Happily Ever After

Life in The Rural Retreat with a beautiful wife, three cats, garden wildlife, a camera, a computer – and increasing amounts about running

Earlier posts can be found on Adventures of a Lone Bass Player, where this blog began life. Recent entries can be found here.


Yorkshire Marathon 2023

by Russell Turner - 13:11 on 19 October 2023

One week after Royal Parks HM ended in 24ºC heat, my fourth Yorkshire Marathon began in 5ºC cool – which was fine because there was no wind. Perfect running conditions, so yet again my run/walk race plan went out of the window. I never learn.

The plan had already changed, thanks to me stupidly leaving the Camelbak at home. Matchgirl suggested buying a replacement but I’ve wasted enough money on hydration packs. Fortunately I’d brought my 500ml collapsible water bottle and holder, plus three emergency stickpacks alongside the Tailwind I’d planned to use in the Camelbak, so in theory I had nutrition for four hours. With gel stations along the way I’d have no trouble…

So Plan B was to run three miles, run/walk three miles, refill with water and Tailwind, repeat three times, then tough out the last 2.2 miles with water and a gel or just water. What could possibly go wrong?

After I’d deposited my baggage, Matchgirl bid me a fond farewell before the start and left so she could cheer me with the crowds outside the Minster. I inserted myself into the start pen, halfway between the 5:00 and 5:30 pacers (there wasn’t a 5:15), did a few warm-up stretches and waited for the off. At 9.30am around 4,500 people straggled across the start line and made the short descent towards the city.

Two miles later, whooped by an enthusiastic Matchgirl, I was still in touch with the 5:00 pacer and feeling good. A mile after that, at the first water station (which I didn’t need), I continued to feel good so kept running, despite Plan B. Three miles after that, at Stockton-on-the-Forest, I stopped for the first time to refill: six miles done in 67mins. The pit stop was speedy, but long enough that the 5:00 pacers disappeared into the distance. I didn’t mind – I’d got a 5:15 finish in mind anyway.

Another three miles of running followed, during which I struck up conversation with the guy dressed as a ketchup bottle (as you do) who’d allowed a friend to choose his garb for his first marathon. He was already regretting it, although regular cries from spectators of “Come on, Saucy” must have helped inspire him. Or maybe not. He’d hoped for a 4:30 finish but with a HM PB of 2:30 was already well behind schedule. I left him to it and pressed on, reaching nine miles, and another unneeded water station, in 1:42, still running and ahead of schedule despite a couple of mild inclines.

More pleasant rural road brought me to Sand Hutton, home of my maternal ancestors, after 11 miles, following which I switched at last to 6:1 run/walk in preparation for the dreaded Dunnington spur. The conditions were still good – cool to mild with no wind – and I felt unusually optimistic about the battle to come.

I made my second pit stop at the 12-mile water station after 2:16, still feeling good despite knowing the race was only just beginning. Two miles after that, having manfully stuck to my 6:1 ratio, I entered Stamford Bridge just as the 5:00 pacers were leaving, which was a boost, as were the crowds there.

I ran past the 15-mile water station in 2:54 – slowing a little (no surprise now I was run/walking) but still feeling OK, even at Mile 16, the beginning of the spur and when the headwind that always seems to lurk there sprang up. I pressed on anyway, chatting with a guy in a Leeds Marathon vest who told me about how hilly the second half had been. It’s maybe as well I’d had gigs that weekend.

Further up the spur I was again passed by the 5:00 pacers, coming the other way and a little more ahead. Also there, on the far side of the road, was Matchgirl, who’d walked there from the city. I rounded the turning point, to discover the wind was still in my face (Dunnington has its own weather system) and trotted down to meet her and receive a welcome pep talk.

Shortly after that I made the third pit stop, at the 18-mile water station, during which the 5:30 pacers, Eve and Emma, passed me, upbeat music blaring and full of smiles. This felt like a good vibe (Matchgirl would have hated it) so I caught them up. They were ahead of 5:30 time, they revealed, so planned their own run/walk to the end. Perfect.

Life was not so perfect for some of the other runners we passed, some limping, some walking and one young lad, who admitted he’d not trained enough, hating life. The pacers shouted encouragement, and slowed to check all was OK, but they had a schedule to meet. The runners unable to join us were left behind. Also spotted, as we ran down the spur, was Saucy coming up the spur and looking very weary.

We left the spur after 20 miles. I don’t think I’d conquered it but it was certainly my best effort and I knew the final six miles were much more pleasant, with flat road through a few picturesque villages with gaggles of spectators still out to encourage marathon stragglers. I’d been looking forward to it.

Now, however, was where my lack of training caught up with me. Having tacked Yorkshire onto the end of the Royal Parks training block, my longest long run since Race to the Stones had been only 14 miles, which may explain the final four-mile struggle, not helped by a disinclination to imbibe Tailwind or gels. I tried to match the pacers’ run/walk but it wasn’t in me. Luckily, I discovered that by walking hard, and with a few brief trots, I could keep them in sight, losing them only in the final mile.

Suddenly, the end was close – or, at least, the petrol station at the bottom of Green Dykes Lane, from where the cruel 200m climb crested the hill and marked the 200m downhill run-in to the finish line. I was ready to run the final stretch, but just to make sure was pacer Eve, who’d waited for me because she knew a course PB was on the cards. So we finished together, cheered on by Matchgirl and the remaining crowd, me in 5:27:20 – my fastest non-virtual marathon and faster than my previous Yorkshire PB in 2019. Maybe I’d have been faster, or more comfortable, if I’d run/walked from the start, but who knows. It felt like an achievement even if 4,000 runners finished ahead of me, including most of the MV65 category. A few race photos were acceptable but not enough for me to spend the money. Royal Parks was the same.

Last year I said I’d done my last Yorkshire Marathon. This year I said the same again, but never say never. That said, 2024’s is highly unlikely because I’ve already got four weekends booked off from the band, including the one the week before next year’s race when the Oxford HM is in my diary.

Recovery has been as swift as I could have hoped (Matchgirl was the only one to get a blister), although Storm Babet means it might be Monday before I run again. Until then I’ll continue to rest and refuel. After all, I’ve now run two ultras and 11 marathons. Who’d have thought it?

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