birthday. I didn't agree. Eva didn't get dressed!
After a battle of the wills, we finally headed off but were late. I knew exactly where we were going and where I needed to park. I parked up but was 20p too short for the car park fees! I had enough for just over 4 hours - I'd best run fast.
We were late and people were wondering around with their numbers on. Rather than stopping and asking where race registration was (the obvious thing to do when you're not a stress head like me), I just followed the crowd, like a sheep, and headed into the park!
Sadly, the other sheep were wrong! After realising that I wasn't at either the start area or the race registration and I was in a completely different area, I left my girls in the park with instructions to find Aunty Finty and I headed off to find race registration. Thankfully it wasn't far as they were packing up by the time I got there!
After a quick stop to use the facilities and get changed, I headed on down to the start, which was actually along the canal next to Salts Mill! I got to the start with 5 minutes to spare.
Luckily for me, the race start was slightly delayed so this gave me time to catch my breath, compose myself and say hello to my family. My dad and Sandra were there, with my sister, Fin, and my grandad even showed up which was lovely.
In my rush to leave the house, I didn't have time to find my buff (to non runners, this is nothing rude, it's a thing I use to keep my hair under control- it can also be used as a scarf and in lots of other weird and wonderful ways - Google it). Anyhow, my dad had brought along a spare which he got at the Giants Head Marathon! Sandra kindly arranged this for me! Look at the lovely positioning on the photo below (look very closely)! I got some funny looks that day!
There was quite a turn out. There was a 10k race, a half marathon, the marathon and an ultra. We were all on the same start line however, the 10k runners and one, lone chap braving the ultra headed in the direction of Leeds, whereas the half and full marathoners headed in the opposite direction towards Keighley.
In about the first mile of the race, my beloved leggings let me down and split along the inside seem (due to overuse and over washing). Not a great start. A couple of miles later and I had a stone in my right shoe next to my big toe. Rather than stopping and sorting it out, I just plodded on and after about 17 miles, I eventually forgot it was there!
There were only a couple of hills on the course, a couple of cracking ones in the first few miles up by the locks but the rest of the course was pretty flat. After about 3 to 4 miles, the half marathoners headed back towards Leeds and the runners thinned out.
It was a cracking route with some fabulous houses, with their landscaped gardens backing on to the canal. They had gorgeous seating areas at the end of their gardens along the canal side so they can watch the world go by.
It was mainly proper, paved/stoned pathway up until about 8 miles when it turned into a grass pathway, with a worn bit where people had clearly walked. It was tricky to run along this bit as it was far from flat and I kept leaping from the path bit on to the grass when a cyclist or dog walker headed by. I went over on my ankle once and in the process I somehow managed to kick my other leg - double whammy! Such a fool!
The first 10 miles to the first turn around point was pretty easy and I felt good. One of the race directors, Diane was at the turn around, armed with a box of jelly babies. Taking one of these was possibly not my greatest decision of the day. I struggle eating anything during a run but a lady running by me, stopped at this point and drank some coke and had a piece of rocky road! I have no idea how she could do this (and yes, fuelled by rocky road, she went on to beat me).
It was a great day for wildlife and I am gutted I didn't have my camera on me. In Keighley, there were some giant ducks (and by giant, I mean huge - as big as geese). I have no idea what they have been fed to get that size. At mile 13, there was a rather majestic looking heron at the other side of the canal. It would have made a corking photo. I managed to spot one more heron and two jays (I've only ever seen one jay previously) further along the canal.
There were not many runners in the marathon. There were a few of us running close together at the back of the pack. On our way back to Leeds, one by one, all the runners behind me, started to pass me. I started to struggle between miles 13 to 15 when I developed a bit of tummy pain. I kept running but just slowed my pace. When we got back to the half marathon turn around (about mile 17), every single marathon runner had passed me by. The only person who had not caught me up was the one chap doing the ultra. I stopped and had a natter with the marshall Kevin, and a random runner who was out on her training run for the Yorkshire Marathon (she was training properly - doing her 20 mile long run and then tapering - I like to do things the hard way by doing 3 marathons in consecutive weeks!) After a natter, I headed back towards the start of the race. I had accepted defeat and resigned myself to the fact that I was going to come last for the first time ever in a race. Rather than pushing myself, I just thought I would take in the scenery and enjoy the run. Possibly due to my defeatist mind set, I found the last few miles back towards the start of the race a bit tough.
Over time, I have learned to gage how I'm doing by what drink I am craving. Normally I absolutely hate all fizzy drinks; so when I'm running, if I crave water, I'm not doing too bad. If I fancy orange squash, I'm know I'm starting to struggle and probably need a sugar boost. If I start craving blackcurrant and lemonade, I know I'm in for a tough time ahead. If I crave coke, then I know I'm in real trouble!
I could see the start line ahead but struggled to keep running. I was tired and thirsty. Once you reach the start line, you have to head another 3 miles in the other direction before turning around and coming back again to the start. So cruel! I could see a few runners in front of me just heading off from the start but I did not have the energy to chase them.
I stopped at the start line for a drink and a pep talk from my dad. I was hot and took off my fetching buff! I managed to guzzle fizzy orange, water and coke! A bad, bad sign. I also poured water over my head. My dad told me to hurry up and the quicker I finished, the quicker the marshals could pack up and go home, so off I went. I don't know if it was the sugar rush or the talk from my dad but I managed to pick up my pace. Also, there were runners who had been to the turn around already and were now heading back to the finish - I don't know what it is about seeing approaching runners, but it always makes me stand tall and run (trying to save face and not look like I'm struggling - I don't actually think I fool anyone though).
I could spot a runner in front of me and it was like a cat and mouse chase for about a mile. I'd speed up trying to catch him, then I'd be shattered and walk for a bit. When I walked, he ran. When he walked, I ran. Eventually, I managed to catch him. It was Roy, who I've run with a few times before. I tried to spur him on and get him to run with me but he was quite content doing his own thing so on I went. Sadly, my Garmin died at about mile 22. I knew mile 23 was the turn about point but this mile went on forever and was the longest mile of the race.
Eventually, I spotted another runner in the distance. I could see he was struggling a bit also and kept stopping and starting and the cat and mouse game started again. I caught him just before we got to the 23 mile turn around. I stopped and asked him how far we had to go to mile 23 and we were almost there. I finally spotted the marshall, down a hill and I sped up dramatically, looking forward to the cup of water awaiting me. I don't think I have been so happy to see an aid station!! I stopped and had a chat with the marshal. By the time I had set off, the runner I had caught had been and gone through the aid station and was heading back to the start/finish line and I could see Roy catching me up! Fuelled by the fear of being last, I headed off on my way again.
The last 3 miles was a constant battle between my head and body - the usual argument I tend to have with myself at this point in a race - my head telling me that 3 miles is nothing and you run that every day to work but my exhausted body ignoring my head and doing its own thing and walking.
The other runner came back into sight and I started to gain on him. When I reached him, he told me that we only had a mile to go so I was spurred on and sped up. I could see chimneys in the distance. I know Salts Mill had a huge chimney so I know the finish was near by. Sadly there were lots of chimneys and each time I thought I was nearly at the finish, another chimney appeared in the distance. Exhausted I stopped and waited for the runner behind. I asked him how far we had to go - he told me we had run 25.9 miles. We were so nearly there but the end wasn't in sight! We ran on together and literally just around the corner, the finish flags were in view. Yay. We both headed to the finish together, but he let me cross the line first (I think this is as Sandra was waiting there with the camera and he wanted to be out of shot!!) Our finish time was just over 5 hours - 5:47 hours I believe.
I was given my medal and goody bag and thankfully more water. I felt extremely weird - lightheaded and dizzy and not quite right so I had a sit down. After a while, I was told I looked weird and by weird I mean my lips and under my eyes turned blue (attractive). My hands and fingers turned blue too. Not a great sign. Eventually, I managed a little food and got back on my feet. I wasn't particularly well over the next few days and it appears that my weirdness at the end of the race was actually the beginnings of a bug.
We waited for Roy to finish and Paul, the one ultra runner and then headed off.
Despite my odd turn at the end of the race, my chafing from my worn leggings and my sore foot from the stone which I was too lazy to remove, I did really enjoy this race! I love the Grim races, especially as everyone (the runners and marshals alike) are so friendly and encouraging and the races are so informal. If I want to get a good time at one of these races though, I'm going to have to stop chatting so much and focus on my running and also not gawp at the beautiful surroundings!
I loved the inspirational Roald Dahl quote in the goody bag (I hope you can read it in the photo)! Next up, Chester Marathon.