October 18, 2022

York Marathon

Bob Foreman reports:

A 6am start for Mark, Matt and myself for our quickish spin to York in Marks Golf R. When the sun rose into a cloudless sky we were all looking forward to the day ahead. A short toilet stop at McDonalds on the A64 but then at 8am as we joined the queue around the runway of Elvington Airfield to our parking spot I suddenly got an attack of the collywobbles. I needed a loo urgently and on seeing a row of porta loos alongside a fleet of double decker buses I scuttled across the tarmac with everything clenched. I joined the queue and fortunately a trap became available before an accident. Phew, but so much energy wasted.

Onto a double decker for the 20 minute drive to the “event village” at the University. It was now 8.45am and we got changed into our running gear. I got my bodyglide balm out but it was rock hard and unspreadable due to the cold, it was about 10 degrees! Fortunately I had some Vaseline so two dollops on the nips and on with the club vest. Although cold I decided not to wear a base layer as it looked like it would warm up later, which it did. Oh no, more collywobbles and a clenching ten minute wait in the queue and again just got a trap in time. More wasted energy, I felt drained and seriously thought about calling it a day.

Mark and Matt offered no sympathy whatsoever and took the piss. It was now only 15 mins to the start so our bags were dropped in the tent and off we went to the start. Mark and Matt trotted off to find the 3 hr pacer and I stood next to the static 3.30 flag on the barriered off road that led up to the start, which I could not see as it was, at least, a couple of hundred yards away on the brow of the hill. I felt a bit claustrophobic penned in with so many people, lots cheering and some who were high fiving each other. One bloke next to me offered me his elbow to bump but I ignored the prat. I was looking around for the 3.30 flag pacer but he was nowhere to be seen. There was lots of music and some woman screeching out various announcements. We then had a minutes applause for Harry Gration FFS. I didn’t know he was a runner.

At last the Klaxon sounded and I walked for around 90 seconds to the start line and off to go. It was such a relief to get running. I still could not see my flag pacer so my race strategy, which was to follow him, had already gone out of the window!. It was good to be running and the first half mile was through the city centre and past the Minster whose bells were pealing. Another mile through a nice residential area and then out into the countryside. I heard a couple of people shout “come on Bob” and “well done Bob” and thought it strange as I wasn’t aware of anyone who knew me would be spectating. It wasn’t until it happened a couple more times that the penny dropped and I realised that my name was on my number! Doh! (I’ve never had my name on my number before).

After a few miles and still not seeing my flag pacer I decided that he must be behind me, and as I dare not look behind, was expecting him to come past at any time. My watch told me that my pace was only a few seconds either side 8mm pace and I was feeling good. After 13 miles there was a short out and back section to Stamford Bridge and on my way out I met my 3.30 flag pacer coming back in the opposite direction with a close bunch of about 40 runners on his heels. I was around 800yds behind him, but was happy not to be in that bunch. I couldn’t work out exactly what the score was but looked at my watch and was happy with my pace.

The next 4 miles was a long gradual uphill into a refreshingly cool but strong headwind and by this time I was finding that I was gradually catching and overtaking runners. I certainly wasn’t going faster so could only assume that they were going slower. I took this opportunity so shelter behind one for a while and then move on to the next as I picked them off. As we got to the top of the hill around 16 miles, another out and back section of 4 miles started and up ahead I could see my pal, Matt, walking. I wasn’t going to stop so prior to reaching him I shouted his name and asked what was up with him. He replied ” my balls hurt”! This did not surprise me as he had only had a vasectomy 10 days ago and was told not to run. He said he’d run with me but I told him not to and go to a retirement point that we had just passed and get a lift back.

I continued, slightly downhill now to the end of the out and back section, seeing Mark coming in the opposite direction and shouting “where’s Matt”! I then saw my 3.30 flag pacer for the second time, still around 800yds ahead, but with fewer runners on his heels. After the turnaround it was still another 2 miles to the 20 miles mark where we would take a left and head back towards York. On this section I was still overtaking runners and started to see many walking. I was still feeling comfortable and on reaching the 20 mile mark and taking that left homeward turn, which was also slightly downhill, gave a boost. In fact on checking my watch I could see I was picking up the pace to 7.20, which felt fine, but I had a word with myself and eased back a little, as I didn’t want to mess up and ruin my good work. The course was pan flat now and nice and twisty for a couple of miles. I continued to catch and pass runners, and many more walkers, but had to keep telling myself to switch on and concentrate, especially when my right foot dropped off the edge of a pothole and I felt a sharp pain in my right calf which quickly went, then kept coming back intermittently but more frequently.

This was at 23 miles and from being comfortable suddenly all sorts of things entered my head. Was it cramp, or an old injury which comes and goes? Should I stop and stretch it? If I do will it make it worse? If I stop will I get going again? Anyway, I kept going and before long I was into another nice residential area and people were shouting “come on Bob” and “Well done Bob”. I don’t know if it was the same ones!

I remember passing a church on the way out where the vicar and his happy clappy choir were singing and then passing another church on the return where loudspeakers were blasting out Eye of the Tiger and Bat out of Hell. Of all the attractions/distractions on the course my favourite was by far the fully kilted Pipe and Drum band that were giving it some welly with The Skye Boat Song, in the middle of nowhere.

I managed to put my calf to the back of my mind for the last two miles during which I got to within 100yds of my 3.30 flag pacer who by now had only around 15 runners with him. My last mile was the slowest at 8.10 but it did have the steepest hill of the day, a 85feet drag to the top of the hill before the run down to the finish back at the University.

My official time was 3hrs 28min 06 sec. My watch said 3hrs 28min 07 sec. Almost perfect timing, perfect pacing and I was chuffed to bits with my first and last Marathon.

I bumped into the 3.30 flag pacer and asked him what his time was and it was 3hrs 29min 15sec, so although I hardly saw him I was over a minute quicker! Just a quick mention on fuelling, I had 6 Maurten gels, one every 4 miles, a little water at each 3 mile feed station and as I figured that my slow early morning intake of electrolytes would have disappeared during my toilet troubles I had a small glug of High 5 at feed stations 6,12 and 18 miles.

Mark was disappointed with his 3hrs 16min as his wheels came off between miles 20 and 22. Matt did not get a lift back but started jogging from the 20 mile point where I saw him and then Mark caught him up and they ran together for a while. Matt, like a prat, ran through the finish and has been credited with a time of 3hrs 21min even though he only ran 22 miles, having missed out the 4 miles out and back!

Oh, and by the way, I have qualified for an England Masters vest for next years Chester Marathon. However, I’m not planning to do another marathon and I certainly wouldn’t be seen wearing an England Vest.
Mark also qualified for an England Masters vest finishing in a respectable time of 3hrs 16min 02sec.

Matthew got the top prize however, managing to take the crown jewels home intact!!

Only two things might bring me out of marathon retirement and they would be

1. A Welsh Vest

2. Graham’s Fifty Thousand Pounds