Well, they say you have to take the rough with the smooth and so here's my report on my run in the Chester Marathon which didn't quite go to plan on the day.
Depite this, I have to say that of the three marathons that I have done, this was the best in terms of atmosphere and location. OK, they were lucky with the weather compared to Manchester but it's maybe because I enjoy smaller events that I really thought that this is a must do race for any budding marathon runner from my neck of the woods.
I like running on rural roads and after a quick lap of the city centre, the Chester marathon quickly headed west towards Wales on some fantasticly fast flat B roads that were perfect for a PB attempt.
I counted two clips of note on the course, but they were nothing compared to what we are used to back in Ceredigion!
That is about as good a picture I can paint of the day from my perspective. I'd kidded myself that a sub 3 hour run was possible on a diet of 20-25 mile weeks all through September due to work commitments. Although some of these weekly totals did include a full on 20 mile run, I had not managed the tough 'tempo' sessions that seem so crucial to conditioning yourself these days...
The race started right inside the Chester racecourse, and parking was easy. The only hassle was a walk across wet grass to get to the toilets / start area meaning wet feet before we'd begun...
For the first half kilo, we immitated racehorses as we ran the course before hitting tarmac and heading out on the course. The locals were out in force but it wasn't overkill like London or even Manchester where the crowds were overwhelming in comparison.
Each village had a good turnout and the RAF cadets were great with the feedstops. There was a nice amount of 'quiet time' in between each village where you could settle into your pace without distractions too.
I started near the front and clubmate Gancho found me on the start line. He was aiming for his own PB and we shook hands and wished each other well. His intended schedule was 20 minutes faster than mine so suffice to say I didn't see him again til the finish!
My plan was to knock out some 6.40 miles until half distance and then try and hold 6.50-7 min miles all the way to the finish...easy? Sure!
The racing was fast for the first few miles, so much so that i was being passed by runner after runner despite running at 6.25-6.35 pace myself! This was alarming and I didn't get sucked into any battles and so settled into my own pace. I hit 10 miles in 1.05 which was a tad fast and started thinking of delusions of grandeur about possible finishing times.
The first chink in the armour came at the 12 mile feed. I grabbed a bottle and turned 90 degrees right onto a false flat. It was like being hit by a traction engine! The effort required to maintain pace on this road seemed double. I trudged on and hit 13.1 miles in 1.27, still only 1 minute off Half Marathon PB pace.
We turned again onto a more forgiving road and it was back to being game on. By now I was knocking out 6.52 pace but it was feeling like too much effort. I'd heard nightmare marathon tales from lots of people over the years but had yet to experience one myself. That was about to change.
At 15 miles i knew i had a problem. My hips, thighs, groin and hamstrings were tightening, to a point that it affected my stride. I guess you call this being 'out of condition' or 'gone too fast at the start' or simply 'hit by the wall??'.
I held 7.00 - 7.10 until mile 19 and so was still on for a sub 3 but then the legs tightened more and the white flag was raised. I started to walk as I simply couldn't run! Luckliy it was a rural section as throngs overtook me and I managed a trot up to the next feed. Mile 20 & 21 were the worst - 11 minute miles!
After then we hit some villages and the crowd helped pick me up to a shuffle and I started some 10 minute miles, whehey!
Running back into Chester and the scenary and weather were perfect and despite my obvious pain, I still managed to take it all in.
I came over the long awaited line in 3hours 22 minutes which ain't so bad, a shake of hands from the organisers and also from Gancho who had waited around for me. We headed for a sit down in the huge food hall they had erected and chewed the fat about what had just happened. He'd done 2.47 which was a great time, but he also had an eye on a faster time.
Maybe we'll be back next year, hopefully with a few more Aber AC runners :-)