Unbelievable day, atmosphere that words can’t explain, pain like I’ve never felt before but ask me if I’d do it again… in an instant – not just yet though as I’m still struggling with stairs!!
Waiting at the start line, well about 10’000 people back from the start line I was very calm and relaxed, confident and ready to enjoy the day. I heard the faint sound of the hooter in the distance followed by a huge roar from all the runners coming towards me like a wave as it passed and faded into the backdrop of thousands of other runners. I was impressed and almost speed walking to the start line and after 5 minutes I was there and my race had started, again followed by a huge roar as you crossed the start line.
Space was limited with runners competing for positions until with not even half a mile in we all came to a complete standstill with one guy in front of me saying “well, that’s my PB chance gone”. We got going again followed by the traditional roar but it was very slow going up to the 3 mile marker where thousands of other runners merged in from the Red zone starting point which didn’t help congestion but was great banter as it was like scenes from a Liverpool Derby match with booing and chanting but obviously all in gest plus I was in Blue zone so knew I’d come out on top!
The atmosphere while running is sensational, you have little kids holding out their hands for high fives, people shouting out your name reading it from your vest, bands playing, brass bands, choirs, drums, DJ’s, a random guy stood on a chair ringing a bell all willing you along and this start’s at mile one and doesn’t stop till the end, it just gets louder. At mile 2 a random house had Eye of the tiger blasting out and around mile 6 there were a steel drum group under the flyover, I could have done with these guys all the way around as the sound drove you along.
My race plan was going well through the halfway point, a little slower than I wanted but considering mile 1 took me over 12 minutes I was happy with around 1 hour 55 knowing I then had 2 hours the complete the 2nd half for a sub 4. By this time the sun was out and it was getting hotter and hotter which I’m just not used to after all my training took place over winter, it was hard to adjust and by mile 16 I was beginning to feel the effects. My pace dropped slightly and I didn’t feel as comfortable as I have done on training runs of that distance, the heat was certainly getting to me despite taking on far more lucozade and water than ever planned.
I got to mile 19 and received a huge lift when slowing down to collect another water bottle I heard the biggest “Go Andy” of the day from my father in-law stood on a raised bit on grass behind the water station, I gave a wave and poured half the bottle over my head. It was over in a flash and I only really saw my father in-law but knowing that my wife Claire and little girl Isabella along with my mum and mother in-law all saw me it was a massive boost and just what I needed as I battled to keep my pace up.
The dreaded 20 mile marker was in sight but I had the mental approach prepared and told myself it’s only 6 miles to go, just like a run home from work I’d done so many times in training. I looked at my GPS watch and I had just short of an hour to do it to break 4 hours. I didn’t need to push it, just maintain a steady pace and keep focused. The crowds where getting bigger and louder and I could hear them shouting my name over and over, I felt like a star. I went under the mile 21 marker and was hurting but only 5 more miles, “come on” I said to myself as I gritted my teeth spitting out a combination of salty sweat and water I’d tipped all over me.
Then it happened, out of nowhere my left leg cramped up, instantly holding the back of my leg I’d pulled up. At the side of the road I had to stop the stretch and relieve the spasm. I’d never felt anything like it, I’d had cramp before in my foot but nothing while running or cycling and this was much worse. I managed to walk and then jog until I was able to pick up the pace again and got to 22 miles when bam! The right leg went, cramped up just like the left. So I had to stop again at the side of the road and stretch it out where a very kind gentleman said to me in a genuine soft voice “Come on Andy, you can do this” and a little lad ran over with a bowl of jelly babies which a grabbed a handful. I walked on slowly mustering up to a jog, every few hundred meters I could feel the cramp returning so I had to walk until the feeling passed and I could start jogging again.
I was devastated that a Sub 4 was well and truly over but I soon had to snap out of it as this had now become a race that I simply just had to finish. There were people falling like flies in the last 2 miles and many runners walking and pulling over to stretch, I certainly wasn’t alone.
I went under 25 miles and the crowd was immense, all the charities had their own section and where cheering everyone home not just their own runners, I was controlling the cramp well at this point and determined to keep running even at the slow pace I think you could still class it as running! The next thing I saw was the 600 meters to go sign, there was no way I could pull up now plus there was a chance it could be on TV. I jogged home with people zooming past me for a sprint finish but I didn’t care, I’d finally made it.
I hobbled my way to the family meeting place with my head down, in pain and gutted about my time but to be greeted by Claire saying how proud she was of me and a huge smile from Isabella picked me up and after a few minutes it finally sank in that I’d just ran 26.2 miles raising over £1000 for Help for Heroes and I should be proud of that and after hearing some stories of people not making it round it just goes to show how hard a Marathon is and I now have a lot more respect for the distance and the faster runners out there.
It’s only made me stronger and can’t wait for Liverpool Marathon in October!!
26.57miles in 4:23:45 Avg pace 9:55 Avg HR 163bpm