By Stu Helmore
I was thinking about entering my first marathon and when I got a text about the first ever Yorkshire marathon it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. It was practically on my doorstep so I sign up pretty quickly. It was lucky that I did, there were only 6,000 places available and the race was full very quickly.
I had already completed half a dozen half marathons so logically, a marathon was the next challenge. Even with this strong base fitness, training and the race were by no means easy.
I decided to try to enjoy my training and not to follow a strict plan. I wanted to run as often as possible without being told when and for how long. In general I think this worked and with a few small tweaks I’ll use this philosophy again in the future.
Throughout the build up to the race there was fantastic support from Roundhay Runners. There were quite a few marathon first timers as well as a few people who had run them in the past. Without this wealth of experience and support, getting to the start line would have been much harder.
Arriving at the start, the event seemed to be organised very well. I found the live opera singer more annoying than rousing but that’s just personal taste. The course started at the University of York and headed towards the centre of the city. From there it headed north east towards the countryside. The support in the city centre was great but naturally this became more sparse the further from it I got. There were pockets of supporters as I ran through small villages which definitely helped but not as much as seeing friends and family around the route. Getting personally cheered on gave me a huge lift and towards the end of the race this was an incredible boost.
It’s a shame the course wasn’t run in reverse. It would have finished with the larger city centre crowds and the mentally tough stretch down a boring busy main road would have been over nearer the beginning.
There were a couple of out a back sections along the route which were great as these had a large number of spectators but more so for the fact you could see other runners. I positioned myself to the inside of each of these sections and actively hunted for friends so I could shout encouragement to them. It’s amazing how much adrenaline you get from a simple high five.
I was aiming for three and a half hours and decided to be very strict from the start about sticking for my eight minute mile pace. This worked well up until the 19th mile when my legs started to ache and I started to slow down. I had to walk two or three times because the pain in my legs was simply too much. I don’t think I hit “the wall”, I just think I hadn’t done enough longer runs to build up the endurance strength needed. In fact the pain was so great I was fighting back the tears over the last mile. Luckily one final “COME ON STU” got me to the end even when my legs started to cramp up.
Over the build-up and during the event I learnt a huge amount about my running ability and what I was capable of. I missed by target but I’m in no way disappointed, it was my first marathon and the single hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m totally chuffed to bits to have finished it. Even though it hurt so much I will definitely do another one.