The Yorkshire Marathon

We are Yorkshire. Full of Yorkshire grit, determination, drive. We are the nation of Yorkshire, standing together, sharing our passion. We are a team, an entire army of runners about to embark on something so small, yet so large. We are colossal. Colossal together, unified and proud. We are Yorkshire.

This is the Yorkshire Marathon. No place I’d rather be.

Anything that is in or around York, I tend to have a bit of a ongoing romance with. It signifies a few things when it comes to running for me. One of those being the Yorkshire Marathon, it was my second marathon event. Way back in 2013, clocking a 3:19:35 around the course. It was also the place I ran my first ever sub 2:30, in 2018, managing a 2:29:35. Chopping 50 minutes off of my original time on the York course. Then there has been the Brass Monkey Half Marathon and the Vale of York Half Marathon, both courses have brought Personal Bests at the time. Lending themselves to fast times and competitive groups. It is also a city that I love and frequently visit, sampling everything in and around the place. It is York and all roads lead to York.

All my training, my year, 2019. It’s been about The Yorkshire Marathon. Leading, winding, the ups and downs. Everything that life brings, halting, stalling, progressing, improving along the way. Working on it, trusting and did I mention working on it?

After Manchester and London in the spring, I had a plan. My own, my constructed method, gearing towards those final few miles, my weakness. Every marathon runners weakness. The miles where the gears fall off and the legs feel like jelly, where all that hard training. Should pay off. Manchester, I faded. Not massively, the training paid off. I had enough in the tank to keep my miles way above recovery pace and still the right side of 6 minute miles. It bagged me a 2:26:48, just short of a 3 minute PB. But I faded. London came around, with Manchester in my legs. They went a lot, they went the wrong side of 6 minute miles. The miles after mile 20, were tough. Emotionally, Physically and Mentally. Bagging me a 2:31:50. At the time, my 3rd best performance to date. But I faded… It’s a marathon, what else do you expect. Hull Marathon came around, my 3rd marathon of the year. I was treating this one a little differently. A long training run, my last long run before York. Not focussed on time, not focussed on anything, other than comfort and feeling strong. I planned for a fade, see what I did there? I planned for them ‘wheels’ to come off and run home comfortably in the latter stages. Saving myself for another day. I did that, allowed them to slow down and ran a 2:31:01. Taking 1st place, and improving my 3rd best marathon performance by 49 seconds. I felt good and confident. Especially going into York. My target, that I’ll divulge. PB, nothing else but a PB. Improve. Improve that 2:26:48. The dream, anything the right side of 2:26. Marginal, but a stepping stone to constant improvement (Written on the 17th of October).

Things I did a little different then, nothing much, but focussed more on Marathon speed, if you’d like to call it that. Marathon speed every race. That’s normal anyway. Then got a group together, a marathon speedwork group. Focussing in marathon sessions, focussing on churning out the miles. The miles to drag us through, you can’t get fast on your own. You need a team, you need people, support, encouragement, reinforcement and belief. Along with plenty of other things. But if I’m going there, you’re coming with me. Whether you like it or not. So that’s it. Now we go, sample those final few miles, simulating the feeling of mile 20, all on the streets (or fields) of good old tarn! Either way, going into this. If I don’t succeed on the day, someone will. Someone who I believe in, will. That’s all that matters then.

Onto the day now, York Marathon. Stayed over last night, bit different to last year, where we drove up on the day. The Best Western, not too far from the race and university. Because of my time at York last year, I managed to bag myself a free entry. York is too good to resist anyway. I’d be here regardless. Out for tea last night, bit of spag bol. Lovely.. Ellie sampling a Guinness! Back in the room, wrapped up and in bed, asleep for 9.30! Broken sleep? That’s normal before a marathon, waking up at 12.30 and thinking it was time to set off to the race already. Nope. Plenty more time in bed. Great! Up again at 5.30, bright eyed and bushy tailed. That’s what a early night does to you. Up properly at 6.30, out of bed. Breakfast down me, shower, Vaseline coated up, like a slip and slide! Ready to rock and roll. Out the hotel, Ellie’s car loaded up and jumped in my dad’s car. Drive through to the university. The organisers had offered us parking on the site, dad found our way. Getting us there in good time, proudly flashing his ‘parking’ badge on the way through. Spotting Dan Kestrel, navigating his way to central hall. Followed him a little bit, aiding in navigation on the way. Before heading out separate ways to the building. Call it a warm up! Into central hall, toilet stop and then went off to the line. Quickly spotting Gary Briscoe and Matt Robinson, the Penistone contingent. Stood in ‘Skipper Shelter’ the place me and Charlie took refuge last year, it wasn’t long before we caught a Josh Bird, followed by a Lee Ogden, David Hanks, Tracy Hughes, Hannah Butcher and family! The Barnsley were out in force. The team! We were here.

Getting stripped off, photo time.

Couldn’t miss one with Ellie as well!

Then said our goodbyes, made our way up to the start. Fighting our way through the crowds already forming, who were just starting their steps and arm swings for the warm up. A few jolts to the face, torso and steps on my toes. Eventually found myself somewhere near the line. Now we wait. Spotting all the other runners making their way up, familiar faces. Welcoming faces. Faces from places. Faces to run with, hopefully. Robert Weekes, Jonathan Walton, Scott Harrington, Dan Kestrel, Paul Martelletti. Hopefully a pack, a group. Working together for the eventual goal. The wheelchair athletes were off, then our 10 second countdown had begun. We were off.

Out the block and on our way. Down the hill we’d eventually struggle running up in 26 mile time. Quick start here, the 1st mile is more or less downhill. Even had time for an aeroplane for the camera, apparently. Well according to Tracy…

Photo by Tracy Hughes

Lending itself to a fast start anyway, quickly got ourselves into a strong group of around 6 or 7 runners. Chatting about shoes, training, life and making it feel as easy as the first few miles should. Slowing my mind and making the miles feel good. Constant progress. A dig at Scott for his 2:25:04 at Berlin, something I’d eventually regret… he’d get it back on me, put it that way! Into the city, out the city before we know it. On the long country roads, headwind, every mile, a bloody headwind. Chasing, making the race as good as it can be. Running by all the spots that I’ve seen in previous years. Knowing the route, knowing the hills and the downs. The flats and the awful bits! 14-18-20… anticipating, being aware and prepared for them. Miles were ticking by, sticking in the pack. Drink stations were being ticked off, sharing, passing them along the line, doing our bit for the environment, aren’t we? Head up, looking ahead. The race wasn’t going to start until mile 20 anyway. The teller whether you’ve set off too fast, whether you’ve enough in the tank. Or whether you’ve done enough, whether it is your day or not. It began to go quieter and quieter, we began to settle down into our rhythm. The legs and training began to take over. Mile 8 came around and Scott made a break, I told him to go for it lad.. asking him if there was a Strava segment. He was a man on a mission! Dan went with him. I held back, it felt too fast. We’d been more or less comfortable until then. I conserved myself, reluctant to go with. Held the fragmented pack with Rob Weekes, Paul Martelletti, and a lad called Dave Hudson who I met in the toilet queue! Holding our pace and not drifting. I had my target in mind. I knew Rob’s as well. Him asking me early in the race. The mind was set. I knew my mini goals in order to get there. The 10k one had been ticked. Well 6 mile in less than 33:11. The 10 mile was approaching and was the right side of 55 minutes. Gunning forwards. Conserved. Next target for an even split, be 1:12:30 for the half. Giving me 2:25, dead, if possible! We were holding our small pack, and looking on ahead. Looking at the things fold out in front, but never, ever looking back. Charging. The half way marker came, just before we get to Stamford Bridge. The place I’d see Ellie, my Dad and Mum. Standing somewhere. Hopefully, if they’ve made it, in time. 1:11:40 on the road side clock. Didn’t check my watch. That was enough reinforcement, that I was doing it alright. Believe it or not, a half marathon PB. Win! But maybe I’d gone too fast. Driven and focussed, on my way. I wasn’t going to let that derail me.. eventually making our way down towards Stamford Bridge and onto the terrible bit, the long drags and two out and backs. The horrible bit… turning left, and blowing the wonderful Ellie a kiss. She even caught it on camera!

Out and back, spotting the other runners on their way, the runners out in front. The runners in and behind. Onto the long drag now, the drag that the TV commentators last year questioned whether I was struggling, not at that point. I was just soaked to the bone and wet! It feels all uphill, a 10k race, it would feel like nothing. A marathon, well it is a marathon, a long run after all. On our way up, the pack of 3.

Photo by Andy Lyons

Grinding the body and the engine now, heart getting ready to take over from the legs. The question to myself, how much do you want it? Seeing the Blizzard crew and appreciating the beard shoutouts! Then spotting Tom Halloway, questioning whether he appreciates my shoes. I knew he would. Hitting my own targets, down into Dunnington. Through the forming crowds, ready to support their own runners. Onto the second out and back, seeing Clark Hind, questioning whether he was ok. After chatting to him on the line? He was making his way surely back to the start. Apparently there is a shortcut! Myself sat in 5th place with Rob and Paul, in tow, 5-7th place, call it that. We was some way behind the runners in 2, 3 and 4. Who were beginning to fragment, 1st was well in front! Making the turn, hearing plenty of shouts and screams, people calling, not taking who it was in. I’ll learn that later, but it is so much appreciated and I am so grateful! Working our way back up to Dunnington, approaching the 20 mile marker, ready and anticipating the turn. My legs were feeling alright, my heart was ready to take over. This is it, the last 6 mile. How much do I want it? You can answer that for yourself.. next landmark, the 10 mile merging point, where we join the others who are running their own race. After that, get myself to the finish, as fast as I can. Everything else is out of the window at this point. Its just a charge.

Photo by Andy Lyons.

Rob Weekes tagged along, ready to make the dash to the line. We both knew our targets, they were relatively aligned. Head was down, working for it. As much as I could. A glance at the watch, roughly 35 minutes of running left to go. Ticking the minutes off and ticking the route. 2 hours went by. Then I’d figured we had 3.75 mile left to run. 3.75 mile, that is a Spencers Dash, picturing, imagining myself chasing down the hill towards Bence Lane, placing myself somewhere else. Picturing myself making the climb, hitting the trail and before I knew it. I was making the turn to climb the hill to the university, my Spencers Dash horrible finish.

How much do you want it? 3rd place was roughly 200 metres ahead. I had him in my sights, a chase down the tunnel. That is it. Head lifted after seeing Emma, by the time I saw Tracy near the finish, I was chasing him down. The gap was closing. Gaining and knowing, the goal of sub 2:26 was around the corner. Almost in the bag, but a sub 2:25 could be on the cards. Potentially. Driving. Seeing the clock almost in slow motion. The line, is there. Managing to cross it, in….

2:25:02

4th place, the same as last year. But more importantly a 1 minute and 46 second PB. Massive, over the moon and overjoyed. The fade happened from 24-26. But I was dodging and diving around the 10 mile runners in parts, so I kind of anticipated that. It is the slowest bit of the race in terms of profile on paper as well. But over the moon with the time regardless. That 4:04:22 runner just ran that. I know what to do for the next one, I know where I need to be, continuous progress and I’ll get there.

York Marathon Splits

The miles were fairly consistent, judging off the heart rate, they were also very comfortable. Feeling content and in my comfort zone. Running. Then best of all, crossed the line and straight into the arms of the ever so wonderful ‘Jellie.’

A sweaty smooch!

Working my way with the Super Jack Butcher down through the finish area, collecting my bearded beer.. he’ll know the joke! Wrapping the medal around his neck and then on our way, before taking a detour to get the medal engraved. Into the city centre, got ourselves a Five Guys burger. Filled a small hole! That was that, on our way home!

Strava Link

Results Link

Too many to mention but thank you to everyone who was out there, cheering, supporting, shouting, moaning and groaning! Massive well done to the fat lad, Gary Briscoe who got his time down to 2:35, Josh Bird who entered the sub 2:45 club, in his first marathon, in 2:43. Matt Robinson, clocked a 3:04:20. Lee Ogden who also ran his first in 4:11. Faye Williams also clocked a massive PB, hitting 3:25:31. David Hanks ran a 3:58:55, off bare minimal training! Thank you to Rob Weekes for dragging his arse around the course with me as well today he clocked a 2:25:04. Scott Harrington clocked another sub 2:30, only 3 weeks after Berlin. Dan Kestrel finished just in front of me, in 2nd place in 2:24:47. Gareth Lowe ran exceptionally well to take 2:26:30, and 1st vet45. Jonathan Walton, got his sub 2:30, making him the best current vet50 in the country and 4th best of all time! Well to you, wherever you ended up. Hard work pays off, believe me… The list could go on, and on and on! Literally endless. But also thank you, to Hannah, Shaun and Jack for coming up to support. Absorb the atmosphere, the folks who have sent me texts, messages, comments, got in touch to say well done! Thanks to the guy who let me borrow his phone so I could ring Ellie and tell her where to meet me and Jack after I finished! Thanks to my mum and dad for taking the planning and logistics out of my hands. Supporting me along the way. Most of all, thank you to the wonderful Ellie, for supporting me, encouraging and believing in me. Telling me I can do it, reinforcing my own belief, that I can.

Now we go, onto the next. We are Yorkshire, Full of Yorkshire Grit. Determination and drive. Colossal together, unified and proud.

Just Keep Running…

4 comments

  1. Fantastic achievement Gareth, Marathons are you against you..The body can achieve but the mind which drives you doesn’t always comply with your wishes, leave your watch at home occasionally & listen to your body, You Are Awesome & we are all Super Proud of you xx

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  2. Not sure what to say Gareth. An amazing run and a reward for all the hard work you’ve put in this year. Liked the bit about the Spencers. I used to do the same thing when I was running. Two miles to go, that’s from home to the end of Joan Royd and back … It helped me to focus n what was left of the race. Have a rest and then see what 2020 brings. Great read by the way.

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