Yesterday was a brilliant day for my home town of York – the first ever Yorkshire Marathon. It was a brave effort for the Jane Tomlinson For All Events people to have pulled off, and for a first-time event it all went really well. Having done my first marathon at Manchester back in April, where I did better than expected, I was really looking forward to hopefully doing a bit better this time.
I cycled (slowly) to the start at the University as it’s only three miles from where I live and I reckoned it would be a good warm-up for the legs and avoid any traffic issues. My husband Steve came with me to see me off, then he was going to a cyclocross race in Huddersfield, so my plan was to drop off a bag and pedal (even more slowly) home afterwards. My only issue with the otherwise great organisation of the event was the baggage drop-off. There were no signs (that I could see) telling people where to go, and a crazy one-way system that had a massive queue by the time I got to it. I could tell there was no way I’d have time to wait there and then pay a visit to the loo before starting time, so I opted for the loo and told Steve to take my bag home with him. I just put my bike lock key in the pocket of my shorts and did without the change of clothing – at least I’d (hopefully) have a dry finisher’s t-shirt to cycle home in! Full marks to For All Events for providing plenty of portaloos anyway, I only had to queue for a couple of minutes.
The warm-up at the start was a bit fragmented due to problems with the music, and I didn’t actually hear Dickie Bird starting us off, but we got away on time. The support as we ran through the city in the first couple of miles was brilliant, and I felt great for the first few miles. I was trying to keep up with the nine minute mile pacer, which I reckoned would give me a bit of leeway if I needed to slow down a bit later on. in retrospect that may have been a bit over-ambitious for me. I think I set off too fast and paid the price for it later on. At around mile 18 I had a touch of calf cramp, but rather than trying to run through it, as I had done at Manchester, I stopped and stretched immediately as I’d been advised, and it went away. The real killer was the stitch I developed at mile 18. I couldn’t understand it at all, as I never usually get stitches! After this a pattern developed of the stitch coming on, me stopping to rub it, running on for a bit, the stitch coming back – repeat for eight miles. Aaargh! I could feel my targets slipping away… goodbye to the nine minute pacer, goodbye to sub-4, goodbye to a PB… in the end I just wanted to finish. My mile split times tell the sorry tale!
At around 19 miles a bloke at the side of the road shouted out “Come on, the last few miles are all in your head!” and I think it was only the fact that I needed to conserve all my energy that prevented me from punching him, or at least saying something Very Rude Indeed; especially as many people were really suffering at this stage, walking or stretching out various body parts. Having said that, the support around the course in terms of general encouragement was fantastic. It’s always great to hear people shouting your name! The folk of Stamford Bridge and Dunnington were particularly amazing, but the ones who took the trouble to go out to the quieter parts of the course were really appreciated too. It was lovely to see people I knew every now and then.
So I struggled on bit by bit until The Hill. I know it must be difficult to get a route back to the University without going up Green Dykes Lane, but it was a real killer after 25.5 miles! Fortunately the crowds along here were again fantastic. At the top of the hill there’s a great “Yay, there’s the finish!” moment. As I started down the hill my cramp returned, but there was no way I was stopping or walking along here. I may have grimaced quite a bit though, not great for the official photos! I managed to do the Y anyway, and was so relieved to be finished, more so than in any other race I’ve done. The goody bag swag was nice; a lovely t-shirt and a really pretty Yorkshire rose-style medal. I was disappointed with my finish time of 4:14, as I’d been hoping to better my Manchester PB of 4:07, but it wasn’t to be yesterday. I think I need to work on my pacing and breathing to improve. When my legs have stopped aching there’s every likelihood I’ll enter next year’s Manchester Marathon!
Would I recommend the Yorkshire Marathon to others? Yes. As an event it was great: well-organised and supported, and the on-course refreshment was plentiful. The mostly rural course was very attractive. However, despite being billed as fast and flat, it definitely isn’t – apart from the hill at the finish, the road into Upper Helmsley is also a proper incline. If you want a flatter course you’d be better off at Manchester. But it was a fab day. To have an event like this right on my doorstep is great and I may well be back for more next time… having done more hill training!