Bolton Abbey Trail Marathon (Saturday 25th February 2017)
I'm writing this a month on from what was my first 'Marathon' of the year, and in the middle of tapering for my next race the DT20 km of the Dale Trail Series Grand Slam for 2017. I hadn't done a marathon for a while as a race distance so it was nice to get another 'Marathon' as an event under belt and pick up my first running medal for the year - which felt like a novelty as most of last years races didn't come with a medal at all, just memories and the occasional mug and of course the race number which I just can't seem to throw away.
I feel like you take more away from a race than a medal, it's the friendship gained, encouragement given and received, the knowledge of persevering and willing each other on to do well and exceeding estimations of ourself and of others surprising us. These races can become the 'norm', but in the ordinary there is always the extraordinary at work.
To go back a little, I booked onto this event as a friend Pete Harrison was running the ultra and thought I would go along and cheer him on as the races started together and it would be great to run together even though we would be doing different distances and be an 'unofficial pacer'. I had known Pete when he was growing up in Malawi and hadn't seen him for about 6 years. He came in 2nd on the Ultra-marathon with a brilliant effort; I managed a 6th place on the marathon which I was happy with as I had not trained specifically for a marathon distance event... it's all been focused on the longer and hillier routes. I should really try and do one of these properly one day. The promise of rain never really materialised and after some brief drizzle it was cool with the occasional drop, which was appreciated as the course though mostly on track by the river, did loops over some grass fields and a couple of muddy sections which needed good trail shoes on what was an undulating trail along side the River Wharfe with an accumulative elevation gain of around 2000ft its definitely not flat... but still runnable.
The event was low key but enjoyable with the added extra of starting with the half-marathon runners who always shoot off at a pace, which means if you start as if your in a race you will be at the front of any of the longer events happening at the same time. Running with the half-marathon runners and a few others marathon and ultra runners which were few are far between, checking out peoples colour on the number to keep track if they were in your event becomes a bit compulsive, not that I'm competitive at all! I had a bit of a niggle which was fine for the first 15 miles but started to slow me down from about 18 miles... so Pete carried on with out me as I just dug in for the duration and was happy with a sub 4 hour time. I did an extra mile to cheer Pete on at the end so I felt like I had done my own 'little ultra'.
Running as a Hyde Park Harrier and with it being a relatively local event to Leeds, there were a few Harriers out in the half-marathon and marathon - here is Phil Hammond our very own Marathon Man on his way to complete this 114th or 115th marathon, (I lose count, he will let me know), he used to be my neighbour 20 years ago and who would have thought we would end up running a marathon together...the first of many to come I hope.
Job done... there is always a great goodie bag to take away with 'It's Grim Up North Running' and with it being a low key event great if you want to give the marathon distance a go without the crowds but still making friends. I would recommend the event, and you can even run it again the next day which many seemed to be doing. I had other plans, the Ilkley Fell race awaited.