We’re playing for England…

Chester Marathon 2017

…I look at my watch, 11.4 miles into my first and probably only ever race wearing an England vest. I’m running on a pleasant country lane somewhere near the English/Welsh border. I can tell I’m either in or near Wales because they have just started writing “Araf / Slow” on the roads.

I pull over to the right hand side speak to a marshal, “I’m stopping, my race is over”.  It’s the first time I have ever DNF’d in a proper race. Just my luck, it happens on my international debut.

I think to myself, you should be more upset, maybe you should be in tears. But no, I’m fine with it.  I’m a runner, and like most runners I know my body pretty well. My right ankle hasn’t been good for months, if it wasn’t for the vest I wouldn’t even have started. I knew it was a long shot and the pain is now too bad to run without limping.

If it had happened at 20 miles, then I would have hobbled on to the end.  With over 15 miles to go, that seemed pointless.

The marshal advised me to walk back to the previous village where there was a water station and first aid, they will be able to sort me out.

My team mate Ian saw me and very generously stopped and gave me his mobile phone so that I could contact my supporters. Thank you Ian, that was very kind of you. He must have been stopped for well over a minute with me and I was gutted to hear later that he missed a London Good for Age qualifying time by about a minute.

I walk the half mile back against a tide of fellow runners. It feels a bit like a walk of shame.

Lots of runners express words of condolence and sympathy. Some I know are readers of this blog, so thank you for your concern, I’m genuinely grateful that you felt for me.  Runners are a kind bunch no doubt.

Quite a few ask me if I’m alright. I know they mean well, but I can’t really think of an appropriate answer. I’m obviously not OK, otherwise I’d be running in the opposite direction. I shrug or just mutter vague words of thanks.

I knew during my short warm up that I was going to struggle. My ankle felt quite stiff and uncomfortable and from trying longer runs over the last few weeks I knew that the pain would only get worse during the run. I hadn’t managed to run more than 15 miles since May, so it was a very long shot that I would be able complete a marathon.

The teeny red shorts didn’t make it to the start line…

Knowing that I was chancing my arm, I expunged all time targets from my head and copied the Steve Way method and set my Garmin display to show only heart rate, with the autolap flashing up splits every mile. I aimed to keep my heart rate at around 145, which I know to be reasonably comfortable for racing.

I happened to be miling at under 7 minutes, comfortably inside 3 hour pace.  That would be fine I thought, keep going like this, I’d take any sub three time.

At about eight miles in I was engulfed by the three hour pacing group.  I felt a little crowded for space and I edged gradually back in the group, but all of a sudden my ankle was really hurting and I was drifting back in the group. I dug in to try to stay with them, but I knew that it was a forlorn effort.

A mile later I was off the back, all alone in the vacuum behind the pacing group.  My race was run.

I was disappointed but not surprised.  On the upside, I got to spend a lovely weekend with some truly fab people, including fellow Valley Strider England vest wearers Tim, Jerry and Steve and also my mate Jock who ran a storming 3:27 (whilst definitely not wearing an England vest).

Jock Chester

Jock must have been chuffed because he even paid for a slap-up meal later that evening, quite something for a Scot.

Tim ran a fantastic PB on a course that wasn’t as flat and fast as many expected. Well done buddy, you should be very proud.

It felt good to be part of the first ever England Masters marathon team. All didn’t go smoothly with the build up, or the event itself, England Athletics admitted that. However, its a great scheme to give relatively average runners like me a chance to wear a National vest. There were lots of smiles and proud people there yesterday who had trained very hard to earn that right.

So in summary, a fantastic weekend with great people, let’s just forget about my run…

I think this blog will have a wee rest whilst I (hopefully) find a solution to this pesky injury.

Good luck to all you runners out there.  I’ll be back.

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