So once again I found myself questioning what on earth I had gotten myself into as I was preparing to pack for Nottingham Marathon. I was worried Windermere was a fluke, I was nervous about the pressure of going for a time when recently my races hadn’t quite gone to plan, all the what ifs were running through my head, Pardon the pun, I was putting unnecessary pressure on myself and instead of inspiring, motivating & encouraging I was psyching myself out! I mentioned this to Coach Anna and Gareth who both chatted to me about taking the pressure off, having a realistic goal and not being too hard on myself, that helped & between us we came up with a plan I was happy with, I instantly felt relief and back in control, then came the motivation, I realised that I was running the marathon on a friends birthday, I knew the date rang a bell, sadly he passed away the day after his birthday 3 years ago, I also knew that a number of people would give anything to be able to swap places with me, I now had a plan & the drive to get round.
The day of the marathon came and we set off to the start line, it was somewhat sunnier than predicted/anticipated which was a little worrying but equally made for pleasant pottering before the start. In the marathon ‘village’ we banged into familiar faces which was lovely, the Toth’s and a couple of Hunwick Harriers (one an ex-strider) selfies, hugs and good luck wishes done we headed to our pens. Gareth was up at the front, first class obvs, we were all in ‘cattle class’ it was very busy there & it was great to see the Toth’s again as I worked my way towards the 4.45 pacer. I chatted to a lady for a while who explained because of the ‘waves’ we wouldn’t be set off for another 20mins! Hilarious to think Gareth and co would be into their second 5K before we were even allowed to go anywhere! Again grateful of the pleasant autumn sunshine & warmth at this point I tried to move as much as I could in the jam-packed space, we eventually made our way to the official start and then had to wait again until our wave was officially set off, bang, the gun went, the band played, I filled up, eeek I was doing it, my second ‘solo’ marathon, my 4th official marathon, a person whose only sport used to be extreme shopping at the metro centre! Allan’s words resonated in my head ‘don’t set off too fast’ x3 – particularly challenging here as the half marathoners were in the same pen and they shot off!
I dodged round a few people and then settled into my ‘average pace’ only I was ahead of my planned time and it felt ok! Early days Smith, reign it in – 26 miles to go I told myself as I passed 4.45 pacer guy comfortably. Whoever said Nottingham Mara is flat is a liar, granted it’s no Windermere or Swaledale but it’s certainly not flat! Thankfully the lady I was chatting to had warned me about the early climbs to the park so I was prepared and this also helped me slow the pace naturally, still ahead of 4.45 guy though as I saw him on the first out and back early on.
Soon I reached the first water station, part of plan had been to ensure that I walked, fuelled and hydrated at every station, but this one was on a downhill, I couldn’t waste a downhill?!?! So I grabbed a ‘DRINQ’ packet? Thanked the marshals and continued running down the hill, I felt myself getting ‘sprayed’ at times which whilst welcome in the heat was a little surprising (not like the GNR spraying you expect!!) I found out later as I tried to take a drink that the clever water thingy was the reason behind random, forceful spraying, it was hard work to manage it whilst running and folks were definitely struggling to aim the water, I also found out that a chia flapjack bar and an unexpected jet of water can be potentially lethal – Q choking fit!
On the second out and back I saw some of the fast lads making their way towards us, I spotted the Elvet purple and green and gave Gareth a shout out, he looked happy, that helped me push on (a little too fast for a while) again I saw 4.45 man not far behind but enough that allowed me to feel cautiously optimistic.
The support on the course was great, GNR esq at times which is a fab motivator, many of the Nottingham clubs seem to be purple and/or green so that helped too, seeing hoards of similar colours and getting shout-outs (even if they weren’t really meant for me!) The Notts Women Runners had some awesome coordinated kit and loved my Strider nails!
I was still ahead of pace and feeling good at the halfway point however this wasn’t quite the positive experience that ticking off ‘half way’ usually is because we all run the same route until a break point where the marathon runners go left and the half folks dash to the finish, being cheered was great but having folks sprint past and hearing lots of ‘nearly there, not long nows’ on repeat does not sit well when you have to do another 13.2 miles!!!!
Additionally, the route takes you out to a quiet housing estate and then a rather deserted main road so whilst the silence was welcome in some ways it was also a bit of a shock to the system, an ‘all or nothing’ experience that messed with the head a bit! It was along here that I first noticed Elvis, he nipped into the bushes for a wee and the lads in front said ‘Elvis has left the building, hu hu hu’ it made me chuckle and was the lift I needed. I ticked off a few more miles making sure I was drinking when I could make the contraption work and fuelling well, I was still ahead of pace and feeling ok. After the quiet ugly road the route takes you into a park which reminded me of Bushy, it was beautiful but also a bit strange as you cover grass, trails and a little mud for while in your ‘road marathon’. This route really does have a bit of everything!
In the car park I heard someone shout ‘come on Elvis, well done Elvis’ then ‘hey you can’t be beaten by Elvis Catherine’ – I realised it was Dave Toth, a welcome friendly face, from that point Elvis and Elvet had a battle going on! We would keep catching and overtaking each other but whether in front or behind I couldn’t help but smile at all his cheers and shout outs which really did sound like ‘come on Elvet / well done Elvet’
I saw Rachel Toth heading to the park where hubby was waiting for her in the woods (oh er missus) we passed on the long and ugly road bit and guessed she might have been struggling with the same halfway challenges I had, I wished her well. High 5’d and off we went, I willed her on as I chased Elvis!!
I was passing people along the way who looked a little broken, I offered them fluid, paracetamol and ‘ket’ (from my haribo/Skittles and jelly beans selection) without thinking that that has a different meaning to people who are not from the North! The gentleman did look a little shocked! Oops!
I was still ahead of ‘average pace’ but definitely feeling it now, the water walk was getting longer, I set myself challenges, just get to the next mile marker, just catch Elvis again etc to distract myself, just a parkrun to go! I reminded myself that I wanted to make myself and others proud and how lucky I was to be out there when others couldn’t be, I dug deep!
At the 22 mile marker I heard a shout out and saw Gareth on the bridge, He looked happy which helped, I guessed his run had gone well, I yelled get a photo of Elvis! (For the race report is been writing in my head to distract myself) he probably thought I was crazy! He shouted back he’d see me again at mile 25, half good half bad, I’d have to keep running! This part is also a bit of a section to mess with your mind because you can see and hear the finish but you are going in the opposite direction, I rewarded myself with skittles and Haribo as I ticked off the miles, I realised my Elvis/Elvet support shout outs had gone, I must have lost him at the last water station. I could see mile 25 marker ahead, I wanted to walk but I could see Gareth leaning on the lamppost so I didn’t let myself (till after he went!) he told me he’d got a PB I was over the moon for him, I kept checking my watch, I definitely knew I would achieve sub 4.45 but my head couldn’t do the maths to predict what I might come in at and I always find the last 800 thingys sap all your time and energy and feel never ending! Ahead I spotted the ‘half / full’ turn in point I had crossed at the start and halfway, I had done it, my second solo marathon, I only had half a mile to go, I saw a set of supporters who had popped up all over the course, consisting of a hotdog, 2 dinosaurs and a princess! I was very glad this wasn’t my first time seeing them otherwise I might have thought I was on some extreme skittles sugar high! They cheered me down the last road section before I turned right onto the grass finish, which seemed to go on for ever!!!!! Finally, I turned the last corner and there was the finish line with giant circus characters on stilts cheering me in – again a rather surreal moment!
A number of first aid folks asked if I was ok, thankfully I was, just elated and emotional that I had managed to exceed my own expectations, PB by over 4 minutes and I actually enjoyed it – I was absolutely delighted and a bit overwhelmed! I collected my bling, teeshirt, goodies and a hug from Gareth then waited to cheer Elvis in – and get a selfie of course! He was running for a great cause, breast cancer now, I donated on the way home, he had such a positive impact on my race.
We pottered about in the marathon village hoping to catch folks coming in, we saw Matthew (ex-strider) finish and cheered Rachel down the home straight.
Team Smitchard then left the city, uh huh huh Thank you very much!