I am pleased to say that I managed to complete the Marathon and my body just about held out, when I started this journey I wasn’t convinced my knee would last after pulling out of the Yorkshire Marathon in 2014 with a knee problem and when my knee started to feel a bit sore towards the back-end of my training I was a little worried.
I don’t think my journey would have been possible without the help of Northowram Pumas running club and also Halifax Harriers for the Circuit Training for runners and the advice given by Brian and other members, I don’t think it is a coincidence that my knee started hurting after the circuits had finished and I would highly recommend anyone getting into running to consider some type of strength training for legs, glutes and core.
Anyone thinking of running any sort of event I would highly recommend looking for and joining a local running club, for me Northowram Pumas have been instrumental in helping me achieve my goal and the reason I started running back in 2010. Andy Haslam and Ian Marshall who are assistant coaches and run leaders at the Pumas went out of their way to organise extra running sessions on a weekend to cover longer distances for the 7 members who were doing the London Marathon and members who were competing in Blackpool Half Marathon on the same day, other members of the Pumas tagged along as well and a few of them signed up for their own events including the Yorkshire Marathon in October 2016, we also had a few guests along the way from other local running clubs who were also completing London and Ian along with Emma decided to do a 100 Mile in 1 week during this and had the company of a few Pumas as part of their training runs as well. Andy also completed a grueling 50K run along the Canal from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge despite an injury set back early on in the training.
The other Pumas became training partners where possible and we would arrange to meet and do the longer runs when Andy & Ian were not available or if one of us couldn’t make their runs again I don’t think I would have got through without all their help. I haven’t spoken to any of them much since the end of the Marathon but I have seen some of how they felt on Social Media. A big thank you to all of them and my opinion of how they got on:
The 1st Puma home was my partner in crime on #TeamSense, Deke Banks and he finished in 03:32:41, this was a little slower than he was aiming for but like me he had started to suffer a bit with knee pain half way through his training and had to miss some sessions with slight injuries and changing job and working away. Our biggest worry for Deke was that he was going to set off too fast as he can quite easily knock out 6:30/mi and quicker but he stuck to his plan and as you can see the 1st 25K (15.6 miles) he stuck to a reasonable pace and was still on for around 03:15 mark, somewhere between 25K – 30K the knee pain started to slow him down a bit and by the time and he gradually got slower towards the finish (although still fast speeds for the rest of us).
2nd Puma back was Adam Standeven running for The Children’s Trust. Adam was the one to inspire me to write a blog in the 1st place and I am so glad that I did as it has helped me along the way (although his are much more fun to read than mine and I cannot wait for his version of events along with the anecdotes and wonderful pictures of his family). Adam achieved a brilliant time of 03:39:33 which I am guessing might have surprised him a little but it was no surprise to the rest of us, he seems to have been born to run, he has the best engine of anyone I know and never seems to tire (although I am sure he does) and his pace was very even throughout only slowing down a bit between 30K – 40K which I suspect will have been around the 20 mile mark which I think was the furthest he had run before but no surprise his final split was his quickest with the end in sight and still plenty left in the tank he picked it up again, those final few long runs on the Greenway where the last mile was the quickest certainly paid off.
The 3rd Puma home and actually running for his 1st Club Halifax Harriers on one of their Ballot places, was Paul Hopkinson in a great time of 03:44:30 seconds. Paul is the most experienced long distance runner of the Pumas being the only one who had completed a Marathon before. He initially started his training along with his wife Jenny who unfortunately had to withdraw through an old injury (Jenny is also the person who provided us with the Sports Massages), although Paul and Jenny didn’t train that often with us on the longer runs as they were participating in other events, however the advice they were able to give us newbies when they did attend (or when getting a massage) was invaluable and the Trimpell 20 we ran was on their suggestion. During runs Paul didn’t come across has being worried about speed, in fact he was quite the opposite and took them nice and slow which suited some of us as well, however on the day he nailed his pace and recorded an excellent time.
The 4th Puma home was Lynsey Clarke in a very respectable 03:53:26, Lynsey had deferred her entry from 2015 to 2016 as she had her 1st child so the training was also fit around looking after her daughter who is under 1-year-old which was difficult at times as her husband was often away a couple of times a week with the busy schedule of Championship Football. Lynsey has run a lot of the longer runs with us and usually ends up running with Ian and / or myself as we have a similar pace although she was adamant she wasn’t that fast and would be lucky to get under 04:30:00, I seem to remember this being her original target. Hence she started in Zone 8 of 9 on the Red Start with probably around 25,000 – 29,000 people in front of her in this start alone, for her to finish in the time she did and around 12,000th was a great achievement. She also managed to do it without stopping for the toilet which was something she had not managed in the previous long runs she had done. Lynsey was running for the Charity Mind in memory of her Father.
5th place was myself in 03:58:03, this was under my original target time of 4 Hours but slower than the revised 03:45 I had set myself after the improvements I had shown in training. I was still on course up until around the 25K mark and eventually had to take a toilet break at 17 miles, the nerves got the better of me and despite 2 toilet breaks in the Park I still found myself needing another from the start line, I should have jumped out of the start or stopped straight after the start line but I thought I would get through it as I never stop to go to the toilet once I start running, the pain became too much and I eventually had to stop, it was only 2 – 3 minutes but I once I got going again I found it really difficult and the pace got slower and the pain worse. From mile 20 I was counting down the hour I thought I’d need to get to the finish line at 5 minute intervals and at the mile markers I was checking I was still on course for under 4 hours, cramp set into my left leg at around 600 metres to go and I couldn’t bend my knee, it eased off again and I picked up the speed a little for the finish spurred on by seeing my 2 youngest daughters, sister-in-law & Deke’s Dad on the final bend. More on my experience later…
The 6th Puma home and also running for The Children’s Trust was Shaun Casey. Shaun had similar targets to myself of 4 hours but secretly (at 1st) wanting about 03:45:00 but unlike me his training had not gone to plan and he had sustained an injury that kept him from running about a month into his training, he did manage some long runs early on but was stuck in the gym for long periods, in fact he was very close to withdrawing from the Marathon on the last Bank Holiday before as the Physios had failed to give him a diagnosis and therefore suitable treatment plan, he did get the late diagnosis and then treatment and meant he returned to running but no more than 6 – 8 miles in his last few weeks, most people in his position would not have made it to the start line let alone ran the distance in just over 4 hours, looking at his splits he was looking good for the 03:45:00 probably somewhere between 30K – 35K and then somewhere in the last couple of miles it seems the injury slowed him down. It was with mixed emotions that I saw Shaun out of nearly 40,000 people with less than a mile to the finish line, I was happy to see a friendly face when I was hurting but sad to see that he was struggling and just about managing to produce a slow run and he still managed a smile as I greeted him. I have no doubt that had he been diagnosed sooner he would have been producing the same sort of time as Adam & Paul did but still an excellent time.
The 7th Puma home was the only Puma in fancy dress running for the charity Starlight, Helen Jackson completed the Marathon 04:41:53, she may not have been the fastest over the course but she was certainly the best in terms of completing a Marathon how it should be done at an even pace, her splits were almost metronomic! Helen didn’t run that often with the rest of us doing the London Marathon as she felt she was too slow or we ran too quick, I don’t think that is the case and we could have all learned a thing or 2 from her about pacing. Helen also struggled a bit with a few injuries during training and was another one who had deferred entry from 2015 but she rested when she needed too and got the miles in when she could and her time is still very good especially for someone in fancy dress not sure I could have done that..
On the morning of the Marathon I woke up at 6:30 and had breakfast at the hotel consisting of my usual 2 Protabricks, banana and coffee, I also added a slice of Toast with Jam and I drank half a bottle of Lucozade and some water slowly between then and around 9:30. Deke came and picked me and my 2 youngest Daughters up at 7:20 and we went to their hotel to travel to the start at Greenwich Park. A couple of photos before we set off and lovely T-Shirt Deke kindly added too for his Dad who he didn’t want to leave “Home Alone”…
We were traveling to the start via the DLR and travel for all runners was free on the Sunday which I thought was a nice touch, the public transport in London is so easy to get about and the frequency was increased for most of the day, if only all public transport was so good I don’t think we’d use Cars as much. Anyway the last DLR was quite busy and we ended up missing the stop for Cutty Sark where we were supposed to walk down from, we got off at Greenwich instead and walked up to the Park. Shaun Casey rang us whilst we were walking up and told us they were at the Gates near the Maritime Museum. When we arrived it was good to see that Adam & Lynsey were there too and we could get a Pumas photo, just a shame that Helen & Paul weren’t there, although we did have a sub which some people say looks remarkably like Neil Coupe!!
View of Canary Wharf from Poonton Dock DLR
After the photo we wished each other good luck & we headed for the Royal Observatory for the #TeamSense photograph at 8:45. It was a bit of a steep climb to the Observatory but it was quite close to the Red Start Zone & it was quite a sight to see all of the Orange Sense Vests.
After the team photo we headed to the start zone and joined the queue for the portaloos, they weren’t too bad at that time and once we had finished there we found a quiet dry spot where we could attach Deke’s number and tag and tape up our knees. A few more sips of water and by 9:30 we were ready to strip off into our running gear and fasten up our bags before handing them into the Baggage Vans. At this point the queues for the loos were extremely long so we found a bushy area which was being used by Men & Women and then we headed to the start zones. I attempted to go to zone 4 with Deke but was refused entry so headed back to Zone 6, I managed to get to the front of the zone but noticed there were plenty of people coming through the barriers who were supposed to be in higher zones. It must have been the nerves but at this point I needed the loo again, I thought it would pass once I began running and we had already spoken about doing a Paula Radcliffe if we got caught short on the course so there was always that!!! That was my 1st mistake I should have left the start zone and relieved myself even if it meant losing my place and being a bit further back. 10:00 came and I was preparing my phone which was already in place on my arm and I took the opportunity to take a couple of pics from my arm of the crowd and the sky:
It took me about 9-10 minutes to cross the start line and there were hundreds of people heading straight for the bushes (again in Hindsight I should have probably joined them). It was quite slow going at 1st with the crowds but probably for the best as I didn’t want to make the mistake of heading off too fast and suffering later in the race. My pace was good and below 8:10/mi for the 1st 4 miles, mile 5 was a bit slower at 8:45/mi and coincided with a bit of a crash into a cone, a mass coming together on a tight left bend & my left leg going down a pot hole full of water (luckily unharmed), miles 6 & 7 were a little quicker at about 8:30/mi and took me past the Cutty Sark (although I didn’t actually see it) and the 1st Sense cheer point where our family were waiting and cheering us on:
After mile 7 the roads seemed to stretch out a bit and the pace picked up again for mile 8 down to 8:18/mi but that soon seemed to fade and the packed roads returned with times slipping down too around 8:38/mi until mile 14 (Mile 10 was 8:54/mi), miles 15 & 16 went up to 8:50/mi & 8:44/mi & Miles 17 & 18 were slow at 9:12/mi & 9:41/mi and it was around this time that I finally had to stop and visit the loo again, the pain got worse and never really wore off and I physically couldn’t do a “Paula” despite trying…. Once I got going again it became quite difficult, the pain had started in my left knee and my legs felt heavy in general, miles 19 & 20 were done in 8:43/mi & 9:03/mi & that is where I think a bit of psychology kicked in against me, the thought of the unknown & would I cope with the extra 6.2 miles, at this point I knew I was off of the 03:45 pace & told myself a maximum of 1 hour & I would still be under 4 Hours. Miles 21, 22 & 23 were my slowest at 9:56/mi, 9:50/mi & 10:04/mi but at 23 Miles I was thinking only a Park Run left & again my pace lifted Miles 24, 25 & 26 we recorded at 9:16/mi, 8:17/mi & 8:33 miles & the final part was recorded at 8:18/mi. My phone Apps were a bit in front of the course so the times are a little bit out but they fit the pattern of how I felt at the times & go to show that a lot of the Marathon is in your head as well as your body. I was amazed when I was finished and talking to friends and family that I had missed the Cutty Sark, the London Eye & even Buckingham Palace in fact about the only things I did see were Tower Bridge & Big Ben. I am not sure of the exact locations of all the pics that follow but they were in London…
Once I crossed the line the pain I had experienced in that last couple of mile and 600 metres where my left leg wouldn’t bend and calf muscle cramped up was forgotten, the medal was placed around my neck and the photographers asked if I wanted a photo, I really didn’t have the energy but knew I’d regret it if I didn’t:
After that I collected my goody bag with Medium T-Shirt and then went to collect my bag from the baggage vans, at this point I could barely walk and felt quite sick. Once I collected my bag I made my next mistake, sitting down to make my recovery shake, cramps up and down both legs when I sat down meant I had to stretch both legs in front of me. I just about managed to mix the shake and get back to my feet after I had drunk it and walking past was Lynsey, quite unbelievable with all those people that I would see her, she was also feeling a bit dizzy and sick and we headed off to different meeting points to meet our families. I couldn’t find mine but was found by one of the #TeamSense helpers (Olivia I think) and was helped to the meeting point at Tiger Tiger having my bags carried for me and stopping for a quick photo with the Sense photographer, were I couldn’t even manage a smile:
Walking to Tiger Tiger I received a phone call from Deke’s Dad telling me where they were but I couldn’t bear turning back round and said I would meet them there. Once I arrived there I was helped by another member of Sense who was taking me straight to the massage tables but once I went up the step my right calf went into cramp and I couldn’t move, a fellow runner and one of the Sense Team had to carry me up the stairs and sit me down on a chair at this point both legs went into cramp, I screamed the pain was that bad and Batman came to my aid with cooling sprays and cramp spray for my mouth. They called for the Physio who quickly identified I was dehydrated and lacking electrolytes, she asked for Dioralyte and bags of ice. Still in bad pain and screaming I was lifted to a large seating area where I could lay down and the very large bags of ice were placed underneath my calf’s and on top of my shins, this helped to relieve the pain but brought on the cold shivers, so next I was covered with blankets, coats, hoodies and what ever else they could lay their hands on. They then brought a massage bed up from the downstairs area and put me on the bed at the side of all the food which had kindly been laid on for the runners. I was given the 1st Dioralyte and 2 masseurs (Physio students from Middlesex University & the Physio was their lecturer as well as a Physio for a Professional Rugby team) set about gently massaging both legs at the same time. I started to come around a bit and tried contacting Deke and the others but no luck, I received a call back and Deke was in the same situation as me but with the St Johns Ambulance near the finish line, I was a little worried at 1st as I thought he had been stood around half an hour waiting for me and then suddenly felt ill but he had gone through pretty much the same as me. I started getting cold shivers again and so was given another Dioralyte and forced to eat some fruit and soup. This eventually brought me round and as I was being walked about Deke and the rest turned up, after some more food and warm drinks we had a quick photo and made our way back to the hotels on the underground and DLR and spoke about how we were never doing a Marathon again….
So the question is now with the ballot for 2017 opening on the 2nd May, who will enter again?? Was it really that bad and can we beat our times next year, it could have been worse I was sad to hear that the person I passed receiving treatment at mile 23 sadly passed away and one of our fellow Sense runners needed some help getting over the line:
My final thought on the Marathon is I wish someone would have told me about the salt tablets you can get before the run and not after it, I paid a lot of attention to hydration and fuel but unfortunately not enough to the electrolytes (salts) that the muscles and nerves need to function, so for anyone doing any sort of distance running I would advise to look into that as well and don’t be afraid to step out of line and use the toilets, it’s not a park run and Lynsey’s excellent time shows that it doesn’t matter how far back you are.
In my rush to get everything down I forgot to mention one of the most important parts of the journey, #TeamSense, without Sense we would have not been running the Marathon in the 1st place (& without all your generous donations). Sense wasn’t a charity I was very familiar with at 1st but I have read a lot about what they do and experienced 1st hand the support they show to their fundraisers and I have to say that I will definitely support Sense again in the future. From day 1 of being accepted the communication has been open and fast to respond, fundraising equipment, T-Shirts, ideas were received within days of requesting them and the support at the start, during and the end of the Marathon was 2nd to none, I don’t believe that all charities provided the aftercare which Sense did and I am pretty sure my own condition would have been made worse had Sense staff and the team from Middlesex University not been there.
Thank you for reading and I hope I haven’t bored you all too much over the weeks.
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