Sunday 8th October 2017 was a brilliant day for York, North Yorkshire. It was the day of the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon 2017 and I was running it. Having never ran a marathon before this was quite something for me.
5.45am the alarm went off, I rolled over and switched it off. Marathon day was here. I nudged the hubby who was running with me today and we both got up. Breakfast was your standard affair before a long run- a big bowl of oats with a few spoons of Nutella. I was feeling surprisingly calm and fine at this point. I expected the pre-race nerves to kick in but they didn’t seem to be. I started to feel confident that everything was going to be ok and I was quite excited to run my first ever marathon.
7am we set off. We live about 25 miles away from where the marathon started so we estimated it would take about 45 minutes to get to the car park where we could get a bus into York (buses were put on from Elvington airfield so that traffic wasn’t going straight into York as there were loads of road closures). As we got closer to the airfield, the traffic was pretty hectic so we had to queue for a while. At this point I started to feel the nerves a little, but I kept a positive mind and just kept imagining us finishing the race. That was our goal for this- having never ran 26.2 miles before we didn’t know what to expect so we just wanted to get round in one piece and finish it. We finally managed to park the car and grab the next bus to the university which is where the marathon started and finished. The atmosphere was buzzing when we arrived.
The bag drop and event area was pretty well organised, everything was well signposted. The only thing that was annoying was the toilets. I know with such a big event with thousands of people there that of course there’s going to be queues for the toilets but I think there should have been more. We queued for about 15-20 minutes just to go for a wee! After we finally managed to use the toilets it was time to head to the start line which was a 5 minute walk away. The warm-up for the race was non-existent so we had to just do a little jiggle and a quick jump about in the tiny space we had and that would have to do.
Before we knew it the countdown had begun and it was time to go. As we were so far back from the actual start line it took around 10 minutes to get to it but we were off. The first couple of miles were straight through York city centre and the support and atmosphere here was incredible, it really made me feel confident. I had noticed from the beginning that the 5-hour pacer was behind us and she was slowly getting further and further away from us. This made me feel confident and made me believe that we may finish this in a pretty good time for a first marathon (anything sub 5 hours was a good time for us). The first half of the marathon flew by and I was feeling great although I did have to stop at the toilet I had drank so much water and isotonic drink that there was no way I could have ran any further feeling so full.
I told my husband to carry on running and I would catch him up, which I did. Mile 15 was a bit of a struggle and I feared I’d hit the dreaded wall. But I focused and pulled myself back. At this point we saw the 5 hour pacer go by and disappear ahead- bye bye sub 5 hours for us! To be honest, at this point it didn’t really matter what time we finished in, we just wanted to finish.
Miles 16 to 20 were probably the most awful ones as when you reach mile 17 you can see mile 19 on the other side of the road- you know you have to run all the way down that road to come all the way back- not the best feeling in the world. At this point I was keeping an eye on my husband as he was starting to slow down. I kept a slow pace just ahead of him and kept encouraging him to keep going. This continued until mile 20 when my husband had to stop. I feared he hadn’t taken on enough energy to keep him going so I made him continuously sip water and isotonic and told him to have an energy gel sachet. He did and we started to run again. Unfortunately, this was now the point of no return for him and I had to continuously encourage him to keep going. This is when the aches and pains started to kick in for me as I was running so slowly to keep my husband going.
Miles 23-25 were the slowest due to walking quite a lot but I was determined to keep us going. I told my husband that when we got to the mile 25 marker we were going to run and not stop until we finished. Mile 25 arrived, I grabbed his hand and off we went. At 25.5 miles there is quite a steep hill to get back up to the university campus but there was no way I was letting that stop me from running. I completely zoned in on my husband and kept him going. We got to the top and then it was downhill from there- the last few hundred feet and the finish line were in sight. The crowds going up the hill and on the way to the finish line were awesome. There was so much encouragement from everyone!
It was done, we had done it! Off to get our goody bag and medal we went. Would I recommend the Yorkshire marathon? Yes I would. Looking back it actually was a very pleasant run (as pleasant as a marathon can be I guess). 90% of the course is pretty flat which makes for a great first marathon. I would certainly do it again and I would be aiming for a better time- we did it in 5 hours 30 minutes so I would definitely aim for sub 5 hours next time. To have an event like that so close to where I live is fantastic and I will be back!
This is Sundried ambassador Vanessa Cullen's race report from her first marathon and ultramarathon at the Great Ocean Walk Trail Run in Victoria, Australia where her and teammate Rohini finished as first female team overall.
My First Ultramarathon
My longest run to date had been 38km (23 miles) so I had plenty of questions in my mind whilst waiting for my relay team mate Rohini to finish her 55km (34-mile) leg before I could commence my 45km (28 miles) in the Great Ocean Walk Trail Run 100km event (100km is roughly 62 miles). It was hard to know when to eat, not knowing when Rohini would come through the exchange checkpoint, but I got lucky with a gel, a piece of banana and a lolly snake timed to perfection just before she appeared.
Once I was off and running alone, in the quiet of my mind, all the questions and niggles evaporated. After the initial 5km climb I really settled emotionally and physically. After 10km I felt gloriously happy, in command and confident I would complete the race. The course was very testing with 'shark's tooth' elevation changes, sand, mud and stairs but it was also incredibly beautiful. There were so many breathtaking moments at the crests of hills and as we emerged from single trail onto coastal headlands and lush green paddock clearings.
I loved every single moment, even the most gruelling, and did pause a few seconds to savour the world renowned views quite a few times! I was very happy to see our crew at the 25km mark but was feeling strong and was in and out of the checkpoint in barely a minute. At 37km I felt nauseous but settled it with food, recognising the sensation as just hunger. The iconic Twelve Apostles stone formations came into view and I exclaimed out loud "Wow!". No one was there to hear but that didn't matter.
My watch hit 40km (25 miles) exactly as I clambered over a fence stile. I had a brief moment of personal cheerleading at the excitement of seeing those digits for the first time! 2.2km later I was beaming and celebrating again at having cracked my first marathon. The remainder of the distance to the finish line seemed to drag on because I was so excited to have nailed the race and wanting so bad to see my relay buddy, crew and friends. The final finish was a brilliant celebration as I accomplished our aim of beating nightfall and Rohini ran down the finish chute with me, hand in hand. My partner and crew were all there and it was a moment that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
But what really stood out for me, in this race, was:
- The pure fun of the training process in preparing for the race.
- The incredible peace, joy and sense of being 'at home' I flowed in over the course.
- Confirming that I can run so far beyond physical pain when my soul is in control.
I can’t wait to take on my next trail ultramarathon experience now. I’m hooked!
The Lee Valley VeloPark Races give runners a chance to follow the 1-mile route around the Olympic Velodrome park and follow in the footsteps of Olympic athletes. Set with the background of the Olympic torch sculpture with Canary Wharf and The City skyline in the distance, this is a great venue for a running race. Usually used for cycling, the 1-mile loop is a Moto GP style and is full paved and mildly undulating but mostly flat making it perfect for a PB. There are several different distances on offer meaning there's something for everyone, from a 5k to 10k, 10-mile and a half marathon with a 1-mile fun run for kids too. All the races have staggered starts but most people will be running round at the same time. Organised by Run Through, this is one of many London-based runs available in the city.
The venue for this race is truly unique as it takes place in the grounds of the Olympic velodrome which was used for races at London 2012. Before your race, you can head inside to grab a snack from the cafe and watch cyclists as they blast round the indoor track. The facilities are fantastic with plenty of toilets (not a portaloo in sight!) and you can pass the time (and calm your nerves if necessary) before you start by watching the cyclists. The atmosphere at the start is fantastic as there's music playing and lots of people milling around getting ready for later starts. There's also free parking which is a huge benefit in London and Stratford station is nearby if you're travelling in by public transport.
I was a little apprehensive about the route as it is a 1-mile loop and I had signed up for the 10-mile race, which meant I would have to run 10 laps. I thought this would be boring and annoying, but it was actually great! Running 1-mile laps means you can focus on improving your mile splits each lap and it mentally helps you to keep an even split throughout the entire race. It also means there are no sneaky hills as once you've done one lap you know what to expect for the rest. It also means there are no times when you're running on your own and feeling a bit stranded. The support is great and your friends and family can see you at several points round the lap as it loops round. It's a very gently undulating course with a couple of very small climbs as you run on a bridge over a road, but other than that it's pancake flat making for very fast times. The final benefit of a lapped course is that you can pick up water every mile and not have to hold on to it, knowing there'll be more as you start the next lap.
Run Through organise a handful of races around London and their energy and spark really shines through. For all their races, they offer plenty of water and a banana, energy bar, and flapjack at the end. They also offer free race photos afterwards and I was extremely impressed by how quickly the races photos were uploaded (by the next day!) Your family and friends can watch your splits in real time as they're uploaded every time you pass the lap marker. There's free sports massage on offer at the end and there are plenty of marshals around the route cheering you on and generally being very enthusiastic and encouraging. It's a great atmosphere and a really fun race. If you're looking for a PB or just to run in an encouraging environment, this is the race for you.
On a chilly Saturday morning earlier this year, I found myself running from zombies. Well, fake zombies, but it felt real enough and was nevertheless very scary! Although I have done a few long distance runs before, I always find I enjoy obstacle running events more, and so when I found out about the Zombie Run I just had to try it out.
I recruited a group of friends, did some training for it and mentally prepared myself for the horror and messiness that I knew would ensue once the race began. Not wanting to ruin any nice clothes in the mud, I dressed in my least favourite clothes, all except for my Sundried sports bra which I can’t live without when running!
The 5k obstacle event featured actors dressed as zombies who had to try and take our tags, which were attached to us on a Velcro belt. Runners get 3 lives and if you manage to finish with at least one in tact, you are crowned a Survivor. If you fail, you finish as 'Infected'. The adrenaline really gets the blood pumping!
We ran through forest and traipsed through deep water, and let’s not forget the mud! We all looked in good need of a bath by the end of it.
Anyone who is up for a bit of a scare should definitely try one of the Zombie Runs, I will be signing up again but bringing a bigger posse with me to calm my nerves!
Sundried ambassador Simon Ward won his Age Group at the prestigious London Duathlon this year. He gives us a report of how he got on at the electric event.
The Biggest Duathlon In The World
As the sun rose on September 17th, I found myself making my way to Richmond Park, London for the start of the biggest Duathlon in the World, The London Duathlon. It has been a tough year and a long season. Qualifying for the World Championships in Canada was in March, in the snow! The Championships in August had delivered a slightly disappointing 34th place. Today felt different. I had been coached by Australian Michael Pratt, a coach to multiple World Champions, for the last month, and I found myself being delivered to the start line feeling confident and strong.
Although the last 4 weeks should not have a major effect on performance, I just felt like an athlete for the first time this year. I was to start in the first wave, which was a huge benefit to my race tactics - to attack from the gun. At the start, I settled into 2nd place on the initial run and sped out of the start arena and chased the leader who was a short distance ahead. Realising quickly that his run speed would inch him away, I established a rhythm and concentrated on my own race. That’s when I hit the first hill. A solid 3-minute climb spread the field out nicely before plunging downward to the half way point, and then a flat, fast finish for the first run.
I could see the leader 30 seconds ahead as I entered transition. Friends who were there supporting me screamed encouragement as I weaved amongst the bike racks finding shoes, bike and helmet in my pre-set positions. The rough ground that exited transition had dictated that my shoes were not attached to my pedals. Although this is quicker, my instinct proved right as I pushed my run first shoe off, fastened helmet and placed my first cycle shoe on in a fluid 5 second movement, quickly removing the second shoe and jumping into my cycle shoes and exiting the bike racks I found myself chasing the leader out of the transition area.
We mounted simultaneously, however he was struggling to get his feet into the pedal mounted shoes, as I immediately smashed through the gears following the rewarding snap of feet clipping into pedals and immediately delivering 400+ watt pedal strokes and firing me out of transition onto the cycle course and into the lead. I attacked the bike course with venom and determination I had not known for years, the first climb felt like a Tour-de-France stage, climbing endlessly into lactate threshold oblivion, watched by a bemused group of deer and several dozen spectators whose raucous support and loud cow bells would ring in my ears for the rest of the lap.
I estimated a 3-minute lead at the halfway point, then the disaster came. As I sped downhill to one of the roundabout turn points, my brakes smoking and screeching to a controlled speed, the downshift gearing struggled, then hesitated and then the chain came off the rear cogs and jammed. I leaped off the bike and immediately turned it upside down, within an agonising 40 seconds the chain was back on and the cogs turned freely. I was back on my way, 2-3 minutes lost and a swear box full to capacity. Apologies to anyone within earshot. It would be another few minutes before I would get back up to speed and rhythm. I no longer knew if I was still leading, the other races that day were now at various stages, meaning that around 3,000 people were on the bike course. The second lap completed without incident, and I had managed to push really hard towards the end, knowing I just had a 5k run to go.
The final run was a lesson in pain management. Cramp in both calves meant that I was going to find the hill a challenge to say the least. Every stride was agony, but I just couldn’t stop, I didn’t know where anyone else was in the race, I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. 1k down, up the hill, drink station at 2.5k, photographer at 3k, turn at 4k and final straight were all a blur as my mental countdown to the finish pushed me onward. The music, cheers and commentators pulled me slowly towards the finish line as with huge relief I crossed the line. I had won, by around 2 minutes. The post-race data would show that it was the fastest I had raced all year, and the hardest I had pushed myself. The great Czech Emil Zatopek said of big race days- “Today, we die a little”. This was the day I died a lot. Cannot wait for the next time.