Return to Form?

Sunday 29th September 2013

By Rob Daly

1aI used to run as a teenager from 13-18 years old I was a junior club runner, ran for West Yorkshire Schools & Yorkshire in Cross Country.

Then I went to University and my priorities changes, going out and socialising became more important and my exercise regime became non-existent.

Eight years later, in October 2012 I went to a wedding and met an old friend who had started running, lost a lot of weight and looked great, in comparison I had changed for the worse. 8 years of not exercising, having an unhealthy diet and drinking too much had taken its toll, I was overweight, bordering on obese and generally feeling pretty crappy about myself.

At that point I made a decision, I was going to change, get fit and start enjoying myself again. So I signed up to the Reading Half Marathon in March 2013 and joined Roundhay Runners.

2bReading at the time was a real success, I got a new PB of 1 hour 25 mins 10 seconds and the running addiction had truly taken hold.

What was the next challenge?…. It had to be the full Marathon.

I knew a lot of people at the club were doing York Marathon in September but I had missed my opportunity to enter. So I searched around and signed up the inaugural Nottingham Marathon – It’s usually just a half.

I know people will hate me for saying this but I can’t tell you when I specifically started training for the marathon. I just started running a little longer, a little harder and a little faster. Bit by bit, from March to August I slowly upped my weekly mileage to 50-55 miles week. There was no ‘plan’ but I found myself getting quicker, stronger, thinner and most importantly enjoying running more and more.

Two weeks before the event I had done my BIG runs, set a new 10k PB (Leeds 10k), set a new half Marathon PB (Fleetwood), and had seen my target time move from 3.30 to 3.15 to 3.05 to sub 3. I was feeling prepared.

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Then came the dreaded tapering week. The week before the marathon I was crawling up the walls, I just wanted to go out and do a long run! I realise I was pretty unbearable to live with that week – sorry Ed! But after speaking to other Club members, Allan and Alistair in particular, I knew that I would feel the benefit on race day. Thanks for that vital piece of advice and guidance guys!

The night before the race I stopped at my ‘Brother-in-Law’s’ house and watched him and my partner eating Chinese takeaway. If I wasn’t so excited/nervous about the race I would of hated them so much! Instead I calmed myself down, went upstairs and got my gear ready for the race. Double, triple and quadruple checking I had everything I need, including my ‘energy gels’ M&S Percy Piglets.

4On race day I was mentally & physically ready. I arrived in plenty of time at the race village (an hour and a half may have been a little early in all honesty) located at Victoria Embankment, right next to Trent Bridge. I met up with Dan Clark the only other Roundhay Runner competing in the event and we made our way to the starting Pens.

Both the Marathon and the Half Marathon runners were placed in the same starting pens and what struck me was how many half marathon runners there were, compared to full marathon runners. There wasn’t much room to warm up in the pens, but to be honest I was so nervous I just wanted to get started.

For the first 11 miles of the race you run with the half marathon competitors, you head out to the Boots Campus, Nottingham University Campus and Nottingham Castle. It’s quite a pretty route, well not Boots Campus, but the rest was great, scenic and flat! There were regular water stations and lots of support along the route, the atmosphere was uplifting.

At 11 miles you complete the western loop of the route and are back at Victoria Embankment. The half marathon runners then turn off and you begin the eastern loop of the route, which creates a figure of eight. The second half of the race heads out to a country park and the Water Sports Centre. At this point I became quite isolated running by myself, as so few runners were doing the full marathon and was even less running at a sub 3.00 pace.

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Don’t misunderstand me there was still great support, water stations, and plenty of Marshalls cheering you around the course, but 15 – 21 miles are a bit of a hazy blur. I was in the zone, regularly checking my Garmin to make sure I was on target (I was) and nibbling on my Percy Piglets – there was nothing of real note.

At 22 miles I was expecting to hit the wall – but it didn’t happen. Why?…. I’m not sure but I think that’s when I ran past a group of spectators who told me I was in the top 10. That gave me the morale boost I needed, spurring me on for the last 4-ish miles.

At 24 miles when I was starting to flag, I ran under one of the stands of the Nottingham Forest ground and was confronted by a crowd of finishers from the half marathon. The last two miles I was running on fumes, bolstered by the cheering crowds and looking at my GPS I knew that I was on target for sub 3, even if I ran a slow two miles.

With 200m to go, I saw my support team for the third time; my Partner, ‘Brother-in-Law’ and ‘Mother-in-Law’ – thanks for darting around Nottingham to support me.

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I was so ecstatic I had the biggest grin on my face and just had to give them a high 5 as I passed. I managed a final sprint finish to cross the line, claim my medal and smashed my target getting 2hours 48 mins 24 seconds, finishing 8th overall.

Whilst I didn’t dare sit down for hour, in fear of not being able to get up again….. ever! Looking back on the day it has to be the hardest and best thing I have ever done.

I may have taken an eight-year break from running, but if I hadn’t, I don’t think I would have joined the club, signed up for a Marathon and persevered in training to reach my goal.

Thanks to all at Roundhay Runners for re-igniting my love of running. You’re one of the most support group of people I have ever met – and I know I couldn’t have achieved my time at Nottingham Marathon without the support at the Club.

Anyone thinking about doing the Nottingham Marathon – DON’T! I’d do the half marathon – it’s flat and fast.

Anyone thinking of signing up for A Marathon – DO IT! It doesn’t matter what your personal target is, it’ll be one of the best things you will ever do.

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