I entered this race during the training for the MOTN on a bit of a whim, little did I realise how popular it was going to become. I had a solid enough run at the MOTN following one or two niggles but wanted to give York a real good go. With this in mind I decided to have a crack at the GFA time of sub 3:15 for my age group (41+). Let the training commence.
I put together an 18 week training program which mainly consisted of 4-5 runs a week including a long run, a track session, a Parkrun and a couple of recovery runs. In amongst these runs I also entered quite a few races as I find racing really sharpens me up and gives me confidence. And so I arrived at York with recent PBs in at both 10k and half marathon distance.
My build during race week slightly altered from previous marathons as I decided to “carb up” more than usual. From the Wednesday onwards I tried to consume 600-700g of carbs per day, seriously who can eat that much food! I eased up slightly by the Saturday as I was completely stuffed!
So, with my usual support crew with me (Katy and Heidi) we headed down the A19 on a damp on blustery Sunday morning. We parked at the park and ride and got the bus to the university where the race was to start and finish. The organisation seemed to be very good, especially as this was York’s first attempt at a marathon. We met up with the rest of the Striders for a team picture before we headed off to our respective start pens. I was in pen A with the fast guys and the elites!
After the mass warm up (they’re not for me) and a race briefing it was almost time for the off. Dickie Bird (former cricket umpire & one of my heroes) was one of the official starters getting a big cheer as was Danny Mills (former Leeds United footballer) getting a chorus of pantomime boos as we were in York after all! After a countdown from 10 we were off and running, I was over the start line fairly quickly.
Now I had a race plan! 7:15 per mile through the first 21 miles would give me a minute per mile buffer for the final 5 and a bit miles to achieve my sub 3:15 goal. I’d recently ran 7:15 at Redcar Half and felt relatively comfortable so I just had to continue that through to 21 mile and cruise home at 8 minute mile pace, how hard can it be! Fool! Fool! Fool!
The first mile was a doddle! As were the next 5 or 6 to be fair as we ran through the city to some fantastic support. We left the city behind as the route took us through lots of villages on the outskirts, again the support was amazing from supporters and marshals alike. The first real tough section for me was at 9 miles where a bit of an incline presented itself, not particularly steep but it was certainly steep and long enough to have me gasping for breath as I reaching the top of it. From there the route twisted and turned on country lanes for a few miles including a switch back in one of the villages giving me the opportunity to see some of the fast guys out in front. I also got a high 5 from Bob off Emmerdale who was behind me on the switch back.
I passed through the halfway point in 1:34, slightly ahead of schedule but not enough to worry me, I was however working a bit harder now. The next switch back came between miles 16-20 where I was snapped by Mark Preston (thanks Mark). As I passed Mark on the way back he made comment that I still looked strong however my race was starting to unravel. I got to 19 miles and my pace had dropped, I was struggling to keep it around 7:25-7:30, any slight incline was hurting me and the breeze suddenly felt a lot stronger. Time for a re-calculation to my plan, 7:30-7:40 from here would be adequate for my target time.
Oh dear, I was now hurting, each step felt hard. I was at the stage that every marathoner has been at, the “I’ll never run another marathon” stage! At the water station at 21 miles I stopped running and walked briskly whilst I took in some much needed hydration. I had a good talk to myself and came to the conclusion that I only had 5 miles to go at 8 minute mile pace which is nothing more than one of recent recovery training runs! Come on Graeme get a grip! I set off again with this positive mind-set as well as reminding myself how it would feel to cross the finishing line. Katy and Heidi were waiting for me, they would be looking at the clock expecting see me, lots of people were aware of my target, I couldn’t let them down, I couldn’t let myself down! The supporters were willing me on, I guess it was fairly obvious that I was struggling, I passed through miles 22,23,24,25 in pain but still moving forward.
Mile 26 was without doubt the hardest challenge of my life. My body was shutting down with my calf muscles threatening to cramp up, the hill just before the finish felt like a mountain! However the top of the hill my emotions changed with a shout from Katy and Heidi and the finish line in sight. 400m meters to go and miracle of miracles I found my legs again, well it was downhill after all. The cheering crowds were simply awesome as I crossed the finish line in 3:13:52, a 5 minute PB and a qualifying time for the GFA category in the London Marathon. I have to admit it was all a bit too much for me and I was quite emotional for a moment or two.
I picked up my goody bag and went to find Katy and Heidi getting a massive hug from them both. Wow what an amazing feeling it is to finish a marathon but my word it’s tough. Will I run another? Well London is a must, but following this experience my opinion is that more miles are needed in the training do yourself justice.
The organisation for the inaugural Yorkshire Marathon was brilliant and the supporters were truly magnificent, well done York!
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