Dougie Nisbet …
Today was a good day to be a Strider. I’d just like to say well-done and thank you to everyone who was out today for the companionship and support, for the 10K and the marathon, and all the Strider support around the course. It really was something.
And a special congratulations has to go to all the first-time marathon runners. Today was not an easy course, physically or psychologically. Lots of dog-legs and switch-backs and a surprising number of nippy hills. In a particularly cruel twist the organisers decided to parallel run the finishing straight with the 18-19 mile mark – a point where many are hitting the wall. All Striders finished despite the hideous temptation of passing the finish with 7 miles to go! Well done, especially the first-time marathoners! I hit the proverbial at 22.35 miles and if this had happened around 18 miles, I’m pretty certain I would have bailed.
… Greta Jones …
It was an early start for my very first marathon. Mike Elliott kindly offered to be the driver for the day and picked up myself and my friend Denise who had trained and stretched in anticipation of cheering loudly. We met with John G, John H, Sue Jennings and Emma Detchon at Angela’s house and headed off in convoy to the Stadium of Light.
On arrival several striders were already present and collectively we were a very impressive sea of purple. Many of those doing the 10K starting at 10am also joined us and we managed a very impressive team photo. The mood was very upbeat and supportive, especially for those of us doing our first marathon, which included myself, Jacquie, Emma, Jo Richardson, and John G. George Nick a veteran of many runs gave us all a hug and encouragement, he was planning on running his own race with Sarah Kelly to support her round the course in aid of St Oswald’s Hospice.
The original idea was to run the race at 10.5 minute miles, the aim, to finish around 4 hours 35 minutes. We called this the 4.35 bus; however as bus is a dirty word in Sunderland it then became the 4.35 train. What an experience that was. We started really well and were consistent, thanks to Alister’s impressive pacing. If you have never joined a pacing group I can highly recommend it. The team held together really well and offered support not only to each other but also to those we passed and the locals who came out to cheer us on. We were joined for many miles by a chap called Scott who was running for a cancer charity and who’s aim was to run 12 marathons in 12 months, thanks to him I managed to work out how to open those sachets of water.
Due to the nature of the course which looped back on itself at many points we were able to cheer on other Striders as they passed us heading for the finish. We managed to see Paul, James and Matt quite early on as they lead the field of striders. Then came our first female Fiona, followed by John Hutch who we managed to cheer, at a couple of locations, then came Dougie, who was closely followed by the lovely Anna, whose partner Flip was not running in the marathon but was found lounging about on a park bench taking photos as we passed. Barrie Evans and Jan and Tony Young also turned out to show their support at the Barnes park area.
Angela was having a cracking run and had left the train at around mile 15. The remaining train finally splintered at around mile 16. I felt really comfortable at the 18 mile mark, but was at this time running with Dave Robson. Going past the stadium where several striders who had run the 10k and my family made loads of noise and gave such incredible support which gave me a boost. However by mile 19 I began to wonder why I was doing this and why I had bothered to make a polite enquiry. My lower spine ached but at least I could not feel any blisters on my feet. By mile 20 Sue Jennings had caught me up and the pair of us decided to run/walk for a while. If it had not been for Sue I am sure the next 4 miles would have been harder than they were.
Sue got the smell of home in her nostrils and I was unable to keep up with her but managed to continue the run/walk plan. By mile 25 if anyone mentioned another marathon I would have happily tripped them up if I had had the energy. Just as I was flagging I heard the cry of ‘Jonsey get running as we are heading for sub 5 hours,’ from Alister and Jacquie Robson as they were gaining on me. This gave me some incentive to push on. At mile 26 I was joined by the lovely Dave Whitmore fellow park runner and Sunderland Harrier who was marshalling at this point, and could see my struggle so ran with me up the final hill and lead me to a sea of cheering purple which included Denise, Jane Ives, Yusuf, Victoria, Louise, Mel and Rob closely followed by Jo Porter and Ethan as well as Mike Elliott chasing every photo opportunity. That is just what you need at the finish of a marathon and it gave me such a feeling of euphoria when I crossed the line in the official time of 4 hours 50 minutes and 34 Seconds.
“Never again, but then again …”
… Alister Robson …
It hasn’t been a great month or so for provincial marathons as a friend of mine remarked the other day. Hull was plagued with organisational issues and doubts remain over the distance, meaning that the official results have been scrubbed from the record books. Promised road closures didn’t materialise and there was a distinct lack of marshals. Milton Keynes and the Shakespeare Marathon at Stratford had torrential rain, the latter being cut to half distance. Manchester had torrential rain and baggage issues with some shivering for almost an hour at the finish for their warm clothes to arrive.
I was a little bit apprehensive then about the inaugural Marathon of the North at Sunderland, but I needn’t have worried. The wet cold weather that had been around all week started to clear towards Saturday evening and it became clear, bright and still. Perfect conditions for marathon running in fact. We arrived at the Stadium of Light nice and early and it was immediately remarkable how nice a morning it was and how many people we knew. I grabbed a quick coffee in the Aquatic Centre and as we came round the corner past the start line we were welcomed by a sea of purple – those hoodies really do stand out a mile don’t they? Before long I’d been volunteered to be on the radio (thanks Jane Ives, I think!) and it was time to assemble at 8.45 for the group photo. A whopping 24 Striders assembled for the group shot (+1 guest Durham Tri) and we still didn’t manage to get everyone in.
It was only two weeks after the London Marathon for me and so I didn’t want to try running it at full speed (although I knew quite a few who did!) and I also knew that there were a load of first timers, including my wife, Jacquie, who were aiming at 4.30ish pace. With that I volunteered to pace them as far round as possible at 10.30 minute miles pace. It was brilliant! I think a lot of the gang were surprised by how slow 10.30 feels like when you’re fit and raring to go, and I very often had to pull them back a bit. I gave them the benefit of my huge marathon experience (two previous VLM’s) and I’m sure after a while they got sick of hearing “Heads up for the photographers”, “Steady going up this hill”, “Thanks Marshal!” etc.
However it seemed to work and going through half way we were all a merry lot, all still sticking together and all still feeling relatively fresh. We’d gathered in a few extra runners into the little group over the course. Some nice ladies from Quakers, a friend of Emma’s Hazel, a guy called Scott who’s doing 12 marathons in 12 weeks (this was his 4th) for Cancer Research, all were welcome aboard the 4.35 train, the more the merrier. At about 16 miles we started to hit the buffers. I tripped over a gatepost going into Barnes Park, and Jacquie’s shoulder started to cramp up, probably from carrying her water bottle. Hazel and Angela started to pull away at the front, looking very comfortable and Jacquie and I fell back a bit as I could tell that she was starting to suffer. It was great to see Jan and Phil and Barrie out on the course and indeed the spectators and marshals (including our own Jo & Ethan and Anita) were brilliant. It was great for them that the weather was so good, and so much better for the runners out on the course.
At about 17 miles I had to stop for an unscheduled ‘comfort break’ and after heading back through town and over the bridge, it was back to the Stadium. Dougie’s report said he found that demoralising which is interesting as I found the opposite. I loved being able to cheer James ,Fiona and Matt and some others home and it gave me a boost as we headed out on the last loop out towards the coast. Jacquie had an undeniably tough time from about 21 miles to about 24 but we kept going forward (if walking) and once through Roker Park I think we ran all the rest of it back. We caught Greta and hopefully inspired her home and at the last corner back at the Stadium were the marshals from Sunderland parkrun, Jane, David and Katie and most of the Striders 10k runners.
From here it was just a few hundred meters to the finish line where the rest of the fantastic Striders support was ready to cheer us in and we could collect our medals and goodie bags. All in all the organisation was pretty good, not quite up to London’s standards but a great first effort. It wasn’t perfect, the first corner was far too tight causing the whole field to bunch up just after we’d set off running properly, the secure baggage area wasn’t. I had no problem in making off with Jacquie’s bag without her number and the finish line was a little bit out of the way tucked around the corner – it would have been better to finish in the stadium itself, but they also did a lot of things very right. Starting at the Stadium with all its toilets etc was a masterstroke, there were loads of great marshals and the water and isotonic drink stops were frequent and well placed. It was reasonably priced and had a tech tee in the goodie bag. Maybe Steve can have a word with Brendan?
… and Jacquie Robson:
I was nervous. Very nervous. REALLY nervous. Even the day before the race. And I was cross with myself for even thinking I could do something as daft as a marathon after vowing I’d never even dream of entering. But I have to admit it was nice to arrive at the start at the Stadium of Light to see a sea of purple, and I would have felt a bit like I was missing out if I hadn’t entered what turned out to be a fantastic Striders event. There really were Striders everywhere you looked, and friends from Sunderland and Durham parkrun everywhere else! The Striders 10k runners arrived on time to wish us all well, and we all assembled in surprisingly pleasant sunny weather for a photo of the Striders and friends before the start. After a last minute kit change from my cold weather long fleecy sleeved top to a t-shirt, it seemed like no time at all until we heard the hooter and we were away. James, Paul, Fiona and Matt shot out of sight with the front runners, and Dougie and John Hutchinson bounded off, smiles on their faces and a spring in their step. Anna went on ahead, too, despite claiming she was only going to run-walk at first and would probably drop out after 15k. We didn’t believe you, Ms Seeley!
Our ‘running train’ was made up of many of the Sunday morning crew (myself, Greta, Sue, Angela, John G and Dave R) and some welcome guests, including the tri club’s Vicky Mattless, Emma’s friend Hazel and a few others we’d picked up at the start, with train-driver Alister leading the way and keeping us steady at a gentle pace. Jo and Emma hung back a bit, wanting to set off a bit slower, and George stayed back to run with lady from the BBC. It all seemed a bit surreal during the first mile when I had to remind myself I was actually running a marathon. A BLOOMIN’ MARATHON, for heaven’s sake!
The atmosphere was great, with lots of support as we looped the stadium and headed out across the Wearmouth Bridge, with Alister reminding us to slow down every time we got carried away (‘Oi, Jonesy, get back here!’), and lots of smiles for the cameras and banter with the marshals as we passed. The first 5k (the first ‘parkrun’ of just over 8!) was out of the way in no time and the first drinks station was upon us before we really needed it, but Coach Al insisted we all take some just in case. The water was supplied in weird little plastic pouches and the next mile was spent discussing how best to get the liquid out of them. Some were handed over already opened, some needed opening, and, even when open, it seemed you had to squeeze them very hard to get the water out. Sue and I both found the water had a tendency to suddenly jet out of the pack causing us to cough and splutter, and a few people managed to drench themselves or those around them! Still, the frequent drinks stations were welcome in the bright sunshine. I was glad I’d made the last minute change to a t-shirt but regretted not digging out the Factor 30!
Before we knew it, we were past 10k and all jogging along happily. Conversation still flowed pretty freely and the pace felt comfortable. The miles ticked by. There were some sections along a dual carriageway where we could see the front runners running the other way on the opposite side of the road, and we had fun cheering them along, going bananas when we saw fellow Striders Paul, Fiona, Matt and James pass by. A long section along the coast near 10 miles saw some of our ‘train’ stop for a toilet break and they then had to push the pace to catch us back up. Others were just starting to feel the first aches in their legs. Either way, the first struggles began for some of us around 10 or 11 miles. Gels and sweets and drinks were taken on board (Coach Al reminded us every time they were due), but it was at this point where I really started to notice that this was not a flat course. At all! Some of the downhill sections were quite nice on the legs, but the uphills were starting to feel a bit like hard work (although Coach Al kept reminding us to take it easy up the hills – easy for him as he bounded up them like a mountain goat, varying his pace with infuriating ease to switch to the other side of the running pack to cheer for people and chat to the marshals). I seem to remember that we saw the welcome sight of Anita somewhere near here, shouting her encouragement to us whilst simultaneously fending off some feral creatures from the nearby habitats, and it was a real boost to see a friendly face so far away from the stadium – thanks, Anita. Passing halfway I began to enjoy myself again and kept the pace up with ease. But it was not to last long! I could feel the heat beating down and was getting quite thirsty despite taking water and gel sweets on board, and towards 15 miles I began to feel a bit sick. But we all managed to stay together. We’d picked up (well, Alister had) some fellow passengers as we’d run around the course, including Scott, the Chairman of Wombwell AC who was doing one of his 12 planned marathons in an impressive fundraising effort. He seemed to enjoy our company! I really began to flag as we headed past 16 miles, and Vicky was struggling too. She dropped her pace a little and, tempted as I was to go with her, I hung on in there on the ‘train’ a bit longer. It was another fantastic boost to see Barrie Evans just after 15 miles, shouting us all on and giving us lots of encouragement. Thanks, Barrie! Shortly after this, we entered one of a number of picturesque parks (every one of which had Alister start planning a new parkrun!) and saw Flip Owen, reclining on a park bench and snapping photos of us, looking incredibly relaxed in the sunshine. Another boost for us as the hard slog was beginning. I realised that I was going to have to let the rest of the ‘train’ go on without me at this point – just after 16 miles – because Angela and Hazel, both seasoned marathoners, had picked up the pace a little, and Greta, Sue and Dave Robson looked comfortable so I felt quite depressed to have to let them go but I knew I was starting to struggle. Alister dropped back to stay with me which, before the race, I was convinced I didn’t want him to (I didn’t want to get divorced before mile 25!) but I was very glad of his chivalry and company. Plus he knows me well enough to realise that the set of my jaw and the look on my face meant he should just jog alongside me and not say much!!! I shovelled some more gel sweets and some more liquid into my mouth and tried to enjoy the pretty park. Luckily, there was another big boost for us in the form of Jan, who shouted and cheered and gave us great encouragement. Thanks, Jan – you’ve no idea how much you helped me through a really tough mile! As we popped out of the park at about 17 miles, we saw Flip again, who skipped along with us and took photos (I actually look very happy on the photos – I wasn’t!) and gave us some shouts.
At 17.5 miles I found my stride again and, although my pace was slowing, I felt quite comfortable. As we reached the Stadium of Light at 19 miles, we saw the wonderful Sea of Purple out to support us, having completed their 10k runs in many cases, but shouting loud encouragement. I also got to shout James Garland in to the finishing straight, which was nice. It was wonderful to also see David Whitmore and Jane Niven from Sunderland parkrun, shouting their support, as well as Blackhill Bounder parkrun friends Sara Sarginson and Murphy-the-Beagle, and Katherine Preston. By mile 20, however, it was getting tough. Really tough. I remember saying to Alister at just over 20 miles that I was finding it really hard, and he told me I was doing really well and he was really proud of me. This brought a lump to my throat – quite unlike me – and quite telling of what was to come. At the 21 mile marker, I didn’t feel all there and began having a rather surreal almost out-of-body experience. I looked down to find that my legs had stopped running and I was walking. I didn’t seem to remember taking any conscious decision to do this, but it happened. I put more sugar in my body and marched along, trying to run, but I began to feel extremely peculiar and a little unsteady. As we came around onto the seafront, running towards Roker, I saw all the people coming back towards me on the opposite side of the road, up an enormous hill. Psychologically, I think that broke me and my world caved in just a little bit. Alister clearly sensed that I was really struggling and again gave me some gentle encouragement and, much to my surprise, my reponse was a strange wailing, crying, hiccupping noise accompanied by floods of tears. It carried on much like that to about 24 miles – those two to three miles felt like the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. Thank goodness Alister was there with me or I honestly think I’d have ended up sitting on the floor at the 23 mile marker, refusing to move until a car was sent for me! And thank goodness he resisted the urge to roll his eyes and tell me to sort myself out! He just smiled alongside me, making encouraging noises and making sure I was drinking and eating enough.
We spotted Sue and Greta coming back towards us on the opposite side of the road and I remember them telling us that they were beginning to struggle a bit, too, but to me they still looked fresh as a daisy! After a long walk up the nasty drag up to 24 miles I began to get the feeling I was making progress when the route cruelly turned off the main road to force us around a mile long loop of yet another park. This was again enough to reduce me to sobbing, but I did hear Yusef shouting encouragement just as we entered the park (although I couldn’t quite work out how he’d got to that point – turns out 10k is not long enough for him any more, so he’d done an extra 7-8 miles. Like you do!). I jogged quite a bit around the park with some determined marching in between and began to feel a little more human. As we left the park, I pulled myself together and realised that the quickest way to get this over and done with was to run. So I did. Slowly. But sure enough, we passed the 40k marker and, knowing there was only 2k to go, I felt a bit better. We sighted Greta up ahead, still struggling a bit, but she jogged along with us until the wonderful sight of the stadium up ahead and the lovely David Whitmore who shouted us along and then joined Greta to run her in, leaving Alister to accompany me. To huge cheering by the Striders, we made our way down the final stretch to the finish, Alister and I crossing the line together.
The relief to have finished was enormous, but, upon stopping and leaning on the barrier, I was puzzled as to why the pain hadn’t stopped. I stood up straight, doubled over again and then rested on the barrier for a while in all manner of strange agony! Mike very kindly captured this moment on video – my pain is clear to see! I managed to stagger over to Greta and Sue to congratulate them, but I have no recollection of this and only know I did it because of the video! Walking through the stadium to collect my goody bag, t-shirt and medal was equally painful and the ramp up and out of to the main concourse was nothing short of torture! It wasn’t until I got my trainers off and started cheering others in that the agony faded and elation started to set in. I’d done it! We’d done it! I’ve done a marathon!!!! Yippeeeeeeee!!! I said I’d never do one. Then I said I’d only do one. Hmmmm. When’s the next one??
||Hartlepool Burn Road Harriers
||Blyth Running Club
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