Lesley Keighley and I signed up for this new event very early this year, and figured it would be a good weekend away and a good training run for me for the upcoming Las Vegas Marathon. Having got to 18 rather than 20 miles in training and not done much in the last 4 weeks due to other life events I was anticipating a struggle and lots of walking.
The morning dawned after the extra hour in bed with the car thermometer reading zero degrees, brrr, needless to say we didn’t de-robe until the absolute last minute but knowing it was supposed to be warmer later I braved just my vest and shorts. Our wonderful supporters Sandy and Parky put our baggage on the lorries to be transported to the finish to allow us to the start area in time.
Once in the starting crowds we immediately felt warmer with all those other bodies and 6.5 minutes to get over the start line was very welcome after waiting 50 minutes in my last marathon in Paris. So we set off running away from our final destination, 5 miles northwest out of Bristol along the River Avon Valley, being greeted by the spectacular sight of the Clifton Suspension Bridge high above and running under it. In the sunshine that had finally appeared as forecast it was a beautiful sight, almost (but not quite) on a par with the wow moment as you hit Tower Bridge in London Marathon.
I trudge on trying to keep my steady pace so as not to burn out in the latter stages and trying to avoid hitting ‘The Wall’. The lead car and marathon leader suddenly appear on the opposite carriageway which results in spontaneous applause and a sudden surge of people running past me as it appeared to give a huge adrenaline rush…it was difficult to maintain a steady pace but I persevered!
At 5 miles we switch back towards Bristol with the sun facing us, I am grateful for my shades which are always on my head in a race even on the greyest of days! At 10 miles we run through Bristol and start moving towards Bath at last. At this point I tell myself I must keep running until 20 miles and then I can do what I want but bearing in mind there were lots of hills and could also walk the hills. This kept me going rather than the pressure of running all the way.
At 12 miles I hear mad shouting and then spot our support crew for the first time, immediately providing that extra adrenaline to push me on for the business end of the event. We start winding along more country like roads and through small towns and villages. At 14.5 miles we hit the first of many hills…I lost count in the end, and I went into a walk as did the majority of people which made me feel a lot better. It was a relief to get to the top and start running again and lovely to see so many people out in support along the way.
I plod on actually willing a hill to appear so I can have a little walk and rest, who would have thought I would be happy to see a hill! They appeared regularly! At 19 miles I spot the lovely Massey Wendy Foxall which was a lovely surprise and great support. I hit 20 miles in a decent time and relaxed knowing I could walk the rest and still finish in 5.5 hours. The next mile then seemed to go on for absolute ever, the longest mile of my life, most of it being a hill. However once over this and the effect of the gel taken at 20 miles kicking in I had a little surge and felt energised again becoming very smiley as my race turned into a happy event being better than I had anticipated. I flicked to my running playlist on the iPod and at 23 something miles Whitney comes pumping on with One Moment in Time, this has always been my marathon song and I seemed to take off flying through the streets as it gave me a huuuuge adrenaline rush, the power of music hey!!
The descent into Bath was quite tricky deploying muscle groups that already hurt in a different way causing more pain, but was grateful that I could keep running as the running out of breath and energy factor is taken away downhill. Running through Bath city centre was beautiful with shoppers stopping and applauding. I smile as we run through Brock Street and then through the iconic Royal Crescent. I am now willing the end as things feel as though they are dropping off, another slight descent and mad shouting from that Parky one, which gave me the boost I needed to take me the last half mile to the finish which had a sneaky uphill bit before being flat for the last 0.1. What a beautiful sight that finish line was and the legs immediately carried me faster over it. The emotion then kicked in (as much as I think it won’t happen this time) and I take a moment to reflect on the journey and reaching my goal.
I wait in the finish area for Lesley who had been quite unwell and like me had anticipated a real struggle and a possible DNF. It was lovely to see her come through not long after with bloody toes to boot.
The post race celebrations were foody and boozy (why else would you run a marathon,) and as now appears to be a tradition when completing a hilly marathon, pictures were taken of us descending stairs via the banister to reach the facilities!! A great weekend with my lovely friend Lesley who helped me into running 7 years ago, and our other halves, a fantastic event which I would highly recommend, great organisation, water every 2.5miles, great marshals, fantastic support all the way along the course and a decent size field of just under 5000 meant you were never isolated as can happen in some marathons. My only gripe is no T-shirt but I gave in and paid for a top as want one for every marathon. The medal was a bit different from the norm and very appealing.
The event was almost as good as London!
Rachel Brock 04:44:42
Lesley Keighley 05:02:14
Race report by Rachel Brock