After months of training, the big day was finally here – my debut marathon! I travelled over to York on the Saturday, staying in a lovely hotel and trying to spend most of the day off my feet and eating! I was ridiculously nervous in the 24 hours leading up to the race, resulting in a poor night’s sleep and I really struggled to eat breakfast as I anxiously put on my race day kit:
Everything felt surreal as I walked to the train station through the moonlit streets of York City centre. It felt like it was the middle of the night and there was nobody around……until I turned the corner and was met with shuttle buses filled with people donning short shorts, bright trainers, compression socks and a lingering smell of deep heat. This is where it got real!
We arrived at the charity village in plenty of time and I got chance to meet up with my family who had travelled down to York that morning to support me. I have to say that the organisation was absolutely flawless. There were so many helpful marshals around, the baggage drop was superb and most impressive of all there were loads of indoor toilets as well as a plentiful supply of portaloos – a marathoner’s heaven!
It soon became clear that I had wasted hours of time constantly checking the weather forecast over the past few days. The predicted thunderstorms and heavy showers were replaced with light cloud and sunshine. It was a little windier than hoped but hey, we can’t have it all. There were no delays and as I got to the front of my zone (zone two) I was over the starting line a mere 50 odd seconds after the gun went off. My race plan was to set off at 8:23 pace, as this was the pace I managed to hold in the South Cheshire 20. This would leave me some time in the bank to still achieve my gold target of 3:45 if I needed to slow down over the last six miles.
The first half seemed to fly by. I held a steady pace (possibly a little too fast!), getting through 10k in 51 minutes and the first half in 01:47. The support on the course was immense with the people of York clearly embracing this inaugural marathon. Once I’d got over the half-way point this is where I wanted to crank it up a notch. I was feeling great, the conditions were good and I knew that I had it in me to achieve the often elusive negative split.
I pushed onwards and soon made it to the long out-and-back section at the 18 mile point. Mentally, this part of the course was pretty crushing. The ‘out’ section seemed to go on forever and was up a slight incline. It was wonderful to cheer all the speedier runners on the other side but every step was spent wishing for the turn-around point which never seemed to appear. The support at this point though was incredible and really gave me a boost. So many people started to slow down or walk here but I managed to soak up all the shouts and cheers like a sponge and used that enthusiasm to keep speeding up. A large group of people started yelling my name and shouting for me – I responded in kind and whooped and fist-punched the air. I had no idea at the time but this group was actually my family! I was so ‘in the zone’ it just didn’t register – sorry guys!
I sped up a little more and reached the 20 mile marker at 2hrs 43. Even if it took me an hour for the last 10k I knew my gold target was well within my grasp. Things became a little daunting as I ran past the 22 mile marker – this was the furthest I had ever run before and I was now into unknown territory with every step. There were so many people walking at this point and I kept growing in confidence with every runner I passed. Every single marshal yelled that I was looking strong and I found it hard to choke back the tears. I thought back to all those long solo runs in training…..they were all for this very moment, I was going to finish this thing in style.
23 miles came and went and it was now just a case of a parkrun to go! I dug deep and cranked it up yet another notch. This was the first time in the race I noticed that my breathing became heavy but my legs were holding strong. As we came back into the city centre the support was out of this world. I always try to acknowledge cheers but I simply didn’t have the breath, so I had to revert to the classic ‘thumbs up’ for everyone who shouted my name.
A sharp left turn and it was up the hill towards mile 26. For a moment I thought that I was taking part in a running version of the Tour de France. The crowds were three or four deep on both sides of the barriers and I couldn’t even hear myself think with all the noise. Come on girl, almost there!! I saw the 26 mile marker and I absolutely floored it!! I steamed my way to the finish and this time I knew that my family was there as I heard my brother’s distinctive shout of “Go Onnnnnnn!!!!!” I raised my arms aloft and looked to the heavens as I crossed the line – 3:32:15!!!!! Elation turned to pain the second I stopped running. Owwwwww!!!!
I just couldn’t believe it. I had achieved a time beyond my wildest dreams on my first attempt at marathon distance. Not only had I achieved a ‘Good For Age’ place in the 2015 London Marathon, but I had also snagged myself a Boston Qualifying time! I finished 47th out of 1373 women and was 22nd out of 445 in my age category. I had executed the perfect race and enjoyed every moment. Every single mile of training was worth it. I have the most incredible memories that will last a lifetime and I don’t think the feelings of pride I have from that day will ever die. I think it goes to show that you can achieve incredible things if you are commited to the cause….it just depends how much you want it and how hard you are prepared to work for it.