Like I’ve said, I had bad feelings about the Bournemouth Marathon since having such a disaster race the last time I ran it (two years ago). My main concern was that the injury I got during the marathon came out of nowhere, like a sniper shooting my knee. I had had no issues leading up to that race and then BAM injured for weeks afterwards (to be clear, I should have stopped as soon as I felt anything wrong. But I didn’t).So going into this race I had bad feelings. I felt absolutely fine, but so what? It could happen again. To be honest, I get these sorts of feelings before every marathon because of that race now. It’s like I always say, you can NEVER guarantee you’ll even finish despite all the training you’ve had. That said, I felt relatively positive that from what I could control about the race, things looked to be OK.My friend Joe and I had discussed running the first bit together. He’s super fast (almost sub-18 5ker) but his training hadn’t worked out for him so he’d scaled back his expectations. We were going to be running around the same speed so decided to start together to keep each other company. This relaxed me as I always find the first 10 miles or so of a marathon quite dull, so to have someone to chat to would be nice.The night before the race I had my standard pizza (and a slice of cake…) while watching Blade Runner (preparation for the new one) and had a solid night’s sleep. I woke up at 7am feeling fresh and confident. My dad was going to join me to support and we both got ourselves together. My mum was going to stay behind… until the LAST minute (literally we were about to leave the house) she decided she wanted to join us. Cue mini-panic that we’d be late but all credit to her, she was in the car 10 minutes later.Our journey was issue-free and we actually arrived earlier than planned (before 9am, the race started at 10am). I ate my porridge, drank my black coffee and Beet It shot en route. After parking, we got so distracted by seeing other Hedgies and Joe and his family we realised we’d walked away from the car park without paying for parking! So we had to hurry back to the car.
We eventually got to the sports building where the start was near and I clocked the huge queue for the Ladies and decided to swerve that and go to the portable loos instead, which had next to no queues!I’m so past being a toilet snob now that portable loos don’t phase me. I was just glad to get in several toilet visits before the race begun rather than waiting for ages for just one visit.We milled around with a few of the guys from my running club (Mike was back for another stab at the sub-four) and I spotted my friend, Dave, from the Austria Run Camp. It was lovely to see him again and chat. He’s ordinarily an 800m runner and had only decided to do the marathon a few weeks ago – crazy!Then we were off to the start. I managed to squeeze in one more loo trip and then found my way to my pen. I spotted Joe and we got ourselves in the zone. We agreed to start around 8.15 min/miles. A tiny voice inside me pondered whether that was too quick but I decided I could reassess a bit later.Joe and me had the agreement that if either one of us felt good they could run off with no hard feelings. I spotted a few other people I knew and this made me far more relaxed.The race started on time and we were off. It’s a slight downhill at the start so we had to be careful not to get swept away and go too fast.Joe mentioned how it felt odd having so many people rush past us as we held our nerve and kept to our planned pace. But we both knew it was for the best. Mile one is a whole different story to mile 20.
After being really quite chilly at the start of the race it was nice to have the sun peep out and warm my skin. But by mile two I’d already started to feel too warm. This did not bode well. The start is well supported with lots of crowds so it was nice to be cheered along for the beginning miles. These miles zoomed past as Joe and I chatted away. We both felt very comfortable running between 8-8.10 min/miles. The perfect marathon start for me. Not out of breath, able to carry out a conversation.As we got towards mile four we hit the first (of many) switch-backs. This was great as we could look out for people we knew. Joe had a few people from his club (Bitton in Bristol) and I had a fair number of Hedgies as well as some other friendly faces. It helped pass the time.I grabbed a water bottle from every water station (nice small ones) as it was getting warmer. Joe, bless him, is probably the politest person I know. When he finished with his water he’d either set it down very gently and deliberately out of the way of other people, or he’d announce his intentions to throw the bottle aside or apologise profusely to anyone nearby as he threw it over their heads. A role model to us all!We then headed out along the roads, with the beautiful scenery to our left and the flats looking out to the sea on our right. Lots of people were hanging from their balconies cheering us on which was nice. There were a couple of cheeky elevations but otherwise it was quite flat. We spotted Joe’s parents and his brother and they cheered us on. What was nice was that Joe’s family were supporting throughout the course, getting to different locations, and so were mine. So we had a good level of coverage from both sides, along with my running club and odd people I knew – as well, of course, as the fantastic crowds and marshals. Though I failed to spot my dad around mile five until the last minute as I was too busy nattering away!At mile eight, when I’d usually take my first gel, I completely forgot as I was too busy chatting and taking selfies. When we got to mile ten and marvelled at how quickly and how seemingly easy it felt I realised about my gel. I decided instead to wait until half-way as I actually didn’t think I needed it yet. I still felt fairly full from my breakfast (not uncomfortably, but I could tell I had fuel in my body).Just before mile 12 I spotted my parents again and they cheered us on up the first of two of the well-known dreaded hills. Mile 12 hill is actually not too bad. It’s sharp but short. You just persevere up it. Some people walk it, and to be honest that’s probably a fair strategy because it’s not that much quicker to run it. I remember from when I ran Bournemouth before that I tried stretching my niggling knee at this point and hoping the change in elevation might help things… it didn’t. So it was nice to get to the top of the hill feeling strong and with no issues.As we got past half-way we celebrated that we were now counting the miles down. I finally fancied my gel but I needed to wait for a water station as it was a thicker GU (salted caramel flavour, so good). It was handy having the bottles at water stations as it meant I could eat my gel while sipping water while still running.Around this point we also spotted the fantastic Hedgie cheer crew and I was really boosted by seeing them. And then Joe would tell me to slow down again as I’d get all over-excited. It was very handy having him as another pair of eyes to monitor our pace! I was also glad he was still with me and hadn’t dashed off. We were ticking nicely along still around 8-8.10s (only diverting from that when we’d hit an up- or down-hill). Our conversation was still flowing and we were working out milestones and where the course was taking us. It was still nice and relaxed.A couple of times other runners would comment to us about how we were still chatting or laugh at what we were talking about (Joe explained how beer was made to me…random but interesting, and I waxed lyrically about all the foods I love to eat post-marathon). We also ran with my friend Ben for a little while before we moved on (he was wanting to run slower in order to be in good shape to pace the Birmingham Marathon next week – mental).What made me laugh consistently through the race was the fact that people would cheer me on using my name (because it was printed so large on my vest) and Joe would jokingly shout back “and Joe!” which would make people laugh. Also Joe doesn’t take gels but he does use Jelly Babies and throughout the first half he’d apologise to people offering them saying “bit too early for me yet” (super polite) and then at about 16 miles it was suddenly “Jelly Baby time” and he would literally get Jelly Babies at every available moment. It was like a switch was turned on.I spotted my parents again before we headed out along one of the piers. I took a selfie and Joe laughed at me when I realised I’d taken a selfie just as the camera guy was taking a photo – oops!At mile 17 it’s a rather awful moment where you literally run past the finish. It’s a tough realisation that though you’re SO close you actually still have nine miles to go. At mile 18 we hit the second dreaded hill. And I’d forgotten just how bad this hill was. It’s almost two hills. I struggled a bit here. Joe pulled me along, shouting behind him to keep me going as I grunted and moaned my way up (he seemed to effortlessly glide up it). I so wanted to walk but he told me firmly no. OooooK then. But we did maintain a fantastically consistent pace! We barely lost any speed.I mentioned to Joe that I possibly needed a wee but that he didn’t have to wait for me. My worry was that while I needed the loo I was reluctant to drink more water, but because of the heat I did actually need more water. So when I saw a sign that said, “Toilets Ahead”, I told Joe to keep going and sprinted off ahead, dashed inside the public toilets and did the quickest wee of my life. I didn’t even lock the door!!! I was in and out so fast. And then I quickened my pace to catch up with Joe. Whew! As I got back next to Joe he told me to slow down and relax again. I was a bit out of breath and flustered!And then we hit mile 20. Generally it’s fairly flat from here to the end, maybe a couple of inclines but nothing drastic. We were under the shade of trees now which was nice, in more residential and quiet streets. We both agreed that we weren’t ready to make any pace increases just yet but to maintain the speed we were at. We also agreed to stick together till the end as it was clear that we were both still feeling good and strong and, dare I say it, out of the woods. I did stress to Joe though that if he wanted to have a sprint finish I wouldn’t hold it against him – I’m more of a builder of speed than a sprinter! But he assured me that he’d much rather to finish with me as we’d come so far together. This was lovely. Joe’s such a nice guy and we had had, up till now, a very strong race so it did seem fitting to finish together. Though we still had a way to go yet though!The surroundings were getting far more familiar to me as we were coming to the area where, in my previous race, I’d had a lot of “stop and walk” moments. I remembered a roundabout that is basically where you get to around a “parkrun to go” and where at the time a lovely guy, Mark, from my club had stopped and asked if I was OK as I was sullenly hobbling along (I remember him saying it very gently because it was clear I wasn’t OK and I think he thought I was a ticking bomb…it was also clear there was really nothing he could do and that he should continue to run on and leave me. I remember the look of pity on his face). So now to get to this point and be feeling strong and ready to increase the pace was just fantastic.Joe kept reminding me not to push too soon yet – wise words – as we headed back down to the Prom for the final stretch. These last few miles are great (if it’s all going well, of course) as they’re flat and the crowds are out in force cheering you on. The wind was on our backs and we both still felt good. We gently pushed the pace and started overtaking people as we got stronger and stronger.It was hard now. The mental and physical effort of maintaining the sub-8 minute pace we were hitting stopped all conversation and selfie-taking had long since ended. I remember saying I just wanted to see the purple barriers that were the final few meters to the finish. We got to the Mile 26 sign and pushed harder. Joe was ahead and encouraging me on. I was grunting and possibly swearing at this point desperately trying to keep up. I did a bit of glory hunting by raising my arms up (got to be done) and the crowd cheered us in, finally, to the finish. Whew! Thank God because honestly the last mile really made me feel quite sick!My official time was 3:32:45 (4th in my category, 198/2034) and interestingly my first half was 1:47:24 (which is a negative split)… it’s interesting because my first half from when I ran in 2015 was 1:48:03, so fairly close but obviously the 2015 race had a spectacular positive split as I finished 4:11:19!And as we received our medals and very swanky little goodie BOXES I spotted my friend, Dave, on the floor catching his breath.He’d finished just under the 3:30 time (incredible!!). I was so pleased for him. What an inspiration eh – an 800m last-minute marathoner.And as we came down the steps (ah so cruel, Bournemouth Marathon organisers) I spotted my parents and then Joe’s. I also spotted another Austria Run Camper, Karila, who’d come down to support. I mean, it was just lovely having all these lovely people about to hug and celebrate with. Joe and I were bouncing off the walls (metaphorically I assure you) with happiness at how well it had gone. At how consistently we’d controlled the pace and the race itself.After much chatting, laughing and photos we all parted ways and I headed off with my parents to find the car. I spotted some massages happening (for donation) with a very small queue and decided to get myself some of that action. I was also keen to know how Mike had done (I’d seen him a few times in the race and the last time he wasn’t doing great, saying his sub-4 was off) so figured that the massage might pass some time before he’d appear.The massage was a DREAM. What was not a dream was having to take my compression socks and trainers off to get said massage. Compression socks at the best of times are a ball ache to get off but post sweaty marathon? Hell no. As I was clearly struggling the sports therapist offered to do it for me. What a luxury! The massage was great. And surprisingly there wasn’t anywhere in particular that really ached. It was more a general ache all over (though my glutes were probably the worst – which surprised me!). In fact, I felt pretty unscathed.
Finally happy to wear this t-shirt with pride. And a good fit!
Sadly I didn’t spot Mike… he rang me later to say he’d crossed the line, threw up, fainted and was then wheeled off to the medical tent. Oh Mike!! But he was OK. Frustrated, but OK. Time for a marathon break for him for a little bit 🙁
Weirdly I didn’t have the “OMG feed me” feelings that I’ve been having previously. I still felt a little sick – probably due to the final pacing and the heat. What I really wanted was an ice-cold Diet Coke! As the finish line is about three miles from the car park where we started we’d already planned beforehand to get a taxi back. I mean we could have walked but realistically this would have been fun for no one (bear in mind my parents had also walked almost 10 miles in the day). The shuttle bus back (which had to be pre-booked) was around £8 each so a taxi that was under a tenner was a steal!
As we waited for it I got a Diet Coke and continued to smile in my post-race buzz. My buzz was somewhat diminished as it took us so long to get out of Bournemouth itself due to traffic (and the fact that my mum wanted to pick up some groceries from M&S…) before we EVENTUALLY got to Coast 2 Coast for food. I’ve been here SO many times I know, but I had a 50% off voucher (again!) and it was an easy option close to home. It’s not the best restaurant in the world but it does tick all the boxes that were required for then!
I love the medal. It came with a small 26.2 keyring too
Funnily enough the waiter who served us was the same waiter who served us after the New Forest Marathon and asked, “done another running thing?” when he spotted me in my running attire (yes, still not changed yet…). I went for exactly the same thing as I had previously – if it ain’t broke! Chicken wings, chicken fajitas and chocolate fudge cake. My tummy didn’t feel 100% great still but it was glad for the food. Though I was stuffed!
After a gentle dog walk down the beach and a fantastically hot shower, I was done!
What do you crave for post-race?
Do you enjoy a post-race massage?
Big thank you to everyone who took photos (Sheryl, Joe’s brother, my parents and Bournemouth Echo!)