Report from Lucy.
The good thing about this race was the fine and early start, 9am. Last time I ran Belfast(in 2003) I started 20 minutes late. On Monday I rose at 5:30 for my porridge and was relieved to make it to the start line, in front of the grand city hall, with 20 minutes to spare.
I was hoping to run a negative split so I set off slowly, trying to think metronome, easy pace, steady does it. Just felt joyful to be running again, had not ran for a week. Was trying just to think of it as an ordinary long run (with a wee bonus bit at the end).
We headed out of the city centre, along Falls Rd, Shankhill Rd, through housing estates with flags a flying. Ran past some folk out on their front steps, dressing gowns on, having a cup of tea or a fag, watching us with mild curiosity.
I was glad to get to the Antrim Rd and lovely Cave hill(I like a nice hill to admire during a run) on our left. There were a few supporters on Antrim Rd, wee kids gleefully giving high 5s and offering sweeties.
I couldn’t get a song out of my head, wind the bobbin up kept going through my head (is it called an ear worm?), mental torture. Felt as if I was going really slowly but knew I would feel better in the last few miles if I stuck to a steady pace early on.
The water was in wee paper cups so I managed to slosh it all over myself, not being very good at this drinking and running business. By midday the sun was out so getting a wee soaking at the water stations was a blessed relief.
There were not a huge amount of marathon runners(less than 3000), but almost 17000 runners altogether, so a lot doing the relay, marathon walk and fun run. The places where the relay runners changed over were great, lots of loud supporters, great cheers(‘Fair play to yis!’).
We ran along a cycle path, I could see the harbour and the Stena line boat I’d be on later that day, was thinking of how happy I’d feel to be on that boat, cup of tea, feet up, running over for the day.
Ran with a friendly relay runner for a few miles, he was doing the last 2 legs of the relay. Was feeling somewhat weary by this point but he gave me a real boost when he said to me ‘you look like a proper marathon runner.’ Just lifted my spirits & kept me going(the kindness of other runners so touching).
Tried to speed up after half way. Had 4 or 5 sweets, sips of water. Had to dig deep, find my inner strength, thought about the long journey to my spring marathons. Thought about all the long runs through the winter with my Bella pals, leaving the house sometimes when it was still dark and always cold. Slogging up to Carmunnock on the ice, sliding everywhere and cursing the Castlemilk hills; running along route 7 in the crunchy, deep snow; struggling through the wind and rain along the canalside to Anniesland, dying to get home for a hot shower and a big feed. Told myself it was a privilege to be running the marathon today, I should count myself lucky. Some poor people don’t get to run marathons (and that’s a wee shame for them)
Once we crossed the Ormeau bridge I knew it couldn’t be too far as the race finished in Ormeau park. Tried to push it. Saw one of my sisters during the last few miles, all carefree and cycling, making me smile with her daft patter. Then I was really crabbit, kept moaning at her, asking where the finish was. She kept replying just around the corner. The last mile was a ridiculously long one, the corner was an awfy long time in coming. Once I could see the glorious finish line I had a wee tear in my eye and sped gratefully towards it, a spring in my step, joy in my heart (nothing fills my heart with joy more than the wonderful sight of a marathon finish line).
I was pleased to finish in 3:46 and I ran the 2nd half 5 minutes faster than the 1st half. My fastest miles were the last 6.2. One day I would like to run an even-paced marathon, every mile the same. If only I could learn how.
Belfast marathon was good. It did not have the prettiest or loveliest scenery; there was not a huge swag at the finish line (bag of crisps and bottle of water) but it had one or two nice downhill bits and kind, warm-hearted supporters.
The best way to combat post-marathon blues is to have another one to look forward to. Not too long till the next one now…