Two days before the Loch Ness Marathon…
This is A) two weeks late and B) only a day or two before my first marathon… so apologies.
The Great North Run was an absolutely amazing race weekend. As I came in on the train on the Saturday I could already see the wee kiddies running along the south bank of the Tyne. Every other passenger on the train seemed to be a runner, we were all wished luck over the train tannoy – there was already a buzz about the weekend.
I got to the pasta party and event village fairly late after getting settled into the room a friend at kindly lent me. The free pasta wasn’t the best, and I had to have some more later, but it was free. I missed out on seeing some of the elite athletes in the quayside games, but did get to have a wee chat with the people at the Anthony Nolan stall and found out that my target time (around 1:35:00) was the fastest anyone had ventured so far. The ambition to be the fastest Anthony Nolan runner was on.
Preparation was perfect. I got my ten hours lights out sleep, ate my porridge an hour before the race start. I felt very prepared. The one irritating thing about the race is that the baggage buses leave a long time before the race starts, so unless you have a support person (which I didn’t) or are willing to lose a layer you have to be in race gear and standing around in a pen for a very long time. It’s very boring, and a struggle to stay warm. I unfortunately had got rather too excited and left for the start way too early- I’d seen the stream of people and thought I’d be late! The sheer amount of people was breathtaking though- the taste of the buzz I’d felt on the train suddenly hit me!
I was fairly lucky in that I’d got my place outwith the ballot or charities via the Bupa running facebook page. I think this meant I had a dropout place, and was in Orange zone B at the start. Basically this means I was just behind the charities and the elite runners, and so I crossed the start line 13 seconds after the gun. To put this into perspective, people right at the back can sometimes take half an hour to cross the line!
As I crossed the line I managed to high-five the starter, Mo Farah, which I was really excited by. This meant I managed to get myself, and my charity vest on TV!
I quickly settled into a pace with minimal weaving (benefits of being near the front) and ran constantly with the mantra, run steady, run relaxed, focus on your own race. Focussing on your own race is incredibly important in a race like this- seeing Buzz Lightyear pull away from you it can be incredibly tempting to try and keep up, but you have to remember that may be a guy who can run 1:20:00 unsuited.
In the first tunnel of the run I could barely count the amount of men relieving themselves! This didn’t stop throughout. This is probably because of the wait at the start. Anyway, I ignored this and carried on, running ahead of the 1:30:00 marker man- though I later guessed he started behind me. By around the three mile mark I realised I was going slower than that pace, so he must have overtaken me somewhere.
The Tyne bridge is spectacular, but I’d echo the comments of @DJHaines- apart from that it isn’t the most scenic. But because of the massive participation (54K runners) there isn’t a quiet spot on the road to be found. Every inch of road is at least one row thick with spectators. I was very grateful for an orange segment at around ten miles, less grateful for kids spraying water bottles. And the support at the end? Well…
This was the first race I’d used gels. These were surprisingly easy. I took one at four and one at eight, looking for 200m to water stop signs before taking them and washing them down. Certainly not as bad as I’d been led to believe by some.
At the half way mark a quick double of my time had me on course for 1:35:00. I was running really well. I was reasonably cool with the overcast conditions, and I’d barely noticed the much vaunted hills, and was surprised by the ‘this is the highest point of the race’ sign. The second half was much harder. The clouds broke and it became quite hot, and I used some of the ‘car wash’ style showers.
I passed the Anthony Nolan cheering point with a bit of a flourish, then focussed on the finish. Run steady would become push hard on the final mile, but the climb towards South Shields felt very tough. Almost unnoticed, the sky had clouded over and it absolutely dropped it down at the 12 mile marker. But I’d passed it just after 1:30:00 on my watch, so I felt great. Finish the race, get out of the rain. I changed the mantra to push hard. as the finish drew into sight the crowd were banked three or more deep either side and ramped- it felt like a football stadium! At the 800m to go sign I picked the pace up, again at 400 and when I saw the finish I was positively sprinting when I crossed the line. Almost feeling the need to vom, a tweak in the right hamstring but I’d smashed by PB- finishing officially in 1:37:34. To add an extra little bonus, I was the first Anthony Nolan runner back to the tent, and the first to get a rub down. The comments when this photo was uploaded to their facebook page were fantastic!
Anyway, Loch Ness Marathon this weekend. Will hopefully update you all sooner than last time!
As always, don’t forget to sponsor me here.
Cheers for reading,