Monday, 11 April 2011


So, I did it. I've really gone and run a marathon. Raced a marathon even. It's now slowly starting to sink in that it's really all over. And I think it's got to be one of the hardest things I've ever done.

Arrangements over the weekend went swimmingly. The drive up was trouble free with a stop off at Tebay for some motorway fare overlooking the Howgills (spookily at the same time as fellow blogger AMcD). We found a great spot in Glasgow to sleep and eat and the second leg of driving onwards to Fort William set up the mood with the most breathtaking scenery I've ever seen. The B&B was spot on; just a mile away from the race start and a great porridge breakfast was ordered to set me up for race day.

I was feeling sicky nervous the whole of Saturday; when not obsessively checking the weather forecasts that is. Our hosts assured us it would be fine weather, having narrowly missed some major storms this week. I was thanking my lucky stars that the tormenting winds had eased down to a breeze. So, after a dreadful nerve-wracked night's sleep I awoke well before 7am. The sky was already hazy blue and promised fine weather for race day. I managed to stuff down my porridge (tricky when feeling sicky) and build in numerous loo stops to allow for a more nervy than usual pre-race tummy.  The race start was a relaxed affair with a small field of around 400 runners, all slapping on the factor 20 cream as the sun burned off the early morning haze. I should have taken note...

We were off pretty sharpish and I found myself somewhere near the front 20 or so from early on. There were no ladies in sight but small clumps of blokes, though none that matched my pacing plan. In fact I struggled to find the relaxed clip I'd found in my recent 20 milers. My running seemed to range wildly from too fast to too slow. There was nobody near me to shelter from the breeze and so after mile 3 the race became a fairly lonely ride.

The course info reports a flat and fast route but strangely it felt uphilll all the way! Either an optical illusion or I reckon this was an early sign that I wasn't feeling quite right. The 6.17 pace that felt so easy a few weeks ago felt nowhere near as relaxed and by the half-way turn the guys in front were dropping off pace rapidly. I seriously began to struggle too. It was a challenge not to panic, knowing full well I was too tired for the HM point. I dug in and tried to stay calm, passing another three guys who seemed to be struggling to breathe easy in the heat. By mile 15 I found myself in what I think was 4th place but there were no other runners in sight, only seemingly endless stretches of shimmering straight road ahead. I felt wasted.

Somehow I kept going, taking it a mile at a time. My pace continued to drop off until mile 24 where I felt so slow I was convinced I was nearly walking. The final two miles saw me lose three spots to 7th overall, at which point I seemed to crawl in at 7 minute pace to cross the line in 2.51.33, (missing out on the healthy course record bonus). I'm not sure how I did it. I was feeling slightly delirious and verging on teary. It was a relief not to see M until 26.2; any sooner and I fear I might have collapsed with the emotion.

I don't think I've ever felt quite so bad in a race but somehow still managed a reasonable time, (which I'm now finding really quite encouraging). I'm still not sure what happened. Post race reports indicate the freakishly warm weather was worth at least 6 minutes for many finishers. I just seemed to struggle with the pace from early on. I was first lady by a fair gap and won a big cheque, a weekend away and a bottle of whisky for fastest debut.  Sadly, I didn't get my big silver winner's trophy as last year's leading lady hadn't returned it.

Whatever the cause of my race woes, I'm glad I crossed the finish line. I'm in one piece, with a fine and shiny red blister on my right toe to match my trusty scarlet T6s; the fine pair saw me through the hardest race of my life so far. Until that next one of course. And last but not least, thank you to M. He was a superstar. He's probably cringing as I plan the next big race, what with all my spreadsheet tinkering, fretting and pre-race stress to deal with. But I couldn't have done any of it without him. Thanks M :] Results now here.


Derby Tup said...

Brilliant write up of a brave marathon debut!

Mark H said...

Great report Sarah.It mirrors my London experience last year(minus the hot weather).

Do London next year,it might not be scenic , but it's dead flat , rarely windy , and you will always be running alongside someone or at least have someone in sight.

Still a damn good time and well toughed out.

Most people rarely run their best ever time on debut as I'm sure Marc and your coach will have told you.

So hang on to that thought.

What doesn't kill us will only cure us :)

Terry Lonergan said...

Well done, Sarah. When people ask if you have ever run a marathon, you can now proudly say ,"Yes, I actually won one!"
Choosing a low key marathon had the advantage perhaps of less hype but would deprive you of the support and encouragement that London runners get. So the adrenalin was bound to be less and with low numbers it became a time trial running alone rather than a racing in a group.
All that plus the unexpected temperatures and yet you were still within 3% of your target time. Has to be satisfying for your first attempt. Great stuff!
Good to read you have not said like so many "never again". Bear in mind Angie H's progress...1984 London 2:47...1988...Seoul 2:30:51. Sure you have more to come.
Celebrate and enjoy your recovery; you have earnt it. Terry

Steve said...

Welcome to the marathon winners club. And a rather exclusive one it is so don't lose your pass.

Excellent report - sounds like it was as tough mentally as physically.

Enjoy the post marathon idleness and indulgence (though if you are anything like me you will be urging to go running by about Wednesday.)

How about whizzing down to London this weekend? Spectating is good anyway but when you have yourself ran a marathon the weekend before it is even better somehow.

Anonymous said...

Excellent result given the conditions I would have thought! Well done! I'm inspired to get off my lazy fat behind and get going! (I am actually 'going', but am currently in a 'where's my mojo gone?' period at the mo'!). Well done again!
Ian Park
Horsforth Harriers

Old Runningfox. said...

Very well done Sarah on your marathon debut, and for graduating into the rather exclusive marathon WINNERS club. If your experience was anything like as devastating as mine, life might never be the same again.
Oh, and many thanks for giving Old Runningfox the perfect excuse for raising a celebratory dram!

Antony Bradford said...

Well done RB on your marathon debut win. Sounds like you had a real tough time of it. You survived and did a great time. You have also gained all the experience for the next one.

ultra collie said...

fantastic! fantastic!
brilliantly done!
my race there (though not quite as speedy!) was similar..a good first half then an awful time coming back
was the guy out with his music blaring away to spur you on?
bet you're both well chuffed. have a days rest now

Chris Carver said...

Great report Sarah ... and a good win too in a good time.

I don't share your view that marathons are hard races though. For me they're just fairly long training runs!!!

Well done. I'm sure you'll be improving on that time in the years to come.

Mr.K. said...

Well done on a cracking debut marathon on what seems a tricky course. As usual an excellent race report – you are indeed now on a slippery slope of long distance running. Boo to the no-show of the silverware – hope it follows soon. (Oh & thanks for finishing before our lunch came :-) )

kate said...

awesome running (and writing!), really, really, really inspiring stuff. a bottle of whisky, gotta be the best prize yet ;) so impressed rb... will you be able to fit another one in this year?

Donnchadh said...

Stunning result and as usual, a great narrative.
Everything else has been said so what do you think of the scenery Sarah? Hope you got some great photos as I know you will have had your camera with you. The fell runners of Bingley will tell you that the Ben and Fort William are their favourite destinations. Congrats again Sarah must be even more satisfying given the injury problems you had in recent times.

Bruce Duncan

jumbly said...

Brilliant! Well done you! Huge congratulations.

Runningbear said...

What overwhelmingly lovely and kind messages from you all... I've been very touched by the generous and encouraging comments posted these last few days. Thanks so much to all of you for dropping by and posting a few words...

One of the things I love about running is the community of people it attracts - you can go anywhere in the world and share the passion with other running folk.

And yes (Kate) I'm now planning my next - one in the autumn I think. I seem to have missed out on Berlin which would have been favourite so maybe Frankfurt? Amsterdam? or even Chester? Any tips out there guys? I've some unfinished business...

ultra collie said...

snowdonia perhaps? a tasty challenge

Mr.K. said...

Shame Abingdon is full as that would be a good one for you. I`m off to Amsterdam as heard good things from there.

Anonymous said...

well done - fantastic race report. It was my first marathon as well but was slighty further back in the pack - in fact was probably at mile 15 when you were crossing that line!

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