Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Marathon Day

I had a great sleep the night before which was a huge relief. We were up bright and early but I still felt pretty grotty so had a quick coffee and a dose of ibuprofen before heading down to the breakfast room as soon as they opened.

The cooked breakfast wasn't quite ready so Mike had a crumpet whilst he was waiting and I'd just started eating my toast and marmalade when the fire alarm sounded. There was a short delay whilst people looked around to see if it was for real and then the waitresses came and asked us to vacate the building.

So we trundled down the fire escape and were directed to a car park opposite the hotel. Thankfully it wasn't raining and it was reasonably warm with only a slight wind. After about 10 minutes the fire engines arrived and the firemen went inside. People still kept coming out of the hotel. We stood around waiting patiently for any news.

Another 10 minutes passed and some firemen came out of the building and settled down in the engine. 45 minutes later bleary-eyed people were still coming out of the hotel, some of them barefoot (surely they had time to put on some form of footwear?!). Then eventually we were allowed back in but by this time it was far too late for brekkie or even a hot drink and we just went up to our room, got our things together and headed off to the station to get a very packed train to Birkenhead Park station.

It was then just a 10 minute walk to the start.

The race organisers must have been out and about getting everything ready for hours.

There was so much to do: water and aid stations to set up, portaloos to put in place, volunteers to brief and get into position, road closures, signage, entertainment.

Thousands of runners' bags to load onto the waiting wagons to be transported to the finish line.

It must be a logistical nightmare!

I was supposed to meet people from Runner's World at the first aid tent but there wasn't one, and people from Fetch at the information office which was on the other side of the park so that didn't work out either!

I just saw a couple of old chums and then Martin introduced himself as he made his way through the pen and that was it until we were underway.

So here we are again, another marathon, another start line, another big smile.

What would it hold for me?

Would my mind be able to convince my body that it wasn't suffering from some sort of virus and make it round at my chosen pace?

Was 1/2 a piece of toast and marmalade enough to fuel my run? (I often run on empty so my body should be used to it!).

We were about to find out.

Mike was meeting an old friend after the start and so when the wheelchair racers set off around 9:30am he headed off so that he could meet up with Dave and still have time to meet up with everyone else and support me in Sefton Park.

But the massed race didn't start. We all stood around in our respective pens getting colder and colder. No-one knew what was going on but it was obvious that there was a problem. After 30 minutes runners started leaving their pens to go to the toilet. I was getting quite anxious and I couldn't get through to Mike as his phone was going to ansaphone each time I rang him.

After 40 minutes a spectator found out from someone that there were vehicles driving on the course so the Police couldn't give the all clear until they were removed. They still didn't know when the race would start. I started to worry that Mike wouldn't know that the race had been delayed and would be wondering where I was. Then what would I do if the race was cancelled as I had no money to get back to the hotel but then, after a 50 minute delay, we were off.

I settled into a nice comfortable pace of 10:30 minute miling as we headed off through Birkenhead. Then all of a sudden I heard Mike calling my name and I turned to see him waving alongside Dave. I couldn't believe it and it really lifted my spirits.

The support was wonderful and I really enjoyed the route on the Wirral side as I went past lots of places I remembered plus there was a fantastic view of Liverpool across the water. The sun came out and it was really quite hot for a while so the strong wind along New Brighton seafront was most welcome.

Eventually we wound our way down to Hamilton Square and the entrance to the Queensway Tunnel. Now I'd driven through that tunnel many a time when I worked in Liverpool but I'd never run through it.

What an experience! There were lots of shouts of "oggy, oggy, oggy etc" as is the custom in any tunnel and everyone seemed lighthearted. First of all it went down, and down, and down which of course meant it would be going up and up and up at the other end but that didn't worry me unduly. Some people said they felt claustrophobic but I really enjoyed the cool, quietness of the pace.

But it wasn't quiet all the way. As we were nearing the tunnel exit we started to hear loud drumming. Actually we started to feel it rather than hear it first. As we exited the tunnel like moles blinking in the sunlight the noise from the Batala band acoustic drummers was deafening and incredibly uplifting. I clapped and cheered the drummers as I ran past. Many people said they felt very emotional at this stage and that the memory would stay with them for a long time.

There was excellent entertainment all round the course - bands, drummers, cheerleaders, dancers which were great for the crowds of spectators as well as for the runners.

Then we were running through the streets I used to know so well. I chatted to lots of people I knew and waved to lots more. The volunteers at the numerous aid stations were amazing and very supportive. I felt fine and was maintaining my pace too. The hill at Upper Parliament Street didn't cause me any grief and I hit 15 miles bang on my target time. Then around 16 miles I spotted a man I know from Runner's World. He was slumped at the side of the road and looked awful so I went over to check if he needed help. He said he didn't but I could see that he did and so I asked another runner to go and fetch a first aider whilst I waited with him. It only took a few minutes and then I was off again. He emailed me later to say thanks and let me know that he did finish eventually but was over an hour slower than usual. He felt he was dehydrated from the New Brighton stretch when it was rather hot and windy.

For some reason though I couldn't get back into my stride after that. I still felt OK and knew I would finish but I'd somehow lost my oomph. Maybe it was the lack of brekkie or the virus or lack of sleep or a combination of all those things, who knows. I ripped off my paceband and threw it into a waste bin as if to move into a different zone. For some reason I also decided to throw away my water bottle when it was empty as if it was somehow to blame for things going awry. Stupid woman, now I'll have to buy a new one!

The thing is that once you accept that you won't achieve your goal of whatever time you can just settle down and enjoy the experience and that is just what I did. More runners I knew came alongside and chatted.

As I headed into Sefton Park I spotted my patient little team of supporters plus Mike and that really lifted my spirits again.

Mike took a photo of me and I got a quick hug and a kiss before I headed on my way again.

Lots of people complained about the Sefton Park section as it was a circuitous route but I actually enjoyed most of it because I got to see everyone 4 times without them having to walk too far. Mike remarked that each time they saw me I was talking to a different man! At one stage I was chatting to the Everton supporter, whose name I don't know, who was running round with Alan, who is blind. I often see them at marathons but hadn't met up with them since Abingdon in 2009 so we had a good long chat and catch-up.

As we finally left Sefton Park behind we headed into Princes Park a guy behind me exclaimed "Oh no, are we still in that f***ing park? Please just let me run through a nice industrial estate or something else!" It really made me laugh.

I was still feeling OK but just slower than I'd wanted but I didn't walk at all. Having said that my running was almost as slow as some of the walkers by then!

What was really nice was the 12 people I'd never met before who came alongside to say "hi" because they follow my blog. Thank you to everyone who took the time to come over and I hope you all had a good race experience.

Soon I was heading back down to the river Mersey and still the marshalls and volunteers clapped and cheered us on. I don't think I've ever been hugged by so many people during a marathon, it was fantastic! There was one guy on a bike who was riding backwards and forwards shouting support and encouragement and then my favourite missive came from a marshall at around 22 miles who shouted "Hurry up love, I want mi lunch!" to which I replied "You're going to have to wait a bit longer 'cos there are hundreds behind me!" It's little moments like that which keep you going in the final stages.

Then I saw those wonderful Liverbirds and I knew it was time for a final push and so I upped my pace for the last 1.5 miles. There's a wonderful photo of me on marathon foto. Just type in 'hewer', my bib number is 5481 and select the Liverpool marathon 2011 from the drop-down menu and it's the 2nd from the left on the top line. If you click on the magnifying glass you'll get a larger image.

My finish time? Was it a pb? 5:14:27 so nowhere near!

Do I really care that I'd spent 4 months doing a gruelling training regime for it all to go wrong on the day?

Nah, just look at that smile!

The best laid plans of mice and men etc. Marathon 24 done and dusted so onwards and upwards.

I shall end this section with 2 very apt quotes from Winston Churchill:

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."

After I'd collected my tee shirt etc. Mike asked me what I fancied doing that evening as we were hoping to meet up with Phil, Kathy, Alexandra and Elizabeth. My request was something along the lines of "a really good curry, not more that 400 metres away from the hotel". A tough thing to ask you might think but a call to hotel reception, whilst I soaked in a lovely hot bath, found us booked into a wonderful Indian restaurant called Spice which was indeed just around the corner from the hotel.

A few drinkies were in order and the food was wonderful. It was lovely to see everyone again and I could hardly believe how much the girls had grown. They are certainly going to break a few hearts. I was secretly a bit sad that they were getting older as I used to hide notes for them from the fairies that live in our garden and they would spend ages looking for them. Sometimes the fairies left a gift for them and they would write them a thank you note when they got home (I saved all their letters 'cos they were so sweet). I hope they always believe in fairies.

Phil if you're reading this I need an nice photo of all of you to put on here please!


Shan said...

How silly - I'm sitting here fighting back tears after reading your post! I LOVE your attitude by the way. And the fairy thing...I put a fairy door in my garden this year but I think I was a few years too late. The girls don't seem to be able to suspend their disbelief, though they certainly love the little door.

Congrats on finishing and having such a great time about it!

Susie Hewer said...

Thanks Shan.

I bet your girls will still watch the fairy door just in case they spot one even though they say they don't believe!