..........that is what The Yorkshire Marathon 2014 turned out to be for me on Sunday.
I arrived in York feeling relatively calm and nerve free but still without a 'game plan'. My training hadn't gone at all smoothly or without injury and I knew I wasn't as fit as I had been last year or in London in April therefore I knew I couldn't aim for a PB, however there is always that little voice nagging away saying 'but can you?'. I think I had sort of settled on aiming for 8 min mile pace and holding on for as long as I could and then hoping it didn't slow too much. Other thoughts were do I set off slower and then pick it up in 2nd half but I worried that if I couldn't I would wish I had pushed harder from the start. I just decided to run to feel.
I met Angus at the start after a 5:30am start, eating a Quaker oats porridge pot on the drive over and made sure I was well hydrated. We handed our bags in and tried to stay in doors as long as possible as it was very foggy and pretty cold. We headed to start zone 1 at around 9:15 only removing old jogging bottoms and tops just before the start and this worked well. Angus and I both felt pretty calm and both commented more than once how somehow it didn't seem real. Maybe we are just getting used to the whole build up and nerves or maybe it was just knowing I didn't really have a set target time I was aiming for but really until I started running I didn't feel like I was about to run a marathon. Just before we set off I made sure Angus knew just to head off and leave me as I certainly wasn't up to his pace today (If ever). The race was started on time and I set off feeling pretty good. Being in zone 1 it was a fast start and I decided to go with it for the first mile until it spread out a little more. I was on the heels of Angus and felt fine although I did look at my watch a little over half a mile to see we were running 7:10 pace and although I felt comfortable then, I had 26 miles to go so said to Angus I was going to slow slightly, wished him luck and sent him on his speedy way. I felt really good and held onto a pace around 7:45 for the first 10k. Part of me wondered if I should hold back a little but I knew I wouldn't be satisfied if I finished thinking I coud have pushed harder so I ploughed on. My mum and James were at mile 5 with my Auntie and Uncle too and it was great to see them, I then knew I had another 11 miles to run before seeing my friends Sharron and Matt at mile 16. Around about mile 9 I already started to struggle and developed a stitch. I slowed my pace a little trying to breath through it. It eased but to be honest it never really went away for the remainder of the run. I knew I had slowed a little but told myself to try not let it drop below 8 min mile pace. The miles were ticking along and I went between feeling strong and determined to frustrated and annoyed. For the first time in all the runs I have done I started to wonder if I would finish? This is a really bad place to let your head go with all those miles ahead of you. I did think I had probably set off too fast but on reflection I don't regret this as i think I would have struggled the same later whatever so I see those as miles banked. I knew I had to remain positive and try and forget about time but I am competitve and I really didn't want to be too far off 3:30. My first marathon in London 2013 was 3:34 so I knew I had to beat this to be at all happy. I saw Angus looking really strong at the out and back section around mile 14 and we attempted and failed a high 5. This cheered me up and I spent this section looking out for others I knew that were running. Mile 15 was a bad moment, I wanted a gel, my stitch was bad and I couldn't pull the lid off the water bottle I had been handed but at least I knew I was about to see my friends soon and tried to look happy and strong for them. It is always humbling when people give up their Sunday to go stand outside in the cold to cheer you on for that few seconds as you pass but it really did give me a boost until I saw Angus again in the next out and back bit at around mile 17 for me and 18 for Angus. We even managed a decent high 5 here and without saying too much, as I know he will be writing his own blog for you all but I know most of you know his time already, I knew he was on for a fantastic time. On my way towards mile 19 I heard another runner running towards 17 shout my name and I found out later that it was Red Dave and Marc which was really nice. I was really starting to hurt at this point, my stitch was both sides and my quads were really hurting. This was when the demons really tried to take over my mind. I knew my mum and James were going to be at mile 21.5 and I seriously considered calling it a day and just getting in the car and driving home. I was weighing up which I would be more unhappy with, quitting or finishing with a time I was disappointed with. I aren't a quitter and I know now how upset I would have been and that would have taken a lot of getting over so I am so glad that I dug deep and carried on. I could hardly raise a smile for them at 21.5 and I felt really bad for that as I knew they would be worried. I knew James was tracking me and I knew he would be able to see the drop in pace although I was still managing between 8 - 8.30 min miles until 24 and 25 when I was something like 8:40. A lot of people were stopping for walk breaks or just walking in the last 6 miles and this made it even harder for me to keep running. I have never yet walked on a race and again I came close but I kept telling myself it would be more painful setting off again and kept running, hoping I might manage 3:30 ish! Somehow, the last mile suddenly came very quickly and I knew I was going to make it. The crowds helped pull me along and I knew I couldn't complain about that last hill near the end with what we are about to take on in Wales in a few weeks so off I went up and over and the end was in sight and I went for it the best I could. Crossing the finish line I burst in to tears. Mixed emotions of relief to have finished and annoyance and disappointment at myself for making it so mentally challenging I have never quit anything and still can't believe I was so close to doing so without a very good reason. So the finish time was 3:31:39 and I still don't really know if I am happy with it or not! It is OK I suppose. I do know that I couldn't have done any better on Sunday and I did learn a big lesson in that I will never quit because I know just how angry I would have been. I wasn't seriously injured or unwell it was just harder than it has ever been and that is no reason to give up.
All my supporters had made it to the finish so it was great to see them and then Angus at the baggage area. We then headed to the pub for a refuel where I also met Red Dave, Jenny and Marc which was brilliant.
My quads are very painful, I have a sports massage booked tomorrow and then it will be a few gentle runs before Snowdonia on 25th. I am very much looking forward to the whole experience of the run as well as the Realbuzz after party.
Well done again to Angus, Viv, Dave and Marc on all your exceptional runs in York on Sunday. Superstars.
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