Well this was the one we’d all been aiming towards and knew it would be a test. Some would be chasing PB’s and others making their debut’s over the 26 miles 385 yards. Now in its fourth year, it’s becoming a popular event in the race calendar. Well organised, well marshalled and despite the large field, friendly.
The build-up to the event had been gradual, with all of us upping the distances in training runs over the two months previous. However, on the eve of the race, we still had to organise transport over the Chester on the last minute and where we were going to meet. We took three cars. Shaun, Liam, Frankie and Shaun in one, Andy, Rick and me in another and Steve and Will in the last one with the aim of meeting at the Pepper Street NCP but that changed a bit. On arrival, we found out why the CEO of NCP has a £51M yacht, finding the £16.20 parking fee a little bit of a piss-take to occupy 8 square meters for 6 hours. I suppose it will pay for a half bottle of champagne but I for one sincerely hope he chokes on it.
While we were there, we found someone in the car park coming back from a rave …
You’d think that arranging to meet in the McDonalds in Chester City centre would be straight forward but thanks to their gradual takeover of the entire world, McDonalds occupied 6 sites and 5 more than is actually needed. Of course, we ended up in different ones. I called Liam.
“We’re in the McDonalds near Boots”,
“So are we..”,
“Oh right, are you upstairs or downstairs?”,
“Downstairs at the front”
“So are we”
We were downstairs at the front too but in different parts of the City. It was like a Scooby Doo cartoon where every 100 metres you had McDonalds, Boots, Starbucks, Pret. Liam ran down to meet us and we all walked up to join them. There was no Steve or Will at this point and we later found that they had gone straight to the racecourse to park so we’d meet them later after coffee and porridge.
We were only 10 minutes from Chester Racecourse and had a wander down, stopping for the usual photo of one of us sat on something. At the Sheriff 10K, we were sat on a tractor, here, we found the thing the tractor replaced, a horse (or did someone actually call it a cow?) Rick wrapped his legs round and mounted it (old habits die hard).
When we got to the racecourse, all the action was down the other end. The centre field part of it was vacant due to the cancellation of car-parking after an overnight deluge had filled it with water. It was a good set-up with gazebos from clubs lining the finishing furlong. We dropped off our stuff at Hyde Striders who were very kind letting non-striders park their stuff there too before we ‘saddled-up’ ready for the start. It wouldn’t be long before we’d be ‘jockeying’ for position at the start and ‘get the bit between our teeth’ [Editors note: Quit with the horse-racing puns, now!] [Erm sorry … 😐 ]
We’d timed it quite nice and the sun broke through the clouds as we assembled at the start pens. I thought this was really well managed as their were barriers, but set apart so you could waltz into your pen without having to climb over or around something like so many other races.
Whilst on the start line, someone shouted, “Hey, you’re Daddies Escape” and had a photo with us. He was Carl and knew Susan Plant, friend of Daddies Escape and someone we regularly bump into at races.
We’d positioned ourselves in realistic pen positions. Steve and Andy went up front, chasing 3:15. My own PB was 3:51:19 at Edinburgh, set two days after getting married on the way up at Gretna Green on the Friday but this was 2011 and of course I was 6 years older. However, I had a really strong feeling I’d break through it at this race. I’d been feeling good and 26 miles no longer felt like the enormous distance I once considered it to be. I wanted to stick to my race plan of 8.25 per mile but it unfolded somewhat different. Paul, Rick and Frankie held back a bit to push Paul on in his first marathon.
The horn blew signalling the start and we were off. The route took a snaking path through the city centre and after a few little hillocks, it levelled off under the famous arch. As I passed the shops I saw a McDonalds, a Boots, a Starbucks and a Pret. Then again. The field opened up quickly and there was plenty of room to run. I was with Shaun and Liam and we set a decent pace. It was here that the 8:25 miles went south as we were going too fast. Every few hundred metres, Liam would pull ahead like a naughty dog on a lead and I had to keep reminding him to slow down and stick to the plan. Liam and Shaun were looking strong as around the 14 mile point I knew I could not maintain it and to risk trying may scupper my plan. I took a drink and purposely allowed a distance to get between us so they (hopefully) didn’t feel duty bound to wait for me.
Every few hundred metres, Liam would pull ahead like a naughty dog on a lead and I had to keep reminding him to slow down and stick to the plan…
Frankie managed to capture a mid-race run picture with Minty.
Up front, Steve and Andy were pushing each other on and flying. The 3:15 was on!
Anyone who’s run a marathon knows the work is done in your head. If you convince yourself you can do it, you will and vice-versa. You run the numbers through your head at every mile marker, working out what you need to do to get the time you want. It is very dynamic as so many factors contribute to this; food, drink, weather, preparation, health, state of mind but there is something really evident in this group; we just don’t quit. Now here’s a point. If someone was to quit in a race, I don’t know one of us who would find that a problem but somehow we just don’t. Its like an unwritten rule and we get each other through.
As I went through 23 miles, my legs were sore and I reached for my final gel, only to find that it had fallen out somewhere behind me. I knew all I had left was a blister pack with two Ibuprofen in. I grabbed a water and got them down me and within a mile, the pain in my legs had gone. Now I’m not in the least religious but when the rain started to come down, I began to wonder as this, together with the Ibuprofen set me up for a good finish.
Now I’m sure this would not get through any IOC urine tests but it damn works for me! Around mile 24, I saw Liam and Shaun up ahead as we approached the hill I’d been warned about. When I got to them, Shaun was looking very pale and I asked him how he was. He considered a suitable response and as tiredness gave way, he just added, “I’m f*cked, proper f*cked but Liam has been amazing”. Liam showed true captains leadership as he had stopped to allow Shaun to catch up then gee’d him up to the finish [Editors note: I said leave the horse jokes out]. This captain was not going to leave a marine on the beach.
As mentioned in previous blog posts, writing about it is quite tricky as it can be a blur and unfortunately only puts across my views of my race. I have to admit that on a few occasions in the later miles, I had to stop and walk to get a breather and recharge. Strava doesn’t lie and my cadence chart in the final third look likes an ECG from a schizophrenic.
When you run a race in a town that’s unfamiliar to you, it is really nice to recognise the little bits you do know as these indicate you’re somewhere near where you started and therefore near the end. After the dreaded 25 mile hill, we turned left down into the city centre streets and under the viaduct which opened out into Chester Racecourse and the finishing line was in sight. It was here that I took the whip to my hind quarters [Editors note: LAST TIME!!]. It was here where I felt the glory and with spectators lining the finish, I pushed on through the finish.
Elated. Knackered. Elated. Thirsty. Elated. Hungry. Elated.
I collected my goodies and left out the back of the finishing area to find Andy, all wrapped up in foil like a Christmas turkey, freezing in the rain. Andy and Steve had smashed it and come in under 3 hours 14 minutes so he’d been stood there for over half an hour. To do what I’d done in 30 minutes less is like witchcraft for me and just don’t know how its done. Some 4 minutes later, I caught Shaun and Liam cross the line together. Shaun was VERY pale and had taken on too much fluid in the last couple of miles. Having safely negotiated his way through he finish, we made for the Striders tent where we found respite from the rain and a seat for Shaun. Not exactly the right time to shove some Mars Bar Cake in his face but we all managed to see it off, together with Mrs Pete’s ‘Daddies Flapjack’. Next in came Rick, followed by Frankie then Minty. Like most of us on our first marathon, completing it is a real clusterf*ck of emotions – tired, proud, worn, “Never again”, then the emerging trickle of a thought — “I have just ran 26, yes, TWENTY SIX miles”. Paul needed a few minutes to compose himself but we were hurt. Personally, when I took off my trainers, it looked like an abattoir’s floor and my toes were totalled.
While we gathered our gear, we heard of a Guinness world record being broken for people running as a horse [Editors note: I’m warning you ….].
As we walked back to the car, we heard a rumbling from Shaun behind us and like lava rising up through Mount Etna, it eventually erupted into a stream, accompanied with suitable sound effects. If you watch to 3 mins 38 of [this video], Shaun makes this EXACT noise when he hurls!
Times (all times taken from Nifty Entries Results service)
- Steve Page: 3:13:40
- Andy Hadfield: 3:13:57
- Peter Gough: 3:45:21
- Shaun Chambers: 3:49:44
- Liam Mellon: 3:49:46
- Ricky Lee: 4:07:46
- Frankie Yan: 4:19:00
- Paul Minton: 4:34:58
Meal at Puccinis
We had all arranged to meet the same evening, to spend some time socially with our families and I think the night went down well. Great company and great to have us all together. From humble beginnings, the Daddies Family is now enormous. The following pictures capture the evening more perfectly than words could.
Message from the Daddies
It was with great, great sadness that we learned the following day of the loss of a fellow runner in the Chester Marathon. A man my age, with three children and a wife, a keen runner and fundraiser. We never knew him but he had all the requirements to be one of us in Daddies Escape. I speak on behalf of all of us when we dedicate our efforts at Chester to Trevor Cording. Runner, father, husband. I would say rest in peace but runners don’t rest, they love anything but. We extend our sincere condolences to Trevor’s wife and family.