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Marathon Memories

A fellow Postie sent me a message earlier this week. "We miss your reports bro" was all it said. So here we are, the relaunch of the reports. They might not be weekly, I do have a living to earn after all but I'll do my best to churn out some words, especially as we are closing in on the muddy season and its fondness for offering up some memorable images.

It is almost two weeks now since the annual trek around the city centre and surrounding villages to the east, otherwise known as the Yorkshire Marathon Festival. 50+ of us, including Dee and myself, had completed all 8 to date and both of us were on the start line again in addition to a beautiful mix of Postal first timers.

My first marathon was back in 2003, not quite in York but in New York. I was a lifelong squash player back then and genuinely thought 4-5 games of decent squash each week would be plenty sufficient to see me round the streets of the big apple. I didn't know much about running back then. I still have a clear memory of being overtaken by a group of military guys marching with their full packs on as I staggered into Central Park and the finish for a time a tad in excess of 5 hours. Little did I know the journey I had begun with this so beguiling of events.

Fast Forward a year or two and we're in 2022 and the outlook has changed somewhat. We've been chatting away in a Whatsapp Group for a few months now, a small band of foolhardy Posties with designs on sub 3 hour marathons. Cole, Carter x 2, Pearson and Middleton. My feeling was we had two bankers (that's bankers) and three possibles.

The long range weather forecast wasn't looking promising and the favourite pastime of pre-marathon runners was swinging into action, that of looking for excuses. The wind was up, the rain was coming, legs were hurting. Bloody hell, could anything else possibly go wrong? What a bunch of amateur pessimists we are.

Marathon day dawned and proved yet again that weather forecasters are allowed to get it wrong. The sun was shining and yes, there was a little bit of wind but not Storm Pat or whatever name it was going to be given. Arriving at the Uni and within a matter of seconds we were all talking ourselves out of it.

I love strolling round the Uni in the hour leading up to the off. Knowing I'll see plenty of familiar faces but not sure when and where. Sophie was an early familiar face but no Elliot alas, who we found out had been busy making friends with the lavatory. On a fairly frequent basis. He was one of my bankers for a sub 3 and someone of his class really had no need to be nervous.

The next familiar face was the highlight of the morning as we spotted none other than Paul Hatfield strolling into the starting pens. One of our top performers over the last 10 years and it was great to see him on the start line. He'd kept it that quiet that I don't think even he knew that he'd entered. Fantastic to see you back in a Postal vest again mate.

One of the pre-race concerns had been this new policy of self penning. Whilst it sounds like some form of torture, it really related to making your own decision as to where you stood at the start rather than being told based on your estimated finish time. We had visions of being herded in with 6 hour runners and facing a stampede down the first hill onto Hull Road. Not that there's anything wrong with being a 6 hour runner, we all complete the same distance. Anyway, those worries never came to pass and it was actually pretty quiet close to the front.

So there we had it, Carter, Carter & Middleton ready and raring to go on 4.16min per KM pace and Cole a touch further forward. Pearson was playing it sensible in his new fancy trainers recently purchased for about 3 shillings on Ebay. They could be great or they could be really shit, only time would tell.

No Harry Gration to set us off this year but a minute's applause instead for the great man from Look North. The older Posties out there will remember Harry commentating on many a sports fixture so it was perhaps appropriate that Dom and I were treated to Jim's words of wisdom as we made our way into the city centre. Don't get carried away by the crowds he warned us whereas many of the runners would have loved to have been carried away to the nearest bar.

Out of the city centre and Jim had already clocked up a trillion steps with his rapid cadence. I can't believe his Garmin doesn't explode with all the action it has to record.

We were settling into a nice rhythm now, heading down Stockton Lane and getting the early miles behind us. Dom and I with Jim just behind and Elliot always in sight a few hundred metres up the road. It's like a love story. Not a very good one I admit.

We were nicely inside the 4.16 per KM target, knocking out 4.10's on a regular basis and building a bit of leeway in the event of it going pear shaped in the latter stages. Jim meanwhile was resolutely sticking with his 4.15's, a tactic that would prove to be pure genius later on.

The first sign you get of how you're doing is the turnaround point in Stamford Bridge. We had only just turned the corner and there was Jim right behind us and we'd also caught sight of Elliot, maintaining his gap further up towards the Balloon Tree. All felt really good at that point. 21K down and 21K to go. Was it really going to happen?

The long drag up and past Dunnington and on to Grimston Bar has been the death of many a good marathon time before now. It is never ending and you get the kick in the guts when you see the much faster guys with 6 miles to go turning off and heading towards Holtby.

As we arrived in Dunnington the first part of my well drilled drinks routine with my son George went like clockwork. He was under strict instructions with his two bottles of raspberry flavoured Lucozade sport, both of which had a Chia Charge bar sellotaped to them. My thought being that if the pro's can make good use of sellotape then so can I.

I clocked George in the distance and we passed the raspberry baton perfectly before he shot across to the other side of the road to await my return before repeating the trick again.

And that was us 30K done and getting towards the business end. That's when the first warning shots of pain started. I'd run stride for stride with Dom right up until that point but that's where the elastic snapped and the young master moved away into the distance to surely complete his goal.

I was doing some rough calculations and I absolutely had enough time to get this done under 3 hours but the legs weren't feeling great. 5 min KM's would be enough though but when you're done, you're done and the dawning realisation swept over me that sub 3 would need to wait for another time.

It was a tough last 5 K. Jim had glided by, offering words of encouragement on his way and I managed to keep up a few times but I couldn't match his pace and decided that stopping for a long overdue wee was a good idea. My Garmin later told me that I'd stopped for 53 seconds. I must have had a bladder the size of Belgium! All that Lucozade Sport.

I don't know what everyone else is like but once I know it's gone I kind of lose motivation and the desire to bust a gut to get a 3.02 or 3.03 wasn't really there. Even the raucous crowd at the bottom of that last hill couldn't get me going again and I crossed the line in 3.05.58.

I absolutely shouldn't be disappointed with that time. A course PB and my 3rd fastest marathon time ever. Last year I completed the same event in 4.25. I was really fat though! My next road marathon is Cyprus in March so dreams will have to be put on hold until then. That's closely followed by Boston on 17 April and London on 23 April. There might be one or two Hardmoors events prior to that though.

Go back a few weeks earlier to Berlin and I don't mind admitting that I was in tears when I crossed the finish line. Sub 3 had been very much on the cards there right until the bitter end and I was in bits at missing it. This time round not so much. What I was though was absolutely chuffed to bits to see what Elliot, Dom and Jim had done. All sub 3 and how utterly marvellous to be able to say that. So proud of what you guys have achieved and yes, I'm envious but you've also shown me that it can be done.

It's fair to say that it was a rather good day out for club YPH. The 1st 4 men finished in under 3.06. Hannah and Sophie both dipped in nicely under 4 hours. We had 6 men and 6 women starting and finishing with Harriet, Emily and Laura all performing brilliantly and Dee completing yet another marathon. I've finished 62 now and Dee's miles in front of me.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the 10 mile race where Jordan was defending the title he won last year. It wasn't to be a double but coming 2nd in a quality field is another incredible performance from our own boy wonder.

And there we were, the 9th Marathon done and dusted. Pride on the face and pain in the legs to prove it. The last word (almost) goes to the various members of the YPH cheer squad. They popped up everywhere and it makes a huge difference so Jess, Di, Andy, Jase, Deanna, Melissa, Si, Reid and no doubt plenty of other who I've forgotten, we thank you.

The last word (definitely) goes to those who achieved their goals. It was amazing to watch some of that action at close quarters and you all inspire me to come back for more. One day.

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