Almost a week now since the Manchester marathon and although Hollywood and Jane have described the day so well I thought I should tell my story too. If you are in training and don’t have much time for reading blogs then here is the short version… I LOVED IT!
For the longer version, read on.
This story started two years ago when I ran my fastest ever marathon at Manchester 2015, although since then the scandal emerged and we all realised we hadn’t actually ran a marathon at all because of a mistake with the course measurements, but my PB still stands in my head as I always run further than the 26.2 anyway. So 3hrs 35mins 38sec is my PB and I won’t hear any different!
Fast forward a year and I was hoping to break that PB and in fact knock five minutes off it, to capture that precious sub 3.30! And I felt I was on course until early March when I went over on a rock during a training run and badly damaged my foot. Reluctantly I pulled out of Manchester and the whole of the next year saw me struggling to get back into shape. After seven charmed years of injury-free running, 2016 really made up for it. Foot and ankle problems, IT band problems, then a hamstring went, then the calf… With just two or three weeks to go till this year’s marathon I popped my left calf muscle and I was contemplating missing it again.
Somehow, with a lot of rest, some physio, a lot of stretching and buckets of ibuprofen, I managed to run a few pain-free miles in the week leading up to the race and I suggested to Hollywood that I would like to run with him and see if we could crack 4.30. I had been so low when the calf went that just to be on the start line was enough. I had no idea if I’d be able to finish but it was important for me to at least be there at the beginning, I admire Dave so much for what he is doing to support Michelle and raise money for a great cause, I’m lucky enough to be planning on running three out of his 11 big runs this year, so I couldn’t contemplate the idea of not being with him, shoulder to shoulder, at the start, as I will be at the end…
As this is our home marathon Jenny and I decided to invite people round for a pasta party the night before, for me the socialising and the strong bonds of friendship I have developed through running is what makes all that hard work in training worthwhile. Sure I train to run better or faster, or longer, and that hard work gets its reward, but the icing on the cake, more than that, most of the cake itself is the friendships. We had a lovely evening; old friends, new friends, all bound together by a shared love of running. It was great to catch up with Jane and Rob, to talk with my friend Ant who was about to run his first marathon, my and Jenny’s good friend and Kettlebell trainer, Shell, and of course the man himself, Hollywood, looking lean and focussed. I knew he was ready!
The next morning after not too bad a night, I woke around six, got up twenty minutes later, met up and had a quiet chat with Hollywood in the kitchen. He taped up my calf for me. I felt really good. I was so excited, I suppose I had taken the pressure off myself by not attempting anything near a pb time, not even determined to finish, I had checked out the tram situation; I knew I could bail out at 2, 4, 6, 12, even 16 miles and catch a tram to meet Jenny at mile 25. (past 16 though and I had to last to the end, there were no more tram stops en route!) Jenny woke a little later and she drove us to the tram stop which was already packed with runners. We got to the start area around 8am and inevitably met Jane in a toilet queue!
Everything about this day seemed to be joyful, well the mood I was in I wasn’t going to let anything get me down. So I really needed the loo before we started but couldn’t get to a toilet, so what? So it took a good 17 minutes to cross the start line so what? So we got overtaken by a man dressed as a duck, SO WHAT? I knew we’d get him back eventually. As I crossed the start line, I didn’t say it but I KNEW I would make it to the end, no matter what, and that gave me a complete buzz!
Running with Hollywood and Jane was a great experience, of course it wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time the three of us had run as a trio. From the word go we just got on so well, the laughter, the jokes, the alphabet game… the miles sped by, all roughly 10 minute miles to start with. We had the 4.30 pacer about 100 yards ahead and we wanted to keep him there; where we could see him. But eventually we had to accept that we just had to overtake him, then the challenge was to never see him again (actually I didn’t, god knows at what point he overtook me but I obviously wasn’t concentrating by then!)
10 miles flew by and on we chatted, the pace was metronomic. With each timing mat we imagined the realbuzz support cheering us on, that really helped. I could not stop smiling to myself. The support on the course was fantastic, I thanked a lot of people, high fived a lot of children, ate a whole heap of jelly babies…
It was a beautiful day, chilly in the shade with the slightest of breezes, but as the morning progressed it warmed up, I was glad of my sun hat, and I did take a lot of water, I figured that the last thing I needed was cramp to add to my problems, mercifully the cramp did not appear at all the whole way.
At some point Jane told us she needed to slow down a little and we agreed, reluctantly to forge on without her. She miraculously caught us up a few miles later and it was great to run with her again but then she fell back again and I imagined we’d not see her again till the end…
Just around now HD and I started to tire a little. We had put in some faster miles and the way we had hit the half and 20 miles bang on schedule must have taken its toll. My feet were burning and I had to stop to loosen my laces. At this point Hollywood walked for the first time. I felt for him as I knew he was in pain, God when I met him off the train the night before he was in pain just stepping on to the platform, and here he was having run 20 miles in 3hrs 20! I felt bad for him because I know what sub 4.30 has meant to him for so long, but I also knew that this whole thing is so much more than times and pace for Hollywood. When you understand that, it wouldn’t matter if he went sub 8 hrs 30, the achievement would be the same. But at this point I knew that if we could only keep up a half decent pace, we were still in with a chance. We slipped into a routine, as I knew I couldn’t stop and walk or else I’d seize up, I would run on ahead, keep turning and looking back for the big man, he’d raise his fist in the air, or give me a thumbs up or a wave, and I’d keep going. Every so often I’d slow right down and let him catch me up, then I’d pull away again.
As we progressed into the 20’s I felt strong, of course I was not sprinting, but the very fact that I was there at all just made me feel so good. And the fact that my calf wasn’t hurting at all was just amazing. At mile 24 Jenny’s twin sister was singing in a choir at the side of the road and I waved away excitedly. I knew Jenny was waiting at mile 25 so I sped up as I approached, and there she was, so relieved to see me but immediately saying ‘Where’s Hollywood and Jane?’ I explained and within a couple of minutes along came Hollywood and the three of us ran together for a few yards. Me and my Fiancé, and my Soul mate!
Then as we were getting closer, I knew by now we were going to narrowly miss the 4.30, but Hollywood said he was happy just to get a pb, and then Jane turned up again!!! Swearing away like a trooper! And then that glorious last half mile; the ecstatic support, the pain, the joy, the plodding, the pride. It was all there on those sun-filled streets of Manchester; a truly fabulous city.
AND WE DID IT! We started together and we finished together, in 4 hrs and 33 mins and it was a day I will never forget!
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