Last weekend saw Biggleswade AC represented at the Chester Marathon as a small group of members took on the challenge of 26.2 miles around the picturesque city and surrounding countryside. Congratulations to BAC Coach Rob Morgan, Ian Grimwood and Juliet Grimwood on their run on what was a rather unseasonably hot October day. Below is an excellent account from Ian on his race experience - we hope you are inspired and if you'd like to know more about what BAC offers please do check out our Training Information and Membership pages.
In June last year I noted that the Chester Marathon 2022 was scheduled to take place 2/10/22 just 5 days after my 70th birthday. I had never visited Chester before so this provided an ideal opportunity to celebrate my birthday somewhere new and characterful and at the same time attempt a marathon in my new age grade. Well Juliet and I duly spent a most enjoyable week in Chester and I completed the marathon in a time of 4:08:46, my UK PB at the time. I don’t know if it was falling for the city of Chester, thoroughly enjoying the marathon or feeling that if I could just avoid wasting time with cramp in various muscles at mile 23 then maybe I could get closer to the 4 hour mark but I thought the experience was worth repeating in 2023! And the icing on the cake was that Juliet decided to run the marathon this time too but wasn’t going to chase a particular time, just enjoy the experience.
We arrived in Chester on the Tuesday for what was forecast to be a mostly fine week with the mercury expected to rise to an unseasonably warm 23 degrees C on the Sunday, not the best conditions for running 26 miles but at least we would be able to enjoy getting out and about during the week with our spaniel Max.
Saturday evening arrived and what better than Italian trattoria fare for dinner the night before a marathon so our friend Rob who had also come up for the marathon arranged this for a group of us running the next day and our supporters. We had a great evening with lovely food to set us up for the effort that was to follow the next day. On Sunday morning the weather was showing signs of fulfilling the earlier forecast but at least the race was due to start at 9.00am so the air temperature would be a little cooler for the first few miles. Just like 2022 everything was well organised at the start located at Chester Race Course and we set off at the due time. Somehow I found myself behind the 4:15 pacers as I ran out of the exit onto the streets of Chester so I needed to pick up some pace to catch up with the 4 hour pacers which I did a mile or two after we had left the city walls behind us. I was then able to settle into a relaxed pace for the next 8 miles or so, the only stress being my need to pick up water at every hydration station being a bit of a heavy sweater unlike many of my fellow runners that were able to stick by the side of the pacers. I was slightly concerned that because I’d buried my salt tablets (250mg sodium) safely away I was struggling to find them while I was running so missed my first cue at the half hour point and therefore took 2 when I was 1 hour into the race. Hopefully this wouldn’t be a factor later in the race as I had taken 1500mg in an electrolyte drink before bed the night before and the same again before the start of the race.
Just like the previous year I was surprised how good I felt at the half marathon point (in training I always felt like it was a slog beyond 13 miles). However by around the 16 mile point both hips were feeling sore, something I'd not experienced before so I did question at the time whether it was wise to be running marathons 'at my age'. (The good news is that this discomfort cleared up within two days of completing the marathon so hopefully no long-term issues there.) At mile 17 as we approached the village of Holt where the crowds were enthusiastically cheering us on I was still on track for a sub 4 hour time. Indeed I maintained the pace as we crossed the Dee for the second time into the adjoining village of Farndon and I somehow managed to maintain the pace up the hill out of the village cheered on by the crowds to complete the 18th mile at the desired pace and keeping the pacers in sight a few tens of meters ahead of me. However the extra effort took a toll on my aching hips and I struggled to prevent the gap widening with my pace dropping to 10 minutes per mile for mile 19. I managed to re-double my efforts for mile 20 which I almost completed on pace. However the next 3 miles were progressively slower with mile 23 being my slowest split at 11.5 minute miles. This was also the mile when the dreaded first sign of cramp started to creep in with my right big toe deciding to be less friendly with the adjacent toe - I took an extra unplanned salt tablet! My pace yo-yo’d those last 4 miles depending on how much emphasis was required to avoid any particular muscle going into a full cramp but I was able to run the last 0.2 miles almost at target average pace through the funnel formed by the cheering crowds only for my right calf to fully cramp as I crossed the line with a chip time of 4:07:02!
Lessons learned? Maybe need to start any future marathon training 3 or 4 weeks earlier so that the longer runs can be at nearer target marathon pace. Maybe this would prevent my body being so stressed causing my body to lean absurdly to the right (born out by photos but I was oblivious) and also the muscle cramps creeping in.
Can I recommend Chester as a destination? Absolutely! Can I recommend Chester Marathon? I would give it 5 stars for organisation, pacers, support from the crowd, friendly marshals and fellow runners. Will I do it again next year? Hopefully it will fit in with our plans for 2024 when we have them. I would certainly miss it if I were not to run it.