(My first marathon, target 4 hours)
The big day began at 5am. I felt in great shape, feeling fit but apprehensive about the distance having only done up to 20 miles in training. With my pre-race breakfast of porridge, honey, banana, beetroot juice (yum yum) and a peanut butter bagel for the journey I was suitably fuelled.
My bleary eyed fan club, Ali and Ben, were ready for the off at 6am. The weather was spot on, no wind, no rain, sunny and cool.
As we got close to Old Trafford the traffic came to a standstill so I jumped out the car and jogged to the athletes village, it was packed, and joined the porta loo queue. With the necessary out the way I headed for the warm-up session but too late, all done! I got to the start line with only 10 minutes to go and mentally prepared for the next 26 mile. I felt calm but ready for the challenge.
The Manchester marathon is billed as the flattest one around and it didn’t disappoint with me pacing at 7:30 to 8:00 minutes per mile for the first few miles.
I felt really good. I spotted a Caistor running club vest ahead, it can only be my colleague and local legend Frank Thomas. I ran with him for a while before we parted company, ignoring Frank’s advice to take it steady best to do a slower first half. Not listening, feeling good.
The crowds were amazing with plenty of ‘high 5’s’ and Haribos on offer!
Then suddenly, without warning, at 11.5 miles my legs just gave way and I fell to the floor! What happened? I dusted myself off, nothing broken apart from a bit of skin, I quickly got up red faced, thanked the other concerned runners and carried on. Got to say I was a little bit concerned about what happened and whether it would happen again. So I slowed down slightly but still managed to get to the halfway point at 1 hour 50 minutes. (Up to this point I thought I might do a 1 hour 35!)
Still feeling good but legs just becoming a little less fresh I decided to break down the race in my head, so next target was 15 miles. This seemed to work well and combined with the fantastic support, including the fire eating lady, the miles seemed to fly by.
Despite my best efforts I couldn’t see my faithful supporters en-route until 17.5 miles and suddenly Ali and Ben came into view. This was a real boost with Ben running with me for a while.
A mile later and things started to fall apart, the pace got slower and slower. The head games began and the demons started trying to talk me into walking. Then to add insult to injury I was overtaken by Bananaman! Come on get a grip you’ve just been overtaken by a banana!
I knew if I could make it to 19 miles I could pick up some gels at the food station. I pushed on and managed to down 3 gels in a oner. My legs are now totally numb and on auto pilot but managed to reign in Bananaman and overtake him. Yes!
However, looking down at my Garmin I’m now doing only 9-10 minutes per mile, I am dropping off a cliff. Then at 21.5 miles a spot of luck, the pace maker for 3 hours 44 minutes came along side and I immediately found some energy and ran along with the group. Keep going just stay with the pacer.
With 1 mile to go I loose the pacer but can see Old Trafford in the distance. At this point I knew I was going to make it and glancing at my watch under 3 hours 45 minutes was still on! The crowds lifted me the last half mile and as I crossed the line I saw Ali and Ben cheering me on. I looked at my watch, 3 hours 44 minutes and 52 seconds. I could hardly walk or talk and felt that was the hardest thing I’d ever done to date but I had smashed my target time.
Roll on June 28th Ironman!
Frank Tomas finished in 3:44:25, a PB and a far more experienced marathon runner than me. Well done Frank!
Thanks to Ali and Ben for their support on the day, congratulating me on beating Bananaman but letting me know cheese string man came in before me! Ali for all the encouragement during the winter training miles. Also to Steve Clark my coach for planning my training and pushing me to go beyond what I thought I was capable of.