I've ummed and arghed about actually writing this blog. I didn't fail and my time at the Yorkshire Marathon was not my worst by far, but it is the race which has left me most disappointed.
I was so excited about the Yorkshire Marathon this year. It's my local race, so local in fact that I can walk to the start. The excitement built up during the week before the race as firstly the road signs appeared and then the cones before the finish line went up the day before the race. Although the excitement was accompanied by bucket loads of nerves.
This is my third Yorkshire Marathon and last year I had a cracking race with a time of 4:16. I cruised around the course, only stopping to walk once for about 5 metres on the final hill of the race, before kicking myself and running to the finish.
I know the course well, it's on my doorstep, there is good local support and the final miles go through my home village of Osbaldwick. I practice these final miles every week so I was ready and raring to go.
Sadly my dad wasn't racing (he is now back in training though - yay) but he met me at home with his runner friend, Malcolm and we all walked to the start.
I felt strong and had actually made an effort - my daughter had plaited my hair so it didn't flap in my face, overheat or distract me and I was showcasing my Quest for the Vest running vest (to me, running in an actual running vest shows that I mean business and I wasn't taking the race lightly).
It's a great atmosphere around the race village. Lots of my dad's running friends coming over to chat. One such friend is Phil Hammond who was running his 100th marathon that day with several folk from his local running club. The only downfall about the start of the race is that it is so spread out. The baggage area is miles away from the start, the queues for baggage and the loos are always really long. The long trek isn't too bad before the race but it's not great after the finish!
We headed over to the start where I queued for one last wee before the race - my nerves were getting the better of me. Once again, I made it to the starting pen just before the race was due to start. The horn sounded, my dad waved me off, we shuffled forward until we eventually headed across the start line.
The start of the Yorkshire Marathon is great. From the start outside York University you head directly into York City Centre. As you head towards the Minster the crowds thicken and the noise increases. Just before hitting the Minster, I passed Fred Flinstone and, who I believe was, Wilma running in full costume. I remember thinking at this point. I had best beat these guys to the finish! It was great running past the Minster, with the bells ringing out loud and the cheers of the crowds.
After heading through town, the route heads out to Heworth before heading out towards the countryside roads. Just before you reach these roads, there is a wacky Vicar who high fives all the runners as they pass. Amazing! He's been there every year!
Out onto the country lanes and the runners thin out. At about mile 6, I develop a niggle in my lower tum. I ignore it and run on but think twice at mile 7 and stop for what should have been a quick wee but ended up being a long wait for the loo. I must have wasted about 5 minutes at this point before heading back on my way. I ended up going past Fred and Wilma once again - it's weird how that happens in races - people passing each other without realising! Fred had stopped to sort out his dress!
During the race, I met some lovely runners. Some were also on their quest for the vest and spotting my vest, they stopped me to chat. It was great hearing about everyone else's progress and good to know there are lots of other crazies out there with similar ambitions!
I love the stretch of the race between miles 8 and 13 - country roads, surrounding by wooded areas and shaded by tree. It's all rather peaceful. Sadly, at the end of this stretch is where it all started to go wrong. I was making good time too and had reached half way in around 2 hours. The little niggle I had felt earlier, had turned in to a full on shooting pain in my lower abdomen. It felt like a cross between cramps period pains and being kicked right at the bottom of my tummy. Nasty. I slowed down my pace a little hoping it would ease off but by the time we had hit the main road, I had almost doubled over and was once again running like Groucho Marx, all hunched over but without the cigar (and the moustache I should add). I was being passed by runners left, right and centre. I could see the people I was initially running with slowly pull away. The turnaround point in Stamford Bridge is always crowded and high energy - some chap singing away on a microphone and a chap on a microphone cheering on the runners. Despite my best efforts, I could not hear the shouts of encouragement. I was struggling on and fighting back the tears.
From here on in, the race was a struggle. It is always the hardest part of the race as it is a long drag (and it all seems to be slightly uphill) back to York and the fact that you have another turn about point is psychologically draining. You see all the faster runners heading in the opposite direction on the other side of the road, shouting over "Not far to the turn around", knowing full well it's another 2 miles to that point!!! I was absolutely determined not to walk and kept on running all the way up to the next turn about point just after Dunnington. I ended up stopping and walking between miles 18 and 19. I was no longer in complete agony, but the pain had left a dull ache and appeared to have drained me of my energy. I always look forward to mile 20 onwards at the Yorkshire Marathon as I know it's the start of the return back to my own village and my usually running ground. Sadly, I was stop starting from this point onwards.
There were loads of other runners also struggling and we were all spurring each other on to keep on running. Phil Hammond passed me at about mile 22 to 23 with his running buddies. He was aiming to finish in 4:30 but managed to get a quicker time. I was determined to finish in time to see his 100th marathon presentation and this is what spurred me on.
Mile 23 to 24 is a pain. It's a long drag from Murton to Osbaldwick which appears to be never ending. I was extremely lucky and had my very own support crew waiting at mile 24 which included my lovely girls (who were waving their homemade banners), my dad, stepmum Sandra and sister, Fin.
After a very brief pitstop for water, an awful photo and very quick words from everyone, I walked on with my dad who gave me a talking too and off I went. There are lots of people in the village who I know or just know me as "Eva's mum". It's always important to look strong during this bit of the race but I failed! I continued to walk/run (I tended to run when I spotted crowds of people) - this is a good job as these crowds included parents from Eva's school and then my friend from work!
I walked again, on the hill approaching Hull Road. I found this bit so frustrating. I run these roads every week but when I really needed to, I could simply not muster up the energy to run them on the day of the race. My body had let me down when it counted. I stopped and started all the way to the top of that final hill and from that point on, spurred on by the crowds (and the fact that my finish my be on the telly), I ran all the way downhill to the final finish. I was extremely grateful to reach the finish but had the long walk back to the baggage area to go.
Luckily, despite being some way ahead of me, I managed to catch up with Phil and his running buddies after the race and I got to see his presentation. What a fantastic achievement - 100 marathons - and he can now wear a 100 Marathon Club vest with pride.
When I look back, my chip time wasn't actually too bad - 4:40:53 but I was so disappointed with my performance (and my race photos - the pain shows). Usually, I can pick myself up after a difficult race and get back to training but this one has left a bitter taste and I've found it a little hard to find my running mojo since.
It is almost November now, so it's to wipe the slate clean and have a new start and aim towards marathon number 29 in Leeds (Kirkstall Abbey to be precise). I'm not aiming for a good time there, just to finish with hopefully very little walking (it's a tough route!)
I have already entered the 2017 Yorkshire Marathon so I will be back next year to smash my 4:16 time!