Can you wing a marathon?

Berlin Marathon by Katie Green

It’s safe to say that me and marathons don’t have the best of relationships. I have just completed my third one and for all three of them I had every intention of getting the training in and doing myself and the club proud, yet for all three something has gone tits up in the run up and messed up the training! This time round was a combination of trying to get the time to do the long runs and having the god awful luck of waking up the day after a physio session and sports massage to find the nerve in my knee was trapped making it nearly impossible to walk as I couldn’t bear weight on my leg. It’s hard enough trying to work full-time time and train as most of us know but when you add in two kids and a husband who works nights its takes stupid amounts of planning to try to get training in for either of us. One day I’ll actually get to a marathon start line and feel confident because the training is there and I know I’ll get round because it’s beyond frustrating when you feel like you keep failing at something that you should be capable of doing better.

I can easily say that out of the three marathons I’ve dragged my ass round so far Berlin has been the best one. The expo was the most random one we’ve been too and they definitely have the strictest protocols on place to make sure there’s no cheating or number swapping. To get into the athletes are you have to present a QR code marathon pass that you get emailed along with a valid form of id, you then have a wristband heat sealed onto you, so there’s no way you’re getting it off without scissors, and then you’re allowed to go get your race number where you need to show another guy your race pass and id. It’s a bit off a ball ache but it does work and keeps things fair! If you go around the city on the Saturday you can watch the first day of the marathon which is a bit nuts and its people doing it on roller blades, these are serious athletes in speed suits with thighs that could kill you, they make it look effortless but I think I’d die on wheels about 5 miles in. It was when we came across the finish village watching this that it all hit home to me what I was attempting to do the day after and I came very close to breaking down, who doesn’t love crying in front of a couple of thousand Germans and tourists :/

Chris is the only reason I made it round this marathon, one because he’s a stubborn muppet who was adamant he was getting me round and two because he gave up his fast race to get me over the finish because he saw how much I was freaking out before we’d even got to race day morning and I can’t thank him enough for that. The night before race day was methodical checking of kit and race belts and obsessively checking the weather reports to see if the temperature was due to cool down any and to keep things fun of course it didn’t. He did his best to calm me down but a broken night’s sleep led to a stupidly early start to the day on Sunday as there was no way I was getting back to sleep. Races away from home can always be tricky, especially when in another country, as you can struggle to do your normal race morning routine but having an apartment made it a lot easier than London or Amsterdam as we had bought stuff in for breakfast so I would be able to eat properly. I am an odd runner as I can’t go out unless I’ve eaten properly, cereal, toast, fruit and a nature valley bar before the race meant I was feeling pretty good for a change. We set off from the apartment towards the race start which was only a mile walk away finding plenty of other runners along the way, I think we got 5 minutes away from the apartment before the first person stopped Chris to ask for a picture ha ha, this continued on through the whole of the race!

This is definitely one of the best starts to a race I have experienced! Who doesn’t love a warm up to some euro trance with a few thousand excited people, they get you really excited and in a good mood to race (even if it’s already 10am and getting warmer by the minute with no clouds in site). We set off at a pretty steady pace though it was a bit cramped for the first 3 miles with lots of weaving around those at a slower pace. Our first experience of the water station points was a little bit of a shock too. They are big on reducing waste so they promote the use of reusable cups or your own bottles but the station was just carnage with plastic cups everywhere and trying not to get elbowed out the way or go flying on a discarded cup! Chris was taking control of the pace as I’d already said I trusted him to get me round so I didn’t have to focus too much on what my watch was saying and I could just feel the pace and decide if it was comfortable or if I needed to slow down a bit. The support during the course was pretty consistent and really gave a boost, there were people cheering everywhere, bands dotted about the course and of course kids ready and waiting to give high 5’s (Chris was definitely targeted by the kids more than the other runners), one of the best atmospheres I’ve experienced at a race so far except for maybe iron-man.

We were pretty steady on pace up till mile 14 even including a pee break, though my hamstrings on my right leg had been tight since the start of the race and they just weren’t letting up. About mile 15 the tightness had managed to creep up into my glute and spread round to my quad and the pace started to drop. Chris was trying his best to coach me through the pain but stopping to stretch off just wasn’t making a dent in it so I ended up taking advantage of the on course massage though it would only help for about 3 miles. After that everything just fell apart for me really, I was hot, queasy and dizzy and my muscles were screaming at me. Being stupid and stop starting meant that they were seizing up and making the pain even worse. I felt so crap and knew that my actions were causing Chris’s legs to start seizing up too which was just making me feel worse. I had tried to make sure I had kept well hydrated and I took my salt sticks with me as these are amazing at keeping away muscle cramp but if you don’t do decent training for a marathon it will all fall apart at some point. I’d had to walk as I felt that bad even with Chris jogging backwards to wind me up and distract me I just couldn’t bring myself to get back into a stride. I stopped again at another massage point hoping to get some life back in my legs.

I spent the last 10k of the race desperately trying to run/shuffle/ hobble anything that wasn’t walking and it took everything I had to keep going but I still felt like I had failed as I caved in yet again and had to walk. We were so close to getting me a pb but I just let myself down in the end, I came so close to crying out of frustration and exhaustion but managed to sort of hold it together thanks to Chris just hugging me and keeping his arm around me while walking. There are points during a race where you usually see a loved one or family and those happy tears just force their way out, you can’t stop it it’s like sheer relief at seeing them and you usually look like a complete tit but its going to happen and in those last two miles it happened for me. Walking hand in hand with my husband who had tried his best to get me round a marathon I was petrified of, him trying his best to cheer me up and convince me I hadn’t failed or let him down after he gave up his chance at a good time to help me and I just couldn’t help it. Its points like this, especially if you’re a couple who both run and don’t usually run together because one of you is a bit crap and the others a speedy bugger, that you realise how much they really do love and support you. As we rounded the last corner and could see Brandenburg Gate I decided I had to have that one last push as I had never walked over a finish line yet and I wasn’t starting then, it was slow and hurt like hell but it was just so nice coming up to the finish line with Chris holding my hand making sure we finished together. I’m looking forward to seeing the race pictures when they finally come through as it will either look really sweet and romantic or really stupid with us holding hands during a marathon, no matter what though I finished the damn thing.

I can safely say I still feel like I let myself down massively with this race but my mentality is getting better, I had originally set out with the intention of not having a pb as my main goal ( it would be awesome if it happened but not the most important thing). The main thing I wanted was to get through a marathon and not have my knee give out on me or for it to go tits up. Well, it did go a bit tits up as I just fall apart in the heat and my poor training led to my muscles rebelling against me but at least my knee held up!! The physio exercises are definitely helping and I have one more marathon left to go next year at Manchester and god help me I will get round it, and train properly even if I have to give the sandbaggers permission to bully the crap out of me into going out for the long runs!

 

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Laura’s first Ultra…

My First 50 mile Ultra Marathon

GB Ultras Pennine Barrier 50 mile Ultra Trail Marathon

15 hours 9 minutes

About 2 years ago I met this bloke at my running club who was training for a 200 mile ultra marathon from Southport to Hornsea. As I ran with him I asked a couple of questions about how that worked…….when do you eat?…..when do you sleep?………what if you get lost?…… Anyway I ran for a while listening to him go on and on about ultra running, as I left that evening on my car ride home I couldn’t help but think ‘crazy idiot, who runs that kind of distance, I’ll never run further than a half marathon’. A year later and a half later I ended up engaged to the crazy idiot and embarking on my first 50 mile ultra marathon.

We’d talk all the time about various ultras and I crewed Ian a little bit at his second 200 mile Ultra. Seeing the grit and determination of these runners as they push their body to the extreme to see just how far they could go was a truly inspiring experience. There were absolute machines that completed it in 47 hours……….are they even human? To the back of the pack that wanted to see just how much their body could take……..I will never ever forget Julie Valentine’s sprint finish…….sprint finish! At the end of 200 miles!! And 100 hours!!!! SPRINT FINISH! To the DNF’s of people that had given their all but could no longer continue, which was heartbreaking to see just how devastated they were………the fact they’d actually done 140 odd miles is just astounding anyway.
It really got me thinking, if these people can do 200 miles I could surely give a 50 mile a go. I decided since I love the mountains and hiking I’d rather do a nice picturesque ultra with the odd ‘hill’ and before I knew it Ian had signed me up for Pennine Barrier – that was a surprise email, let me tell you! Now bear in mind this was 7 months before the race and I’d not yet run a marathon. So that was first on the agenda, you need to have completed a marathon to compete in a GB Ultras event…….. So training began for Manchester marathon in April. With Manchester completed next was to focus on Pennine Barrier.

I joined on the recce run the week after Manchester – this was planned to be 13 miles (ish) on the Saturday and 26 miles (ish) on the Sunday. My thought process was that if I could do this weekends recce the week after completing my first marathon, then I’d feel like I could at least attempt Pennine Barrier.
The recce was fantastic – led by Emma Marks and Matt Rushbrook – 2 of the GB Ultras ambassadors, they were there to offer help and support along the way – not just about the route but also about kit and other bits of training that would help with the actual race.
I should also mention it was made super special because on the first day of the recce Ian proposed to me at the top of Malham Cove, which now gave the race a really extra special feel.

As race day approached I was rather surprised that the feelings I was getting were that of excitement rather than actual nerves. I was quite happy for that though!

We travelled to Malham on the Friday night to register for the race and it was at this point the nerves kicked in, pretty much as soon as I saw the gantry in the showfield. At this point I was really glad I’d volunteered at previous events and made friends with quite a few of the GB ultras family, as they assured me all would be fine and I’d smash it and Ian would look after me. We collected our numbers – Ian got his usual number 15 (yes he’s a regular) and I was issued 115, a very nice touch from the RD’s.

I had a surprisingly good sleep the night before the race and after registration a bit of the excitement came back. Race morning prep went without a hitch (I even made the brews in the hotel!) and we were at the start line ready to go. Chatting to others at the start and it became clear I wasn’t the only one taking on my first ultra today – glad to see I’m not alone for picking an extremely hilly course for my first one!
Before I knew it we were off, the first part of the course will forever be my favourite for reasons I mentioned above, and off up Malham Cove we went!

We kept a nice steady pace and it was great to see the runners leading the pack on the out and back section at mile 3 – so glad this was at the start and not the end. And say hi to friends on the course.

Malham tarn was lovely and quiet and just like a Harry Potter set. Then came the first climb up fountains fell, as we slowed a little we were over taken by a couple of runners……but never mind this was a (ultra) marathon not a sprint. And the slower pace at this point really help the steady pace maintained towards the end of the race. The run down the other side of fountain fell was just what I needed, it relaxed me into the race a bit……and I could see the first checkpoint. I’d managed the first 11 miles!

Now I’d been looking forward to the first checkpoint after Nicola Bruce had advertised all over Facebook that her famous spanakopita would be there. Imagine my disappointment to find it had all been eaten!! Only kidding Nic, there was plenty of other goodies to keep me going.

A mile after checkpoint one we finally arrived at the base of our first peak pen-y-Ghent. A nice easy one to break us in. We were soon up and over. It was on the way down from pen-y-gent that I started to notice just how many people were doing the three peaks that day, the majority of them completely oblivious that anyone else was on the trail.

I wasn’t looking forward to the next bit, the trail from pen-y-gent to ribble head viaduct, I’d done it on the recce and thought it a little bit dull compared to the mountains, it went by quite quickly however and we soon approached the second checkpoint.

A quick bit to eat and water top up and we were on our way again. Whernside was next and is by far my least favourite of the climbs, it just goes on, and on, and on. By now there were hundreds of people on their own 3 peaks challenge and the biggest challenge I found was getting past people, we got stuck behind one family and before I knew it there were about 50 walkers also stuck behind them. After what felt like an eternity we finally made it to the top! The descent went a lot quicker and I picked up my pace knowing we were nearing a proper toilet and an ice cream shop! We had about a fifteen minute break at the shop but I didn’t want to sit down for fear of not getting back up again. We were just over half way with our last climb looming in the distance – Ingleborough.

We had a quick stop at checkpoint three then headed to our final (ish) climb. Most people I speak to really hate the Ingleborough climb but for me it’s my favourite. It was my third time up this peak but the first time I’d actually have a view at the top so I was quite excited. There’s a long staircase to climb before getting to the base of the actual climb, and once we’d past this bit it was nice to see Race Director Wayne there checking on how everyone was doing and to take some pics of course!

On to my favourite bit – the scramble up Ingleborough. It’s a steep fast climb and you make it to the top way quicker than Whernside. Unfortunately the descent isn’t so fast and it feels like an eternity before you get to the signpost that tells you it’s still 2 miles to Horton-in-ribblesdale and our next checkpoint. Well I’m pretty certain whoever calculated that distance was completely wrong! The 2 miles were never ending and I was starting to get hungry (and hangry) and needed the toilet, I really hated these 2 miles. As we headed into Horton-in-ribblesdale I nearly missed the check point as I was so focused on getting to the toilet, thank goodness for the lovely lady who yelled me back. At this checkpoint I had a real good moan about how long the last 2 miles had been and how much my legs were starting to hurt. We took the opportunity here to roll our legs out a bit with the roller Ian had brought along, and I moaned some more. Those poor volunteers just had to listen to me moan, and they were so lovely about it.

We headed off again and stopped at the toilet just up the road. I don’t really know what happened in there but I came out fully refreshed and ready to tackle the last 15 miles. Jelly beans in hand onward we went. Back up, yes up, pen-y-gent………..well half way up to go back down the other side to checkpoint 5, the last one! The climb is really steep, steeper than I remembered but it wasn’t too bad knowing the checkpoint was just on the other side. Checkpoint 5 reached and I’ve never been so happy to see fresh oranges, I ate lots. Then back on our way for one final climb back up fountains fell.

The whole way round this race all I’d done is comment about how I couldn’t believe people were going to do the 100 mile race, they would get to the end of the 50 miles, turn round and go and do it all again. I am in absolute awe of anyone who attempted this, let alone finished……… This leads me onto a conversation we had on the way up fountains fell. There were four of us in a little group and I asked the question – if you got to the end and someone said they’d give you a million pounds to carry on and do the 100 would you do it? There were some very strong words spoken and a definite no was the answer for 3 of us, after thinking about it Ian decided he would do it again………..as I’ve already mentioned he is a crazy idiot.

We made it up fountains fell and with relief were happy it was all down hill from here on! With about 8 miles to go to the finish we saw the first 100 mile competitor coming towards us……..they’d finished the 50 and were 8 miles back into the 100! And we’d still not finished 50!!! In all I think about ten people passed us on the way back out, seeing them have the energy and determination really spurred me on to the finish. About a mile and half from the finish we saw Shelton who had attempted the 100 but decided to turn back and he ran the last part of the race with us. No offence to Ian, I love him to bits but it was nice to have some different company for a bit. We passed Janet’s foss and had a quick photo, it’s just so beautiful, then onto the finish only a mile away. In the last couple of miles we’d overtaken a few runners, but some were starting to catch us back up again, I was determined they were not going to overtake us.

As we came out of the wooded area you could see the finish, I was slightly ahead of Ian and Shelton and all of a sudden I realised I was actually going to do it, I was going to complete 50 miles. Well that was it, I started to have an emotional moment and this continued for the last half a mile to the finish. I was so proud of myself, and not at any point did I want to push Ian off a mountain, though I think at times he probably thought about pushing me off one. It was the best feeling ever to finish and to see friends at the finish line too was amazing. We finished in 15 hours and 9 minutes, collected our medals and tee shirts then headed to the marquee for tea and soup……….possibly the best soup I’ve ever tasted.

 

Pennine barrier was definitely a challenge for my first ultra marathon but it’s a beautiful route and superbly organised by GB Ultras, I got to run it with my favourite person in the world and share the experience with friends along the way. It’s safe to say I’ll be back to do it again next year without a doubt………………. Did I mention – I’m an Ultra Runner Now!!!

 

 

 

Northern nutters!

Northern Athletics Cross Country Championships over the years have delivered some very trying days out. Slushy icy snow, heavy mud, hail stones have been just a few of the interesting conditions “Mother Nature” has thrown at us!

Did this cause our four Harriers any delay in signing up? Hell no! They were on it “like a tramp on a kipper”!

The setting was in the parkland grounds of Harewood House just north of Leeds. A quick google on the morning of the race confirmed the venue as being rather posh with a very large open parkland estate.

After a decent journey the four Harriers managed a rendezvous in the car park. No mean feat as a thousand cars, trees and plenty of grass don’t lend themselves to be very good indicators of where you are! It was also useful that although we were in the middle of nowhere there was actually a mobile signal!

We then attempted to work out what the course was like. This proved to be a tough ask as the course for the men was two laps of 6k each, rather long for a warm up. We contented ourselves with just getting a flavour of it and figuring out the start and finish areas.

In essence the course was rough open grassland with a few swampy areas. As usual the more heavily trafficked areas had cut up a little. It twisted and turned over a vast area of the estate managing to take in plenty of climbs. It certainly seemed like it was going to be breezy in the exposed areas (the whole course!!)

We watched the start of the ladies race. The photos don’t do justice to either the spectacle of hundreds of ladies charging across a field or the toughness of an UPHILL start!

After not really enough time for a decent warm up it was game on for the Senior Men’s Race 12k, 2 laps. 😁

Newcomer to the fold was Rick Rose-Coulthard. Rather impressively wasting no time in getting involved and representing the club at Cross Country. Rick was joined by three Cross Country stalwarts…Mark Morgan-Hillam, Kevin Edwards and Mike Harris. It promised to be an interesting battle, Kev and Mike certainly felt like they were lacking a surname in the fight!

Mike nearly missed the start after undergoing an emergency last minute dash to the portaloos! At least a few fast strides were managed as warm up getting back to the start line!

The men do the full course which is the outer perimeter of these pretty coloured loops.

Rick shot off at the start and took an immediate lead among the Harriers. The  course was fantastic but tough going in places. There was some mud, spongy grass, breezy exposed areas and hard climbs. It was however constantly changing in character which kept things interesting. Rick maintained a decent lead throughout the first lap, hundreds of runners means it’s often hard to see your clubmates out on the course. Lap two really closed things up. Mark was creeping up on Mike with Mike in turn closing in on Rick. With a couple of miles to go it was really hard to call how the Harriers order would pan out. Meanwhile Kevin was having a fantastic run picking his way through the field.

With about a mile to go Mike got in front of Rick and by the time of the switchback hill climb it was easy for the three Harriers to see each other! Mike  was desperate to avoid any “sprint finish shenanigans” against younger legs ran hard downhill. Mark ” Week long taper” Hillam-Morgan finished strongly to bag third spot with Kevin nowhere near where he feared he might be – “The back” Those dozens of Haigh parkruns meant Kev was strong for those cheeky climbs!

Out of 761 finishers our guys were…

336rd Mike Harris 52:08

345th Rick Rose-Coulthard 52:25

362nd Mark Morgan-Hillam 52:44

660th Kevin Edwards 1:03:58

As you can tell from the after race photo we were well pleased with ourselves. A tough 12k but satisfying nevertheless. The event was a trial run for holding the National Cross Country Championships in 2019. It was definitely a thumbs up from Wigan Harriers and we should definitely make sure we enter teams next year! A great day out was then rounded off with the Harriers party night! Happy days! 🍺🍷🎟🎉

 

Sam sounds his klaxon!

Central Lancs Half Marathon: 07/01/2018

“If you’re not going to race it properly then why bother? “: Chris Green – Wigan Harrier and Ironman.

Three weeks into the Don Fink Ironman training plan I found myself looking at a Sunday entry for a 1.5 hours run in Zone 2. I had tried to stick to the plan 100% however earlier last year a notification flashed up on my phone from the local “Don’t be Shit” Ironman WhatsApp group:

“Anybody up for the Central Lancs New Year Half Marathon Sunday 7th Jan? Good way to burn the puddings off. Cheap friendly race”.

Being that it was 10pm on a Saturday night, my decision was lubricated by a particularly fine bottle of Rioja and I responded immediately to say I had signed up.

Flash forward to Saturday the 6th of January and I found myself cursing that bottle of Rioja. Training had been going to plan and despite the sudden increase in activities I was feeling in good shape, aching shoulder from swimming notwithstanding. Did I really want to go and run a Half when I had recently been shackled to a conservative 60 mins at a steady plod? Having agreed to enter with my fellow Talk Shit members, and paid my fee, pulling out wasn’t really an option. Well it was an option, but so is dropping your pants in Market Place at 8am while drinking a can of Special Brew and neither would do my reputation any good. With this in mind I planned to tackle it as a training run all be it around 2 hours in length rather than the prescribed 1.5 hours from Dr Fink. Later that evening as I yet again cursed another bottle of Rioja, (this time as I couldn’t drink it due to the following morning’s race) I consulted Twitter of its opinion in regards to pushing for a PB on a race or taking it steady for training purposes. The overwhelming consensus was to go for it: “If you’re not going to race, then why pay, idiot”, “I’d go for it if I was you”, and “FAKE NEWS, stop talking Brexit down” were the general responses. With my mind set straight by the Twitterati I made off for bed.

I awoke on Sunday morning feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep (It’s not you it’s me Rioja….), got myself dressed and was promptly picked up by my fellow Musketeers as we fired off toward Central Lancashire. The journey was straight forward enough although coming off the motorway and heading into Preston it was evident that the roads were still pretty icy. We arrived at the car park and trotted towards the Race registration desk at the small village hall. Picking up our numbers there was a noticeably smaller field and it was later announced by the organisers that about 25% of the entrants had failed to turn up. It was humbling not to be part of that statistic. Paul Fisher (one of the Talk Shit members) and I joined the short queue for the Porta Loos while the other two lads Andy and Buckley headed back to the car. I took the opportunity to pick Paul’s brains about his successful Ironman in 2017 and most of the conversation revolved around toilets. How many times did you stop to go during the event? Did you need a poo? What happens to your bike when you use the facilities? Did you see anyone just “Let it go?” (peeing while cycling). The toilet queue moved pretty quickly possibly helped by a few folk leaving the line in disgust at my questions, and Paul and I were soon heading back to the car to meet up with the others and get ready for the start.

After negotiating the frozen puddles in the car park we stripped off our warm layers and exposed ourselves to the cold. As the only one wearing tights, I was the wimpy D’Artagnan to my three short wearing Musketeers although we all opted for long sleeve tops, me with my vest on top as it wasn’t a cross country so I guessed that would be acceptable. We set off for a brief warm up and ran just under a mile along the course till we reached a natural rise with a hedge along the side. Here we decided to take a quick toilet stop behind the sparse hedge before lining up to start. I wasn’t concerned that any of the passing cars would spot me at the side of the road. It’s not like I had a big sign with my name on pinned to the front of my clothes.

Taking our place on the start line we received a short safety briefing and I moved myself further down the line leaving the other guys up front ready to chase down the leaders. The race director radioed in for the final approval and we were off.
I’d set my watch to a Distance and Time target, 13.1 miles and 1 hour fifty minutes. My PB at the half was 1 hour and 51 mins however I thought if I set it to under then at least I had a buffer if I started to flag. A chorus of Garmin beeps indicated the first mile was up but the mile marker was notable in its absence. As we headed out of Lea Town and along station road we powered up the slight incline over the Railway Station bridge:
“The Runner now arriving at Mile one is the Central Lancs New Year Half Marathon entrant. Calling at miles 1 to 13.1. Athletes are advised the mile marker is currently running approximately 0.1 of a mile over schedule. ”A quick chat with a couple of runners from Knowsley Harriers confirmed it wasn’t just me and we were all showing the course as long. As we approached the next mile marker we nodded in acknowledgment as again the Garmins chimed their collective song a good way before marker number 2.

Miles 2 to 4 wound their way around some lovely quiet country roads which despite not being closed to vehicles remained pretty much traffic free. I tried my best to find a line that was clear of ice but found the only option was to shorten my stride and take it easy. The frost bitten hedges of Lancashire cast a long winter shadow on the icy tarmac roads and hindered the suns ability to melt their glistening surfaces.
Heading through Catforth I came to the first water station where bottled water with the caps removed provided welcome relief. Despite the cold weather, I was heating up fast and had to remove my gloves and roll up my sleeves. I began to curse my wimpy constitution and the amount of clothing I had donned at the start. The field of runners had started to spread out by this point and there was moment of blissful solitude in the early January sun. Around mile six I checked my watch to find I was still holding a steady 8 min mile. Feeling strong I caught up with Buckley and we chatted for a while as we ran. Buckley told me to push on if I felt up to it so I stretched out and headed off down the long and perfectly straight Inskip Road. Taking a couple of runners I heard a bike behind me making a strange buzzing noise like it was struggling to break. I turned round to find no sign of said bike. In fact there was nothing behind me at all? The next runner was about 20 meters behind and there was nothing else on the road. Half a mile later the sound returned. This time I turned to find a drone flying about 2 meters behind me. Like a startled bird it twitched, shot off vertically into the sky and headed off to the east. I was brought back to the moment by my Garmin, doing it’s thing, Mile 8, now where’s the damn marker?

Crossing the motorway for the second time I was back on the right side of the M6 to finish. The bridge was quite icy at this point and navigating the downward slope required care. Large puddles had pooled at the bottom and frozen solid. Over the course of the morning the ice had been broken by passing vehicles leaving frozen fractals all around. Mile 10 approached and it was time to test my limits and break through. Quick pace check, on target, the cold had never bothered me anyway…. (Turns Disney CD off…)

Miles 10 and 11 passed uneventfully as I motored home passing a few runners who had obviously run out of steam. My fuelling strategy had been pre-emptive taking gels at 30, 60 and 120 minutes. A little too early you may think but I had tried something new and it seemed to be paying off.

Rounding the corner we closed the loop and spurred off back down Station Road towards Lea Town and the finish. Checking my watch I knew a PB was in the bag even if I walked from this point. Fatal mistake. Suddenly my mind switch from “you can do this”, to “you’ve done this, relax man, chill, take it easssyyyy” To counter I did some quick calculations. Yes I had a PB, but by how much, could I go 1:45? It seemed possible but then anything seems possible maths wise at the end of a race, blowing, hungry, struggling to calculate beyond the 2 times table.

Rounding the final corner my watch buzzed, “Goal complete: 13.1 miles 1:45:38” but the finish was nowhere to be seen. Andy and Paul who had both finished well under 1:45 cheered me on as I turned and saw the line of cones that indicated the finish. I burst into a sprint taking one, then two runners. All that remained in front of me was one guy in a bright yellow t-shirt. He seemed to be pulling away but I dropped my head, pumped my arms and chased him down. With each stride I got closer, channelling Dave Collins: “Reel him in!!” I got within a foot or two when I was grabbed by a race official, “Whoa, whoa, you’ve missed the finish mate it’s here!” as he pushed me to the right. Turns out Mr Yellow t-shirt wasn’t even in the race. He was simply out for his Sunday run! 😂

Jumping over the tape between the cones I stumbled over the finish line. Not since the Bahamas Shaunae Miller dived over the finish line to take Gold in the 400 meter final at Rio had a victory been so scrappy. I stopped my watch. 1:46:50.

A new PB.​

To compound the hilarity of my finish I was then handed the largest medal I have even seen. This bad boy would make made an American Rapper proud (Ice Ice Baby!). Measuring in at approximately 20cm it would later be used as a plate for my post-race bacon butty, but at the end of the day:

“If you’re not going to make a proper medal then why bother?” –The bloke that makes medals (Probably).

Amsterdam Marathon by Katie Green

For most people, going to Amsterdam for a birthday weekend away would mean drinks, food and relaxing. That doesn’t happen when your stupid enough to marry a runner. Chris thought it would be a great idea to sign me up to Amsterdam marathon for my 30th birthday present and make it really memorable, he has a lot more faith in me than I do.

Bricking it would be a complete understatement of how nervous I was on race day morning. I had Chris being his annoyingly perky race day self bouncing around and telling me I’ll be fine and a mile and a half walk from the hotel to the start of the race to carry on freaking out. Turning up at an Olympic stadium surrounded by a couple of thousand people really doesn’t help settle your nerves, thank god for all the portaloos outside the stadium. We found Cath and Pete not long after we arrived then made our way into the stadium, still petrified at this point, I got a kiss and a hug off Chris then we went to our waiting areas and waited anxiously for it to all start. I had Cath and Pete trying to chill me out a bit saying it will be fine and I was trying to remind myself that I know I’m capable of at least 18 miles so even if I have to walk after that I should be able to do it.

The starting gun went and the elites set off, followed by the other stupidly fast idiots who can somehow run this thing in 3 hours. It only took ten minutes between the starting gun going off and our coral crossing the start line and then it got very real very fast. I knew I wanted to try and aim for 4 hours hours so all I had to for was 9 minute miles but that’s a lot easier to maintain when not surrounded by daft amounts of runners from around 110 countries. The first 3 miles were spent trying to avoid being tripped up by people cutting across without warning, some serious bottle necking on corners and not breaking an ankle running over tram lines. I had some wonderful man crack his elbow into my arm so hard my Garmin paused because it thought I fell but luckily I noticed and started it again (though may as well have not bothered as it rebelled later on). I was feeling pretty comfortable for a bit from mile 5, there were fewer runners trying to take me out and my legs felt pretty happy but I was very aware of how warm it was getting and how few clouds there were. I hate running when its hot, I avoid the sun at most costs even when just out and about and I have stupid running vest shaped sunburn now to back up why I hate running in heat. I was getting to the point where your trying to spot a portaloo or a bush just so you can pee before you get desperate and run the risk of wetting yourself, because no one really wants that to happen, and resources were few and far between. Luckily around mile 8 at the refueling station I saw my chance but this is where things started to go a bit tits up.

I managed to pee during a race and keep my dignity but my Garmin decided to go screw you. Looking at the screen and there was a lovely little black square covering the centre of the face and nothing was playing. It wouldn’t reset, turn off or even beep annoyingly at me, bollocks was the overwhelming train of thought. I knew I was going to have to run blind and try and use my best judgement as to what pace I was doing. I took a risk and started the Strava on my phone just so I could have a record of my run but I knew it would drain battery so may not last the distance. I had to rely on the race markers that were laid out but I always run in miles trying to gauge things in kilometres was a bit odd. I made sure I took my blocks at regular intervals and started having the banana at the rest stops. I managed to find some English runners after spotting them laughing at me calling a french runner a knob for nearly tripping me up and they were kind enough to let me know I was still on pace for 4 hours. My brain was starting to think this could happen but then my leg had other ideas.

Just after the half way point my usual issue cropped up, the right side of my hip and backside started to go tight and I knew this was going to go downhill fast. Arguing with myself I knew this was going to turn into a walk/ run race and I really didn’t want that to happen. We were starting on the longest out and back section of the course down the canal, very little shade and hot sun sun and soooo hard. I spent the next few miles alternating between slowing my pace, stopping to stretch, having to walk and arguing with my leg that it was a git who I wasn’t happy with. I told myself if I could get to 35k without dying I could finish this and at 32k I came very close to having a bit of a break down. I was walking again as my right thigh was just cramping up and all around my knee was spasming. I tried ringing Chris figuring he would have finished but his phone was still off so I just text him to let him know I was in a bad way. Hobbling along trying my best not to cry and having complete strangers cheer you on while passing runners patted me on the back for encouragement was very surreal. I was in a beautiful city on a gorgeous day and if I wasn’t in so much pain running a stupid marathon I would have been very happy but I just wanted to lie down on the floor and have someone bring me ice cream.

I managed to tell myself off enough to start shuffling again as I passed the 33k marker but I was very aware that this was the hardest 10k I would ever run, everything in me wanted to stop but as Chris likes to point out I’m a stubborn git and I had come too far to quit. It was a shuffle/ jog/ walk race from this point but I knew I had to do it, I couldn’t sit on the floor and cry in front of this many strangers it would definitely end up being filmed. I got past the Duracell bunny cheering us on with 5k to then I found another broken runner who helped get me to the end. A lovely girl called Kaitlin was talking to a dutch guy about how she had injured her hamstring around the 28k mark and had been told not to carry on but she had trained too hard not to finish. She was asking if this guy would run with her so I turned round and said i would get her to the finish. It was odd being as broken as I was and telling this girl I would get her round the last of a marathon seeing as I had never done one before. She was so grateful and we kept chatting to distract ourselves from the pain while counting down the markers. She kept apologizing for needing to walk as we reached Vondel park but I told her she was getting me round as much as I was getting her round. We were happily calling the other runners gits that had finished and were walking eating ice cream and we were both cursing our partners who were both capable of sub 3:30 marathons. She was so perky even in agony and she made that last bit bearable. We were both saying that it doesn’t matter if were not running were moving forward and that’s all that matters. I’ve never been do happy to have someone shout out that there’s only 800m left to go. I may have squealed at the sight of the stadium and I’m pretty sure that’s going to be the only picture of me during the race where I look happy. We both hobbled into the stadium and onto the running track with a feeling of pure relief that we could stop in just a few feet. We both got our asses over that finish line! I had Chris come straight over and give me a massive hug, and I held it together and didn’t cry, then me and my running buddy gave each other a hug and thanks for getting each other through it.

Everything from my hips down was in agony. I could barely walk and just wanted to lie down but I did it. Chris and Cath were telling me how proud they were and all I could do was be angry with myself. I knew I was capable of better and was just going over all the what if’s in my head. I’m still doing it now. I know when I stop feeling annoyed with myself I will probably be proud of myself but I think the leg pain and sunburn will have gone before that happens. The main positive I’m taking from this run is that I managed to cover the distance even though I wanted to give up and I managed to help another runner finish something she trained so hard for.

Well done Katie – apologies it took a couple of weeks to publish!

Wigan 10k by Chris Green

Wigan 10k…PB hunting.

I think I have finally learned. This was probably my best race ever. Pre race warm up with Warren and Karen then into the start pen after all the pics and the use of Sam’s bucket.

A long countdown from Jack and we were away I sat on Gaz Wane’s shoulder as watched some of the red and black army go of into the distance. Every race I set off too fast and every race I die. I should have learned this, really I should. Mile 1 was a little fast but it’s down hill so free speed, the 40 min pacers were running on effort I think and not on time. Mile 2 bang on what I wanted pace wise as I was going for sub 40 turning into stadium way still with Gary Jonathan and Kyle not far behind us slowly catching up to Paul Platt. Banter between me and jonathan and Kyle, basically me shouting at them we were on home turf, this is our training ground, come on pick it up.

Jonathan was on my shoulder as we left Gary heading down past the stadium past the water station, no gin needed for me Mark but kind offer. I caught Paul as we left the barriers and went past him I had Warren in my sights. We were right with the 40 min pacers from exiting the stadium this is my favourite part of the course getting shouts and shouting to the other runners coming the other way. As we exited the industrial estate a shout to Mel and Leanne.

Both me and Warren overtook Paul Bryers I was feeling good all the way up the hill to the park so I kicked on. I saw Jordan on the right turn he seemed to be struggling as I passed him more banter getting him tuck in behind me before Andy Mac sang me a song teenage kicks I was singing all through the park while looking over my shoulder and encouraging Jordan.

Round the corner of youth zone Stuart Fairclough next in line for abuse ” I’m catching you Stu I’m going to beat you”. That’s when I started to kick beat Stuart over the line by 1 second gun time 39:24 chip time 2 seconds quicker a 2 minute pb finally sub 40. Really happy Jordan and Jonathon also got under it as well. I managed to see the wife cross the line also with a PB too.

Mersey Tunnel 10k by Alex Roberts

The Mersey Tunnel 10k is a unique event as far as 10k races are concerned. Not only is it point-to-point race where you start in Liverpool and finish in New Brighton, but you run through the Kingsway Tunnel where one of the 2 tunnels is closed off to traffic which is the race’s major selling point. I did this race for the first time last year and really enjoyed it. After hesitating over whether to enter again due to a holiday not long prior to the event, I decided it was too good of a race to miss, so duly signed up for it once again.

I made my way to Blackstock Street on the outskirts of Liverpool City Centre where the race would start and dropped off my bag into one of the baggage buses that would drive ahead of us to New Brighton. In the days leading up to the race it was forecasted heavy rain, so although not ideal I figured I’d be dry for the first few miles at least whilst running through the tunnel. Alas, it turned out to be dry, so it’ll be interesting to see how long it stays that way.

Before I knew it, 9.30am came about and the race began. We snaked our way down the emergency access road, did a 180 degree turn at the bottom and into the Kingsway Tunnel. As we descended the tunnel, there was nothing more surreal than hearing the sounds of hundreds of runners pounding their feet on the ground instead of the roar of cars. The pounding was occasionally broken up by someone shouting “OGGY, OGGY, OGGY!” and everyone shouting “OI, OI, OI!” back.

At about 2km the tunnel flattened out as we reached the bottom. It was only flat for a short while before the uphill incline to the Wirral side began – all 1 mile of it! For those who know me from training will no doubt affirm, I actually enjoy some of the hill sessions we have at Haigh Hall in the summer months and Coppull Lane when the nights draw in, so it was time to put my enthusiasm and training into practice! Although the incline isn’t that steep, because it’s constant it can be tough to maintain the pace, as I found. What perhaps didn’t help was that it was warmer down in the tunnel than I remembered from last year. Nonetheless, I past the 3km mark, went round the bend and before I knew it I saw broad daylight in the distance. I pushed on and made it outside; however the hill running wasn’t done yet. I had to carry on up to the top and then another 180 degree turn before the toll booths up another emergency access ramp, onto Oakdale Road and flat land. Hooray!

After turning onto Oakdale Road, there was the most welcome sight of a water station. I grabbed the bottle and ran for a few hundred yards attempting to drink as much as possible before dropping it. I carried on past the 4km mark and onto Dock Road towards Seacombe. I was already drained after the tunnel section and the forecasted rain had failed to materialise which I had been banking on to cool me down. I ploughed on towards the 5km mark and turned onto the Promenade alongside the River Mersey by Seacombe Ferry Terminal which I would run along all the way to New Brighton.

I was half-expecting some sort of breeze to cool me down a bit in the absence of rain, but annoyingly this was behind me, so I ploughed on and reached The Ferry pub in Egremont where the second of 2 water stations was situated. I grabbed a bottle and raced past the 7km mark. The beauty of this race is that the route along the Promenade is that it’s mostly flat, but alas I was lacking in energy to take full advantage having used most of it in the Tunnel. The benches may have looked an appealing proposition, but I gave my head a wobble and reminded myself the “tough” bit was already out of the way, I had done these distances before and there wasn’t that much of the course left to run, so I ploughed on and past the 8km mark.

Soon enough I was entering New Brighton and I past the 9km mark – not far to go! I headed towards Fort Perch Rock, turned left to skirt the lake and saw a long straight stretch with the finish line just about visible in the background. I pushed myself a bit with the cheering crowds encouraging us for the final few hundred meters and before I knew it, I was crossing the finish line!

It was a tough race because of the mile long ascent up the Kingsway Tunnel and, in my case, it hadn’t helped that I had done no running for 2 weeks during September as I was on holiday in Spain. Nonetheless, I was satisfied with my time of 48:16 which was around 2 minutes quicker than my time from last year.

The Mersey Tunnel 10k is a unique race and it’s a good test of your abilities to maintain your pace up a constant incline and a flat route. I fully recommend it to anyone, particularly if you’re looking for a challenge or want to do something that’s a bit different from other 10k’s. It’s one of my favourite races on the calendar and I look forward to hopefully taking part again next year.

Wigan 10k by Alex Roberts

The next report on Wigan 10k comes from one of our newer members, Alex Roberts.

Having done various runs this year since joining the Wigan Harriers, it would have been rude not to enter the Wigan 10k given it was my home town race. Having acquired new PB’s earlier in the year, firstly at the Liverpool Spring 10k at Sefton Park in May and again 2 months later at the Southport 10k, I was sceptical about my chances of smashing it here considering the slightly hilly nature of the course, but in any case I was determined to do better than my time last year.

I watched the weather forecast which hinted it might be cloudy for the race with the threat of rain, so wondered whether we would get away with it. I arrived in Wigan over an hour before the race and made my way down towards the college for the team photo. Although I had done various runs since joining the Harriers and a regular at the training sessions, this was the first race as a newbie in 2017 that I felt part of the group and part of a team. Everyone was pumped up for the race and I felt the vibes that everyone was confident of a good race.

Shortly after the team photo was taken, it started to rain. It wasn’t torrential rain, but I was guaranteed a soaking as it was the fine stuff. Getting slowly drenched and having wished my friends and other Harriers well for the race, I made my way to the start area focused on the race ahead getting slowly cool and slowly wet, thinking “can we just get on with this please?”

Before I knew it, it turned 10am and the race began. The atmosphere at the start line and along the course from all the spectators and fellow runners was amazing and it certainly gave me a boost for the first couple of km’s as I ran into the rain along Park Road and Woodhouse Lane. As I turned onto Scot Lane, I really started to feel the rain now but ploughed on along Stadium Way and towards the DW Stadium where we had to do a loop via the back of the car park and Robin Park Arena. I’m not sure if it was the rain or running behind the East Stand car park having an air of familiarity to it given this was the venue of many of the training sessions I attended since joining the Harriers earlier this year or the fantastic steel drum band performing near the stadium, but at this point I was motoring and ploughed on towards the water station at the Arena and past the halfway point running back on to Stadium Way.

As I made my way through Martland Mill Industrial Estate, it started to speculate whether I could actually beat my PB after all as I had good pace and the rain was not deterring me, but instead of dwelling on what my Garmin was telling me and being distracted by doing the arithmetic in my head, I put those thoughts to the back of my mind and ploughed on through the rain. I made my way back onto Woodhouse Lane and powered through Beech Hill. As I approached Springfield and the 8km mark, I took another glance at the Garmin and I started to believe I was on course to beat my PB…providing of course I didn’t lose too much time on the hilly sections during the final 2km’s.

I carried on putting one foot in front of the other and ploughed up the hill past the Pagefield, underneath the railway and into Mesnes Park past the 9km mark. I’m not sure if it was intentional to route the final km up the hill through Mesnes Park, but I’m not complaining, so I rose to the challenge and tackled the hill where the crowds at the top were cheering us on despite the wet weather. Only ½ km to go with a nice downhill and flat section to go!

Now out of Mesnes Park and onto Mesnes Park Terrace, I went for it, turned onto Parson’s Walk and legged it towards the finish line that was now in sight. I crossed the line and leapt for joy with a fist pump when I stopped the Garmin and it flashed a time of 46:39 which was a new PB – BOOM! Although I was knackered, I couldn’t contain my delight at smashing my PB by over a minute despite talking myself down before the race. It also meant I had improved on my time from last year by almost 3 minutes. Maybe there is such a thing as home advantage!

All in all, despite getting drenched by the fine rain, I was very satisfied with my effort at this year’s Wigan 10k. When I first got into running 10k distances, I remember saying to myself over 2 years ago I’d be satisfied with completing my first race in just under 60mins. Having come a long way since then and seen the progress made this year, I’m now determined to kick on and have set myself a target of getting a sub-45min time soon.

Wigan 10k by Mel Wane

The next one in a series of Wigan 10k articles, thanks Mel for this.

At some point during my pregnancy I decided that I would need some motivation to get myself fit again once the baby arrived and entered the Wigan 10k; which is how I found myself in Wigan at 9am on a rainy Sunday morning in full Harriers kit with a 3 month old in a pram.

With only 12 weeks of training in the bag, I knew this year wasn’t going to be a PB year but I still had a very clear game plan. Team photo – feed the baby – last minute toilet stop – run and hope that the baby doesn’t poo / scream / be sick on herself – try to keep this going for 10k – shower and change – after party!

The early stages of the plan went well; Scarlet was fed and filled her nappy early, giving me plenty of time to sort her out before heading to the start line. With a few minutes to go, Scarlet fell asleep and we lined up at the back with fellow mummy/baby team Leanne and Lottie. I felt strangely nervous as we inched slowly towards the start line but once we were out on the course I forgot it all and just ran.

Leanne and I made the most of the early downhill section of the course weaving in and out of runners and catching the 75 minute marker about 20 minutes in. We (mainly the babies to be fair) were getting lots of support out on the course and I was enjoying the pace that we had settled into – not too slow but not so fast that it was a struggle. It was nice to be able to enjoy the atmosphere of the race for once!

As we made our way into the DW, the rest of the Hillam-Morgan Clan were waiting to give us a big cheer. I had a quick drink but soon realised that I just don’t have the co-ordination to drink, run and push a pram so decided to push on.

It wasn’t long before we got to the Martland Mill estate and what I knew was going to be the hardest part of the race – the long trek up to the park. The next couple of miles were tough but I was still running and, with every runner I passed on the way, I felt more and more confident.

I was feeling good when Mr W found me about 55 minutes in (he had run, collected his medal and been to say hello to Imogen before setting off backwards around the course to check that we were both ok). As we entered the park I was glad I had him with me, the path was narrower making it tricky to steer the pram around people without clipping their heels and, having a bit more puff left than me, he let people know when I was coming through.

Feeling bolstered by both the music and the crowds as we reached the pavilion in the park, I started to push towards the finish. Unfortunately, I forgot about the downhill to the fountain and, as gravity took over, it was all I could do to keep hold of the pram! Luckily the runners just ahead of me were able to clear a path for us and we made it safely towards the exit.

Once we were out of the park I knew it wasn’t far and just tried to hold on to the pace that I had built up. As I rounded the corner I put on a last burst speed and crossed the line in a time of 1:10:54. Scarlet woke up just in time to beat me across the line, but I can live with that!