Report by Lesley Lee
Taper week had gone badly. After a lot of trouble with my feet and hamstrings the Tuesday before I pulled my “good” leg, probably from compensating for my “bad” leg. Either way I’d over trained for the marathon. Not rested when I should have. Done too many dead miles.
By Friday I tried my leg again. I couldn’t run. I hopped and skipped a sad mile or so then came home and cried. It was my own fault. Plenty had told me to rest and that I was overdoing it. I knew they were right. Saturday morning came. I decided to go to Blackpool, watch the others and make use of the gym and pool in our hotel. Before I went though one more quick test of the leg to make sure I was “properly” injured. I ran, slowly. A mile in, it didn’t hurt much. I ran faster. got to two miles, not pain just a consciousness of it, so I decided to give it a go and stop if It hurt during the marathon.
Saturday night was the usual race prep, too much wine with steak and chips. I was happy. Forecast not great. 15mph wind and heavy rain but not too bad.
I woke up at 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I eventually got up somewhere after 5.30 and went through the usual pre-race routine. I checked the met office. 20mph wind, 30mph gusts and heavy rain from 11am. Great!! I knew the wind usually knocked me a bit and I was a bit gutted but still, I’d rather have a go than not.
The start of the marathon was very easy. Myself, Mike Gill, Mike Swainson and Ste Collins hung around the start line in preparation for the run. Everyone was very relaxed and joking. Mike Gill’s prep had been worse than mine with several “shots” and beers the night before.
At 9.30am the race promptly began. We set off. The first 4 miles were flat with a headwind less than anticipated and I took it easy. I maintained the race pace I’d intended but didn’t push my luck so early on. The first mile felt very easy, the next 3 not so much. When we turned, I’d anticipated a tailwind, but I was surprised by the lack of it. Instead I was just hit by stillness and humidity. Only four miles in and already I had sweat literally dripping down my neck. I kept panicking. I was on target timewise, but this early on I shouldn’t be working so hard. It was on my mind, as were my legs. They felt heavy and tired. I kept going. Passed the Mikes. High 5’d Mike Swainson. It made me smile.
I passed Michael and he cheered me on. I looked at him and wanted to cry/stop, but no pain, no injury, NO EXCUSE. I kept going. Somewhere along here Ste Collins joined me. It was a welcome distraction. We chatted and ran. Discussing how hot it was, the humidity, the blooming wind. We discussed how from a cardiovascular perspective we both felt fine but that our legs were tired. He said he’d undertrained, I’d overtrained, and it was a shame we couldn’t swap a few miles. We ran towards the 9-10 mile point which did seem like an eternity to reach, then we turned to head back up again running this time along the seafront. WHOAH!!!! HEADWIND! The seafront wind was so strong and the impact instant. You had to put your head down and battle it hard. We both laughed at how awful it was gonna be at 22 miles when we did it a second time. Ah man the wind was awful. It lasted about 4 miles before we reached the slightly more sheltered streets again heading up to the 15 mile point. Ste at this point took a pit stop and I ran on. The rain started and it was heavy. It was somewhat welcome though, as I was so warm and my face so hot, it helped quite a bit. People were crossing the roads, going to the pubs, it was irritating and distracting. Most of them were trying to be considerate, but at one point some bald bloke with a huge beer gut stumbled and stopped right in front of me. I told him he was some kind of inconsiderate idiot but with much more profanity and ran on, still furious at how much it’d hurt to suddenly stop then start again.
Now again the turn. The bit that was supposed to feel better but didn’t. I turned. The wind died again but I still felt exhausted. I passed both Mikes again. High 5’d them both. Again. Made me smile. Mike Gill shouted encouragement and gave me a big thumbs up. It helped. A lot.
I ran, 16 miles, 17 miles. I heard someone shout. It was Caroline and Michael Burdon. I looked at her, she shook her head. It made me sad. She’d trained so so hard and was so fit. I wanted to cry again, to stop, but no injury, NO EXCUSE, keep going. I kept going.
I looked for Michael. He’d meant to meet me at 13 miles but hadn’t. They split the half marathon runners and the marathon runners at mile 11 and we’d arranged to do a gel passover at a point where I hadn’t run. I had no gels left and I still felt as though I might need one or two. I heard a shout and looked up. He was ploughing up the street towards me franticly waving them at me. I shouted “it’s okay, stop running, I’ll get to you”, but he didn’t. He kept going and passed them over and shouted “Keep going!”. I did. I wanted to stop so, so much but I just didn’t have an excuse. I was tired. My legs were so, so tired but nothing was injured. No reason EXCEPT giving up. I kept going. I decided to just keep running to the 22 mile turning point and by then I’d have to get back anyway so it made no sense not to finish. Miles 18, 19, 20, 21 took an AGE to arrive. I kept recalling an article I’d read the previous week about miles 17-22 being “dead man’s land”. Whoever wrote it was right. It was THE PITS!!!! You’re no-where near finishing and you’re tired as hell. I was just sick as a chip. Teary and just generally really, really peed off and grumpy. Mile 22 and the turn to the seafront headwind approached. I knew I didn’t have much left. “4 miles Lesley, come on!” I talked to myself. Prayed a few times. “Please just get me through this”. “shut up legs”, “come on, just keep going”, “come on you, you can do this”. Sounds sad now but it’s the truth.
As I turned at mile 22 I saw Penny a friend of mine and then Ste. They both waved and smiled just as I hit the headwind and I thought “oh my goodness”. 4 miles of this!!!! Argh man!! It was so, so cruel.
We were all really spread out. All single file. I remembered Stewy’s advice about sheltering behind people, but there just wasn’t anyone around. I remembered my running book. In the last four miles it makes the time go a lot faster if you pretend to be fishing, hooking people in. I kept seeing people in front of me, we were all struggling so, so badly. People were stopping everywhere. Run/walking their way back. I kept picking people off and passing them.” Fish hooking them in”
Mile 23, Mile 23.2, mile 23.4,23.7, 23.8. Argh!!!!!! Come on!!!. It’s an eternity!!! Every mile took FOREVER!!!
I hung into the Cliffside on the left, desperately trying to gain some shelter from the wind. There literally was no escape though. I could see people in front of me battling on but they were all slowing so, so much. Everytime I passed someone I’d look around to see if they were coming back at me, none of them ever did. I reached mile 25.5 with the headwind still strong and brutal, I heard a shout and it was Michael again, telling me that I was nearly there and there was “a pint in it for me”. I knew I was nearly done but it still felt an eternity away. I looked ahead and saw the turn before the finish. I couldn’t believe it! After all of that they’d stuck a hill on the end! Still, the one compensation was that it was facing the other direction so the wind would soon be over. I reached the turn and the sharp hill. On it were two women. One woman put her head down in defeat and I passed her on my toes. The woman to my left ploughed on. I thought “NO! It’s a HILL. I love HILLS”, and I put my head down, pumped my arms, and ploughed up it. I passed her but I could see she was determined. I reached the top and saw the finish line. It seemed a long way off but I knew the woman behind me was on my heels. I ran as fast as I could to the finish, trying desperately to stay ahead and not lose a place. I crossed the line and the chip beeped. Caroline was there. She told me my placing and I cuddled her. I started to cry. She cried too. The woman behind me came and hugged me, told me I’d had a fab run. I told her the same. She was over 55. I was in awe! The other girl came in and hugged me too. I cried until my foot cramp set in and then I screamed like a girl for about an hour until the calf and excruciating foot cramp eventually subsided. We all watched Ste finish, he stopped before the finish line to run over it with his little boy Sam, who was the biggest supporter by a mile.
I couldn’t stay to see the two Mikes finish. My feet wouldn’t let me stand on them and I literally thought aliens had invaded my calf muscles. They were doing some bizarre shapes in my legs.
Anyway, sorry it’s not the most inspirational marathon story ever. It was hard, I didn’t like it for one minute. Am I glad I did it? YES! I’m over the moon I did it. It made me feel invincible. Just like they say it does. They’re right! Maybe one of these days I’ll listen to those lovely clever friends of mine who actually know what they’re talking about.
Lesley Lee – 3:34:57
Stephen Collins – 3:45:05
Mike Gill – 4:32:56
Mike Swainston – 4:48:40
Blackpool Half Marathon
Michael Burdon – 1:50:35