Challenging Chester

Posted on: 05 Oct 2015

How do Buzzers generally like to celebrate crossing the finishing line after a race?  A selfie with your medal?  A high five with your mates?  A hug with your family?  A cheeky pint in the nearest pub?


In my case on Sunday it was a trip to see those fabulous volunteers from St John’s Ambulance, although it wasn’t to commend them on their sterling efforts, it was to avail myself of their medical facilities…


Nothing serious, I hasten to add.  Basically dehydration and a very upset stomach.  I can’t really put my finger on why it happened, but there are a number of factors that probably combined to create a particularly nasty final 10k and a finish to forget.


- It was unseasonably warm and very still

- In my determination to hit four hours, I went off aggressively (aka too fast)

- Not much sleep the night before

- Running two marathons in a year is a big ask for a relative newbie


I did try and keep myself well fuelled and well hydrated in this race, learning from London that water and shot bloks do not make for a strong marathon finish.  But gels and sports drink just weren’t sitting well, I was getting stomach pains from as early as eight miles, although nothing at the time to slow me down.


Early on I got stuck behind the 3:45 pacing group.  Had I been sensible, I’d have stayed there but that clear patch of tarmac ahead of them looked so inviting….I couldn’t resist and got some clear air.  My strategy had always been start strong, then hang on as best you can at the end.


And so that approach continued – half distance in 1:50; 20 miles in 2:55.  Everything looked good, on the clock at least.  But inside I could feel my cramps getting worse and my legs getting heavier.


The rot set in properly at 21 miles.  Just a little walk, I thought.  Get to the next drinks station, get some fluid inside you and it will come back.  It didn’t, it just got worse.  Less tired legs and more the sensation of feeling physically sick when I ran, almost like motion sickness.


So it was walk-run all the way home.  I had to nail 10 minute miles to stay on target, but I struggled to even do 11 minute ones.  The 3:45 pacing group had long since passed me, but then the 4 hour group got me as well.


I desperately picked up the pace one last time – in fact, I stayed with that group for about a quarter of a mile, but it wasn’t to be.  And as they headed off into the distance, so did my mojo.  It just didn’t seem worth the effort any more.


But hey, it’s not all doom and gloom.  I can at least say that I’ve beaten my London time and set a new marathon PB.  Don’t quite know how I managed it, but in the end there was a 4:11 on the clock, six minutes quicker than April.


Having a funny turn at the end took the shine off it a bit and it was a good hour before they let me go on my way.  Please skip this bit if you’re squeamish, but after I had….ahem….emptied the contents of my stomach a paramedic walked in and looked particularly concerned.  She was convinced I was bringing up blood, until I composed myself enough to explain that the on-course gels had actually been red berry flavour!


There we are then – marathon running for the year is well and truly done.  I didn’t get a place in the ballot for London 2016 (just call me Spiderman!) and to be honest I’m kind of glad.  I had my chance in 2015 with a charity place and it’s an experience I’ll never forget. 


Chester was a good event.  Well organised, pretty well supported (in the town, at least), fantastic volunteers and marshals and a really friendly, positive atmosphere amongst the runners.  But London it isn’t.  Nothing can compare to the sense of occasion at that iconic event and its exuberant crowds who force you to keep going irrespective of the pain.


Now I need a rest.  Some time off with just semi-regular runs to keep me fit.  Maybe some halves to keep the competitive juices flowing, but I’ll be giving the full monty a miss for the time being.









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