My first attempt at this race, my second attempt at this blog (as my first effort was lost when my phone died!)
Last weekend was the Chester Marathon. Entering races is an expensive game and whilst I've wanted to do Chester for a while, the cost has put me off. October is generally a busy racing month so I have to pick races carefully. I tend to choose York given that it's on my doorstep and I can walk to the start! As my dad was still poorly, he kindly transferred his place to me.
Race day morning was much more of a relaxed affair compared to the previous week's race in Saltaire. My sister Fin was staying at mine to look after the girls and the dogs. I stopped at my dad's! No wrestling with the girls or negotiating in order to get the girls out of the house.
This week we just got up and fed and hit the roads. Sandra drove so there were no incidents of speeding or road rage! I've had a bit of a glute issue and even had the luxury of heated seats to warm through my muscles on the way!! It's the little things that make me happy!
The drive into Chester was rather relaxing. We were up early so had plenty of time. I even managed to take a few cracking shots of the sun rise. Beautiful!
I was rather impressed with the set up at Chester. The race starts at the racecourse. Parking is also on the racecourse so you simply park up and everything is right there; loos, race village, food and the start line. No trekking around. Just don't forget where you parked the car!
My dad warned me that the grass made your feet wet, however, the organisers had thought of everything and kindly provided funny shoe protectors so I grabbed myself a pair. I thought I looked rather fetching. They were great for dancing in!
The setting first thing in the morning was pretty spectacular with the fog and sunrise across the racecourse.
It was nice to see some lovely running friends too.
After everyone had a bit of a natter, it was down to business. A quick stop in the race village to check for freebies (sorry, it's got to be done), back to the car to get changed and then to join the never ending queue for the loo. By this time it was close to the start of the race. When a race is chip timed, I don't tend to panic about missing the start as you still get an accurate time. As the minutes went by, runners became nervous and fled to the start. I held it out and eventually reached the front of the queue. I gave my dad my hoody and he headed over to cheer on the runners whilst I had my final, nervous wee! I didn't hear the town cryer start the race but when I left the loos, the runners were off!
I ran over to the start and under the barrier to cheers from the crowd and was on my way! My dad managed to get an action shot of the moment.
After one lap of the racecourse (I wish I'd kept my special shoe covers on for this bit), we headed out into Chester city centre. The city itself is extremely picturesque and I'll definitely be returning to explore the place properly with my family. At about 3 miles I saw my dad and Sandra, both ready with their cameras. We then crossed the river and left the city onto the countryside roads.
As I had just leapt into the crowd of runners, I hadn't even thought about my pace. I felt as though as I was going at a reasonable speed but I felt good and so I kept going. My plan for the day had been to take it easy. I had the Yorkshire Marathon the following weekend and I didn't want to burn out at Chester. As per usual, things didn't go to plan!
At around mile 7 to 8, I could hear a large group of people approaching from behind and assumed it was the 4:30 pace group. It was the 4:00 hour group instead! The sensible part of me panicked slightly and told me to slow down and take it steady. The crazy part of me thought, lets go for it and see how long we can keep up this pace! The crazy side of me won and off I went, swept away with the 4:00 hour pace group. To be honest I found it a little stressful. I still felt strong but I was crammed in and had lost my space and views. No more fields, I was just watching feet and the road to make sure I didn't fall. We were running down some pretty narrow roads so it was a bit tight and it was at this point that a couple of cyclists tried to pass on the right (despite the roads being closed to traffic and being heckled by several runners). Extremely risky to both the cyclists and runners!
Between miles 9 and 10, I could see we were approaching a water station so I moved over to the left side in plenty of time. This is where chaos broke out. The water station was to the left but if you were in the middle or towards the right of the pack, you probably could not see that there were 3 feed stations spread out, not just the one. Seeing the first feed station only, some of the runners panicked and elbowed and shoved me out of the way.
I've never been treated like this by fellow runners so in a bit of a huff, I moved to the back of the group to stay out of the way of the madness and to keep safe/calm! My initial intentions had been to keep to the back of the pack but eventually, I peeled off the back and the group ran on. Have you ever watched the Tour de France? You see the Peloton dropping cyclists one by one and I have often wondered, when they are only a metre or so behind, why they cannot cling on to the the Peloton but they are soon left for dust. This was me - a lone runner dropped off by the stronger pack and there was no way I could keep up or cling on!
I was rather relieved. The pressure had gone, as had the noise and crowds. It went from feeling like a big City race to a quiet trail race that I am more used to. Back was my scenery and my views.
It was along these country roads when I started to be hit by bits of cobweb. I initially thought I had been hit by a bit of thread from someone's shirt but I was hit over and over, by random bits of cobweb floating through the sky (and no, this really happened, I was not hallucinating). Very strange.
I didn't do too bad even without the support of the pack and managed to keep a reasonable pace up until about 23 miles. My dad had talked me through the route and so I had expected to the hill at mile 23. By this point, the marathon route had merged with the 26.2 km race and there were more runners heading towards the finish. Loads of people were walking at this point and it was a challenge not to stop and walk too but I made it to the top.
What I hadn't been prepared for was the monster hill about 1.5 miles from the finish. I was tired at this point and hot - even though it was October, I still managed to get a little sunburnt! There was a conveniently placed water station just before the hill so I got a bottle of water (had a drink and washed off the cobwebs) and walked up the hill. There were "race angels" along this part of the course and one kindly kept me company as I walked up the hill. Sadly, about halfway up the hill, I was passed by the 4:30 pacers.
From this point onwards, I ran and walked the rest of the way. Even though the finish section along the river was relatively flat and technically should have been easy, especially with the crowd support, I really found this stretch to be a struggle and I was stopping and starting until I reached the racecourse. Upon entering the racecourse, I was absolutely determined to reach the finish without walking. I achieved this but after a flying start and despite feeling relatively strong, I was a little disappointed with my time of 4:34:02.
We were presented with a medal and a long sleeve tech t-shirt, together with a goody bag containing some well needed jelly babies and a buff!
Overall, I really enjoyed the race, despite the odd runner who clearly took their need to get a 4:00 hour finish a little too seriously.
It was extremely well organised. The car parking right by the start/finish area was great (not far to stagger after the event). There was some absolutely stunning scenery. Great crowds through the centre and a cracking goody bag.
I will definitely be back to give this another go (but next time, I will stay ahead of the 4:00 hour group or get my elbows sharpened in preparation). Sadly the 2017 race clashes with York so I will have to give it a miss for at least a year.
Here's a pic of the race bling and the huge slice of cake made by Eva which was my treat when I got home. Delicious.