Andrew Hoole reports: Every twenty years, my home town of Preston celebrates the anniversary of becoming a medieval market town with a year-long festival.
For 2012, it was decided to include a Road Race series comprising four events spread over the year with a mysterious memento promised for those who complete all of them. So as an exiled Prestonian with a nagging feeling that I may be a bit past it when the next Guild comes along, I took the plunge and signed up for all four.
Having completed the first two races, a 5K, back in May and the 10k at the end of September, this past weekend would hopefully see many months of training come to fruition as I ran my first ever marathon. With fellow BvH members posting such fantastic times over the past few weeks I was determined not to let the side down, but as the day approached and the weather forecast pointed to a typical northern day of driving rain and strong winds, my confidence took a bit of knock!
On the day of the race, the forecast proved accurate as the 1500 marathon runners took shelter inside the Guild Hall until the last possible moment. Thankfully, the rain eased off in time for the start as we all rushed out to the assembly point and were soon sent on our way.
The first mile was mostly downhill along the ring road before a more uphill section for a couple of miles as we crossed the River Ribble before doubling back the way we came. At this point I latched onto a group running a similar pace as we headed back into the city and passed the University of Central Lancashire and the steepest hill in the race.
After this, it was out into the country for the majority of the run. The group I was with thinned out around the 10 mile mark but I managed to stick to the slightly faster ones. This section was very exposed with wind and rain lashing from across the Fylde coast. Although the support was great, with big crowds in the two villages we passed through, it was a relief to cross over the top of the M55 before slowly turning for home.
My parents had managed to drive from the start to a pub at the 20 mile mark (although they were quite disappointed to find out it was shut when they got there!) and their cheers were a welcome boost as I was starting to flag. The last five miles were a tough slog, with every undulation in the course feeling like a proper hill. I passed a couple of people who were feeling it more than me which strengthened my resolve to push on.
At 22 miles I thankfully rejoined the main road back into town. There had also been a half marathon on the day which started an hour after our race and went along a slightly different route but which joined with ours for the last few miles. In a way this helped as I could measure my pace against the slower half marathon runners knowing that if I kept passing them I would keep on course for a good time.
After what seemed like an age, I eventually made it back into the city centre and a nasty surprise for the last mile – two steep inclines before a dog leg to the finishing straight. Seeing the finish line, and doing what seemed like the longest 100 metres of my life, I crossed the line in 3 hours 18 minutes exactly.
Overall the race was incredibly well organised considering it was the first marathon to be staged in Preston. The support all the way round was fantastic and not dampened by the appalling weather! Roll on the next Guild Marathon in 2032!
Now I’ve got three weeks to recover in time for the final event of the Road Race series – the Preston 10 Miler.
Full results (PDF).