The Isle of Wight Marathon, my 29th marathon.
I’d heard about this race from lots of people because it’s a local one (well, a ferry ride away). I knew it was going to be hilly, but on signing up I thought it would be a fairly cold day because it was October. However Britain saw an unseasonably warm weekend and I was packing suntan lotion and planning my race day outfit with the sun and heat in mind.
The race start was 11am which is a lot later than I’m used to but very helpful to allow us to get over in the morning without having to spend more money and stay over in the Isle of Wight. We booked the ferry (50% off thanks to the race discount!) and needed to leave about 8ish to get down to Portsmouth to catch it to arrive on the Island for 10am. Sarah, Kyle’s mum, picked Isaac up at 8am which was super helpful. He could have come with us but we decided it would be easier, and nicer for him, to spend a day with our family and then we could focus on the race and he could have a lovely day focused on him.
I ate breakfast just before we left and we caught the car ferry (Wight Link) with no issues.
It was very smooth. Kyle grabbed a coffee on board the ferry and we got some toast to share. I knew I needed to pack in some more food because of the later food. I also had a banana.
We then drove from Cowes to Fishbourne to the race start, which took less than 20 minutes. It was all very smooth and easy thankfully. This gave me about 40 mins to collect my bib, have a wee, put lots of suntan lotion and Vaseline on (that post race chafe is not the one).
Kyle was going to drive around the course and cheer me on, which was lovey. The roads aren’t closed for this race as it’s quite a small affair (I think about 160 people finished). So no headphones. This was a little bit of a bummer as I do quite like to plug in some music on the final miles to keep me going. It’s always good tho to run a race without depending on external factors.
My goal for the race was to give it a good go. My training leading up to this race hasn’t been conducive for a PB though. I haven’t done enough to support smashing it out of the park. I rarely run with Isaac in the buggy (the only “speed” work I do) and it’s fairly closed to my last marathon. But I wanted to put some effort in at least and see where that got me. There was also £50 for the first female… could I? You never know!
The race began and off we went. The first 5k was more downhill than up and because there were a few females around me I got overexcited and tried to keep up. I was definitely running faster than I thought I was going to!
My first mile clocked in at 7.17 min/mile, oh dear! But there was a significant downhill and I was just enjoying life so I thought, just keep going and see what happens later. There were some tasty uphills that slowed me down and set the tone for the race though.
I was now running side by side with one female. We were leading the ladies and I didn’t want her to get ahead of me. I was stronger on the downhills so would sneak ahead, and then she would catch me back on the uphills. I could tell she was a strong runner. I made the decision to just stay with her for as long as I could.
At about mile 4 we were running in a pod with another guy. We started chatting together which helped take our minds of the course. There was rarely a long stretch of flat. It was all up or down. From looking at the course profile beforehand I knew there was an especially long and climbing hill from mile 11 to 14. Most of the hills we’d come across were short and sharp. I was preparing myself.
Anyway the two runners were really friendly. It was nice to get to know them, have a few laughs and feel like a little team. The marshals were all lovely and friendly too and the scenery was gorgeous. It was all very pleasant – hills aside.
I saw kyle around 7.5 miles. He had water, sweets and Vaseline at the ready if I needed it which was great. But I was good for now. I felt strong. I felt like I could maintain the pace. In the back of my mind, of course, I had some trepidation for what was to come. That long hill and a hill right at the end which everyone said was a monster. I knew it wasn’t going to be plain sailing.
We hit mile 11 and started the climb. To be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I was imagining. I thought it was going to be like the hill near where we live in Portsolent (Portchester hill). But it wasn’t that bad. It warranted conversation stopping but it wasn’t soul sucking. OK, OK, we’ve got this.
We were right out in the open, with fields for miles. The sun was beaming down. I was getting thirsty more often. Though sensibly was properly stopping at each water station to take two cups of water and then start running again.
But there was no shade now. We lost the other guy who was running with us. He shouted to us good luck, which was lovely. Now I was behind the other girl and just trying to cling on to her. Was she going to get stronger? Was she going to slowly peel away? It was all to play for. So far, I just kept slightly behind her, maintaining the same gap.
At mile 14.5 I saw Kyle again. He cheered us on. The girl asked a marshal if there was a toilet and the woman said only the bushes. I needed a wee too so decided to start thinking about diving into a bush at some point.
The girl diverted off into a bush and I wished her well, saying she’d probably catch me up. I decided if there was a time to put in some speed it was now. I needed to increase the gap between us. Of course she could catch me up, or I could burn out and gift her the win. But I wanted to at least try. There was £50 to be won! I was quite excited by that prospect.
I kept stopping at water stations tho, knowing that despite losing the time it was important to drink water. It was hot and I didn’t want to ruin myself. I also still needed a wee. So I quickly dove into a bush and did the fastest wee known to man. Then I was back on the road. I had a quick look behind… OK I couldn’t see her. It’s mine to lose.
There were some nice downhills so that helped. I passed a few men, feeling strong. But most of the time I was on my own. It was a quiet race after all. Cars and cyclists passed, some beeped and cheered which was nice.
I saw Kyle again around 17 miles. I shouted for some sweets but he didn’t have them out and so I just ran past and carried on. He looked sad to have missed my request (which is all good, he’s not psychic after all!). He said he’d find me again.
Now I was working hard. Maintaining the pace was tough. But in the back of my mind all I could think was the girl behind was gaining on me. It definitely motivated me to keep going. I was counting to 100 whenever we got to a hill and that helped focus on something other than my burning legs. I was breaking up the race into sections… just get to 22 miles. That felt significant. From 18 that was only 4 miles, then at 22 it would be just over 4. Come on, come on.
I got to 20 and Kyle was waiting. I motioned for water. I was so thirsty again. I stopped and drank a good gulp while he said to me “you’re fine, she’s so far behind you”. Bless him he knew exactly what I would be thinking. We both knew I had a solid chance in achieving first female.
I grabbed some sweets and got running again. Hopefully the sweets would help power me up the final hills.
There was a long climbing hill that seemed to stretch out forever. It wasn’t that steep but it was draining. Ooof this was going to suck my energy. I passed another man and he graciously cheered me on.
Then the real work began. From 22 miles on it was just insane. The hills were so steep. I was trying not to hunch over but run strong and upright but it was hard work. I kept counting, which honestly really did help. But a few little swear words might have come out as I puffed my way along. I was slowing down, but there was nothing I could do. It was survival now to get up those hills.
The marshals kept cheering me on saying “well done first lady” and supports on the sides were really chuffed to see a female, so that was nice. It peppered me up a bit. The final hill lasted about a mile and it was brutal.
My mind was spiralling – walk, walk, walk! No just keep moving. Every step was one less on the hill. It wasn’t fair. My watch was about 0.2 miles out so that was mentally tough. Knowing when it beeped I was still a way from the actual marker. I realised I almost certainly going to be first female and then started to consider what my time might be. Before the race I was going to be happy with a sub 3.50 considering the hills and the heat, but now it was looking like I could get sub 3.30!
Finally I saw the mile 25 marker and knew I was out of the woods.
There were no hills left – we’d driven past earlier so I knew what was in store. I was cheered to the finish and wowee was I glad to stop!
I was first female, 12th overall with a time of 3.28.07. I am absolutely over the moon! More than I could ever have dreamed of. I will definitely be giving a lot of credit to the other girl (who did indeed come 2nd). Without her I wouldn’t have gone as fast or pushed myself. Especially at the end, that fear that was right there pushed me on more than just the motivation I could have supplied myself.
So I’m grateful to her. I later found out from her mum that she hadn’t been very well in the latter stages. So who knows, had she not have gotten sick she might have beaten me! But she still finished strong 13 mins later. So fair play to her.
Then I got a free massage from JSM Hub Therapies, who were amazing. Then we drove back to the ferry. We bought some snacks. We even managed to catch an earlier ferry and be home an hour earlier than we expected!
I really recommend the race. It was well organised, beautiful views and friendly support. Though be prepared for some brutal hills towards the end. The one in the middle was not the one to be worried about, that’s for sure!
Have you ever done the Isle of Wight Marathon?