Sunday saw the return of marathon season with the Halifax Marathon, my first of 4 marathons in the upcoming 4 months. I had entered the race to help bridge the gap between my last race, the Leeds 10K, and the Robin Hood Marathon at the end of September. Taking place fairly locally and costing less than the price of a good sandwich to get there and back on the train, there seemed little reason not to attend.
My preparation going into the race was fairly decent, two very comfortable 24 and 28 mile runs at the beginning of August reassured me that despite not tailoring my training towards the race I would still be able to cover the distance without much hassle. However once again I made the mistake of giving blood just a few days before the race, despite having been reassured that 48 hour is enough rest I failed to learn from how bad I felt after last year’s Liverbird marathon. Whilst this time I had an extra 24 hours recovery time, it still wasn’t the best idea, but the guilt of not having donated all year and the lure of free biscuits proved too strong.
Granted I’m still very new to the area, my geographical skills will take a while to attain, and I’ll never stop finding the accent amusing, but my ignorance of Yorkshire again took me by surprise. As I turned around after exiting the train station it began to dawn on me that Halifax wasn’t particularly flat, nevertheless I started following signs for the Shay Stadium and the start of the race. When I collected my race number the man behind the desk, unprompted, decided to reaffirm any concerns I had over the hilliness of the race whilst chuckling away to himself. Number collected and with over an hour before the start of the race I made myself familiar with the location of the toilets as I began my 3 pre-race pee routine.
The race would waste no time in easing you into the hills, after leaving the start at the Shay Stadium we would cross the road and head straight up the first, and biggest climb towards Beacon Hill. The handrail on the pavement was the first clue that the hill would be unforgiving, the second was the groups of runners I could see ahead of me already opting to conserve energy and walk up it. The first three miles continued uphill before eventually descending down into Shipden through fields and towards Brighouse.
Heading into Brighouse there was a bit of directional confusion as a sign appeared to be hiding and a few runners, myself included, nearly missed a turn under the subway into Brighouse town centre. Fortunately one of the runners spotted it at the last second and we were able to quickly turn in the right direction, and this was just one minor issue of an otherwise well signposted race. On the other side of the subway we would run through the high street, past bemused locals before then joining the canal towpath for an almost exclusively flat second half of the lap.
After a small climb back towards Shay Stadium where those doing the Half Marathon were fortunate to be able to cross the finish line, I stopped to grab a few cups of water before continuing on for the second lap and THAT climb back up the hill. On the way up the hill I noticed that I had fallen victim to the most embarrassing of running injuries, the Jogger’s Nipple. After being caught in heavy rain on a few runs recently my nipples were already in a delicate condition, but I’d been making sure to plaster up before the run home from work every afternoon. In typical fashion on the day I need to plaster them up the most, I completely forgot, and after chucking a cup of water over my head at every water station it was only a matter of time until my nips started to bleed.
Naturally the second climb back up the hill was much tougher than the first, but once it was over there was the benefit of running a multi-lapped course in that I knew that the rest of the race would be mostly flat, including the last six miles along the canal. On the Saturday before the race I had a quick scramble round town to try and find somewhere selling race gels after realising I only had a couple of my preferred ones. I ended up settling for some Lucozade CarboGels which were much thicker than I prefer and a slight miscalculation during the race meant that I was always taking my gels out of sync with the water stations. Normally this wouldn’t have been that big a deal, but with how thick these gels were they seemed to suck out any moisture I had in my mouth and I was left with choosing between waiting an extra mile to take my gels or taking it without water and then coping with a dry mouth.
At the 20 mile mark I noticed I was coming up behind a familiar kilted runner, MarathonManUK who was running his 152nd marathon in 141 days. Having seen him walking around at the beginning of the race I opted against waiting to speak to him as he came out of the toilet like some weird crazy stalker, hoping instead that I would catch up with him later in the race. I slowed down to chat with him, to make sure he was getting on OK, before wishing him well on the rest of the race and the rest of his challenge.
With it being a reasonably warm day and a tough course I had made sure to take advantage of the drinks stations, drinking at least two cups at each and then grabbing a third to pour over my head before continuing onwards. Towards the end of the race I began to suffer badly from dehydration and spent the last few miles juggling burps, on the verge of throwing up. Eventually with little over half a mile to go my body got the better of me and I had to pull across to the side of the path for a few minutes to clear my head, and more importantly my stomach.
When I eventually crossed the line I slumped down against the wall for a well needed sit down. Apparently I looked as bad as I felt as a first aider soon came across to attend with food and drink as I was looking very pale. After 20 minutes or so I was back on my feet and ready to shuffle back to the train station for the short journey back to Leeds.
After an initial test run around Post Hill, I used the race as an opportunity to test my Toshiba Camileo Camera and new Hand Grip attachment to record the race. For the most part it worked well, it seemed to get a little loose at times, potential due to being a GoPro attachment rather than an official one and I was a little conservative on the battery life despite carrying spares. Hopefully next time I won’t feel so rough on the second half of the race and I’ll remember to record more.
When I got home I found out that Jenny had also been suffering a bout with food poisoning, which I realised would explain some of the effects I experienced in the second half of the race. Despite how the race personally ended, it was still one that I enjoyed and one I’m more than willing to do again, if only just to settle the unfinished business I have with it. It’s crazy to think that I could’ve set a new PB with this race had I not stopped to throw up/to record sections, though that is purely down to my improvement than any PB potential the course has. For a race in it’s debut year there didn’t appear to be many (any) teething problems and with a t-shirt and a medal (with a fabulous pink ribbon) it has the makings of a race I’ll come back to year after year.
In a few weeks time I may look back at this race and the struggle I had to finish it in a positive light, not quite yet though, at the minute I still feel bloody awful.