Now that we’re closing in on the big day of the London Marathon I figured I’d better finally get round to writing a blog about my 2017 challenge.
So, sit back, relax and have a listen to Leonard Cohen. Other that the obvious song title connection this song has nothing other to do with the content of this blog. It is however probably the best song ever about trying to see a ladies naked body:
So we really need to cast our minds back to really to 2016, when I first started raising money for North West Cancer Research. I chose to run for this charity following the death of my dad due to a short battle with Oesophageal Cancer in the summer of that year. I wanted to do something in his memory so I embarked upon a running challenge.
After unsuccessfully applying for the London Marathon ballot for 2017 and after being unsuccessful in the Widnes Running Club Ballot I entered the Blackpool Marathon, held on the same day as London (22nd April 2017). In order to up the ante a little bit I also entered the Great Manchester Runs on 28th May 2017. I say runs because my challenge was to run the Half Marathon AND 10k races back to back.
Now, there is no real need for me to go in to the training journey up to these challenges. If you go back to the very first blog post of mine you can read this. However, I do really need to point you back to my blog entry Falling Down. Feel free to go back and read if you see fit, but basically I had a fall at the Sheffield Half Marathon just two weeks out away from the Blackpool Marathon. I turned my ankle about 1 mile in to the race and fell right on my arse. After dusting, myself down in a bus stop I “manned up” and competed the race this proved to be a big mistake. On reflection I should have pulled out of the race, but I didn’t and I ended up damaging the ligaments in the left ankle.
I then faced a race against time to be fit for the Blackpool Marathon!
After resting and icing the sore ankle, using compression, wrapping it up etc the swelling and pain had sufficiently gone down. I was raising money for charity so there was no way I was going to pull out of the Blackpool Marathon. I addition to this my family was joining in on my challenge in Blackpool. My sisters Natalie and Jennifer, joined by Jenn’s boyfriend Paul were taking part in the 10k race in Blackpool. Also my bother Johnathan would join in in running the actual Marathon. There was no way I was letting everyone down.
So, to Blackpool. I travelled up on the Saturday with Kate and the in-laws Ted and Jacki. We stayed at Breck Apartments a rather upmarket (certainly for Blackpool) self-catering apartment up on the North Shore, and although expensive for Blackpool standards it was a brilliant self-catering apartment and well worth the money. I headed to the race HQ on the Saturday afternoon and collected everyone’s race number, so everything was all set of the Sunday morning.
We took all the race number, race t shirts and vests to the rest of “Team Bri” to the restaurant where we met up for tea (which would end up being supper really). The restaurant was Nunzio’s. An Italian restaurant situated near the North Pier. Kate, Jacki, Ted and I got there on time but my siblings actually turned up on early! As they are always late I told them that the restaurant booking was at 7pm rather than the actually booking time of 7.30 for ONCE they turned up on time, just a shame it was 30 minutes early.
As it was the restaurant was very busy and it took us ages and ages to get our table. Finally we got sat down and then the real entertainment started. If I was every in Blackpool I would come back to eat at Nuzino’s like a shot. Yes the there was a wait for the table (but that said there was a lot of us), but the food was very good, but the family of staff there are brilliantly eccentrically fun! It was owned by a Nuzino an Italian and his wife who was from Blackpool. They were loud, bold and very friendly. The head waiter was their son who we all assumed was Italian as when he brought every dish to use he announced its arrival in the best and most convincing Italian accent ever. We he actually spoke to us he had a broad Lancastrian accent, and he just ramps up the Italian for the customers. There are loads of other little stories from this wonderful madcap Italian restraint, but they’re a blog entry in themselves.
Anyway after all this fun and games and a preparation final feed we headed back to our respective accommodation for an early(ish) night as the stag and hen do’s of Blackpool got ready to party.
So an early start and pre-race breakfast and we headed down to meet the Myler clan and get ready for the race. We got warmed up and ready got to our relevant start areas.
So soon enough we were on our way and heading out in to the Blackpool sunshine. I ran the first 6 miles or so with Jonathan for and I was feeling decent. My ankle was holding up pretty well and I was sticking below the target time of 8.45 min as I wanted to get a sub-four hour marathon. My pace was a bit too quick for Jonathan so I left him down near the South Shore and I continued along the course heading back up towards the centre of Blackpool past the Pleasure Beach.
The course followed the Promenade all the way back up towards Little Bispham before turning back on itself at around 11 miles and heading back towards the start line at near the North Pier. I past my family who had positioned themselves at the “Hole in the Wall” cafe right on the seafront at around the halfway point. At this point I was still feeling great as I heard their cheers ringing in my ears and I continued on the second loop of the course.
As I continued back south then disaster happened somewhere between mile 15 and 16. My ankle injury flared up again and now it was very painful with each step (it was already fairly painful because of the blisters I was suffering, but this was next level).
You can see from the graph I was pretty consistent up to 15 and a half miles then bang, it just all went to shit. I got slower and slower. My ankle was hurting then my right hip and knew started to hurt, probably from over compensating too much to deal with my limp-run shuffle thing I was doing. I was done and around mile 17 in a particularly barren, boring and unsupported bit of the course I’d had enough and I was texting Kate for support. It did help me continue, as at that point I did feel like pulling out, but I persevered. The next 9 miles were pretty much hell. I was in pain, hobbling along. It was very much stop/start run/walk/hobble and I just couldn’t get going.
Again the lack of crowd support outside of the “golden mile” of Blackpool was pretty sparse and the monotony of running a second loop of the same bit I’d ran early was affecting my psychologically too.
This was probably only broken when my playlist run out and Spotify starting playing some random songs. At around mile 22/23 Cheese and Onion by The Rutles came on and I burst out laughing. A rare moment of joy in a world of pain. The Rutles > Oasis.
I persevered onwards, past the turning point at Little Bispham, at least now knowing that I was finally heading back towards the finish a couple of miles away, my average pace dropping like a stone.
Finally the end was in sight, I could see my family cheering me on to the finish and I gave the best “sprint” (it was more like a walk) finish I could do. I’d don’t it! Crossed the line in 4 hours 27 minutes and 25 seconds. Miles away from what I’d hope to get (under 4 hours) but I persevered and I’d done it.
Upon finishing and popping my blisters (thanks again Kate) I had a good catch up my family. Unfortunately Jonathan had to pull out of the marathon at the halfway point due to his injury. It transpires he had a stress fracture in his foot, he’d done a half marathon on a broken foot. Made of strong stuff us Mylers! Natalie, Jennifer and Jenn’s boyfriend Paul had all smashed the 10k and we got a “Team Bri” post-race photos and headed off for some lunch.
Some thoughts on the Blackpool Marathon. The good points – well we had the weather, it was a nice sunny day. It was very well organised too. All the Fylde Coast Runners organised runs I’ve took part in have been good. That’s where my enjoyment ends. I didn’t enjoy the two lapped course. Obviously my injury flaring up at the start of the second loop didn’t help matters, but it’s a long two loops and the lack of support along the course didn’t help my mental state when I was really struggling. Also Blackpool isn’t the most inspiring and scenic place, I found the route ugly in places and boring in most. Yes we had a nice clear sunny view out to the see but that didn’t change and it became monotonous. I was also really disappointed with my time. I had in my head after that race that I would do another marathon that year and I would get that sub four hour time. I ended up entering York Marathon. More on this later…..
A month or so after the Blackpool Marathon came the second part of my running challenge. To do the Great Manchester Runs. For the first time in 2017 Great Run was holding a Half Marathon Race and a 10k race on the same day, so my challenge was to do both back to back.
The complexion of this race changed completely however. On the 22nd May, 6 days before the run was due to take place 22 people died, and 500 people were injured – including a number of children after a terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena. A truly sicking attack on innocent children and families. Terrorism striking this close to home really hit quite hard. Manchester is a city that I LOVE. We knew people who were at the actual gig or who had family at the gig. Fortunately (for me at least) nobody that I knew got hurt in the attack but It’s horrible when somewhere that you love gets hit by like this.
In the aftermath of such an attack people and authorities have to take stock of what has happened, and whether to go ahead with such a big city event like the Great Manchester Run (and the associated Great City Games).
I for one am glad it went ahead. Not so I could complete my challenge. More as a fuck you to terrorism. If you change your way of life and cancel events like this then the terrorists win. And terrorism must not win.
Kate and I decided to stay for two nights in Manchester with the race being on a Bank Holiday Sunday, so we headed in on the Saturday evening and settled at our hotel for a Papa John’s and an early night. This hotel would give me a good base jut round the corner from the start line for both races and would allow me to come back after the half and get fuelled up and changed (and get some blisters popped) between races.
So, on the morning of the race I headed down to the start line for the Half Marathon. The start was obviously emotionally charged somewhat. There was a minutes silence ahead of the race start, followed by “Don’t Look Back In Anger”, the song that would become Manchester’s anthem following the terrorist attack.
There was still a race to be ran, so soon enough we were back out. The races for this day where not about times or PB’s for me. I really hadn’t trained properly since the Blackpool Marathon as I tried to give my ankle time to heal. The course took us out from the centre of Manchester on to the Mancunian Way and towards East Manchester and to the big blue council house (Ethiad Stadium). There were a couple of pinch points around these parts of the course, initially along the Mancunian way, and then on the footbridge that goes over the road towards citeh’s ground (the course did take you round the massive stadium), so any PB hunters might have been annoyed at these bits, but I see that the organises are looking to fix this for the 2018 version of the race.
The course then headed back along the ring road towards the centre of Manchester before picking up the well-established 10k route which heads down the A56 out towards White City, and the obvious best part of the course around Old Trafford.
As I said I’d not really trained since Blackpool, and I’d not really trained a lot before that due to the ankle injury so I was not in the best shape, and as I emerged from around Old Trafford and back up on to the A56 heading towards Manchester I met up with Liam Boardman, one of my running club colleagues, and we kept each other going to finish, all the way back on to Deansgate and to the finish under Beetham tower. My time was 155.23. Happy enough with that as today was just about getting the job done, and sub 2 hours is decent enough.
I said my goodbyes to Liam and headed back to my hotel as I had well over an hours wait before the start of the 10k. It would give me chance to get changed, for Kate to pop a few blisters and for me to take on some fuel and to get changed.
After doing this I headed down to the start line for the 10k race. The 10k race has been established for many years. In fact it was the first race that I ever took part in back in 2017 when I was a fat lad. It’s the biggest 10k in the county with some 40000 people taking part in it, so this was the main event.
The start was even more emotionally charged that the half marathon, with Longfella reading out this poem “Do Something”. There were tears in the eyes and a big lump in the throat. There were not many dry eyes around to be honest, a truly incredible and inspiring moment. PLEASE WATCH THIS:
Now to the race, there’s not much to say really, I struggled both through fitness (I probably didn’t have the miles in the legs) and the fact that my legs pretty much seized up 5k in to the run, so I wasn’t going anywhere very fast. I’ve pretty much described to 10k above, but one thing that stood out was an immaculately dressed Rastafarian looking dude smoking a massive reefer and filming the runners on his iPhone.
I hung in on the run, and then coming back in to Manchester getting towards Deansgate I was buoyed along by the incredible support and atmosphere. Then just as I crossed the finish line I heard someone shout my name and I looked over to see my brother Jonathan who had come along with his girlfriend Becca to support me, a most wonderful surprise.
My time for this run was 59.12, my slowest 10k in many many years, but it really didn’t matter. Job done, challenge competed and a hefty £2200 raised for charity.
Time for the usual post-race poses then off to Dimitiri’s for a bite to eat and a couple of pints. Over this meal Jonathan and Becca decided to book a hotel in Manchester for that night and to join us to celebrate the end of the challenge.
On our way back to the our hotels we paid a visit to St Ann’s square, which is where flower and tributes had been left for the victims of the bombing. A truly sobering and solemn experience. As soon as you walk round the corner in to St Ann’s square the atmosphere changed immediately. An ocean of calm in the chaos of a city holding a huge event.
That evening Jonathan took us to some really good bars and we celebrated in style, as so it seemed did Manchester. Terrorism was not going to stop this wonderful city having fun!
The next day, whilst very hungover Kate and I both got Manchester bee tattoos. This was part of the Manchester Tattoo appeal where the tattoo community across the whole of the UK set up a fund to raise money for the victims of the attack. Tattoo artists across the UK gave up their time for a £50 donation per tattoo straight to the appeal. A wonderful idea which raised over half a million pounds, and Kate and I got ours done at Manchester Ink which seems a fitting way to end the weekend.
After the challenge getting back going was a real struggle. I’d pretty much lost my running mojo and to be honest I think I pretty much lost it after the Blackpool Marathon. Thinking back on it I shouldn’t really of done the race whilst injured, and doing the run made the injury worse, but I was raising money for charity and there is no way I wasn’t going to do the run. That said I was disappointed, no gutted with my time from Blackpool so I entered the York Marathon for the October of 2017. This was just one of a number of races in 2017 I wasted money on in entering. Others where – Liverpool Spring 10k, English Half Marathon (Warrington), 2 lots of Cheshire 5k races (Spring and Autumn), a Tough Mudder and of course the York Marathon which I had entered in order to make up for the poor time in Blackpool.
Some not so mitigating factors in all of this – festivals and holidays! We had two big festivals during this period in Glastonbury and Kendal calling, and a Holiday to Boston over the summer of 2017.
But these are just excuses. I was going the gym over this time but I was just going through the motions. I even blamed my ankle injury, but truth was I really couldn’t be arsed with it all.
Once back from the Boston holiday I tried to get going again with my running and overall fitness and I even managed to actually enter and take part in the Flintshire 10k. But then another holiday (to Cape Verde – yeah we like to get around about) followed by business trips to Shanghai and Frankfurt all in the space of a month meant the mojo had gone, but the weight truly had come. I was weighing in at my heaviest for many years in November, around 13 stone 8 pounds.
Then after getting back from those business trips I noticed on Facebook that North West Cancer Research were looking for volunteers to run the London Marathon. I put my name forward for this and I was accepted to run for them, with a fund raising target of £1500. I raised £2200 so I figured I could smash this.
So training had to start in earnest. Those first few runs in early December were tough getting back in to it and I was struggling to do like four miles under 9 minute miles, but two runs in the run up to Christmas was where it clicked and the mojo came back in a 6 mile run up past some Christmas lights in Hatlon View followed by a 10 mile run the same weekend. Something just clicked at these runs and finally after all this time I had some mojo back. You can follow the rest of this journey up to now if you look back through my blog posts starting from Guess Who’s Back?.
So now, as I sit here writing this in excitement ahead of the London Marathon this morning, where am I at? Well, training has go very well, much better than last year. I had some catching up to do in terms of time (last year I started training in October, this time I started training in December) but I learned a hell of a lot from last time and I put this experience to good use. I found a solution to the blister problems that plagued me last time (the right shoes, socks and lube combination). But its in the long runs where I was much better.
Last time I only had about one out of about six successful long runs ahead of the marathon in Blackpool. This time I had one bad long run out of about ten, much better preparation. My training for the Marathon tomorrow has gone as well as it possibly good I think, I’ve also done the “other” stuff you need to do as a runner better, worked better and more specifically on stuff in the gym, had regular massages, done stretching, Pilates, and really looked after my diet from 13st 8lb in November I’m down to 11st 10lb now, back to the weight I was at before my dad got ill.
Before my Dad got ill I was the fittest I’ve ever been and very nearly got a sub 45 minute 10k (I was 14 seconds off), now I’m getting back towards that fitness level again a sub 45 10k is one of my goals for this year.
Looking back on last year’s marathon I don’t really think I was fit enough to get a sub four hour marathon. I didn’t really put enough long runs in and I think even if I hadn’t of been injured I would of blew up for about mile 20 in Blackpool as I really didn’t have enough miles in the legs from training.
I also think it’s pretty clear that the 2017 running challenge started as a grief coping mechanism following the death of my dad. I embarked upon the challenge in October 2016 after my dad’s death in June 2016 and I guess it kept my mind occupied for a while. Probably until I lost my mojo in May 2017 and partied most of that summer (but man I had some fun!).
Now, on the eve of the London Marathon I have really got the running mojo back (as you would hope the day before the biggest race in the world!). But by that I mean I am enjoying running for myself, not just to cope after losing my dad.
I know I am running in memory of my Dad tomorrow and I am raising a load of cash for a wonderful charity (well over £3000 this year thank you for everyone who had sponsored me your support means the world), but I am also running for me and for the love of running.
So tomorrows London Marathon is for Dad but it’s also for me!
Peace and Love.
P.S. Please sponsor me: