Bristol to Bath Marathon

Many moons ago I had signed up for this marathon in a moment of panic / reflection writes Gary Wane. I’d finished the Lakeland 50 and felt like my running future was uncertain. A now what moment. I entered this in the hope to keep the running fire simmering and not ebb away. It gave me something to aim for. My training was hit and miss trying to fit 3-4 runs a week in-between family life and a 60+hr working week. I managed some long weekend runs and even a few 3 run weeks. Then out of nowhere, it was the week before.

I travelled down to Bristol on the Saturday and booked into our nice farmhouse B+B. It turns out it’s haunted and guests have told of strange noises in the night. The only strange noises I heard was Imogen’s snoring and complaining of sleeping on a frozen air bed. She ended up in bed with us so I had a night of snoring in my ear (Imogen not Mel…) and elbows to the head as she does not stay still, even when asleep. The next morning we travelled to Bristol on the park and ride bus and at 9am I was off. The first thing that struck me was unfamiliar running tops. I was a long way from home.

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The first few miles were OK running through Bristol, a nice out and back along the river Avon (I think?) but on 7 miles I saw runners on the road above me. Everyone was still in high spirits though and chatting about all sorts from the Rugby World cup to car buying. There was a sharp uphill onto a bypass. I was up it easily enough and feeling fine. I got to half way in high spirits thinking I may push on a bit here. Famous last words.

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On 14miles we hit a steep uphill. The pace slowed dramatically and I saw many walking around me. There were supporters on each side of the road geeing everybody on. From here on in,the atmosphere of the run changed. It was very quiet. The conversations had stopped. The general chats around me disappeared and became encouragement for each other. The support stepped up a notch though. On every hill people were outside their houses banging drums, waving flags, shouting encouragement, giving out jelly babies and some even had cowbells. Ever incline from here to the finish was either, “100m and you’re there!” or even, “Just around that corner!” Problem was 100m up the road or around the corner, they were saying the same thing!! However, atmosphere wise, It’s probably the closest I’ll get to being at the Tour De France. At times there was barely room for 2-3 runners to run alongside with supporters on each side. For the next few miles there were up hills and downs and I gave up on any sort of time. I looked at the runners around me, saw their gurns and realised I was passing them. I decided to use them as my pace guide. Lots passing me, try and speed up, no-one passing me, try and hold that pace. And that’s what I did. Then mile 20 arrived.

A brutal hill. Very steep. I saw a couple of girls walking and crying. I saw another runner pull up with cramp. 200ft of climbing altogether at a crucial point of the race. I passed a man at the top lying on the road attached to an ECG monitor, 2-3 paramedics around him. A man with his arm around his friend supporting him up the hill. It was hard to keep my focus. What made it worse was the sharp dip after. My quads and calves were on fire. Moral going. I needed to give my head a wobble. I picked a spot in the distance and ran towards it.

Soon I was running another sharp uphill on around 23 miles. Many people were walking at this point, so I kept my head down, arms pumping and feet moving. “Do not walk!” was my new mantra. I probably would have been quicker walking but it was about pride. About not stopping. About finishing and not having regrets. About the fact I’d set out to run a marathon and I was going to do just that. I saw 2 more runners crying, others saying that they couldn’t make it. I just kept moving, blanking everything around me. I dug deep.

Miles 24(ish) to 25 were downhill. A relief but hard work at the same time. I was now in the centre of Bath. The support was immense. Crowds lining both sides to cheer everyone home. I lifted and felt better. The last half mile or so is uphill and hard work but I just kept going. Look ahead, catch the person in front, pass them. Repeat. That’s all I kept doing. Some I never caught but I gave it a good go. I turned a corner 400m or so from home. I saw another man unconscious attached to an ECG. So close to the end. Keep moving. Look ahead, catch the person in front, pass them. Repeat. It’s all I could do.

I turned into the park, I could hear the finish line announcer. Another uphill. Just 5-10m incline in 100m or so but so close to the finish was cruel. I saw Mel and Imogen and knew I was nearly finished. Soon I was up and could see the finish. It seemed miles away. It wasn’t, I was being soft, it was 100m. “Sort it out Gaz!” I said aloud and had a reply, “Yeah mate, we made it!” Instinct took over, I kicked. “BEAT HIM!!!!” I did. I had finished and run the whole route (just about although if there were any officials on the route would have debated it at times). 4hrs 3mins and 30 seconds. 1615th place out of 4205 runners. I’ll take that. My proudest stat. In the 2nd half of the run when it had got tougher, I made up over 300 places.

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My time, not great, but I never do well on Marathons. But a race I’m glad I did. The fire is back and burning bright. 2016, I’m hoping to put my marathon ghosts to bed. In fact, I’ll send them to the B+B we stayed in.

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