London Marathon 2016 – it’s all Preston Guild’s fault! There I was in January 2012 sat watching “Northwest Tonight”, with Ranveer Singh & Gordon Burns (do you remember those days?) when they mentioned Preston would be holding their first ever marathon as part of the Guild year.
As Preston was now my adopted home town it felt like too good an opportunity to miss, so I said to Jeff “I’ve got to do a marathon before I die!” I signed up the next day & then started thinking about how you actually go about running a marathon.
Jeff had met George Fletcher, while watching the Tour of Britain cycle race coming through the village, and he had mentioned Red Rose Road Runners so it seemed logical to try them out. I went out on a few of George’s Tuesday night runs (the ones that George promises has no mud or hills!) and really enjoyed the friendliness of the group, so signed up to be a Red Roser.
Quite a few Red Rosers were doing the PG marathon so I joined Julie, Phil & gang to do the longer training runs – much better than running alone, especially as a newbie to the distance.
Anyone who ran the half/full that October day will remember the weather! Although dry at the start it quickly turned into showers then horizontal rain & oh that wind! There should have been a prize for the soggiest baseball cap!
Anyway I did it in 3:40:42 and won my Vet Category so was a very happy (but relieved it was all over) bunny.
Back at work a colleague said, with that time, I would get a Good for Age place in London. I hadn’t even thought about doing another one. I was 54 & just wanted to do one to prove to myself I could.
By then it was too late to enter the 2013 race but when the GFA places came up for 2014 I thought it would be nice to do a “famous” marathon……. just once.
The GFA place was confirmed and the training started all over again. I tagged along with Doug & Tony on a few of their long runs & dragged Jeff out on his bike for others.
My first VLM in 2014 was daunting. I had never experienced so many people, so much noise & such an atmosphere in my entire life. I’m not really good with crowds, but knowing everyone wanted all the runners to do well definitely helped calm my nerves.
The weather was perfect. The crowds, including RR supporters, were out cheering & willing us all on & I finished in 3:31:59 – 8 minutes faster than in 2012, what a difference the weather makes.
The icing on the cake was seeing Colin Jackson in Horse Guards at the finish. He was in between interviews so I asked him for a photo & got a lovely cuddle too!
Of course when the 2015 GFA places came out it would have been rude not to go for it! I figured doing a total of 3 marathons was the right number – never again after this one.
I wasn’t able to do as much training with RR as I would have liked because of work commitments & then at the end of August 2014 I came down with the dreaded Plantar Fasciitis. I was absolutely gutted when the physio said I shouldn’t run again until after Xmas. I remember sounding like John McEnroe “You CANNOT be serious, I’m doing London in April”.
I cross trained, to keep my fitness levels up and on 2nd January 2015 did a gentle jog/walk for one mile (with my foot strapped up with yards of tape). I built up slowly but just ran twice a week – one short & one longer, which is nothing like any of those Internet/running magazine marathon training schedules!
2015 VLM day came & I was so much happier as I knew what to expect crowd/noise/route-wise. I wasn’t going to put myself under any pressure to get a good time, I just wanted to finish without any reoccurrence of the dreaded PF. I really enjoyed singing along with the bands etc & high fiving the kids. I thoroughly enjoyed myself & did it in 3:23:47 – over 8 minutes faster than 2014!
When I met Jeff in Horse Guards the first thing he said to me (when he could get a word in!) was “So this your last marathon then https://at-casinos.com/?” “Hell no” was my response!
GFA for 2016 & of course I entered again! This time really REALLY was going to be my last one. Again, another year of not being able to train with RR very much – I really missed UCLAN but it was too late for me. I’m definitely an early morning exerciser & have kept up the early morning gym sessions & stuck to the bi-weekly one short/one long runs.
VLM 2016 & I was aiming for a 3:20 finish. I didn’t want to be too ambitious but hoped I could knock 3 minutes of my 2015 time. So, Garmin on one wrist & timing band on the other, it was off to the start.
Lovely to see Martin, Doug & Rich near the Red start & time for a team photo before trotting off to the green start.
After chatting to a guy from my hometown in the NE who was next to me in the pen (small world) 10:00 came & we were off & running. The miles ticked by easily & 15 miles in I was 15 seconds up on my timing band. Then it happened. We’ve all heard of “The Wall” this was “The Floor” literally. I slipped on a (thoughtlessly discarded) bottle of Lucozade.
My yoga teacher would have been proud of my “downward dog” position, as my immediate thought, when I was falling was to protect my knees/legs. My hands/arms/shoulders took the brunt of it, but thankfully I had my gloves on or my hands would have been shredded. I was even more thankful there was no-one directly behind me or that picture would have made the papers!
Two lovely people helped me up & made sure I was ok. I felt such an idiot & was more concerned that I was holding them up, but once I assured them it was only my pride that was hurt we all trotted off – me a tad slower!
This shot of me is at 16 miles, when I saw Jeff for the first time on the run. I’d missed him at Cutty Sark, though he’d seen & got my photo. I was torn between stopping & telling him what had happened (& asking him to kiss my hands/arms/shoulders better) or doing my “smiley jazz hands” & getting on with it. I got on with it!
Alas, that wasn’t the end of my “eventful” run. Around 17 miles the guy in front of me stopped dead (thankfully not literally) and I went crashing into him. Instinctively, I apologised to him! I certainly know who came off worse though: 5’4” woman crashing into 6’ guy, have a guess! After I started again I got angry with myself for apologising to him – I was really hurting. Grrrrr!
Now I know bad things have a habit of coming in threes……….but really???!!! Around mile 21 the same thing happened. I know I was definitely looking to one side as I thought I’d heard someone call my name but I was running in the middle of the road (keeping away from bottles!) & this guy just stopped!! He hadn’t just slowed down, he was just stood there – looking at his phone!!!
I’m afraid I didn’t apologise this time, in fact I really let rip!! Did anyone else notice the number of people on their phones either talking or taking selfies/videos of themselves while running? Blimey, the ones with headphones in are bad enough, but I’ve never come across anyone using their phone in a race before – they’re a liability.
After my rant, the guy (maybe early twenties) did apologise & ask if I was alright, but I was too angry to say anything back to him and just set off again – even though I felt like giving him a good slap!!
By this time I was feeling REALLY “GRRRRR”, but strangely it seemed to make me run faster. I started to think it was like one of those car insurance scams where the driver stops in front of you & sues you because you crashed into them! I also started to worry that the guy was videoing me when I was ranting at him & that it’ll appear on You Tube with the headline “Red Rose Road Runner woman loses her rag”!!
Now you thought it was finished didn’t you?!!
Mile 23 exactly I was barged from the side – by a woman!! By that point I was ready to kill the next person who came into “my space” but she immediately said “Sorry, it was him” & pointed to a pr*t elbowing everyone in front of him out of his way.
I couldn’t believe he was acting like that in such a busy race. He carried on barging his way through the crowd & Kate (her name was on her back) went ahead of me. I decided to try to keep up with her and for the next 3 miles we did a leapfrog act – one minute Kate was in the lead, then me, & so it carried on……until we turned the final corner & I saw the finish line.
Kate was ahead of me at that point & a little voice said “Jill, this is your last marathon, go for it” so I did! I felt as though I was sprinting that last 200 yards like Usain Bolt, though I probably looked like I was running through treacle!
But, one by one, I picked off people until I finally overtook Kate. With only 20 yards to go, I feared she’d come back, so I put my foot down even more until I crossed the finish line & I won!!! I WON!!
Ok it was only my own little private race with someone who probably had no idea what I was doing (& probably didn’t care either!) but after after 3 “disasters” something had finally gone right!!
I finished in 3:24:48 which was 1 minute & 1 second slower than 2015.
I definitely went through an afternoon of “if only” but after a lovely soak with a bottle of red and a delicious steak (& another bottle of red!) I realised it’s still a very good time & that I should be (& am) very proud, especially to be 4th lady of 431 in my age group.
Oh & when I watched the highlights & saw poor Jemima Sumgong fall down & crack her head it really put my tumble into perspective! Of course she went onto win…..just like me!
A big thank you to all the Red Rosers who run & support everyone in all the races, not just VLM. I know I didn’t hear/see a lot of you out there on Sunday – there was sooooo many people – but knowing you were there really does make a difference.
There’s a lot of lovely people in Red Rose & I’m proud to be part of the best & friendliest running club in Lancashire, if not the world!
I can’t finish this blog without giving tons of credit to my photographer/bag carrier/logistics man/chauffeur & all round rock – Jeff. I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, have continued running without his support. He’s got me through some dark times – when I’ve been injured, or just didn’t see the point of running when things weren’t going well – so, although I always thank him for everything he does, he deserves a medal of his own for putting up with me!!
As for that one being my last marathon………..well, it’s definitely my last VLM but Preston Guild might do another one in 2032.
I’ll be 74 by then, but like Sean Connery said (btw the best James Bond!) you should Never say Never Again!
Great read and very inspiring for our age category!