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Chester Marathon 2013

By Lucy Verrill,  6 October 2013

I'd travelled down on the Saturday so woke at 6am for my marathon debut. With the hotel not serving breakfast until 8, I fuelled up with a slow breakfast of two tubs of instant porridge, banana, coffee and sports drink, and set off for Chester racecourse.

I parked just a couple of hundred yards from the start line and close to the athlete's village. I had a wander round, left my bag in the baggage drop to avoid car key catastrophe, and did some stretching and a couple of minutes' jogging. It wouldn't be a race without me pressing the wrong button on my Garmin and getting a baffling series of unfamiliar screens, but after swearing at it for a few minutes I managed to get it behaving itself.

Lucy and John at the finish

PB's for Lucy and John Robinson

I had met up with John Robinson after some comedy phone calls trying to locate each other with reference to portaloos and polo pitches, and we set off to the start line, placing ourselves just ahead of the 3:30 target pacers. As the race starts on grass, the organisers had provided plastic shoe covers  to keep feet dry. Luckily I remembered to take mine off before we started . One unfortunate bloke I passed at about 20 miles hadn't been so switched on, and had ragged blue plastic flapping about his ankles, which amused me greatly.

There was the usual introduction over the PA system, the elite runners started and then we set off at a jog and passed the starting mat. John and I ran together for a while as the start is quite narrow. We (well, John) decided I got the job of journalist when Matthew inevitably asked for a race report (which he did approximately ten minutes after I'd crossed the finish line).

The race starts off along the streets of Chester before heading south along country roads, through pretty rural villages. Around 7 miles of it is in Wales, but I only noticed this when the 'slow' signs painted on the roads had 'araf' written below them. As my target was 3:30, I was supposed to be pacing at 8 minute miles, but went off a bit fast. Never mind, I thought, the second half is supposed to be more undulating, so I will likely lose a bit of time there. I ran past two men who were discussing pacing, and they said everyone would lose time in the second half. I ignored them. At 10 miles I was about 4 minutes ahead of my target time, but I kept on pushing steadily as I was feeling good. I passed the halfway point at 1.40-odd, and felt really pleased with that. I was still feeling good so I pushed the pace a little more.

It was a warm sunny day, and I regretted not wearing sunglasses. I kept drinking frequently, as there were alternate water/gel and sports drink stations approximately every 2-3 miles. I powered up the worst of the undulations, using my strength gained from training on the Holmfirth terrain, and began to believe I could beat 3:25 and even run a negative split. At about 16 miles I was still feeling good and started to overtake more and more runners. Another man and his mate commented that I was running well, and asked my target time. When I said 3:30 and that it was my first marathon, they said I was well ahead and warned me I'd struggle at about 20. I told them I'd be fine, and passed them.

I could see many other runners suffering at 18-20 miles, as the gasping and panting was getting louder around me, and a few people pulled up clutching thighs and calves. I overtook more and more runners and surprisingly didn't feel bad at the prospect of another 10K race. Support from the spectators was fantastic. Although some sections were quiet, the villages were lined with people watching and encouraging us all, and shouting names (printed on our race numbers). If I had a brief tough moment, it really helped to hear the support of the spectators.

The mile indicators went a bit haywire towards the end: the 23 mile one coincided with my Garmin recording 22 miles, but I blamed my altered mental state, used my Garmin as a guide and kept on running, speeding up. I counted down the last few miles with reference to my training runs - just another lap of the reservoir to go, just from the centre of Holmfirth to home and so on.

I entered the city walls knowing that barring disaster I'd be sub-3:20, and close to 3:15. I kept on going hard, saw the 3:15 pacer and overtook him, asking "b****r me, are you on target?" - I was making sure he wasn't going slowly because he'd hurt himself! He assured me he was on target, so I knew the Garmin was right. I legged it past him, knowing I'd set off a while after he had. The funnel towards the end had an amazing atmosphere, and the last couple of hundred metres were back on the racecourse. I could see the clock at the finish, knew I was racing 3:15 and put on as much of a sprint as I could muster, passing the finish line at 3:14:59.

Apparently there had been a problem with the live tracking of chip timings at the end, so unbeknownst to me, several fellow Harriers were agonising over my finish time and whether I'd come in under my predicted time and beaten the 3:15 barrier! Reading the comments on the Facebook page later brought a lump to my throat. Support from all my friends and the Harriers has been absolutely amazing and I would like to say a big thank-you to everyone.

I can honestly say I enjoyed every single minute of my first marathon, and never once wanted to give up. I was smiling all the way round. Despite an injury earlier in the summer, which meant my training plan was only 9 weeks, I smashed my target time. The injury meant I was happy to be able to run again and overjoyed even to make it to the start line. If I'm a little tired or it's rubbish weather and I'm in the slightest bit tempted to skip a training run, I just remember how frustrated I was 4 months ago when I was limping around and couldn't run at all. That thought gets me into my trainers and shifted out of the door. 

Results for the Holmfirth contingent were as follows: Lucy Verrill 03:14:59; John Levick 03:18:00; John Robinson 03:26:35 and Yvette Arthur 04:14:20.

Complete results available here: http://www.tdl.ltd.uk/race-results.php?event=1486

Pre-2012 news, results & reports are on the old sites: 2009 to 2011, Pre-2009

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