After a summer of running around and up and down mountains in the Alps I got home and decided to look for an autumn marathon to run. Chester marathon caught my eye as a lovely marathon that started in a pretty historic town and then wound it’s way through scenic country lanes. With 7 weeks to go I signed up and started training. I also moved house and found a new running club to run with – Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow (WSE&H). Conrad Milton took me under his wing and helped me with a marathon-training programme that would provide a much needed shock to the system. I instantly loved the WSE&H training sessions as the training group I was put in. I had a lovely group of girls to train with which was a welcomed change especially to Sunday long runs.
I arrived in Chester on Saturday afternoon and the town was filled with marathon runners, Chester Football fans and a gay pride parade giving the city a wonderful buzz. My dad drove me up and was kind enough to drive me around the race course so I could get a feel for the race course and what I was about to undertake the following day. We went out to a little Italian restraint for dinner where I had an antipasti platter to start followed by carbonara and then a lovely chocolate fondant, it was safe to say that I was fueled up and ready to race.
Sunday morning arrived and I wondered down to breakfast to see my fallow runners pilling as many carbs as possible into their mouths. I really struggled to eat breakfast; this is not normally a problem so I was slightly concerned. I managed to eat a bowl of muesli, some toast and a banana although forcing myself to eat wasn’t a pleasant experience.
We were staying a stones throw away from Chester Racecourse where the race started which was great and allowed for a little longer in bed. An hour before the race I wondered to the race course to warm up, luckily I was given an elite slot and as a result got to go in the nice elite tent. The tent was filled with food and comfy chairs to sit on before the race and took away a bit of the flurry of race morning. I went for a little jog to warm up and was then called by the race organisers to get walked over to the start.
I along with 5000 eager runners lined up to take on the 26.2 miles challenge. The race starts with a lap of the city before heading into the countryside. I felt pretty good setting off and instantly decided that I wasn’t going to look at my watch the whole way round, I am not entirely sure why and on reflection I probably should have as my mile splits for the first 11 miles were spot on what I was aiming for. Off I went, the first 11 miles or so I felt pretty good, I seemed to have a very slight stitch for the first 10 miles but it didn’t affect my running it was just bloody annoying. Then mile 12 arrived and I hit the wall. People who say the magical wall is it 18/20 miles are liars, as I have hit that bad boy twice at the 12-mile point (in London last year and in this race). The next 3 miles or so were pretty hard work and I am not going to lie I didn’t really enjoy them. I took on an extra gel than I had planned to take which made me feel a bit better. I continued to plod along and was pretty happy when the marathon course joined the metric marathon course as it gave me some people to run with and chase down. The metric marathon course was an out and back route and I have never had so much support from fellow runners cheering me, my fav has to be the where’s wally girls! I arrived at the final hill which I am not going to lie at 24 miles is pretty cheeky to encounter. Getting to the top of the hill was a lovely relief knowing that there was just over a mile left to go until the finish. I picked up the pace for the last mile and got the mother of all stitches which really hurt but knowing I only had a mile left I just pushed through. The course finished where is started on the racecourse and seeing the finishing clock ticking away was a welcomed sight. I finished the race in 2hrs 51 mins and 49 secs in second place and one second quicker than the London Marathon last year. I thought I was going to run a lot quicker but on reflection with playing in the mountains this summer and only 7 weeks of focused marathon training I was pretty happy to get a 1 second PB. I also set myself the goal of getting a sub 3 hour marathon as this would give me the A qualifying time for the comrades marathon so I can’t really ask for more and to get the time I set out to do.
I can’t recommend Chester Marathon highly enough. The organisation was fantastic, the course was well marshaled and there were great aid stations every 3 miles along the course. The route is scenic winding through country lanes and passing by quaint English and Welsh villages. If you are looking for a nice autumn marathon in the UK then Chester should be on your list!