WARNING! CONTAINS PICTURE OF A MASSIVE BLISTER! WARNING!
April 6th – The ‘Day Before Race Day’ Day
I met Rob and his wife Claire in the train station at 12pm to get the train to Blackpool, as we were staying overnight. Sarah had to work early the morning of the run, so she had to stay at home with the cat. I think she was glad really, to get the bed to herself for once.
At about 2pm we arrived in Blackpool (The Paris of the North) and got a taxi to the hotel.
We were staying at a place called Hawkes Hotel just off of the south Pier, and a ten minute walk from the start/finish of the marathon which was starting/ending at Blackpool’s Football Stadium.
Rob and Claire were staying for two nights but I was only booked in for one so that I could get home to Sarah after the run. If she had’ve been off, we’d've stayed two nights too but after seeing the room I didn’t really mind just one night.
Technically it was a Double Bedroom, because they’d fit a double bed in the room but left no room for much else. There was a bedside cabinet, a small desk and a single wardrobe with the TV on top, so when laying in bed the colour looked distorted because it was so high up and you watched it from underneath. The wardrobe faced sideways, because the door wouldn’t have been able to be opened if it was facing the room.
The cupboard/bathroom consisted of the toilet and VERY close in front of it, the shower.
Handily, the sink was next to the bed.
Nevermind though, it was only somewhere to sleep and get changed so it wasn’t a big deal. We’d've struggled with two of us there though, probably would’ve had to take it in turns being in the room.
A while later I met up with Rob and Claire downstairs and we went for a walk around lovely Blackpool.
I forgot how horrible it is.
Parents shouting at children, children crying because they want to eat/drink/play in the arcades, dogs barking at children, people running the hoopla/throwing games shouting for business, people trying to sell stuff, trying to get you into their club/pub/cafes, mental!
Anyway, we had a couple of non-alcoholic beers and then a McDonalds for tea. (Carb loading with bread and chips) then later I had some chips (carb loading) and then we went to the arcades where I won Sarah a teddy, then I had some more chips (carbs) and watched the sun go down. After that it was time for an early night, but The Mummy was on TV so I went to sleep about 10:30.
April 7th – Race Day
I slept quite well, but I think my bed was on a slant because when I rolled over it felt as though I was going to roll off. Almost bashed my head on the sink at one point. My alarm was set for 6:30 but I woke around 6:15 and laid in bed til it beeped at me.
I’d bought some porridge the day before, so put the kettle on to boil while I had a shower. I ate my porridge (carbs) laying on the bed (nowhere else to sit) and watched Cheers. It was the one where they all decide to grow beards.
At half seven I went down to the dining room to meet Rob and Claire for breakfast where I ate a slice of toast (carbs) and had which can only be described as the worst coffee I’ve ever tasted. There were a few oldies sat on the next table who said they were doing the half marathon and all of them looked shocked when me and Rob said we were doing the full. I think they were more shocked at the fact that two people looking like we do were attempting that distance.
After breakfast I went back to my cupboard and sorted out my race stuff. Laid everything out on the bed to make sure I wouldn’t forget anything, then once I was certain I got myself ready and went to meet up with Rob. I left my bag in his room because they were staying for another night and I had to check out.
We walked the ten minutes or so to the start of the race and (after a quick toilet stop) lined up with all the other runners. I saw someone that had a Mad Dog 10k top on and wished I’d worn mine, but decided to go for a Hi-Viz top so I’d be easier to see when I passed out in the gutter.
I drank a Red Bull before we started, and had a bottle of Mountain Dew energy drink to carry around the route. Also, I had an energy bar for half way and had a bag of Jelly Babies in my pocket.
It was due to start at 9:30 but we didn’t get underway until about 9:45, my stomach getting more and more knotted with each passing minute. A countdown started, then we were moving. A minute later I was passing the start mat of my first ever marathon!
A few days before I’d printed out a split-time list to stick on my wrist. I can’t remember the website, but you put in your distance and time you are hoping to finish, then it prints out a thin watch-width strip of paper with each mile split printed on it. I’d sellotaped one of these to my wrist that morning. My plan for the marathon was as follows:
Scenario 1. – Finish.
Scenario 2. – Finish in under 5 hours.
Scenario 3. – Finish in under 4 1/2 hours.
I’d printed the split times for a 4:30 finish, with the thinking that if it starts to go wrong then I might be able to squeeze a sub 5 hour time.
The run was very crowded at the start so we took it a bit easy, we both had headphones in but had the music on low so conversations could still be heard. I started the stop watch on my watch as we crossed the line too.
My original plan was to try and run between each water station, then walk through them all, as they were spaced roughly every 5k. (I’d drawn a red line on my split times to mark each water station.) I told Rob that I’d keep pace with him til the first station then let him jog on.
We’d gone from the Football Stadium in a straight line to the Promanade then turned left towards the Pleasure Beach (which is a theme park) and then around 2 1/2 miles we turned back towards the centre of Blackpool and would stay on the straight until around 8 1/2 miles.
At the first station we wished each other luck as I slowed to a walk to have a drink and he carried on ahead. My legs already hurt, so I altered my plan slightly. Instead of running to each water station, I decided to run to each mile marker and check my progress with my watch and split times. When I got to mile 4 I was pleased to see I was roughly two minutes ahead of schedule, so decided that at each mile marker I’d walk until I was a minute in front of the split times. This worked brilliantly for a while, felt strong as I was running and it helped mentally that I could work out where my next break was coming.
At every marker I was walking for at least a minute, sometimes two, as I waited for the time to catch up to the split times. Also at every mile marker I was having something to drink (because I was carrying a bottle with me) and eating a Jelly Baby (for energy, they work really well!)
I passed Blackpool tower for the first time that day and then we ran on the sea front. The sun started to come out and I was – against everything that I thought I’d be doing – enjoying myself. The miles ticked by and before I knew it I’d gone passed the 6 mile marker and saw Rob coming back in the other direction up on the hill. We shouted and waved to each other and it spurred me onwards, then twenty minutes or so later I was at the turn around making my way back towards the start/halfway point of the race.
Another water station was passed, and I really needed the toilet. As it turns out, there are no portaloos on the route. Unless you have 20p for the public toilets (I didn’t) the only places I could see to goto the toilet were either in a Pub/Cafe on the opposite side of the road, or behind a wall. I chose the wall. I have no idea how the women in the race managed with the (lack of) toilet situation.
Still feeling good I passed the Tower for the second time which meant I had run around 20k and was approaching the Half Marathon. The thing about Blackpool Marathon, however, is that it’s not just the Marathon, they also have a Half Marathon option. We were doing two laps of the route, and the halfers were obviously doing one. I didn’t realise how utterly gut wrenching it would be to see them following the sign for Half Marathon Finish while I ran passed it following the Marathon sign, knowing I had to do another lap.
My Half Marathon time was around 2:07, and this was now official the furthest distance I had ever covered in a run.
My body thought the same.
At around mile 14, it all fell apart. My legs stopped working properly, my stomach started to churn, I got a headache, my motivation went. It was horrible. I knew that this could happen though, because when ever people talk about a marathon they talk about hitting the Wall, and I was now worried about hitting the Floor.
I had a few Jelly Babies to perk me up and decided to eat my power bar when I got to the next mile marker. As I approached the Pleasure Beach and the first turn around for the second time that day, I saw Rob coming in the opposite direction.
“WE’D BE IN THE PUB NOW IF WE’D DONE THE HALF MARATHON YOU BASTARD!” I shouted at him.
He laughed, I laughed, runners around us laughed. Me and Rob slapped each others hands and it was a nice boost when I was feeling quite down.
I was doing a mixture of running and walking, but mainly walking. When I reached mile 15 I ate my power bar and was surprised to realise that I was still on target with my split times. I knew that 4:30 finish wasn’t possible though because I didn’t have the energy to run the second half as quick as the first so set my sights on sub 5 hour.
I was doing my best to run as much as I could before having to walk but I bet I wasn’t running for a full minute before walking. At around 18 miles (after passing the Tower for the 3rd time) I noticed I kept getting passed by a very tattooed bloke who didn’t seem to be going that fast, but also I didn’t see him stop for a walk. He was doing more of a shuffle than a run, so I gave that a go and it worked better than trying to run did!
I still couldn’t run for long, but I was running for longer than before.
Eventually I reached the last turn around point and it was such a relief to be aiming for home. I was still keeping an eye on my watch but could feel the sub 5 hour slipping away. I gave myself a mental bitch-slap and knew I needed a system to keep going instead of stopping when my legs stopped working properly, so I started counting.
Everytime my right foot hit (shuffled on) the floor, I counted it as one step. I decided to run 100 of these steps, then walk 50, then run 100 and walk 50. Time passed, and so did the mile markers. 20 went by, then 21, then 22.
When I got to 23 I told myself there was only 5k left to go before it was over.
My stop watch read that I was on 4hours 20mins at 23miles. When I got to 24miles it read 4hours 33mins.
I knew then that I could get just under 5hours if I kept at this pace of 13 minutes a mile. Then a little voice in my head said ‘No, you’ll get to 26 miles in just under 5hours, but the Marathon doesn’t stop at 26. It stops at 26.2 miles.’
I did my best to ignore my legs and the pain, and the blisters and the pain, and the headache and the pain, but I was still shuffling at 100 steps followed by 50 walking. I upped to running to 110 steps and knocked the walking down to 40 steps. I passed the Tower for the last time.
What felt like ages passed and I reached the turning that the Half Marathoners had taken a few hours before. Down a side street, then turned left. The Football Stadium and the Finish was at the end of the road. People were cheering on the street. I got into the stadium car park and was directed around to the side. I saw Rob waiting at the side of the stadium entrance. “Almost there!” He shouted.
I turned into the stadium and saw the last 100 metres, saw the official clock above the finish line. I really wanted to sprint but couldn’t get my legs to want to sprint.
As I crossed the line, the commentator announced “Well done Marc, just nicely under five hours there!”
My gun time was 4:57, but my official chip time was 4:55.
Could’ve taken my time after all.
I got this:
But I also got this:
I knew I was going to be sore after the run but had no idea how much. It hurt to walk, to sit, to stand, to go up stairs, to get in the shower, to get out of the shower, to get dressed, to go down stairs. It’s now three days after the run and I’m still having trouble with stairs. I think it’s all worth it though, and I treated myself to The Hobbit on blu-ray which I watched Monday night, and we also had Chinese food. I did my best to stay awake for Wrestlemania on the night of the run (It’s on at Midnight in England) but only managed an hour or so. Caught up with it now though.
28th April I’m running the postponed Bradford 10k (if my legs work).
12th May – Leeds Half Marathon.
In October I’m already signed up to the Yorkshire Marathon in York, and am going to train properly for that one.
Before the Blackpool Marathon the furthest I’ve run, including training, was 13.1 miles which I ran once.
The second longest I’d ever run, including training, was 6.2 miles.
But as I only started this running business 10 months ago, I think I’m doing quite well to be able to get round 26.2 miles.
Rob finished in a time of 4:44.
Thanks to everyone for the nice messages of support!