It’s been a funny old week. After the Derwent Dash last weekend, things took a bit of a turn. Getting a sickness bug and 24 hours of vomiting from Sunday night to Monday followed. 8lbs down and feeling weak, things were looking quite bleak for the marathon plans on Sunday. I wasn’t feeling at all optimistic, despite sitting at my lightest ever weight. With zero energy and what felt like next to no muscle mass. As I was laid in the bed on Monday having a chat with my mum, the question was poised. Why do you have to run today? Just give it a rest! Rest you say? What’s rest? Then I explained why I had to run, using the weeeknds exploits as my reference and the witnessing of Joel Mayberry completing Parkrun fresh in my memory. Mum, I replied. That’s why I have to run today. I might be shaking, not eaten for 24 hours and thrown up everything else. But that is why I have to run today. Using Joel as my motivational chat. The run on Monday ended up being a streak saving 1 Mile, holding hands with Ellie as she nursed me through it. Thank you! Tuesday, Wednesday followed. With easy runs and steady runs. Still low on energy, struggling to breathe. Heart rate high. Minimal stuff, they were around 7 minute mile pace. So not slow. But tasking. Making me tougher though as the days go on. Appetite returned and Thursday became something what normal looks like. That’s good! Friday recovery was only 5 mile this week. But still feeling a bit crap, Parkrun wasn’t a struggle but planned an easy one. Ran home from work afterwards to make it a 10 mile Saturday. Slowest run on the Saturday was 6:30 pace for the average. Not bad, back to normality. Marathon ready? We’ll see.
Something I’ve taken from this week though has been about taking a positive from some sort of situation. Chatting around yesterday, especially with Bryan Harrod. It wasn’t a particularly long conversation, but it was meaningful. He said to me, that tomorrow, being today, is a big day for him. It’s a return to the Sheffield 10k, a race he did some 8 years ago, his first ever 10k. He’s going back as a guide runner, to guide Anthony around. But when he first did Sheffield 10k, he did it as a fundraiser for Marie Curie, after loosing his mum. He described how proud he was of himself, in a few words. And in his own words, said ‘fat lad to guide runner.’ He might have done just that. But on reflection, he’s probably done so much more. He may have lost weight, met Jane (and married her), completed so many thousand miles, embedded himself truly in the Barnsley running community, met so many hundred people and become some sort of local celebrity, where you meet Bryan and you know you’ve met Bryan, becoming star struck in the process! He’s taken a circumstance in his life, 8 years ago, and truly changed his life. Fat lad to guide runner? Maybe? But wow, it’s so much more than that. I know for a fact Bryan’s changed my life as well as his own!
After the 10k, 2018, Bryan has messaged me, saying how overjoyed and proud he was of not only his achievements. But more so, Anthony’s achievement. A PB for him. Completely summarising Bryan as a runner, it was more about the journey for him. From what he was, to what he now has become. Unbelievable guy, great friend. Be very proud mate.
Now anyway, onto the pressing matter of a Hull Marathon. It’s only a long run, I keep telling myself. Don’t treat it as what it actually is. A marathon. 26.2 mile. A fair few steps and depending how long, 3 hours on foot? My aim whilst chatting with Ellie on Saturday given my recent bout of sickness, 2:50 just get round comfortably without chucking up. Killing myself or collapsing. I said, I’ll see where I am around the 20 mile mark and kick on. Saturday, I worked until 1, didn’t work the match. Went home, hair cut, something to eat, bought our James a birthday card. Beauty and beast, he’s 22. It fits him well. Happy Birthday James. Then packed, slowly but surely. Setting off around 5 ish. A steady drive to Hull and we was staying in the holiday inn express at St Stephens. After a trip to Tesco for some ready water boil porridge.
We was in the room and straight out to Zizzi’s in the shopping centre for tea, if you ask Ellie, she’ll tell you I took her on a slight detour, she’s lying. Ignore whatever she says and I just merely wanted her to see the sights of Hull. Carbed up, in a fashion. Then back to the room, in bed by 10.30. After a bit of flapping around getting my marathon stuff ready. Alarm set for 7. We was meeting my Dad and Mum at 8, outside their travelodge. Decent nights sleep but not the best bed in the world and massive pillows. Up and at them. Feeling ok, ish. Porridge down me, 1 tub anyway. Saved the other for the car journey to the start line. Set off at 8, panicking rang my Dad to pick us up outside our hotel. We daringly crossed the road in front of a couple of buses, jumped over a wall and was eventually in the car. Porridge running down my fingers. But finally ready and on our way to the start. Arriving around the area at 8.20 ish. Not bad for a 9 o’clock start.
Hanging around now waiting for the start of the race to come. Finally getting undressed into some racing attire and lined up. Ready to go, having a look around and seeing plenty of relay runners. But very little marathon runners around the front. This could be very interesting. Slight delay announced on the start line, but only slight. We was off by 9:01! Quickly settling into place, and finding myself in 2nd with only relay runners around me. View in front of the runner in 1st place. Jonathan Walton from Leeds. A familiar enough face, so I know what he’s capable of. I let him go, my plan. Go steady, stay calm. Aim for 2:50. I tried. In honesty it felt too comfortable 6:30 pace, it didn’t last long at all. Quickly changed to something more familiar and switched plan. Switched focus to 5:45 pace. This was normal territory and felt fine. Feeling great, we left the park and was on our way.
Ready to take on Hull. My watch is set to 400 metre beeps. 5:45 pace is roughly 1:26/27, I rarely look. Everything else it just shows me elapsed time. So I might glance at that every now and then. Leaves me at what feels like watch free. Mile 1 went down quick, the markers were pieces of art. Drawn by local individuals. It suddenly became my only company, finding myself on my own. Grinding out the miles and ticking them off. Looking around and holding my head up high, driving gear and settling into my running form. Well I hope I looked like that anyway. Mile 2 seemed to go down with ease again, its a funny old game a marathon. By now on a Barnsley parkrun, possibly even at the same pace as this, I’d be blowing my absolute bag out. Puffing and panting my way around. But as soon as marathon day comes. You know its game time, plus it probably helps that we’re in Netherlands here. Hardly a hill in sight! We made our way down and past the Holiday Inn, now into the city centre. Only thing really about the city centre is the cobbles. Twists. And the Turns! Anyone that has ever done the Hull 10k, will know about the famous Hull sharp turns. Out and pass ‘The Deep’ can’t come to Hull and not see The Deep? Two homeless people just waking up, still cheering us on. Approaching Victoria Dock, becomes a familiar place for me now. I’ve seen this approach a few times in various races. Out and around before heading to East Park. I was still feeling good, knowing my surroundings and taking each stride easy. I was enjoying it. I’d gone into it with really zero expectation on myself with the illness earlier in the week. This was surprising me in a fashion. The 400’s were still roughly the same, some way off of Kipchoge pace however? Although ranging from 1:24-1:27’s. Not bad. Before I knew it, we’d were back at The Deep, leaving me thinking. Have I gone the wrong way? Only to get there and turn right now, instead of left. Marshalls confirmed I’d gone the right way. Still on my own. However some way in the distance, I was catching a 2 man relay runner who was sat in 2nd place. Some way behind the leading marathon runner, Jonathan. The relay runner was fading, so I made it my task to catch him by 13.1.
Seeing Ellie, Mum and Dad at the marina, spurred me on for a few strides. Looking retrospectively at my 400 time for that section, a 1:18. Oops? Still feeling fresh and yes, I’ve used a Jakemans, Honey and Lemon. One in at the start, not used another one as yet. We was now out and through the docks. Making our way to the only real reason the route is the way that it is. The Humber Bridge. Deceptively hilly and its a bit of a climb up towards it. I managed to catch the 2 man relay runner by Pickering Park, chatting briefly with his replacement before she let me go and kick on. Going through half way in 1:15:27. Climbing now through Hessle and seeing the queues of cars starting to form on the otherside. We’ll be coming back this way in a few mile time. The climb wasn’t tough, I just handled it accordingly, slowing and steadying myself up. Before I knew it I was going through Humber Bridge park and then on top of the bridge. Only gripe by the way with this marathon, before I go any further. Not had a drink yet, first few stations were cups. So little was drunk, only actually one drink. The others, the stations were manned but they wasn’t handing them out. Just stood there on their phones or talking to each other. I’m not a big drinker in a race anyway, but I was certainly hoping that it would improve for the others that are. Anyway, onto the bridge and got sight of Jonathan roughly 800 meters in front of me.
Then I saw Carol at the end of the bridge, those might know her as the Trunce photographer who fell not so long ago. But she was looking bright and cheerful as ever. She got a couple of cracking shots of me, as I was coming over the other side of the bridge and turning to go back. It was nice to see her at this point. Knowing really you aren’t ever far from someone you know, in what had felt like a lonely race against the only person I can ever truly beat, and that’s myself. Literally over the bridge and back around we go. Where the runner you can spy in the background. Kris Leacher managed to just pass me, he was doing the 4 person relay. So I’ll let him off today and today only. Seeing Carol again, we was now heading back.
My pace fluctuated slightly up and over the bridge, but not by much. I was making the gap between me and Jonathan smaller and smaller, using Kris as my pacer. Only for him to eventually kick too much for me to even dream of catching Kris. Back in the country park, and now on the out and back section, roughly mile 21. Only 5 to go, not long. 30 minutes at a good pace. Seeing a sign that read, downhill from here. Thank GOD! Back onto the hill I ran up about 40 minutes ago. Only to hear, ‘Is that Gareth?’ The voice got closer, I was too in focus to notice who it was, until she got really close and said, ‘it is!’ Go Team Penistone, wooooo. Another familiar face, being Jude Matthews, I can’t remember if I replied, I hope I did. I was way too focused on it being 5 mile to go. Having the finish line almost in sight. She did a cracking time herself, 4:12:47, off of what she would probably describe as minimal training. Pace now became quicker as I began to realise the dent I was about to put into my PB and hoping that even if I blew up. I’d still have it in me, to soldier on. Running through the Costello Track, clocking a world record breaking 24 seconds for the 100m. Wow. But 2 mile to go, that is the main goal. Nearly home and dry. Back onto the duel carriageway and beginning to reach the beginning of my next marathon, but only the stepping stone of finishing this one. Before very nearly taking a wrong turn, due to a few misplaced cones. I can now see the stadium and here all the Hub Bub.
I managed it, a massive PB of:
In the Hull Marathon, my last long run before York? None the less, a PB by 3 minutes and 23 seconds. Sub 2:30 next?
We hung around a little bit and waited for the prize giving which ended up being around 1 o’clock. Before heading back to the Holiday Inn for our late checkout, a shower, some food and ready to set off on our journey home. A small journey in my long journey of running. Its only down the road Hull isn’t it?
After thoughts really, it may have been my last long run before York in 3 weeks time and should have only been used as a build up run. But today I really did surprise myself, feeling too fresh to throw it away like that. All it does now, is set an even bigger target for my bare minimum at York. We’ll see what that brings. It was an enjoyable marathon, an enjoyable day, where everything just clicked and felt right. Maybe the steadier approach due to illness helped, maybe it didn’t and without that steady approach I’d have had more confidence to go out at it with the mindsight from the beginning. Or maybe I’d have gone off too quick and blown up. Who knows. Life is full of maybes isn’t it and it is what it is. For now I’ll sit on that PB and hope to smash it again some time. So if now I don’t do anywhere near that at York, at least this lot of Autumn marathon training block has brought me that PB! But remember, that is a IF….
C’est La Vie!
Just Keep Running!