Report by Jo Marriott
Despite running longer distances offroad, this was only my second road marathon in 11 years. I was also hoping to achieve a good enough time to apply for a Good for Age (GFA) place for London 2025 (having missed the cut-off for 2024). This meant I got myself ridiculously nervous about the whole thing!
To avoid an ultra-early start I booked into the overpriced Wrexham Travelodge (surge-pricing for the marathon no doubt) the night before – about 12 miles from Chester. This was quite an experience – possibly built pre-second world war (not really – only felt like it!). The chatty receptionist told me I wouldn’t have to pay to park my car there as long as I didn’t tell the boss. I commented that I had believed Travelodge parking was free. Not so! She blamed it all on ‘that Ryan Reynolds – ever since he took over the football club prices in Wrexham have been escalating. You have to pay for everything now; even the supermarket prices have increased.’ I didn’t dare mention that perhaps inflation and the cost of living crisis may have had a greater impact than Ryan Reynolds …
Anyway, got to my room about 10pm and started arranging stuff for the morning before doing a few stretches. The next thing I get on a knock on the door with an apologetic receptionist saying that the person below had complained about someone walking around heavily above her and that she was trying to get to sleep as she had a marathon tomorrow!! Not being allowed to walk around in my overpriced Travelodge, I gave up and went to bed.
Despite the excitement of the night before, I was up and raring to go to beat the expected traffic into Chester racecourse as they close the roads around at 8am ready for the 9am race start. So organised was I, that I arrived almost 2 hours before the race was due to begin – a first for me! The time soon whittled itself down and before long I was in the race pen due to start. My legs were actually shaking with nerves so I was very relieved when we were finally ‘off’. I had no real race plan as I wasn’t sure what I could achieve so I decided to tuck in behind the two 3.45 pacers (8.34 min/mile pace) and see how that felt. If it felt too hard after a few miles, I would drop back.
Chester marathon is not flat – more undulating with over 700 feet of elevation. Within the first half mile you are climbing up into the town before it levels out. Not a large marathon – about 3,700 participants – which was perfect for me, there was still plenty of encouragement and support particularly in the city. You run right through the middle on cobbled streets under bridged walkways – very attractive. Once you were out of the city you were mainly on traffic-free roads passing through several neighbouring villages.
I had never run with pacers before but found it a great experience. They would warn us of bumps in the road, confirm distance, announce when we entered Wales and shout out how much ‘time we had in the bank.’ Apparently they wanted to build up a buffer for the climb back into Chester just before the end. I did have to stop at one of the plentiful Portaloos around mile 8 and it seemed a real slog to back to the group after, but otherwise, being in a pacing group and chatting away to some of the other runners made the miles go so much quicker! It didn’t really feel tough until mile 21-22 when I realised most people had dropped off the pacing group and I no longer felt the urge to talk!
By mile 24 and the climb back into Chester, I knew I had to drop back from the pacers. My calves had begun to cramp and weirdly (and worse) was the cramp in my big toe. At the top of the hill, I had to give myself a severe talking to. I stopped briefly to stretch which didn’t help but decided I had to push on as best I could so I didn’t lose all the time I’d carved out already. Fortunately the last mile dips down by the city walls and runs flat along the river. As I turned the bend to see the finish 200m ahead, I spied the pacers again. They had slowed right down and were urging me to sprint. It wasn’t pretty but I did my best. Their ‘time in the bank’ had obviously worked as despite losing them for the last couple of miles, I still managed under 3:45hrs – 3hrs 43mins & 59 secs to be precise! Almost 10mins faster than my 2012 London time and enough for a GFA London 2025 (I hope).
A nice goody bag and medal topped it off although the walk back and the steps down
to the racecourse nearly finished me off. I would highly recommend as a road marathon –
friendly, well organised and a good pacers! I may even do it again one day…
A nice goody bag and medal topped it off although the walk back and the steps down to the racecourse nearly finished me off. I would highly recommend as a road marathon – friendly, well organised and a good pacers! I may even do it again one day…