We did it! Hell of a Hill – Our first marathon!
So after 19 weeks of training our marathon is done and in the bag.
Spoiler : we did it. I mean its there in the title of course we did.
Please note – this is a long and boring report and I apologise. But you can scroll and just look at the pictures! I don’t mind.
As I wrote last time in my rarely updated blog, February 2014 we started doing a Parkrun on a Saturday and by the following May we’d have done 50 of those. It was about a month after where talk was starting of the next challenge. Martin had signed up for Hell of a Hill, an absolutely brutal challenge of running 5 marathons in 5 days.
He suggested that Rach, Dunc and I sign up for the final day, but warned we should check the course first. Rach signed us up before we’d had a chance. Dunc didnt manage to get in as we took the final two places. They only allow 55 people to enter per day – 15 people doing a single day and 40 people doing all 5 days.
A week after sign up we went for our first look at the course. You can see a video of this below.
I think the majority of the video features me swearing as a new challenge appears. Its important to stress this marathon isn’t a standard marathon like London that you may watch on TV. Its more a trail type run, 8 laps up a hill, that features two flights of steps and downward paths that can be even more challenging than the uphill parts. You can see my course review I did here which features pictures from every step of the way.
In the build up to the marathon it became common place to have the below conversation about it
“Oh we’re doing a marathon”
“That should be fun where is it?”
“Do you know Rivington Pike?”
“Well its running to the top of that, then back to the bottom, 8 times”
As a training plan we went for Hal Higdons Intermediate 1 training plan. We went back and forth over plans, but this got the most recommendation, and when we were originally going to do the Novice Plan Martin managed to get us to change our mind last minute and switch to the intermediate. I cant recommend these plans highly enough. My tip would be to read through all the notes first as they really helped – walking through water stations proved a valuable piece of advice and having a training plan that said no intervals came in useful on nights when Martin was suggesting them.
I dont want to bore you with full reviews of the 18 weeks we spent training. What I will say is I went through spells of feeling great, and spells of feeling low. There werent any set goals in the training, we didnt really know what our marathon pace was (and it wouldnt have been the same as this marathons pace anyway). The one thing I did want to do was go sub 2 hours on a half, but as that got closer my speed over 5k seems to totally die out and I lost all hope. I felt like I’d done something wrong, then all of a sudden on the week of the half everything clicked and I managed to smash my goal and finish in 1 hour 56 minutes.
As got closer there was meltdowns, Rach having one really low point halfway through our first 20 mile run was a particular low, there was pain, but there were no real injuries, and we got to the week. At this point its time to remind you, while we were doing one day Martin was doing 5. So each day we got the updates. Grotty toes. Pain.
On the friday Rach went to see him and was greeted by a face that she said looked broken. A small walk with him later and he completed that. We went to see him together the next day, and you could tell that it wasnt the time for joking or taking the mickey out of him. He was a broken man. And here we were about to join him
November 15th 2015. Hell of a Hill
I had a restless nights sleep. I think I got 3 hours at most. I even spent time in the middle of the night googling “night before race cant sleep” only to find a multitude of people saying it’s fine, as long as you are lying there your body is resting.
I got up, had breakfast, a small bowl of cereal. We dressed and got in the car. And we got our first peak at her.
In the run up to the marathon one of Rachels friends, Zoe and her boyfriend Paul had managed to get later entries to the run. Martin had decided to run with us, and Zoe was going to stick with us too while Paul did his thing. We were ready
So that was it. We were off. Everyone started together, and we ran up the small road that led to the start of the lap – where the terrain went awful and went uphil. And then everyone started walking. I loved this – it was like a herd of elephants walking holding each others tails. It felt like even though we wouldnt be together for the whole thing, in that moment we were together.
The first few laps were uneventful. I’d even go as far to say they were pretty comfortable. As we entered lap 4 tho it changed. All of a sudden Rach started struggling. We took it in turns to give her little pep talks but she was finding it tough.
As we entered lap 5, there was a friendly face stood at the end of the lap – my best man Top Dave. I’d never been so happy to see him, and having him there was amazing. It was nice just to see a face that would say nice words about me that didnt feel like lip service. I made him walk up the first bit with us, and chatted along. It gave me a boost.
I’d started to feel some pain in the back of my right ankle every time we went from an uphill to a downhill. It became really hard to do the downs, and on lap 5 while I was at the back of our mini pack I slipped on a downhill and went down like a ton of bricks. But I dusted myself off and got back up.
At lap 6 Becca, Rachels sister arrived. This gave Rach a real boost, especially as she walked with us up the first bit. At this point we had a real pack, there was the 4 of us – me, Rach, Martin and Zoe, I’d made Dave walk up and he was holding my Camelbak bladder like an IV while I was drinking, and Becca and her boyfriend Ash trekking up the first part of the hill. We werent even halfway up that first part when suddenly Becca declared she wasnt going to make it – it was too hard! At this point I think it gave Rach even more of a boost – she’d already done it 5 times that day and was midway up her 6th, and Becca couldn’t even do the first part. For the rest of the marathon Rach seemed energised by that.
Lap 7 began tho and I was starting to get emotional. I’d said to Dave on the previous lap that I was finding it tough. Everything hurt, and the mere thought of little things was getting me choking up. I’d told him “if you said my mum had called and she wanted to let me know that she loved me, I’d be crying right now”. As we reached the pike for the penultimate time I was at the back of our mini pack, and as we started to go downhill my ankle pain really flared up. I started to drop behind everyone else, and got frustrated as I struggled to keep up. We reached a part where the path zig zagged, and I heard Martin saying we’d regroup at the gate. I knew it wasnt far to the gate, so I dug in and pushed, hoping I could get back in the pack and everything would be ok. I pushed on, got round the corner and to the gate.
And I saw Rach running off round the next corner.
Leaving me behind.
Well, that was me done. I suddenly felt alone, and doubt creeped in about whether I could do this. The tears came, and they flowed. Everything came down to this point and I wondered if Id even make it. A couple walked past me in the opposite direction wishing me well as I pulled my visor down to hide my fat man tears.
I glanced at my watch, saw I was only around 5 hours in, and thought no matter what, I’m going to do this. I limped down the hill to where they were all waiting. At the gate. The gate at the bottom of the hill. The gate where we’d regroup.
For fucks sake Chris you emotional fool.
And just when I’m at my lowest, as we hit the stairs at the end of the 7th lap we heard a ringing in the distance. Martin was next to me and said “someones brought a cowbell.” I think both of us were hoping but didnt want to say. Then we saw him
If theres ever a loony with a cowbell who could raise a smile from a bunch of broken PRATs its our PRAT running buddy Duncs. You can hear me after I pass him really confused as he said he would meet us at the top of the hill.
So it was lap 8 and at the start of it I grabbed Rach and said “Please stick with me for the whole lap”. I also told her how I’d been crying. She hadn’t realised, and stuck by my side. We got to the Pike for the final time
Look how determined Martin was. And how happy to have got up there for the 40th time this week
We finally joined him, and Dunc suggested we get a pic. Now if anyone else on the planet at that point asked me to stop for a pic then I would have been unleashing a hail of swear words on them. But Dunc is Dunc, so of course, we all posed with a PRATs flag, and celebrated taking Rivington Pike in the name of the PRATs
There was still a good 3 miles to go tho, so we struggled on. Near the end of the lap Zoe was finding it hard so pushed forward in front of us. At one point I looked at my watch and said to Rach “We could make sub 7 hours here”, and she just looked back and said “Ive not got anything more in me”.
We pushed on.
And with 7 hours, 2 minutes and 47 seconds on the clock we crossed the finishing line.
Emotions flooded over me. I cant really put it into words. I think this picture sums up how we felt
The medal went over my neck, and the guy gave me a hug and said well done.
I was so overcome
Everyone got a hug
It was just emotional
Then someone said “Wheres Zoe?”
She had pushed on from us but hadnt yet finished, but we hadnt passed her. As we’re trying to scramble a search party there she appears
If you look in the background you see me walk off. I was too emotional and needed a bit of space.
Went and got a cup of tea, and a soup and was ok.
And we got some celebratory pics
So that was it. The PRATs finished a marathon together, and now all the senior PRAT members have completed at least one marathon.
Martin managed to finish 17th in the overall standings. If it wasnt for the slow last day running with the PRATs he could have finished higher – but I dont think he cared
While we only got one piece, he got the full 5 in 5 pie
As for us – well we said all along we didnt mind if we came last… but we didnt!
You do have to say though that the ordering is very suspicious there. Theres no way you can order my name, Rachels and Martins and end up with me coming in last place, which leads me to believe that Martin slipped them a cheeky fiver to make sure they put his name first.
And to finish, heres the strava data for the run
Now… whats next?