Nikki Reeves aka Tigger was running this as her first marathon, and despite her natural talent as a runner, was feeling very nervous about it.
So, how did she get on?
When I first entered the Manchester marathon, it was whilst injured with insertional Achilles tendinopathy, and it was a total gamble. At the point of entering, I wasn't even able to walk without pain, let alone run, but I thought, if I had a goal, it would help me 'get better'. Ha yeah! All it meant was putting pressure on myself as after every run, I was having to rest my foot and ice it. But I wasn't going to give in, and I had the goal of hoping for a sub 4 hr marathon. I managed through January, putting a brave face on and determined that I could do this, but really wondering if this was the 'bridge too far'. I knew I had to get long runs in, in preparation, so had done a couple of races and a long training trail run.
Following the advice to taper turned my life into hell. No running and just the stress meant I was more like Eeyore on a bad day than Tigger! I put the stress on myself, as, originally thought I'd go for sub 4hr, but due to how well my runs were going, everyone thought I was capable of sub 3:45, so my friend and fellow Conkers parkrunner Andy entered so he could help pace me.
Well, I had no idea what to expect. I travelled up to Manchester on Saturday to stay at sister-in-laws, and just tried to stay calm in advance of what was my biggest race yet. My sister-in-law gave me a massage in the evening which helped the pains I'd been carrying both in legs and the stress in my shoulders. Funnily enough I did sleep that night, unusual when I'm not in my own bed lol! I didn't sleep loads, but I slept! I woke bright and early before the alarm, got myself ready and got driven to the start, ready to meet up with Andy, and had also arranged to meet up with fellow Shabbas Daz and Ian, who I'd met at Ashby 20, and Sara who I've chatted to for what seems like forever! This would be our first meet! I had also seen a meetup mentioned for #ukrunchat and as a couple of the guys I knew were going, I headed there.
So, met up with Jonny and Matt and then went hunting for Sara!!! Needless to say, the guys were struggling with road closures and getting in, so we all stood together and waited for the arrival of 'Super Daz' and 'Northern Monkey'. Soon they arrived, and we were all chatting, and then it was time to head to the bag drop. But not before a few requests from photographers to take our group pictures! (Dammit no one told me this and I didn't have my Shabba shirt as I was running in my charity vest!!!). We all dropped off bags and as we went to head to our zones, decided a complete change of plan, and instead all of us headed to green, although Sara decided to go a bit further back. I stood and chatted whilst keeping the needs at bay. Then after they set off the elites it was our turn. We all headed over the mat together, and then waved our goodbyes as the speedy two headed off!!! I settled into a faster than planned pace, but it felt so comfortable, so we decided to just go with it. I relied on Andy to monitor the pace, so I could just run.
Loved the fact that the race doubled back a few times, which meant I could look out for fellow Shabbas and also some of our other friends that were running. Always nice to shout and wave!!! The miles ticked by nicely, I felt good, and as we hit Sale, I was in familiar territory as this was were my sister-in-law lives. And where I knew the family would be. Cue me spotting them and running across the road and up the pavement to high five the kids!!! Who needs gels!!!! Settled back down for the next long stretch and had fun running with a guy dressed as Bananaman (hey look it's Batman - no it's Bananaman!!) and the miles passed quickly. I still felt good, and we passed through the half marathon mark just under 3 minutes quicker than the only half marathon I'd run!!! By this point, my right toe was throbbing and I was convinced my toenail and I had parted company, and as I was favouring my right, my left thigh started to ache and I realised the meaning of running through the pain.
At this point, I will mention Andy, my pacer. A good friend and fellow parkrunner, and a member of Ivanhoe running club. He's done one marathon before this, but is a pretty fit guy, but with my new aim of hoping to get my good for age time of 3:45, this would be bringing him close to his own pb!!! To be honest, I reckon he can easily smash that time, as he ran so easy, high fiving all the kids, collecting water for me, and collecting his selection of jelly babies and biscuits and being the most amazing support as well as listening to my chatter!!
As the miles ticked over, my pace remained consistent, I managed to see my family again. The kids running next to me (mommy I was faster than aunty Nikki) and more high fiving gave me that added buzz, but I did start to slow. Still well under my goal pace, meaning that when we passed the 20 mile mark, I had taken nearly 10 minutes of the time I got for Ashby 20! I still felt ok, but talking was less of a necessity now, and I found myself having to concentrate. As mile 22 came, I found that yes, there is a huge wall and I hit it head on. I misjudged my gels (had had 2 up to this point) and I started getting waves of sickness. I kept going a bit longer, but everything was feeling heavy and I had to give in and shout to Andy "I feel sick" and slowed to a walk as I thought I was going to throw up. I have a huge fear of being sick anywhere other than home, so this really wasn't the best!!! Andy slow jogged with me, and slowly encouraged me from walk to jog and we picked up the pace again. Then my next fear hit. In most of previous races, I have had a point where my throat suddenly closes, and I just cannot breath and things go black.
This was my next issue!!!
I could just about gasp out "Andy" before stopped and wheezing to try and breathe. Luckily I had warned Andy this might happen, so he was at my side instantly, calming me down. He took my hand and as my breathing settled, got me back jogging. Unfortunately, I spent until 25 miles alternating between wanting to be sick or sudden throat closing. I wasn't out of breath ever, it was just like someone with their hand around my windpipe.
Mile 24-25 I hit just under 10min/mile pace as I struggled with being so angry that my body was failing me, and not in the way I'd expected (thought my injury would be the biggest problem but turns out that was fine!!) and at one point I shouted at myself, and when Andy tried to be sympathetic, I told him "no, be angry with me!!!" I used the anger, and off we went again, Andy now using the motivation to me that, if we continued at this good pace, we would break his pb!!! What more motivation did I need? To do that, would be the best way for me to say thanks!!!!
Alas, that last mile is the longest mile in history!! I didn't notice that the crowds were getting bigger, and we turned this corner, and there, in front was the finish line!!! I kinda went: "The finish" and took off! Leaving Andy behind as I just went for that line. The sooner I crossed it, the sooner I could stop!!! I crossed over, vaguely looking at my Garmin thinking it said 3:40 something, and turned to wait for Andy.
We started to head away when my throat closed again, and I was so glad to sink to the floor and just concentrate on getting my breathing rather than keeping moving.
Collecting my medal and goody bag is a daze. And poor Daz couldnt even get my attention as I just didn't know where I was any more, only that I wasn't running any more!!!! Andy and I followed our way with Daz to where Ian was sat, and Ian and I hugged our congratulations - that weary, we've done it hug. It wasn't until I finally got access on my phone (couldnt text out or receive) and ironically Twitter was first thing that finally showed, and there, Shabba Harshad had posted my time.... 3:39:59!!!!
I was speechless!!!
I had no idea that's what I'd done! I just knew I'd gone under 3:45, but not under 3:40 too!!!!
I still don't believe it, it doesn't feel real, like a dream. Actually, the last part was defintely a dream as I don't remember much other than feeling so ill. I know I've run a marathon, I have the medal, I have a time that should guarantee me access into London, and countless other marathons as it's Good for Age, but yet, it doesn't feel like me (my toes, yes, they know it was me, they are slowly parting company with a couple of nails, and are very bruised lol)
All I say is, I wish my dad was still here to see I just ran a marathon.
So dad, this marathon is totally for you x
Nikki, you battled so hard and you won! SO proud of you. When this Roving Reporter grows up, she wants to run just like you!