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The route as run of the inaugural Yorkshire Marathon. A pretty flat course, with lots of pleasant countryside, and of course the delights of central York
Flat in general
Hazards and warnings
If you wished to run this route to practise, the A road section would be very dangerous as although there are wide grassy verges, the the road is busy
Despite the threat of rain, the start got off under clearing skies, in surprisingly warm conditions for late October.
Once we'd all filed past the start and headed down the steep hill and into central York I got a taste of all the cheering crowds that would be a nearly constant feature of the run. Running through the walls and into the city centre was lovely, but all too brief, as to fit that many miles in made leaving York inevitable. I had dreaded the long section which headed north east toward Stockton on the Forest, but on the day in pleasant weak sunshine it was nice enough and the miles soon slipped away, before at 7 miles (or in glass half empty style 19 miles to go) we turned onto a series of smaller, more winding lanes. After the first hill at 8 miles, we climbed steadily up to Upper Helmsley. Fortunately, being the Vale of York, the climb was only a few metres!
At every village, and most houses crowds of well wishers cheered the runners on. By the time I got to Sand Hutton I was feeling good, as I was making a 9:45 minute mile pace with no real effort and had hardly broken a sweat.
The way to the halfway point was equally pleasant, trending gently downhill, passing through woodlands, full of lovely autumn colours illuminated by the bright sunshine. I was starting to wonder what all the fuss was about, as I'd done a half marathon in around two hours without having felt I'd really exerted myself. Maybe all the hours and months of training had paid off?
After stopping to pee, I suddenly found resuming my previous pace felt a little harder. The first of the doubled up sections down into Stamford Bridge was fine. Lots of cheering crowds, and although I didn't enjoy the main road so much, there was plenty of room. Looking at my average speed afterwards, it would seem somewhere around where I hit the main road was where the average pace started to decline.
The next few miles were far less pleasant. Along a fairly dull and very open main road, with a gentle uphill trend, it felt as if the dreamlike wonder of the first part was turning sour. Not yet horrid, but no longer nice. The hill up to the double section at 17 miles was quite hard work into the breeze, and I didn't feel great as I had the sight of runners a good 4 miles ahead of me going the other way. The next four miles to the turn at Holtby along the main road and back started to really drag. I noticed a lot of people starting to walk, but I didn't want to join them yet. Somewhere along here the 4:30 pacer passed me, which rubbed into me how it was all starting to fall to bits.
I had hoped rejoining the small lanes at mile 20 would make the magic come back, but instead cramp started to grip my legs. I grabbed some of the gel they were handing out, and then became really thirsty, as I hadn't taken enough water with the gels. I was determined not to walk! I kept saying to myself I'll walk after the next mile marker, as the cramp wasn't bad enough to stop me running just yet. When cramp fully takes you, you can barely walk so this was something that could still be ignored. This was when the whole experience became very unpleasant. When the A64 bridge got nearer I promised myself I could walk on the other side of the bridge, but once through the bridge, I reneged on myself, and tried to focus on the water station in 1/2 a mile.
With the 24 mile marker came water, and I downed two bottles immediately. I couldn't possibly allow myself to walk after that, especially with the crowds seemingly only cheering the runners not the walkers. My legs were giving me a lot of pain, and a new cramp at the top of my right leg appeared, but I kept running in a shambling way ever forward toward the next mile marker. Despite the water, I was hot, tired and very unhappy. The crowds kept shouting 'Nearly there', and they weren't lying. Alas, knowing York and the route, I knew there was one more nasty surprise left in the route. After turning left off Hull road, the full horror of the hill hit me. Now, most people think York is flat, and they are correct. But the university sits on a ridge 20 metres above the rest of the city. Green Dyke road makes the most of this, and by heading straight up the side of the ridge, this molehill felt like a mountain. Worse yet the crowds were there in full voice and in no mood to cheer walkers - so I lumbered up the hill in agony, with my legs starting to lockup. I must have looked like I wasn't enjoying myself at all. The final few hundred yards really hurt as my legs had taken such punishment from the hill. There were crowds but I didn't see anything but the word 'FINISH'. And then with a bleep from the timing mat it was all over.
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