Category Archives: Lesley Hamill

Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris 2018, Paris, Sunday, April 8, 2018

Lesley Hamill

This was my second bash at the Paris Marathon, I first did it in 2016 when I hadn’t been running for very long, and although I had followed the training plan to the letter I found it really tough, especially in the heat. Jonathan had done it last year, so this year was my turn again. It didn’t take too much effort to persuade Karen to come with me, and before I knew it, a whole group of us from Striders/DMotR had signed up. When you’ve got kids, running a marathon seems a good enough excuse for a minibreak!

We arrived in Paris on the Friday evening and immediately noticed a significant increase in temperature from Durham. All our training this year had been in freezing temperatures, ice, snow, hail, rain, so we weren’t feeling particularly prepared for running in the heat! Saturday morning was the Breakfast Run, a fun 5k warm-up for the main event. On a beautiful sunny morning, we met near the Louvre, picked up our green tops and flags and off we went! The route takes you past the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, along the Seine, finishing on the Champ de Mars beneath the Eiffel Tower. At only 12 Euros (including technical tee and breakfast at the end) I would recommend it! On to the Expo where we picked up our numbers and free Paris Marathon rucksack. It’s worth mentioning that you need a medical certificate signed by a GP to be able to pick your number up, this is the case for all races in France. I managed to get mine signed for free this year, but lots of other people had to pay. After a few photos and a quick look round the stands, we went for lunch, drinking as much water as we could as it looked like it was going to be warm the following day.

On the day of the marathon, we were up early, grabbed some breakfast in the hotel and jumped on the metro to the start. It took us a while to work out where the bag drop was as it wasn’t signposted, it turned out to be a good walk away! We just had enough time for a quick loo stop before entering our pen with Jill and Simon.

Sun was quite hot now, and it was only 09:45, but the atmosphere was great and we were all in good spirits!

It is an amazing experience running down the Champs Elysées with thousands of other runners of lots of different nationalities.

We started off at our planned 10min/mile pace, jumping into the shade when we got the chance and taking on water at the refreshment stations, which were every 5k. As well as water, there was a good selection of food on offer, dried fruit, orange segments, cut up bananas and sugar cubes. The route is truly spectacular, and signs point out the main sights along the way. I love the fact the French firemen come out in force at certain points to support the runners, although I suspect this is more of an attraction for the female runners! There are quite a few hoses you can run through to cool down (amazing!) and at regular intervals there are tables with big bowls full of water which you can use to cool down too.

On we went towards the impressive Place de la Concorde, Rue du Rivoli and Place de la Bastille. Arriving in the Bois de Vincennes was a nice change of scenery, especially as the refreshment station was opposite the rather impressive Chateau de Vincennes. We heard someone call Karen’s name out, and it turned out to be a family she knew from Durham who were on holiday in Paris! After a quick chat, we were off again and enjoyed running through the park, even though there was less support here.

There are lots of fantastic bands on the route too, which really lifts your spirits when you are starting to feel tired. We now headed back into the heart of the city and reached the halfway point at the Rue de Charenton where we had a quick loo stop. The route now follows the course of the Seine, passing Île de la Cite, going under the Pont Neuf before going through a couple of tunnels.

At the 16-mile point, I started to struggle a bit in the heat, I remember doing the same two years ago. Karen was feeling strong so I told her to go on ahead while I dug in and battled the demons in my head which were telling me to walk for a bit. Luckily, I got through this and picked myself up again, somehow managing to catch up with Karen at the 20-mile point.

The tunnel was a bit of a strange experience; every year there is a different art installation to look at. Two years ago it was a tropical paradise complete with sounds and smells. This year it was ‘Welcome to Hell’!

The hardest part of the race for me was the last 10K, although I felt a lot stronger than I had done two years ago. Running around the Bois de Boulogne away from the city streets, every K seems to get longer and you wonder if you will ever see the finish! Lots and lots of people were walking now, I was trying to stick to the green line which was becoming more and more difficult. Then suddenly out of nowhere, I hear someone shout ‘Come on Strider!’, and it turns out to be Helen from Bishop Auckland who knows a couple of members of the Club. This gives me a boost to finish strong, especially now I can see the crowds again and can hear shouts of ‘Vous êtes tous les champions!’.

Onto Avenue Foch and the finish line is in sight – enfin! I even hear my name shouted out by the commentator! I crossed the line in 4.32, two minutes slower than I would have liked, but still a 24 minute PB! Karen was just ahead of me and I catch up with her once I have my (amazing) medal and finishers’ top. Job done! A few photos in front of the stunning backdrop of the Arc de Triomphe, then off to the nearest bar to refuel with Coke and chips where we waited for the others to finish.

All in all, I would highly recommend the Paris Marathon, although If you don’t like running in the heat it may not be for you! The route is absolutely stunning, and it is very well organised. I will definitely be back, just maybe not for a couple of years…

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Endurancelife CTS Northumberland Marathon, Bamburgh, Northumberland, Saturday, February 24, 2018

Lesley Hamill

When Karen asked me if I fancied signing up for this race last year, I automatically assumed she meant the half marathon. After all, we were already booked to do the Paris Marathon in April…When she told me she’d entered the marathon, I was a bit apprehensive, but having checked with Kate Macpherson (who wrote my last marathon plan) that it wasn’t a completely mad idea, I signed up.

Training began in November, I dug out the training plan we had used for the Liverpool marathon last year, (the one I didn’t get to run as I fell and broke my wrist a few weeks before the race). Karen and I decided to run the long runs easy, as neither of us had done an off-road marathon before, and certainly weren’t going for a time.

Many of our long runs were done in some awful weather conditions – snow, ice, wind, rain. We kept telling ourselves this would stand us in good stead for the race itself, which it did! Luckily the weather on the day of the race was really kind to us.

When my alarm went off at 05.10 on the morning of the race, I did wonder what on earth I was doing! I crept out of the house to get picked up by Karen’s husband who was driving us to Kate’s house. Kate had very kindly offered to drive us up to the start at Bamburgh, for which we were really grateful! It was a freezing cold morning, but the heated seats in Kate’s new car warmed me up nicely!

When we arrived in Bamburgh it was the most beautiful morning, the sun was just coming up and it looked like it was going to be a lovely day. It was still windy and freezing cold, but we’d soon warm up once we started running. We headed to registration, and as we’d arrived in good time there was no queue, so we picked up our numbers and timing chips (which we had to wear on our wrists) and could get ourselves ready without any stress. There was even no queue for the (proper) toilets – bliss!

It was lovely to meet up with some other runners from Durham, and at 08.30 we were told to gather in the courtyard for the briefing. This was really informative and light-hearted, we were told which signs to look out for so we didn’t get lost, what to do with our timing chips at the checkpoints, and what to do in case of an emergency. We then boarded the coaches which took us to the start at Alnwick Castle. We climbed over a fence, headed for the flags, luckily didn’t need the toilet again as there were none, and at 09.30 we were off! We ran along by the river Aln, a bit claggy in places, but nothing too bad. Crossing the river on the stepping-stones was a bit nerve-wracking, but luckily I didn’t fall in! We then ran under the Alnmouth viaduct, where a nice runner from Finland offered to take our photo. We were on the roads after this and headed for Alnmouth harbour where the first checkpoint was. It was nice to be able to stop at the checkpoints, put our timing chips into the machine, fill up water bottles and grab a bite to eat. We were off again, following the extremely well-marked course, and onto our first beach of the day at Almouth.

Just wow, so beautiful! I felt really lucky to be running on such a beautiful day in such a stunning setting. We ran through Boulmer, found a toilet (phew!) and off we went again to Longhoughton and then lovely Craster. Soon we could see Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance – yay!

Another stop for some photos (it would have been rude not to!) There were quite a few people out on the paths here, so we slowed down a bit, it was also quite challenging terrain so we were happy to take it easy!

We ran through Low Newton and on to Checkpoint 3. This was the key checkpoint as you had to make it here before 2.20 – luckily, we were much earlier than this. Another stop to chat to the very friendly marshals, fill up bottles again and grab some more food. I had brought loads with me. Normally I would use gels for fuel, but chose a Clif bar and shot bloks for this race, which worked really well.

We ran on to Beadnell beach – this was a particularly stunning part of the course as there were quite a few kite-surfers in the sea, which was an amazing sight! Cue another photo stop – why not! I felt like I was on familiar territory now as my parents have a caravan in Seahouses and it was lovely to run on the beach and through the town. Fortunately, we didn’t have to run past the fish and chip shops!

Back on to the beach now and the final stretch towards Bamburgh castle. The marshals at the final checkpoint confirmed it was only 2 miles to the finish – brilliant! I picked up a bit of speed on the beach, the wind was behind us and the tide was out (thankfully!). I hit 27 miles, but no sign of the castle? Had someone moved it? Had I missed a sign somewhere and gone the wrong way? Luckily, I passed a few other runners, some doing the Ultra (who had to get to the Castle then do an additional 8 miles on the roads to make up to 35 miles).

A man who was supporting his brother on the Ultra told me to aim for the white flags, which finally I reached, phew. But the castle is at the top of a hill of course, which meant climbing up the dunes to get there, aaaaaargh. After 27 miles, my legs were not up for an uphill sprint finish, so I power walked up, cheered on by Jacquie Robson and lots of supporters at the top. Round the corner and there was the finish – at last!! Gave in my timing chip and got a printout with my time on straight away, very efficient!

Medal, t-shirt (nice colour blue!) and cheered Karen in. Quick change (well as quickly as our aching bodies would allow), on with lots of layers and into the café to refuel – lovely! No post-race medal photo as we were too cold!

All in all, I would recommend this race to anyone. There is a 10K, half marathon and ultra (all on the same day). The race organisation is superb, the course is extremely well marked so no chance of getting lost, and the whole route is absolutely stunning.

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Great North 10K, Gateshead, Sunday, July 5, 2015

Lesley Hamill

Advertised as the ‘North East’s biggest 10K’ (and probably the most expensive!), this race is a good opportunity to experience the atmosphere of the Great North Run, which I am also doing this year. The course starts behind Gateshead International Stadium and makes its way to Gateshead Quayside, passing landmarks such as the Sage, the Millennium Bridge and the BALTIC Centre.

Turning the Quayside Purple.

As this was going to be my first race since I ran the Great North Run in 1998, and also my first race as a Strider, I was feeling really excited. Thankfully Laura Gibson had lent me her vest, and once I’d figured out how to pin my number on using my new Event Clips (very handy!), I was good to go. My husband, Jonathan, was also running the race, and we met up with some of the other Striders taking part in front of the stadium. Also taking part in the race were over 200 Gurkha soldiers, raising money for the Nepal Earthquake Response Fund, they were quite an awesome sight!

Helen returns to racing after a 17 year breather, and as a Strider! We made our way to the start (and got filmed for the local news, which we only discovered later on!) It was hot, but the atmosphere was great and we were treated to an interesting warm up with Katie Cook, who had appeared on The Apprentice (apparently). Soon we were off, I got a bit carried away and ran the first 2k at my parkrun pace, which I soon realised I couldn’t sustain, especially in the heat! Once on the Quayside it was brilliant to see the much faster Striders on their way back. It was at this point that I was pleased to be wearing my Striders’ vest, as the waves and shouts really kept me going. I was relieved to reach the turnaround point, especially as I knew the fire brigade was just round the corner with a big hose!

After a refreshing shower it was great to bump into another friend who was running, and to cheer on some other Striders on the other side. I had lost hubby at this point (sorry Jonathan!), it was really hot, but I felt good, and knew my target of sub 60 minutes was achievable. The hill at 9K was a bit of a surprise, but the sign at the bottom saying ‘Smile!’ and ‘Local Hero’ blasting out from the speakers definitely helped me up it! The last 1K seemed to go on forever, but the excitement of the stadium finish kept me going. Hearing the hundreds of spectators cheering everyone in at the end was amazing; I even managed a sprint finish!

I was delighted with my time of 55.54, a 10K PB in my first race as a Strider, and am now even more excited about the Great North Run in September!

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