Sorry we’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front for a couple of months, barely seem to have sat down since the last one.
It’s fair to say we have been a bit busy since the beginning of September. Since then we have completed the Great North Run, where we met with some more runners for the MS Trust and went back to the tent where this all started. Once again it was a great day with an early start and unseasonably warm weather, the support around the course was great and the welcome back at the MS Trust tent was much appreciated, along with the Haribo, cup of tea and massage.
After this we were off to Scotland to celebrate (or hide from) the fact I had a big birthday, so we hid out on the Isle of Skye for a week and I think we saw every kind of weather possible. We did lots of exploring and already want to go back.
Unfortunately due to injury Debbie wasn’t able to run the Loch Ness Marathon, but she’s stubborn and still hobbled round the local Parkrun. She wanted to get the I for her alphabet challenge… But for me it was the first Marathon in a new age category1 Despite the fact I’d run this event as part of the original challenge, I had completely forgotten how many hills were on the route and found it really hard going.
Despite being a lot quicker than my first attempt, I think it took more out of me than any other marathon. I’m sure I’ll be back for round 3 and I know Debbie wants to experience the course and look for Nessie too.
After a couple of months of rehab and limited training for Debbie, we were off to Athens for another Marathon challenge and her first Marathon (obviously Race to the Stones doesn’t count). We both blame Simon Newton for us ending up out there, and the fact we didn’t look at the course profile until about two weeks before the event… We arrived from our cold Winter with about 15 other Ackworth Road Runners to find a very warm and hilly Athens waiting for us.
After some fun and games with the local public transport to get to the Expo and get our numbers, along with an accidental trip down the coast (sorry about that) we got back to explore the city. We’d never been before and such a mixed city completely changing from one road to the next, never knowing what you’d find around the corner
Anyway, the 5am alarm went off on the Sunday morning and we were up to get the bus to Marathon to start this, Kev came to meet us as we were staying at a pick up point, however something went wrong and we ended up walking back to Kev’s hotel to get on the bus. It was a long hilly and dark trip out to the start, when we got off we wondered into the Stadium to find masses of other runners gathering and preparing for this little run.
As usual for me, the start of the Marathon was an emotional experience, added to the fact was the story of the Wild Fires suffered by the towns and villages along the route – yes there were tears before I even started, and more on the way.
After discovering the course was a tough one, with the middle 20km up hill, I’d worked out a plan of attack to get around; time didn’t matter but I wanted to be sensible and finish strongly, as there was a nice 10km downhill to finish and then you hit the Olympic Stadium.
As usual, within 5km of the start, this plan had gone out the window as I was running far too quickly and couldn’t find a rhythm, not helped by the fact there was a sheep charging the wrong way through the field of runners at about 3km. I still don’t know how it got there or where it went, but it was the quickest thing on the road that I saw.
The first 10km was either flat or downhill and should have let me get into a pattern, but it never felt right or easy, so I started beating myself up and putting pressure on myself which wasn’t helping. We were told at the start that at 12km (just after we started to climb) we’d enter the areas damaged by the Wild Fires and the organisers asked the runners to wear a green buff as a show of support and create a “Runners Forest”.
Going through the archway, you could see the charred remains of the forests and houses which looked untouched since the summer; it was hard to see. The support through these areas was enthusiastic and very emotional; you could see the anger with the lack of government support for the communities and feel the anguish over number of deaths from the Fires. It was proving to be a very testing marathon.
It was definitely getting the better of me and at around the 16km I started to struggle; my legs were heavy and my head was all over the place. I had to pull myself together get some food and water on board and work through the next 14km of climbing before I could think about “enjoying” the last 10km.
It wasn’t pretty, but i kept going and I think it was at the 32km mark you could see the road start to dip away and at last the climb was over. Now it was just a case of getting the legs to turn over again. Throughout the course the support had been great from the side of the road and the very international field of runners out on the course. Everyone around me and on the side of the road seemed to know this was the turning point and it was all downhill to the finish!
I would like to say it flew by and I coasted through to the finish, but I would be lying. It was tough, but it was probably my quickest last 10km of any marathon I’ve done. It was never going to be a PB day, but with the support along the course, I’m pretty sure I got a PB for the number of High Fives on a run, it felt like thousands, so many I had to switch from one side of the road to the other to give my hand a break…
Once I hit the last Km you could hear the noise from the stadium and coming round the corner to see it was unbelievable. It was a strange feeling running into this historic stadium, so much noise, so many people, but mostly so much pain. Of all the other runners I knew that I saw finish, they all looked calm and collected took a minute and walked through to take in the atmosphere and get their hard earned medal. It was different for me however; I got about 10 foot beyond the finishing line then decided that was the ideal spot for a lie down, my legs, body and head were all spent. After a good 10 minutes I got myself moving again and went in search of the medal.
As an evil extra, the organisers decided the baggage trucks would be positioned (what felt like) miles away and the only way into the old stadium was via about three flights of very steep stairs. There were tears coming into the stadium, also at the end of the race (and on route, I think) and definitely at the bottom of these steps.
It was another great experience, much tougher than I expected or prepared for, but a great feeling being there with a bunch of friends. Debbie got to finish her first Marathon, still hampered by injury, but she’d set herself a goal to walk the distance and got round ahead of schedule. I was great to see her “sprinting” her way to the finish and smiling at the end (did I mention that she’s stubborn…).
The day after started with a little 4km run, it was day 450 of the silly summer streak. For some reason I decided to head up Lycabettus hill, the highest point in the center of Athens and ended up doing more climbing than the entire Marathon the day before. Then we headed up more hills to the Acropolis, and did some serious site seeing around the town. We forgot our own medals but managed to borrow one for some photos.
There’s nothing big booked yet for next year yet, so need to start thinking about the next challenge….