By Bill Milbourne
This was my first foray into the Marathon for 10 years so I was a bit anxious coming up to the start. Having been away all summer in hot and humid foreign parts had not helped with my preparation. I had been able to do a lot of running but I hadn’t got a decent long run in for at least 6 weeks.
Chester is a well organised event on a circular course over closed country roads through pretty little villages. The villagers didn’t seem to mind having their road closed and there were cheering crowds lining the streets offering jelly babies and the like in the later stages.
There were around 2500 competitors, enough so that you were never running on your own but there was always plenty of space and the 6 hour cut off meant that they were all serious runners.
The course was undulating and the roads narrow and winding so there was none of the long stretches of main road that take you forever to get anywhere.
Although not as hilly as Kielder, the route is never flat and the constant up and down gradually took its toll. I set off at a steady 9 minute miles and easily achieved my target of getting to the halfway in 2 hours, but the second half was not as easy, the hills gradually got bigger ( no its not my imagination, I checked the profile!). A short sharp incline at 17 miles started the rot and my quads began to complain and demand some respite. 100 yard walking breaks crept in every mile or so. The final blow was another hill at 25 miles coming back into Chester. The cheers and encouragement from the crowd couldn’t persuade my legs or most of the people around me to run up that. I struggled from there into the finish over a narrow twisting riverside path with long stretches of cobblestones.
Luckily there was a right angle bend under a railway bridge to get back into the finish area so I was able to get a feeble jog going. and there it was, a big white arch over the track – the finish – but no! it was the start gantry! the finish was still 400 meters away. Loud curses all round as we dragged ourselves over the line to the manic commentary of some poor guy who was having to be enthusiastic for 4 hours.
Yes I would recommend it. It’s not a fast course but it is pretty and friendly and well organised and the start and finish on the Racecourse is well supplied with car parking and surrounded by welcoming pubs to aid a swift recovery.