The Chester Marathon in the last 10 yrs has grown into one of the best run events on the runners calendar, and with the recent introduction of the Metric (26.2km) Marathon it is offering a unique set of options. I freely admit it is one of my favorite races (ok, it is my PB marathon course), and enjoyed running in either event virtually every year except – year 1 and this year. I still ventured up to the old Roman City to support club members Alistair, Kerry and Marc (and a few others who I know) as they took part – and for these 3 it was their first marathon.
Due to the weather, some changes had to be made with the route, but it did not dampen the excitement around the race HQ, as the runners arrived aided by the cheerful guy on the PA trying to beat up the atmosphere. We finally all met and a last minute of go out and enjoy it, if they didnt it might prove to be the first and last marathon. With the change in the start area (which had limited spectator access) I walked off into the city and took up a place near the Cathedral where I knew the runners would be running past. Sure enough, at 9.10 they started to stream past – with large gaggles amassed near the pacer runners – but did manage to see our MRC guys – just.
Then it was time for coffee, a little wonder and then to see the start of the Metric and another 2000 runners run past. I have to say, I had 4 points in the day where I thought ‘Oh – I should be out there’, 1 was walking to the race HQ and getting that marathon buzz, second seeing them near the cathedral and thirdly now – as the Metric runners ran past Eastgate and down the rod and over Handbridge to run out of the city. It is nice though seeing the masses run past and chatting to a marshal nearby (as you do). While it is great to see good runners fly past – it is amazing to see the number of slower runners as they pass by – all the different shapes, ages and sizes, but one must give them great credit for starting such an event. They are an inspiration – prob more so than the likes of the quick runners at the front. Running is for everyone - and it is open to all regardless of ability, reason or age.
So, time for a little shopping (fudge, LFC – the Whisky shop was closed, sad to say), before walking down to the river to be close to the finish area. The atmosphere was exciting knowing the first runners would be coming past shortly – and so they did – in just under 2hrs 30mins – with the first 10 men all under 2.40. So, I waited for our guys to come, checked on the online results – they got to 30k and holding a very steady pace just over 9mins, but Kerry had dropped a little. And Sure enough, just before 1pm – I saw Ali running past – got to say looking very well, and then about 30secs later – Marc trotted past – both under the 4hrs. 5mins or so later, Kerry went past looking tired, but he was now only 200 yards from the finish line.
Seeing all the runners finish was the final time I thought ‘I should be out there now’. Many were running for charity, many smiling as they neared the finish line, many just grimacing as the pain kicked but – but they knew it was close, many stopping today 'hi' to families. The odd dad carrying child with them over the line, and sadly a few being helped over the line by the fab marshals. The crowd cheered all, with a guy saying to his son, ‘Looks shout for Fred’, and so his son did – but they didn’t know who Fred was – they just cheered. It as a good couple of hours standing in the wind, rain and sun looking on and hearing the support.
Finally, one has to congratulate all 3 runners: Ali (who’s training was disrupted), Marc for getting round the marathon, and both under the 4hrs and to Kerry - who is 18months has progressed from a new runner to finishing a marathon. It is an achievement which should not be underestimated – regardless of level. I know with both Marc & Kerry, they had trained and stuck to the plan, which greatly aided both. I also know both had issues during the race, but they carried on and finished. It is a marathon after all and it is rare for these races to go perfectly well, but they had trained for it sensibly.
All 3 runners should remember now; they are marathon runners – and no one can take that away from them. Be proud, as I am proud of them as their coach.