This is an occasion that’s hard to do justice, but I’ll try.
A bit of context first: I signed up for Paris 2015, and posted regularly on the Runners World UK thread for this event in the months leading up to it. What you have there is a bunch of wonderful people, new and old and from all over the UK and beyond. One such new person to the thread was Steve Holder. He sadly lost his wife, Sharon, who’d bravely battled cancer just a couple of months before Paris; he still ran the marathon, raising money for Macmillan, and with that was warmly welcomed into the fold in the amazing BCRC.
Please do go and read Steve’s blog for the journey in his own words…it really is quite something. As his he! He decided to run 20 marathons in 2016 to raise money for three charities in Sharon’s memory.
In April this year, the BCRC wheels started to turn, as a few fantastic folk took the lead in orchestrating a plan to get as many of us to Portsmouth as possible to run with and support Steve on what would be his last marathon of an epic year. And incredibly it was planned and plotted without Steve’s knowledge! This even included contacting the race organiser and asking he remove the online list of sign-ups so Steve wouldn’t see all our names beforehand.
It worked! A meal had been booked for the night before where, to Steve’s knowledge, a couple of close friends, his mum and Sharon’s parents would be there. Instead there were easily 30+, travelled from as far as USA, French & Netherlands – as well as Scotland! – to share this special weekend with him. And it really was.
A little devious, yes, but if you’re reading this, I hope you don’t hold it against us!
Most of the rest of this will be about the run, I promise…
I got a taxi from the hotel with a couple of fellow BCRC runners, getting down to event HQ at The Pyramids Centre for around 8.15 for a 9am start. After obligatory photos & dropping off the bags inside, we made our way the few hundred metres along to the start line…and with very little ceremony, we were away!
The course was a simple out and back as you can see. There was even an earlier start at 8am available if you thought you’d take over a certain time, with the tide coming in making part of the course impassable. I think one person in our group got routed round a detour for this very reason! The terrain was mixed, with some road/paths making way for some pebble beach and light trail paths. We got lucky with the weather for the time of year, and with no real rain in the lead up to the race and a calm, mild morning on the day itself, there weren’t many if any treacherous areas underfoot.
I took off with Eggy, who I’d ran a fair distance with in Copenhagen earlier in the year (I’m sure I’ll write that up at some point) One thing I’ve come to appreciate is that running with company means the time passes nice and quickly – which is more than can be said for our early pace! No one in our group was really running for time, but the narrow paths and lack of places to pass people meant it took some time to settle into anything like what would become our rhythm:
|1||1.0 km||5:54||5:54 /km||—||null m|
|2||1.0 km||5:55||5:55 /km||—||null m|
|3||1.0 km||5:54||5:54 /km||—||null m|
|4||1.0 km||5:54||5:54 /km||—||null m|
|5||1.0 km||5:29||5:29 /km||—||null m|
|6||1.0 km||5:38||5:38 /km||—||null m|
|7||1.0 km||5:49||5:49 /km||—||null m|
|8||1.0 km||5:40||5:40 /km|
The opening 5 miles also included the first of two segments on the pebble beach, which was hard going. I also had to stop to pick out a stone that’d got lodged under my toes via a hole in the top of my shoe. Eggy, being the good man that he is, stuck around while I faffed about.
We covered the world on our way round, chatting about races and holidays past and future plans from the US & Canada to South Africa, Japan & SE Asia, and Aberdeen…that last one is strictly race related!
It was awesome to see our massive support crew on the way out, and again at the nearly-halfway turn. They were loud and a massive lift; hats off to ’em on what was a pretty chilly day to be standing around for hours on end (perfect for us runners, though!). The out-and-back nature also meant we got to see everyone else who was running, at some stage, an absolute bonus.
Most of the run was oddly free of serious ups or downs, both in hilly and emotional terms. Normally there are stages of a race you feel great and the polar opposite, but Eggy & I did a top job of taking our minds off what we were actually doing with our nonsensical chat, and had the rather pleasant experience of doing so while doing significantly more overtaking than being overtaken.
Things were fairly quiet on the way back, and aside from being backed up a little as we made our way back to the first pebble beach around mile 16ish, we carried on plodding. And then we got to this lot just before the finish:
A rather pleasing sight! Eggy & I finished together, with a fairly consistent last 10k:
|33||1.0 km||5:22||5:22 /km||—||null m|
|34||1.0 km||5:17||5:17 /km||—||null m|
|35||1.0 km||5:30||5:30 /km||—||null m|
|36||1.0 km||5:14||5:14 /km||—||null m|
|37||1.0 km||5:18||5:18 /km||—||null m|
|38||1.0 km||5:22||5:22 /km||—||null m|
|39||1.0 km||5:25||5:25 /km||—||null m|
|40||1.0 km||5:11||5:11 /km||—||null m|
|41||1.0 km||5:20||5:20 /km||—||null m|
|42||1.0 km||5:16||5:16 /km||—||null m|
|43||0.2 km||1:01||4:42 /km|
And a negative split, for good measure! The time’s not overly important for this one, but it was 3:49:30 for what was my 2nd slowest time in fourteen.
Terrific again to meet up with Steve after the run, and we went back out to spend around an hour with the support crew to cheer in most of our fellow runners. Then the cold got the better of me, and it was off back to the hotel.
The evening saw everyone get together again for food, drink and a great night with a raffle and auctions to raise money for Steve’s chosen charities. It can’t be overstated just how nice it was to see everyone pulling together for him in what will be a weekend to stay with us all for reasons very much other than running.