Sunday 14th October.
After what seemed like a long build up, race day was here. A PB in the Ipswich Half had put me in optimistic mood and I'd more or less stuck to the plan; even going for a run on the Newquay weekend! Since then things had gone a bit off track with the old manflu, but I'd spent the last week drinking beetroot juice so that's got to compensate surely.
Nothing for it now but to give it a go. Prep over, talk over, sponsors anticipating, relatives out on the course ... so why am I still in the queue for the loo with 5 mins to go? A quick dash to the start, no warm up, no stretch (hmm), squeezing through a gap in the barriers, and we're off. A pelaton of 3000 flow down into the city and then head north en masse over the Belgrave Road flyover. As always, it feels good to take control of the roads.
As a rookie I wasn't sure what pace to adopt and had decided on an 8 min / mile pace; based on Ipswich, (misplaced) optimism and it being easier to do the maths.
After 6 miles 80% of the field turned off to do the Half and we headed out into the Leicestershire countryside, lovely route, cool, sunny and a light breeze. Slightly ahead of the 8 min pace and a bit of chat, feeling good.
At halfway, still on pace but the chat has stopped. At ~18 miles still feel OK but a level crossing's lights go on to a general groan from the small group of runners and we have to stop. The marshall notes our numbers, but we're soon off again. I don't know if that was significant but the legs are feeling heavy now. At mile 19/20 we rejoin the half marathon route and head into Watermead country park alongside the village where I grew up.
But then I got hit with a series of sharp cramps in my calves having to stop briefly each time to stretch out before setting off again; at what felt like a snail's pace!
A short sharp climb into Birstall to where my Dad is waiting. I'm desperate to look OK, and nearly get away with it, only to cramp up again just before disappearing from view. Then at mile 23 I pull up sharply with a full on hamstring cramp. The expletives which follow are not fully appreciated by the pushchair supporters nearby ... and I'm starting to think I'm not going to make it.
Lots of encouragement from a nearby marshall and a suggestion to wriggle my toes gets me moving and I commit to not stopping again, and grind out the last 3 miles snaking through the city centre and then up the long drag last mile towards the finish. Strangely the slope seems to help stretch out the muscles and I pick up the pace a bit. The last 200 is on the flat and with the sound of someone behind me I find a 'sprint' finish from somewhere, crossing the line with 3:40 on the watch.
It was a huge relief to get to the finish in the end and I felt quite emotional. It wasn't the race I had had in mind but at least feel that I've had the full (rookie) marathon experience, and overall pleased with the time. Would I do it again? Yesterday, it was a definate no. Today, it's a probable no.
Thanks for all the support (sorry the report's such a marathon)