I had been invited to run in the Yorkshire marathon before the China trip came off, and so I contacted them on my return. They have always been very good to me, and I enjoy going down there and meeting up with friends old and new, but I knew that there was no way that I could race it, and probably shouldn't even be thinking about running it, but wanted to honour a commitment.
The organisers were happy for me to come down and participate as I saw fit...the aim was to actually have a fun day out, and enjoy the atmosphere of the event without the pressure of trying to run hard, and see how much of it I managed. I was determined to be sensible and listen to my body, though I knew it would be hard to watch everyone run away from me off the start.
|At Catterick parkrun|
|Shona and I hatching our pre-race plans|
|....and waving to the photographers...|
I urged Shona to push on and not wait for me, as I realised that there was a 3 hour pacer running not far behind us, but she was happy to continue at the same pace, and some guys near us commented on how odd it was to hear ladies talking about ultras, triathlons and pacing etc while running a marathon. We passed a couple of ladies en route but made sure we were not chatting then, as it felt disrespectful.....and to be fair, the chat got less as the run became longer as I was definitely not as fresh as I could have been.
|A "happy face"? In a marathon?|
Still, I was just a few steps ahead of the 3 hour pacer by this time, so all was ok. I wasn't quite sure on the time as the clocks on the roadside had all been out, some wee fast and some were slow. Just after the halfway mark there is an out and back section to Stamford Bridge, which meant that I could cheer my friend Tracy on (looking strong in second place), as well as Shona as I ran the opposite way. I counted the ladies ahead of me and knew that I was 8th so I felt pretty good with that.
The next few miles ticked by, and they felt much easier than in previous years when I'd been pushing myself harder......in fact, I felt that I didn't need to take on the drinks or gels offered at feed stations (I actually finished still carrying the gels that I started with....but that may have been due to all the croissants I had for breakfast).
There was another out and back from 16 to 20 miles and as she came the other way, it looked like Tracy had now taken the lead so I have her a huge shout (so much so that the cyclist with her asked if she had a fan club). I'd somehow closed the gap back to Shona and could see a lady not far ahead of her that looked like she might be the first V40. I was feeling good so urged Shona to come with me as I eased past, but she didn't want to push further though urged me to go for the first v40 position (in fact she later caught up with a struggling clubmate and selflessly eased right back to keep him company right to the finish).
I passed the Knavesmere lady at about the 19 mile mark (I'd recognised her from previous York marathons so knew we were in similar age categories) and tried to keep running strongly to avoid her coming with me. A right angle turn took me down towards the last 6 miles. I distinctly remember those last miles as feeling rather long, lonely and a bit of a struggle in the past, but this time I rather enjoyed them.
It helped that after about a mile or so, I spotted a bike up ahead. I couldn't believe it, but the 3rd and 4th lady were almost neck and neck and not too far ahead. They must have been tiring as I didn't feel like I picked up the pace, but soon caught them up and when I passed them the cyclist came with me. I chatted away to him and he told me that I'd gapped by about 50m in just a few minutes.
The second place lady didn't look too comfortable just a bit further up the road, and it was an amazing feeling to slowly reel her in, while still being able to talk to "my" cyclist. As I passed her, the bikes didn't swop over, with the other cyclist congratulating me and saying that he hadn't expected "his girl" to be caught.
|Moving into second place|
With a mile to go, the gap was almost 70m so I did have to put the work in to try to maintain my pace as I knew the final hill wouldn't be fun on tired legs. I kept my legs going up it (while being told when she'd turned the corner and started the climb behind me). The final section is downhill into the finish and I did my best to pick up the speed for that bit, as it would be gutting to be overtaken right in the final few yards in front of the spectators, but I'm not sure my legs managed to obey.
I was stunned to cross the line in 2:54 for second place (about a minute ahead of third) .....unbelievable from how I'd imagined it finishing, but the first thing I did was congratulate Tracy on her great win and new PB. As it turned out, I ran the fastest last 12k of the ladies (about 6 mins faster than Tracy but then again, she'd had such a strong run throughout the course that her winning margin was still 8 minutes).
Again, York came good for me........I achieved my goal of relaxing and enjoying the marathon while soaking up the atmosphere and en route support......and the surprise result was just the icing on the cake!