Great Birmingham Marathon 15th October 2017: A first time Marathoner’s Experience

by Helen Brookes

I’d like to run a marathon……’

I have said this to Pete several times during our marriage. The idea of completing one, knowing that he has completed 7, seemed a reasonable wish. His (perfectly reasonable) reply was always to point out the commitment of training and how it becomes all consuming. With a family and work I guess he was thinking that it was probably not practical. Three years ago we joined KHRC and that was to be the turning point. After last years half marathon where I knocked 20 minutes off my PB I knew that I could consider entering the Birmingham International Marathon. I continued with my usual training/running/races up until May and then joined Greg’s LSR (Long Sunday Runs) These runs gave me such a massive boost of confidence. Running with the group was just fantastic and such fun as well as teaching me so many things. I learnt about rehydrating and refuelling. I bought a Camelbak and learnt to run with it. After a few weeks I did my long runs on my own. My reasoning was that on the day I probably would be on my own. I needed to know that I could spend 5 plus hours with myself and my thoughts. I needed to know that I could fight those demons.I trained up to 20 miles. The last month of training was dogged by illness and a horrible virus the week before.Sunday October 15th loomed large and I was very nervous.This is the background to what happened over the next 12 hours.
4:30am Alarm. Snooze until 4:45am
4:45am Breakfast. Porridge.Banana. Bagal. Coffee.
6:10am Get ready and leave home at to drive Joss to the 7am shuttle bus.
7:30am Found a portaloo.#1 toilet trip.My bus was at 8am. Got to shuttle bus and it left at 7:35! I was on my way sitting next to a lovely lady from Devon called Sam. We had a lovely chat.
8am Arrived at Alexander Stadium. Met up with other KHRC peeps and we made our way towards the baggage points.
8:30am Cheered Joss out of the stadium as he started his race. Went to queue for the toilet. #2 toilet trip. Then went down to the track to start the long wait.
9:00am Sat with a chap in the stands….we both looked as if we were about to go to the gallows. I was shaking so much.
9:15am Met up with lots of KHRC folk.Lined up with Liz and Trudie. Enjoyed some photos and realised I need to improve my wearing of lipstick to look even half as glamorous as Trudie. I also felt a little under dressed in the hair department compared to Liz!! We waved and called to other KHRC folk as they made their way to their particular time section. Hugs and best wishes all round.
9:30am We were off.
I settled into a steady pace. Pete had drilled me about not going off too fast and paying for it later on.
I felt good all the way into Digbeth and out to Cannon Hill. It felt comfortable. No problems. The refuelling went well. The Camelbak was working well too. Thankfully the hot weather did not really materialise during those early miles. Cannon Hill was amazing. Seeing friends and family and the cheer station. Just incredible. I bounced out of the park and found the next section equally fine. Seeing friends and family at Maryvale, Linden Rd and Bournville. A huge lift. But I felt really good. And then back out for the loop. Still feeling fine. A gel every hour as well as a small Mars and some Malt Loaf. Cannon Hill the second time. Lovely to run with Alison and to see my family again and KHRC cheerers. At 18.5 I started to feel a little tired. Nothing major but I knew that I was approaching the 20 mile point where my training had stopped. Seeing Jenni and Kevin on Maryvale was very emotional. They were brilliant and ran with me until the corner of Linden. I turned into the hill and saw Sarah and Benn I I actually heard Benn first!) The emotion overcame me again and we had a hug. I couldn’t really say very much. Halfway down Bournville Lane my right leg started to cause some discomfort. The area behind my knee was so painful and I couldn’t relieve the pain. From there until 22 miles I started to struggle. I had my final gel. Made myself eat some malt loaf. Rebecca ran with for a bit. But my moment of darkness was very close. At about 22.5 miles my body just seemed to stop. I tried every strategy…thinking of Pete and the boys…my charities…..all the people who had sponsored me….but nothing seemed to make my legs do anything differently. In the end I had to say out loud ‘one step, one step’ over and over again. It was at this point that Trudie and Sam (?) arrived behind me. Quite simply they were my marathon angels. They would not let me stop…they talked to me and tried to distract me. I urged them to continue without me but they wouldn’t leave me. Sam produced some Ibruprofen Gel and I applied it to my leg. We continued to try to keep the pace. Trudie shouted out miles 24 and 25 and then we were into the finish. The crowds were amazing. We crossed the finish line hands held – 3 lionesses together. 5 hours 49mins.Despite the dark 4 miles I loved every minute of my first marathon. I have learnt alot about myself . the challenge is definitely more mental than physical.But most importantly the love that I felt from my supporters will stay with me forever. Thank you to you all. Helen Brooke’s
The photo at the top of the page is Helen Brooke’s with her two friends.

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