Three months ago, my mate Mark had asked me if I fancied doing the Lancaster Half Marathon with him in November. Since our last race (my first) back in March, we needed another challenge to keep us motivated, so we signed up and started training again.

At around the same time, I’d started training with TBH and was enjoying the sessions and started improving in a few short weeks. My target was for a sub two hour finish, but training with the club had given me a new challenge, to try and finish ahead of Mark (well, one of us has to cross the line first).

Unfortunately, just as i was making good progress, I had a minor set back of a few weeks out with a hamstring injury. By the time i was able to start jogging again, I was seriously considering pulling out of the event. However, after some treatment and good advice from Lisa, four weeks of training and I was back up to speed and ready to go for it.

On Sunday morning we arrived at Salt Ayre Sports Centre an hour early and had a walk around to check out the map of the route/start line etc. By now the nerves were kicking in and the adrenalin was flowing. I was quietly confident, knowing I’d put in the work when I could, and my final weeks’ prep and diet had been spot on.

Leaving the changing room and wearing the club vest for the first time was a slightly daunting experience. Last time out I was running for myself, just for fun. This time, I was representing a club, and after talking to so many people and setting myself targets to aim for, suddenly there was a lot more riding on this than just ‘having a go’.

Standing on a track along the banks of the river Lune, crushed in amongst another 704 people, there was eventually some shuffling around and everyone started moving forward. I started my watch and off we went.

Navigating my way through the crowd I decided I’d just plod on ahead and run my own race. I was looking to set an average pace of around 8.45 – 9 min miles, with anything quicker being a bonus. I found myself being carried by the crowds for the first two miles, averaging 8.10. As this was quicker than I was aiming for I thought I now had some time in the bank and could afford to slow down a bit and pace myself, keeping something in reserve for nearer the end. The next 2-3 miles were still around 8.30 so i backed off a bit to 9 mins.

I knew Mark was aiming for 9 min miles so I thought I had a comfortable enough gap to be able to slow down and stay in front. Until mile 7 that was, when I suddenly heard “You alright mate?” as Mark ran past me. I couldn’t believe it. My heart sank, my pulse went beserk and my breathing was all over the place. For a brief second I actually thought my race was over. I tucked in behind him and just followed for half a mile till we came to a big hill. By then I’d managed to calm myself and settle down.

As we started to climb, I picked up the pace and took the lead once more. After a fairly flat seven miles, the next three were of rolling hills and were pretty tough going. By this point, the race was hard work, I never felt comfortable again and knew that whatever lead I had gained wouldn’t be there for long if I were to ease up.

I was right.

Coming down the last hill at full momentum, I passed the 10 mile marker in 1 hour 25 and knew then that even if I had to slow right down, I would still hit my target with no problems, a new PB was already in the bag. However, I knew Mark was still behind me somewhere, so I pushed on and kept my speed up. By 11 miles, I was finished, my legs and feet were burning and I was absolutely exhausted! Then, it happened. “Hello again mate”, he’d caught up with me again. Considering his pre-race preparation had consisted of Stella, hot dogs and steak pies, I was in utter disbelief. I just looked at him and said “What on earth are you made of?”. I was beaten. If he’d decided to go past me then, I’d have probably let him go.

We turned a corner to cross the bridge and headed back to the finish line. With a water station marking 12 miles, Mark stopped for a split  second to grab a cup of water and I kept going. I thought to myself, I’m already going to beat my PB but if I want to finish in front, I’m going to have to open out enough of a lead in this last mile so that he can’t sprint past me.

The last mile was nothing short of unbearable, it felt like I was being chased. I just wanted it over with, I could hardly breathe, my lungs were about to burst and all I could think about was one of the training sessions I had with the club two weeks ago. We were doing mile reps along the Quayside and Davey Anderson was pushing me to do the last one when I had nothing left, so I thought to myself ‘this mile’s for you’ and went as fast as I could. The closer I got to the finish line, the further it seemed away, until the route doubled back on itself for 20 meters before heading back up to the sports centre. As I made my way around the tight u-turn, I saw Mark on the other side so I knew I still had work to do.

The course finished with 1 lap around the club running track, with hundreds of people cheering everyone on. As I got round the final part of the track I sprinted the last 100 meters to the finish line, collected my medal and mars bar and collapsed in a heap on the floor. My time was confirmed as 1:52.10 and had beaten my previous PB by 12 minutes!

To say I was buzzing afterwards would be an understatement. The race itself had been nothing short of torture from start to finish but the sense of achievement was overwhelming. I was dying to let everyone at the club know how I’d got on, and the comments received afterwards just shows the support you get from everyone. Special thanks to Davey, Paul and Kenny who’ve given me great advice and encouragement over the past
few weeks.

Looking forward to getting back to training as soon as my legs will let me and looking towards my next goal. As we speak, I’m already being pestered by ‘you know who’ to do the Sunderland Marathon with him next May…

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