2017 Bournemouth Marathon – Anny James

We set out for Bournemouth with great excitement, it was going to be a fun, family weekend with a bit of running thrown in. Mistake number one, we thought it was going to be an ‘easy’ marathon and I was going to drive home Sunday night, who were we kidding? No marathon is easy.

Will and Anya ran at lunchtime on Saturday, their start and finish was near the pier and the atmosphere was buzzing. We should have seen the warning signs, Will ran 2K and Anya 1.5K but both came back saying it was really tough and they’d got stitch, I put this down to the rather large breakfast they ate but as I was to find out, it’s hard work running along Bournemouth Promenade.

Saturday night, I was woken by our neighbour leaving his hotel room. I sat up with a start, he must be leaving for the half marathon, our alarm hasn’t gone off ……. it was only 4am! I had very little sleep after that but it wasn’t long before our alarm went off. Julian was starting at 8am, it was very early and despite getting as much as possible prepared the night before, an hour of mayhem and madness “where’s my …….. socks, shorts, shoes, number, swimming costume, gels, hairbrush?”, even the walk to the bus was stressful, do we follow other runners who seemed to be going in the opposite direction to where my directions were telling me to go? Turns out we were OK and they thought the start was by the finish when in fact it was a 20min bus ride away. By the time we’d dropped the kids off with Mum and got on the bus I was ready for another sleep.

It was still a good walk to the start after the bus dropped us off, it was in quite a residential area and I felt for the locals being woken by the load music and all these crazy runners. I said goodbye to Julian and wished him luck for his first half as he went into his start pen and I didn’t see him again as he got swallowed up by the big field. Julian had a good race until his knee started hurting but completed his first half marathon well.

The wait for my start went quick, I met up with Dad and Fast Mandy and we handed our bags onto the trucks that were to take them to the finish. As we walked to the start, I checked my watch and found I’d already walked 4 miles.

The start of the race was really nice, meandering through streets, the residents had come out of their houses to cheer us on. There were a few out and backs and it was great to be able to cheer on Mandy (who was living up to her name) and high-5 Dad as we passed each other. Mistake number two, I was going quicker than I planned but I felt really comfortable and was enjoying myself so ignored it. Everything was going well until we dropped onto the promenade, here the support stopped, there were lots of people around but they were not taking a blind bit of notice of the runners, it seemed so quiet. The crowd and support didn’t lift until we reached Bournemouth pier but it was short lived as we started to head back up the promenade to the deathly silence of Boscombe pier. It was around this time that I started to hear unhappy rumblings of the runners around me. I heard “This is horrendous” more than once. I passed Mandy and this was the last time I saw her, as despite the ‘horrendousness’, she stormed round in an awesome time.

Around this time I made Mistake Three, I’d planned to rely on my salt sachets and not use gels, but they kept offering them. I took one, resisted the temptation and threw it away but I was starting to feel quite bad and when I got offered another I took it – was this the reason for my toilet break later on? This was quite possibly the only effect it had on me because I certainly didn’t feel energised by it. Around Bournemouth Pier I was ready to stop, my feet and ankles hurt and I just wanted to walk into the sea, cool them down and do a Reginald Perin, I didn’t want to be a runner anymore. And then a most horrible experience – we had to cross the finish line alongside the speedy runners who were finishing, I was most definately ready to quit. But at the most timely moment I saw Mum, Will and Anya “Come on Mum, only 9 miles to go” said Anya, and Mum said “You can do it, you’re doing well”. (She later said I looked dreadful and far worse than Dad when he passed that point!). This was my turning point and they gave me so much more than that blooming gel and I pushed on up the hill. Perhaps it was mistake Four but I believed I had to run up it to prove that the flaming course was not going to beat me.

I felt dreadful but the second part of the course was much better supported, the difficulty here though was that we were sharing the promenade with those wanting to enjoy Bournemouth beach in the sunshine; walkers, cyclists, mobility scooters and dogs. I’d had a nagging feeling in my tummy since the promenade, I didn’t really want to break my [slow] rhythm but at mile 20 the portaloo lured me in. I sat down and cried, I don’t know if I wanted to stop but I just felt very sorry for myself, all I could do was remind myself that it was only 10k to go and I was going to finish. I’m glad I stopped, I felt much more comfortable and with the added support I kept plodding up the promenade towards Poole. Here people were outside their beach huts offering water, crisps, jelly babies, it was great and really helped those negative thoughts as people were going down regularly – there were runners crying out in pain, sat on benches, medics running around. You’ve all heard Dad’s story, I didn’t see him but this was where cramp halted him too.

As I turned to head back to Bournemouth I could see the pier, it was a speck in the distance and that couple of miles went on forever. Passing the runners still going towards Poole I’d hoped to see Dad, I tried not to worry and Julian was a welcome sight about 1K from home. I wanted to stop for a hug but I knew I was unlikely to get going again, on I plodded, head down. William joined me and ran along side me and there was Mum and Anya and eventually the finish line.

This was probably one of the most gruelling races I have done, I was helped away from the line to the medal and water area. I had nothing left in me, I was desperate for a cup of tea but my money was in my bag and I couldn’t walk to the baggage area. I tried to sit on the grass but couldn’t get down to the ground, I eventually found a space on a bench, sat there blankley wondering if I’d ever move again. Finally I found Mum and the kids, she told me the news of Dad and I sat down and cried, I don’t know if it was pain, relief that I’d finished, upset that Dad hadn’t finished, or relief that he was OK. Whatever it was, it released whatever had tied my legs up and I was able to start moving and functioning as a person again.

To be quite frank Bournemouth marathon was hell on earth, I didn’t respect that it was a marathon and made school-boy errors. I hadn’t appreciated how looking after the kids, and supporting Julian in his half would impact on my marathon. It’s not a complaint, I wanted all that in my weekend because I’m a Mum and a partner, but I set my expectations too high for the marathon alongside this. Overcoming the negative mental impact when you realise you’re not going to meet your goals but still have half the course to run is tough. I felt quite disappointed but it was a marathon PB by over 30 mins. In a few days – or perhaps years – we will smile and look back on that Bournemouth weekend as an experience that taught us all a lot.

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