Our journey to York began the day before the marathon with a playlist of rain-related songs following on from Jonathon’s Facebook suggestion that we all learn “Singing in the rain” – turns out there are a surprising number of alternatives out there (Travis: Why does it always rain on me, Garbage: I’m only happy when it rains, and Rhianna: Umbrella were our favourites!). Suffice to say we were preparing ourselves for a wet soggy run….
On the morning of the race, we got a lift to the station from family and joined the long queue of people waiting for the shuttle bus from the railway station to the University campus. I couldn’t fault the organization for the rest of the day, however, this aspect could have done with some thinking through! Pay as you board meant that getting on the bus took an age, the organisers’ assurance that runners would be prioritized wasn’t followed, and all the while we were getting wetter and wetter. Our Poundland ponchos were undoubtedly the best purchase of the weekend! Rory tried to keep me distracted by making numerous suggestions about ways in which the bus system could have been remedied, but at that point anxiety was building (I was late for the GNR one year having queued in vain for the portable loos and missed getting into the starting pen resulting in a vault over the barriers – I am now absolutely obsessed about getting to the start of races early and so this bus wait was no good for me at all!). Eventually, we boarded and started the short journey to the campus.
On arrival, Rory and I dropped bags (super efficient system), and then decided to do our own thing and meet afterwards– which was probably for the best with regards to maintaining marital harmony given how snappy I was with him at that stage! Luckily I bumped into fellow Striders, Karen and Lesley, and had a lovely chat, which helped to calm my nerves.
The start was fabulous – lovely chatty people in the pen, all bonding over the atrocious weather conditions, which had, in a lovely way, taken the pressure off with regards expectations of the race. We set off on time, all still wrapped in jumpers/ponchos/bin liners.
The first mile flew by, and I set off far faster than I had intended. The route heads into York, and by the first mile-marker I had warmed up sufficiently to ditch my charity shop purchased fleece but was still holding on firmly to the poncho! As we approached mile 2 we passed York Minster with its fabulous bells, which was an amazing sight and sound on a Sunday morning.
We then headed out into the suburbs and towards the countryside – at around mile 3 I felt like a boil-in-the-bag runner, and finally had to ditch the poncho! I had planned to slow down at this point but felt good so kept the pace up. Mile 5 took us into Stockton on the Forest, which was, without a doubt, one of the high points of the marathon for me. On our way into the village a group of girls from the group I used to run with before we moved to Durham were cheering – I had a lovely hug from one of the girls I had run Manchester with, which gave me the lift I needed. Then onto the high-fiving vicar and the congregation who were all out supporting!
After that, the route was through country lanes, with long stretches without any crowds. Normally I quite like that, but I think the rain took its toll on my spirits, and I really enjoyed the villages and cheering. I particularly loved the pipe band at mile 7, being Scottish this was absolutely amazing – hands in the air clapping moment! Unfortunately, that also heralded the moments the heavens opened…It had been raining solidly prior to that but with little force, after that point, it rained heavily with no let-up or stop (until we were in the car journey home!). This meant that for much for the rest of the run lots of time was spent looking at the ground trying to dodge puddles, or trying to dodge the relay runners – I guess when you are doing 6 miles it doesn’t matter too much if you get wet feet, but I was very keen to avoid getting wetter than I needed to! Again I planned to slow down at mile 10 but felt good, so kept the pace up….
Entering Sand Hutton approaching mile 11 there was a stretch of road that was totally flooded with horrible sandy water – I guess there must be a lot of sand in the ground in Sand Hutton, an aptly named village!
Between mile 13 and 15 came the first loopback, I planned to slow down after the half but felt good, so kept going, and the same story at mile 15! The loopback allowed me a couple of shouts of “Go Strider” as Elaine and Anna passed going the other way in super speedy time.
Then another loopback at miles 16-20 gave me a glimpse of Rory, who looked strong despite having just finished the uphill part of the loopback. If I had one real criticism of the race it would be that the loopback there was just nasty! A gradual decline on the way out, whilst all the time looking at the people struggling with the gradual incline on the 2-mile stretch back up again – mean! Thankfully my water bottle needed refilling and Tailwind adding, all of which I hadn’t practised whilst running – the fiddling on with all of this totally distracted me from the climb, which was done before I’d realized!
Thereafter I did purposefully slow down my pace, realising that I needed to reign it in to avoid being in a whole world of trouble later on. I found mile 22 really tough, but then the mantras of “Only a Parkrun to go” and “Just jog it home now” kept me going (I’d run my first marathon using The Non-Runners Marathon Training Guide, which is big on getting you to practice and repeat your own mantras/phrases throughout the marathon, and I have found that this really helps me)
The last mile contains a sharp uphill stretch, although living in Durham, it was nothing compared to what we are used to! What goes up must come down, with the result that the finishing straight is downhill – the atmosphere here was incredible, supporters aplenty and brilliant tunes. I ended with a song and a sprint and finished well within my sub-4 goal with a time of 3:52:02, representing a 21-minute PB for me.
I enjoyed a nice chat with Anna at the baggage reclaim (system slightly less efficient at this point!), and then back home for the nicest cup of tea I have ever had!
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