True team spirit at Windermere
Camaraderie, it’s great isn’t it? Today at Windermere there was lots of it. Over thirty TAC runners were at Windermere for the marathon, with many more there for moral support. A few groups in the team had made a weekend of it and been up in the Lakes for a day or two, though it seems a few were regretting eating and drinking decisions from the night before!
Onto the race, and the first half was fairly quiet. After a nice chat with Jogger Joe on the walk to the start I found myself on my own. At this stage most people seemed happy to crack on with the mental challenge of a marathon, or at least that’s how I saw it. By Hawkshead I was gaining on Mark Duerden, which was a bit worrying as I was trying to take it steady, and keeping pace with Mark wasn’t the plan. Mark’s wife was on hand in Hawkshead to hand him a drink, and was the first supporter I recognised on the route to cheer on our troops.
Not far out of Hawkshead and I caught Mark and found out why he wasn’t going that fast. He said he was taking it steady, but anyone who knows Mark won’t be surprised to hear that he was having a good chinwag with a guy he knew. I stuck with Mark on and off until around 8 miles, and he gave me some good advice for managing the race.
For me it was then a matter of plodding on with the aim of getting to 13 miles just past Newby Bridge in a reasonable time. Our support was very impressive through Fell Foot and Newby Bridge with Adam Howard, Tracy and Darren Parkinson amongst other cheering us on. I didn’t actually see them as I was too busy trying to make it appear that I was going well, whilst dying inside. Their vocal support did push me on, even if the effect wore off soon after.
One thing I struggle with on longer races is the mental side of things after the halfway point. Once I hit 13 miles today my will power disappeared and I already started run/walking, using the hills as a chance for a rest on my sore legs. For the first few miles, it was a chance for many behind me to pass me by. There was a helpful marshal just past Fell Foot who kept shouting that it was all downhill from there. I’m sure he did it for the right reasons, but it really wasn’t helping when it soon became apparent that he was fibbing!
At this point the camaraderie started flowing in abundance. More and more, fellow runners could be heard offering encouragement to each other. A couple of ladies offered me support and one was the first to mention “You're one of Paul's lot!” as it turned out she'd done 10-in-10 with him last year. He was later described as a legend by another of last year's crew.
A girl in front of me named Kelly was doing a fantastic job of keeping a steady pace going whilst most of us at that point had reverted to run/walk. At one point I heard a spectator gee her up, then comment “Oh yeah, you're from Manchester. You go girl!” A mile or so on I’d caught her on one of my attempts at running just as two spectators approached and shouted “Go Kelly!” I turned to her and told her she was doing great. The poor lass responded that she wasn’t doing them proud, then ran towards them and embraced them before bursting into tears. Her mates quickly sorted her out and then ran with her for the next mile. I don’t know what had happened, but some guy had upset her, and the two mates could be heard telling her over and over again that she'd 'catch that nob-head and smash him'. Definitely from Manchester, I haven’t heard such frequent use of the word 'nob-head' since I went to see Jason Manford do stand-up. When I came to pass them, they offered me encouragement, to which I accepted graciously…“As long as I'm not the nob-head you're on about?”. “Oh no, you're a hero in our eyes,” was the lovely response. They were a couple of top people and I saw them several times over the last 8 miles and they always had words of encouragement for me.
I was relieved to hit Bowness and as expected there was more support there. I gave a quick shout out to Paul Rosthorn of 'Up the Clarets' in response to his much-appreciated support. Coming out of Bowness I got chatting to a southern lad struggling with cramp. Easy to forget that for many doing the race today, they don’t subject themselves to hills like many in TAC do, and it must be a real shock to them on a race like Windermere.
Coming up out of Bowness there was a couple with an unofficial water station who had gone to amazing effort to help people with cakes, sweets and Mars bars. It was around this time that I saw a second occasion of a girl crying. Again, she was doing a sterling job of maintaining a steady pace, and it seemed that seeing someone she knew pushed her over the edge. I’m sure the hug she got was a big help.
The stretch along Ambleside Road was horrendous, with many of us really feeling the pain and trying to lift each other’s spirits. A lad in front fell and seemed to have been knocked for six (he did recover and passed me a few miles later). Several of us went to his rescue, though that might have been more of any chance for a rest, rather than camaraderie. He was fine, and as I set off again, there were the spectators from Manchester running up the hill to offer their aid. Not all heroes wear capes, but maybe these two had a hidden teleporter.
Approaching Ambleside another lad passed and offered support. As we looked at each other it turned out to be a lad I work with in Leeds. I used him to try and give myself an excuse to up my pace for a bit, but by Waterhead I let him go. Soon after Alex Fort and Claire Storozuk were there to cheer people on, and with just over a mile to go, their support was just what we all needed to hear.
The finish was fantastic with many people cheering runners home, including a fair contingent of TAC. There were some nice sights as Graham Denney, Linda Ensby and Gillian Greenwood crossed the line holding hands. The Browns also finished together, including young Daniel. A big congrats to Paul on his 100th marathon. It was sad to see Mark Walsh struggling over the finish with injury, but I’m sure he appreciated the support he got from his team mates. The best was saved until last as TAC eagerly awaited Lynne Hawthornthwaite and Paul Roberts to cross the line. Updates were being sent between people with scouts heading off to send back news of progress. As they arrived, they were cheered home by delighted teammates.
I’ve tried to focus on the support of spectators and runners, but also want to congratulate Adam Holda and Martin Greenwood on very impressive top 15 finishes. Well done guys! Sorry I haven't mentioned everyone who supported, I know there were others out on course, and all the support was appreciated.