I was asked by Norman to give a little write of this year’s marathon trip, but I thought that I would enlarge on it and give a bit of history of the race from a Horwich RMI Harriers perspective. I started to compete in the race in 1989 when Freda and I used to go down for the weekend. In those days the race was on a Sunday and we would stay the Saturday and Sunday night.
The race started in 1982 and it was well supported by RMI runners in the 80s and 90s with Eddie Swift, Paul Boardman, George Harrison, Alan Blinkhorn and I am sure others entering every year. It is also a race that RMI have had their successes in with Kev Gaskill winning the race in 1988 and 1989 Tony Hesketh being 1st veteran in 1989 and Carolyn Hunter-Rowe being 1st lady in 1996. We also picked up the team prize in 1988 and 1989. I myself competed in the race from 1989 – 1994 inclusive and then from 1997-2004 inclusive. The hotels we stayed in had changed hands 3 times in successive years when we went back in 2004 and to say it had gone downhill is putting it mildly. In 2007 Albert pervaded me to enter again and we should also have entered in 2008 when we missed out due to the race being full, a result of the increasing popularity of the race, which had now switched to a Saturday. Albert’s wife Michele and her friend Kath Swindells who had now taken up running had entered the race, so it was doubly disappointing to miss it. Michele and Kath both successfully completed the course in terrible conditions. This year Albert and I made sure that we entered early enough, Albert actually entering twice but that is another story, and the four of us sent off on the morning of the race in very wet and windy weather hoping that it would improve which needless to say it did not. For some reason with the race starting at 10:30 registration closed at 09:00, so we had an early start and then 2 and a half hours to kill before the start of the race.
We had mixed fortunes in the race with Kath improving her previous year’s time to finish in 4:52:36 for 1,037 position, whilst Michele had to drop out after 19 miles with back problems. Michele somehow got a finish time and position without crossing the line so much for modern technology, we all had chips attached to our shoes. Albert and I both started to suffer at about the 22 mile male with Albert having to walk quite a bit and me being unable to run because of cramp. The race at about 23 miles has certainly got a string in the tail with a climb of approximately 700 feet in about a mile and then a descent of 900 feet again in about a mile. Albert did 3:43:24 and I finished with 4:24:37 for a finish position of 213th and 733 rd respectively out of 1,325 finishers. After the race we all said that we would not do it again, but on Sunday second thoughts were being had. I have said to Albert that for next year we must do more running on the roads prior to the race. The furthest that either of us had raced on the road since the 2007 marathon was a Jubilee 5 mile, although I had run 14 miles about 2 weeks before as my preparation.
I can highly recommend this marathon, as the scenery is excellent, no running through built up areas and with a limit of 2,000 you are quickly into your stride. They do make regular reference to it being the hardest marathon in the UK, but I can assume you after having done the Langdale Marathon a few years ago that it is not.