Recently, I’ve been joining in the long runs organised by Sue, Greta and the rest of the lovely Sunday Morning Crew as part of their marathon training so have been increasing my ‘distance PB’ (the furthest I’ve ever run in one go) quite a lot. Alister had the Spen 20 and the East Hull 20 pencilled into his marathon training plans months ago and, as both races approached, I began to wonder whether I should have a bash! He advised against the tough and ‘quite undulating’ [i.e. blinkin’ hilly] Spen 20, and, having read the race reports, I’m glad he did (but much respect to those that took it on!!). I thought the East Hull 20, described by Alister as ‘flat and, frankly, dull’ starting just 15 minutes from my mum and dad’s house, sounded more appealing (the ‘flat’ bit, not the ‘dull’ bit!). I ummed and ahhed and thought about it, then saw that online entries had closed because it was full so I popped a sneaky postal entry in that same day and let fate decide. Sure enough I managed to get myself a number. Gulp!
On race day I tried to get myself into the ‘it’s just a training run’ mentality to calm my churning stomach and jangling nerves, but it didn’t really work and I spent the morning completely terrified and trying to work out how I would get back to the car if I couldn’t complete the course. The route was a ‘lollipop’-shaped affair, out of the east side of Hull and through the villages with a 4-mile loop around Long Riston and then back along the first eight miles or so. The thought of 20 long miles and up to four hours of running all on my own (I was convinced I’d be in last place with no-one anywhere near me) without the company of Greta, Sue and the gang was overwhelmingly horrible! An early arrival at the Race HQ to collect our numbers gave me plenty of time to look at all the finely-honed athletes in the final throes of their marathon preparations and wonder at my sanity in even considering attempting 20 miles! Gulp! It was a welcome distraction, however, to spot one such finely-honed specimen: ex-Strider Keri Pearson, now a City of Hull AC runner and training for the London Marathon, was glad to see us. I was reassured that she seemed almost as nervous as me but she looked in great shape as she jogged away to warm up.
I’d just begun to try to think of convincing reasons to drop out of the race when I spotted another familiar face. During the Humber Bridge half marathon last year, I made friends with and ran much of the way round with a local lady called Jo and it was a relief to see her face at East Hull. She seemed almost as pleased to see me! We quickly decided to be running buddies so we wouldn’t have to complete the course alone and we agreed to stick together to at least 10 miles. By the time the race began, and Alister began to disappear into the distance ahead of me, I was feeling a bit calmer and jogged along happily chatting to Jo. All the Sundays spent jogging along the railway tracks, gossiping with Greta and Sue and the gang, have really paid off as the miles ticked passed very quickly without boredom or any early fatigue. The weather was stunning and the blue sky and sunshine made me feel happy to be a runner as we pootled along clocking up the miles. As we approached 8 miles, and the start of the ‘lollipop’ loop, we saw the leaders storm past on their way back towards the finish and we cheered them on their way. As we turned onto the ‘lollipop’ of the loop, the leaders were no longer in view but we spotted something we thought we wouldn’t see on a run in East Yorkshire: hills! Jo was a bit concerned about having hills on the ‘relatively flat’ course and there were other grumbles and worries from those around us. I was very glad that I’d completed the Dentdate a couple of weeks ago because I couldn’t understand what they were complaining about. They weren’t REALLY hills – a slight incline, granted, but they should REALLY try doing their training around Durham if they want to appreciate some actual hills! A couple of ladies were heard to complain about the ‘hills’ leading down to and up from an underpass – it’s more hilly during the Durham parkrun!!!! This entertained me hugely and gave me confidence and, at 12 miles, although my legs were starting to tire, I was finding the pace very manageable (just over 10 minute miles) and was beginning to feel that I would be able to complete the course. After the loop was completed, we returned to the final 8-mile stretch back down to the start and headed home. Jo was clearly feeling fresher than me and I was beginning to feel a bit pooped, but I stuffed some jelly beans and jelly babies down my neck and kept my water levels topped up at all the drink stations (one every 3-4 miles, which I thought was very good!) and kept plodding onwards. A friend of Jo’s joined us at 14 miles which meant I was able to let them go on ahead and slow my own pace as I was beginning to struggle. From 14 to 15 miles I really started to feel like I was running out of steam, but I crammed in more jelly beans and took it easy for a mile or so.
At 16 miles, I perked up again and started counting down the steps until the magic ‘only a parkrun to go’ point at 16.9 miles. This has become a habit for me recently and it REALLY works. I visualise my beloved Durham parkrun route as I plod along the last 5k of a race. It’s a welcome distraction and helps me focus on something other than the pain in my legs! It worked a treat at Dent, where I did the fastest 5k of the run at the very end (unheard of for me!) and it began to work in East Hull as, despite the sun beating down, I started to pick people off. The last 5k at East Hull is REALLY REALLY boring, along a very straight old railway line, so I visualised different scenery for myself to make it more bearable. With Dougie’s ‘parkrun pacing’ points firmly in my head, I caught the first couple of runners as early on as ‘Horsley corner’ (17.2 miles) and hit the ‘noisy bridge’ (17.6 miles) feeling strong. The ‘playing fields’ section was quite tough, but as I joined the ‘riverside path’ (18.5 miles) I knew I would soon be seeing the castle and the cathedral. In my head, obviously. Or maybe I really was starting to hallucinate! The rest of the race runners left the long railway line section (and I enjoyed the mental view of the parkrun bandstand finish for the first time) at about 19 miles, and at that point I knew I was going to finish and complete the longest race I’d ever attempted without needing to stop or walk! Yippee!!
The last section through the housing estate (i.e. along the riverside path towards Baths bridge) was quite nice as people were outside their houses enjoying the sunshine and cheering us on. Visualising the bandstand ahead of me I tried to stride out along the last few hundred metres, and saw Alister next to the route, waiting to cheer me in. Hearing his shout of ‘you’ll break 3:30’ I went a bit mad and did a sprint finish, nearly knocking two ladies into the oncoming traffic!! As I hit the finish line, I had a bit of an odd moment where I wanted to stop running but my legs didn’t seem to get the message and one of the lovely marshals had to catch hold of me, explaining (very slowly and clearly!) that I’d now finished and might want to stop running! I managed to regain control of my limbs and slowed to a walk while I battled a weird emotional moment that saw me wanting to laugh hysterically and sob all at the same time. Very strange! Poor Alister must have been a bit concerned to see me wobbling away into the distance, wailing and drunkenly staggering along on wonky legs, looking likely to fall into the road at any second! Luckily I still remembered to stop the Garmin! Sub-3:30. Yay!!!!
I had regained my composure somewhat by the time he got to me to feed me water and jelly babies and to try to persuade me to stop walking (he found me walking around and around and around in small circles beyond the finish area!!). Once I’d regained control of all my faculties and the urge to cry had passed completely, I was just about in a fit state to drink my recovery milkshake (those things are amazing!) and to collect my race memento – a lovely sports bag that’ll do perfectly for my swimming gear! In summary, it turned out that I actually enjoyed the race! The course was flat. And it was a long way. And it was pretty boring in places. But I was pleased with my time and overjoyed that I didn’t need to stop or walk at all! Alister had a great run, too, and Keri did a good job to finish 10th lady (although she was cross with herself because she had a bit of a ‘gel’ incident and felt that, otherwise, she’d have finished in the top three!). Definitely a good race for marathon preparations. Or even if, like me, you have no intention of doing a marathon. Ever… Maybe…!
- Vid of the start: Alister’s visible only by the fluorescent yellow hat! I go past (talking, obviously) after 2 minutes!
- Vid of the race as the leaders approach 13 miles: I pass about 8 mile marker going the other way! I can be seen about 30 seconds in and can be heard cheering the leaders on.
- Another vid of the race: Alister’s visible at about 5 min 20 into this vid.
- Yet another vid of the race: I’m about 3 mins 25 into this one.
|111||Keri Pearson||City of Hull AC||LSEN||10||150:25|