How Holmfirth Harriers inspired me to complete my first ever Marathon!

By Rob Davies

Rob Davies, 3:55:18

Marathon first, 3:55:18

After completing the Great North Run as a very amateur runner in 2017, I didn't want to let the hard work and fitness go to waste so I decided to join Holmfirth Harriers and keep up my new-found hobby. I was given an induction by one of the coaches, Phil Hanson, and that's where my marathon journey all began. I’m now writing this just over a year later, having run a full marathon which is something I would never have thought possible!

Upon joining the club, I ran through winter with the various groups, gradually progressing from Tigers to Jackals, ticking over without any real ambitions and just enjoying the social aspect and getting active. Phil then invited me to join his speed and stamina sessions on a Thursday night. That's where I really started to see some progress, doing things I wouldn't normally do on a regular run on my own (running up hills repeatedly on a cold December night wasn’t something that initially appealed!). But the sessions were superb, they were varied and broke up the regular routine of continuous running, and they run in 6-week cycles, so you can go back to the same drill every 6 weeks and you see the progression which is really encouraging as a novice runner.

I built up a strong relationship with Phil, he always had time for me - and after Christmas I mentioned the idea of pushing myself to do a marathon. Phil couldn't have been more supportive and encouraging, and within a few days he sent me a personalised 6-month training plan for me to consider. I was sold on the idea of running 26.2 miles, so I decided to go for it and booked a place in the 2018 Yorkshire Marathon.

Within the training plan we factored in the speed and stamina sessions with gradually increasing longer distance runs at weekends. Phil also suggested that I attend the Monday night strengthening and conditioning sessions at Neilly. This is superb and something I now really enjoy doing and rarely miss a session. The first couple of weeks were challenging as the body got used to new muscle groups being tested, but as the weeks went by I felt stronger and began to feel the benefits. The beauty is that you can take part in the sessions no matter what fitness level you are at and never feel out of place – which again is important to a relatively new runner looking to improve. Over time the sessions built up my core strength and conditioned my legs so that they were ready to take the upcoming hammer of several long-distance training runs!

RobPhil YM

Rob and Phil

I completed the Yorkshire Wolds Half Marathon with Phil in July and then in August, just 2 months from the marathon, I hit a bit of a bump in the road, quite literally! I fell off my bike on holiday and that set back my training by around 3 weeks. But Phil was there to reassure me that we could get things back on track. We reworked the training plan together and adjusted a few things here and there to make sure I'd be fit and ready come October. We had originally allowed 6 months for the training plan, which meant that should something unexpected happen (especially with me being so clumsy!) then we’d have time in the bank to accommodate any changes.

I also picked up a bit of an IT band injury a couple of weeks before the marathon, but again Phil gave me some great advice to ensure that I could run the marathon that I'd train so hard for. Most importantly he taught me the importance of REST and letting the body recover in the final 2 weeks! It’s so easy to ‘over train’ and pick up an injury by not letting the muscles repair following long distance training runs. He also gave me lots of advice about nutrition and how to approach the days building up to the race which was vitally important.

And then on Sunday 14th October I turned up in York for my first ever marathon and ran it in under 4 hours (3:55:18 to be precise), despite torrential rain from start to finish! I think after a couple of miles you just tend to forget that the rain is even there and just battle through! It was an amazing feeling at the finish line and something I could have never done without the support of the club. Just being around that environment and likeminded people gave me the motivation to go on and tackle a marathon. I’m just an ordinary bloke who discovered running, I’m never going to be breaking world records, but thanks to Holmfirth Harriers I can now say that I’ve run a marathon, and that’s something I’m proud of and would encourage anyone to go and do it.

Finally, I couldn't be more thankful and complimentary to Phil Hanson. He’s a top coach, incredibly approachable, knowledgeable and someone who's clearly so passionate about the club and supporting its members. I’d encourage anyone thinking of taking on a personal challenge to speak to Phil – his guidance was invaluable for me and I know he’d be delighted to support you on your own running journeys.

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