Guest post by Melanie Horan of the North East Marathon Club
As part of our Winter Wonder series, the North East Marathon Club decided to go on tour this year and on the advice of Pete King, hold an event in Hardwick Park. After a recce of the parkrun route in autumn 2018, the NEMC committee decided the park and the parkrun route would be perfect for our event, and a welcome change from running around the Town Moor. This seemed a popular choice and for the first time ever, we had to close entries as we were full and start a waiting list for the event. After the slight worry of snow earlier in the week and a covering of frost on Saturday morning, the weather was reasonably mild at the start of the day, with the sun making an appearance later on. The course conditions were excellent, dry with no puddles or mud, with the only obstacles being a dangerous looking gaggle of geese and a game of swans on the path beside the lake.
Another first for NEMC was the Race Director’s role being taken on by Catherine Smith and Kerry Barnett of NEMC and Elvet Striders, who did a fantastic job of race set up, managing the marshals and time keeping. Registration ran smoothly and it was fantastic to see so many Sedgefield Harriers on the start line, and thanks again must go to Pete for persuading you all to enter! The race began in the usual NEMC manner, without ceremony or incident and after running for a few hundred metres, it was amazing to look back and see swarms of runners along the path.
For those of you who don’t already know me, I am a bit obsessed with the marathon distance, and this was to be my 93rd marathon. I am still absolutely rubbish at pacing myself and set off, as usual, as if I was running a 5k, desperate to keep Gary Thwaites in my sight for at least the first mile. I was pleased to see my good friend and fellow terribly paced runner Omar had also set off at a ridiculous pace, and I had a little bet with myself as to whether I would catch him at 18 or 20 miles as usual. I ran the first few laps with Ben Smale who had kindly marked out the course for us earlier and we had a good chat about pacing and ultra marathons, neither of which are a talent of mine.
Ben made his escape after about an hour, and I ran the rest of the race by myself, although not alone as I was continuously speaking to runners I was passing or were passing me. In case you are wondering what I think about while running, main themes include what is for tea, how long is it until I can visit the sweets and pop buffet (drinks station, which was exceptionally well stocked today thanks to our RDs), whether I need to stop at the toilets, how long it will be until I catch Omar and how much different parts of my body are hurting. Today I had the added fear of having to run through the hissing geese and evil swans, who everyone knows will break your arm if you get too close. To my horror, one of the geese actually ran into me and I felt its wet, slimy beak touch my leg! All was going well until about 22 miles when I had to make an emergency pitstop and spent about 5 minutes in the toilets. After that I found it hard to get going again and really slowed down. I managed to finish my 93rd marathon in 3:51, which is about average for me these days. A great venue, really friendly runners and fantastic support from the volunteers, we will definitely be back in 2020. Incidentally, I passed Omar at 14 miles….
By Melanie Horan