With three days to go to the Kielder Marathon I was feeling a bit run down, to the extent I missed the gym and any last runs or swimming. However, I was determined I wasn’t going to withdraw, or at least see how I was on the morning and so travelled up with Si, Debs and Andrew – all of whom I have run with before. Although on no occasions very far together in a race!
We travelled up Saturday, Andrew kindly driving from Kingston upon Hull after Si had driven up from Somerset that morning. We had a brief stop near our YHA to look at some Roman ruins which are some of the best remains of a settlement linked to Hadrian’s Wall – Vindolanda Just up the road we checked into the YHA, Debs cooked us a great meal despite the limited cooking facilities and bed early – even for me – dozed up on Nurofen.
Race day and it was overcast, cool but not cold. The view out over Northumberland as we drove up to the reservoir was stunning. I had decided to run, feeling Ok bar a runny nose. We made the start area with about an hour to spare – enough time for a cup of tea, stretch, vaselining and no mobile use due to a poor signal!
VindolandaRoman fort near Hadrian’s Wall on the way to the YHA
Above - Si, Andrew, Debs and Lucas pre race and pre the rain!
Below - Andrew and Debs post the race adorned with medals and Kielder Water behind
Si and I ran the course last year with Chris Knight – whom couldn’t join us for 2013 after the arrival of a second child a few weeks earlier. The rain started to drizzle as we lined up to start – and the clouds didn’t look promising for the time being. At 10:15am the gun went and we set off for a full lap of Kielder Water reservoir with a small loop to make the distance up at the start at Leaplish, on the east side. Si and I ran together the first couple of miles – at a steady pace less (over 8 mins a mile), partly due to the bottleneck of runners along the path. With no support tam at all, we had to reply on others for cheering us round. Wearing my converted Paralympics Games maker top, I gained a few shouts on route – and still a few thank yous!
Si and I parted by mile 3 and debs and Andrew were behind. I found by mile 7 I had returned to my target marathon pace of 7:30mins a mile but by mile 8 was feeling the effects of the bug and by mile 10 had a loo stop with a gut ache. Little relief succumbed but I retained a steady pace still to the halfway point – at which point I crashed and burned a bit as we hit the first hill of the second half – I was soaked from the steady drizzle and my feet had swelled as a result meaning blisters on both feet arches. As I walked up the hill, feeling a bit spaced out, Si caught me – and carried on when I insisted he didn’t stop.
I stopped at mile 14 at the first aid stop for bandages for the feet and to just sit down and get myself back together. I was stopped a full ten minutes, and just got going, with plasters/bandages on both feet – as Andrew came through – a little shocked to see me! We ran the next half mile or so together before Andrew moved ahead. I started to feel a bit more with it and picked up some pace and Andrew and I jostled positions for a mile or so before I pushed hard on a hill at 16 miles and retained a steady pace through to then really push through 17 to 18 miles over the only fully flat part of the course across the Dam on the south side.
Past the 18 mile marker and into the quite of the forest trail again and I slowed and walked – I knew I would now finish as mile 18 is always the target to psychologically get past as 8 miles is a n hours run at normal marathon pace or a two hour walk worst case! (I have never been as fast as 1 hour or as slow as two to date at this stage!!). I walked/ran much of the next 5 miles, which has some tough climbs in, had some headwind and was generally still wet! I jostled positions with numerous runners as we all did similar tactics.
I managed to then run more from mile 23 – partly as the course is less hilly but also I just seem to find a renewed sense of energy/determination. It was further spurred at mile 24 as I saw Andrew ahead! Despite my run/walk strategy, Andrew had clearly slowed drastically and when I was running I was getting a good pace in. I carried on through to mile 25, including two more small walks, but I was gaining on Andrew. As we had passed mile 25 I managed to move past Andrew – a walk, he passed me, and then a final push as I pushed myself on towards the finish. I had one more brief walk but with the finish close by, I sprinted for the line – to a warm announcement about my Paralympics top as I crossed the line in 4:11:37. No time to write home about, but the half way pint at 1:50 was a god indicator of how I was fading early and to take away ten mins of the second half for the first aid stop; 2:21 for the second split wasn’t bad, especially thinking I was gonna quit at the half way point!
Andrew followed in about 1:30mins later. I apologised for not letting him get the upper hand, but he has the last laugh as his official chip time turned out to be 4:11:36! Si had finished in 4:06:17 and Debs came through in just over 4:20. We had all found the course challenging, all very wet and all aching a lot! The weather was further rubbed in by two texts reading they hoped it was a s good where we were – it seemed the rest of the UK was basking in autumnal sunshine! Chris also tried to get commitment to join him for 2014 as it is his favourite marathon course. Si and I said he should ask us when we hadn’t just finished feeling as we did!! Number 31 complete though – but lesson learnt – don’t run when you’re not 100% - I felt it for the rest of the week!
After the four have crossed the line and been warmed by tea and cake with their medals