Spartan blog

Over excited novice - Chester Marathon 2012

Sunday the 7th of October


I’ve always wanted to run a marathon; I can remember watching the London Marathon as a child thinking ‘one day I’ll do that’, although at the same time having no comprehension, or even the drive for a plan, of how to get there!

Then on the 12th of May 2012, stood at the Spartan Sandstone challenge BBQ listening to all the guys who had just completed 33 miles, (including Ged who claimed to have run no more than 8 miles some 3 weeks earlier), I was given the inspiration I required. I would enter the Chester Marathon and aim for sub 4 hours and 20 minutes as my first attempt.

I’ve only ever trained for one race previously which was my half marathon, and I hated it! I forced myself out of the door to run along busy roads on dark evenings. Obviously that was before I met the Spartans and they showed me the light of trail running!

I enjoyed all my marathon training runs. I barely did the same route twice. The start of my training was motivated by tagging on extra miles either side of Sunday Spartan Sessions. What made all the difference to the later stages of training was Andy keeping me company on my long runs and showing me some new routes around the White Gate Way. If it wasn’t for fitting training in around work and social events I’d have happily clocked up even more miles.

My sister lent me a book ‘Go faster food’ by Kate Percy. If you are new to long distance running I can’t recommend it enough. I abandoned a few of my half marathon training runs because I felt too hungry, but not this time.

Race day:

This was only my 8th race. Four of my previous races had been 10k’s, I’d done two 10 milers, and one half marathon some 18 months ago… and my inexperience really showed in the lead up to the race kick off. I’d been terribly nervous the day before, hadn’t slept well, didn’t leave enough time to get my fellow runner Sarah and supporters out of the house, hadn’t considered how to get to the race course if we arrived after the road closures, the toilet queues were longer than anticipated, I set off wearing too many clothes etc! As a consequence joining a race pen was a rush and Sarah and I ended up in sub 4 hours section and not the sub 4.15 or even sub 4.30 hours I’d been debating! A classic school-girl error.

I didn’t have much of a race plan. I’m not good at pacing myself. I knew I’d have nervous energy to burn off and had planned to go with the adrenaline for the first 2 miles and then calm down and settle into the run. From my training I knew I could do it in less than 4 hours 15 minutes and I was hoping that with the momentum of race day I would be in with a chance of sub 4 hours. I thought I’d do around 8:45 minute miles for the first half and then aim to maintain 9:30 minute miles for the 3rd quarter and hoped that the psychology of the final 6 miles would lift me to pick up the pace again for the final push.

However the nervous adrenaline lasted for 8 miles! We were hitting around 8 minute miles and having a great time. Although I was thinking I would suffer for the speed later, I also didn’t really know what to do to slow down! Partly perhaps due to being swept along with the sub 4 hour crowds.

We crossed the half way point in 1:54:10 and I felt great. The supporters and marshals were fantastic making a real effort to call out our names (great idea by mbna to put the names on the race numbers). 12 to 15 miles consisted of a loop with runners doubling back on themselves either side of the road. Everyone was looking very focused but I still felt excited and I was holding back from high fiving everyone as I ran past!

16 to 18 miles was where I had strategically placed my supporters. I thought I would need a boost but actually having them there only prolonged my over excitement for a few more miles. We saw them just as we left Holt which propelled us on into Farndon – the location of the first noticeable hill. Supporters lined the hill into Farndon cheering and as we cheered back at them their support got louder powering us up the hill. The worst bit done… or so I thought. We saw our supporters again at Aldford and were handed more jelly babies, which I really didn’t need. I was happy with a cube of malt loaf every 7 miles however I was able to offer the jelly babies around to my fellow runners.

19-20 miles and I still felt good, having some banter with fellow runners and supporters about how lovely their houses were and as we hit the 20 mile mark my spirits were high calling back down the road to Sarah ‘only 6 miles to go!!!!’. I was so happy, I still had an hour to complete in and achieve sub: 4 hours… I could do this…

The 21 mile wall

Most marathon articles will talk about the 21 mile wall ‘ the point in the marathon when a runner’s glycogen (stored energy) within the muscles is depleted, forcing them to slow down’. I’d read about it, I’d read how to avoid it, I’d put every measure suggested in place, except the bit about ‘not running ahead of pace because you feel so great at the beginning of the race’… oops.

The wall was visible around me, suddenly people were walking, the banter between runners had gone, the few supporters and marshals around were getting nothing back in return for their support. I plodded on past the walkers, I least I was still running! I closed my eyes, it was going to be a long 5 miles.

Then I heard ‘Come on Fay from Delamere Spartans’, I opened my eyes and smiled weakly at the spectator beside me. I looked at my watch, I could still do this, 4 miles to go and 40 minutes left to sub: 4 hours. Yes, come on Fay from the Delamere Spartans. My thanks go to who ever that supporter was, the stranger who ensured I didn’t give up.

I composed myself and started to recall the good luck wishes from my fellow team mates, but it was a strange tiredness, my lungs felt fine, even my legs felt ok, they just refused to move any faster, and it felt like it was all uphill! I hit 24 miles at 3:40 and still thought a sub 4 hour marathon could be possible. Heading into Chester the road was flat and I knew there was a nice downhill towards the river where Alan P would be waiting to cheer me on for the final mile.

But as I headed down the hill it wasn’t giving me the drive I’d been hoping for and my watch revealed I’d be a few minutes over 4 hours. Whilst half of me could have burst into tears and walked, the other half was listening to Dave C’s words of ‘just put one foot in front of the other’ and I was so pleased to be completing my first marathon in a time which I didn’t think possible when I signed up for it.

I headed into the race course to a sea of faces leaning over the barriers cheering. It was incredible… I was just too tired to take it in! Then over the speaker I heard ‘Congratulations Fay Jackson from Delamere Spartans you have just completed the Chester Marathon’ and the Spartan in me found the energy to throw my arms in the air – if only briefly!

4:03:05 … when’s the next one?!!

A massive thank you goes to…

• Thank you Sarah Brown, my partner in crime in seeking new challenges! Training with you whilst in different parts of the country is fun – but running alongside you is SO much better!

• Thank you Spartans for all your encouragement, advice and training. To my fellow Spartan racers for waiting for me at the end saving me from hyperventilating or bursting into tears.

• Thanks to our 12 supporters who followed us around the course jelly babies to hand and to all the sponsors who helped Sarah and I raise £815+ for Cancer Research – both of these factors really helped to motivate me in the final weeks.

• The fantastic organisers, marshals and spectators who looked after us and made the event feel so personal – you did us proud!


Fay Jackson's picture