Wednesday 25 October 2017

A Hat Trick of Marathon Debuts - Part 3 - Jo-Mo

Hull Marathon – 24th September 2017.

The third person I joined in their marathon debut was the lovely Jo-Mo.  Jo aspired to complete a marathon and as she hails from Hull, and this year Hull is the City of Culture (C-Hull-ture) this was the natural choice.

We should have got her to stand in front of the 'E' - MAD IN HULL!

I have joined Jo on many training runs throughout the summer and we practiced Jo’s variation on the Run-Walk strategy.  This would generally involve running the first 2 to 3 miles, then going over to timed walk-runs for about half the run, calling at her house for ablutions and refueling, then resume the run on a kind of rebel-run walk strategy – basically running flat and downhill, walking uphill or when tired!   The training has, at times been a real challenge for Jo as she’s had some health problems to deal with.  This makes her achievement even more inspiring.  I’ve seen many ups and downs over the training period, and I’ve seen determination by the bucket-load.  She has had to wrangle and debate with herself at times as to whether pursuing this goal was foolhardy, but has always returned to the same conclusion: “fuck it – just do it!”  I’ve felt so pleased and proud every time she’s completed a new run distance and it’s no exaggeration to say that it’s been an honour to be part of her marathon journey.

Our training runs also used music for distraction, usually play lists with themes such as places / days months years / names / modes of transport.  Despite Jo’s request, there was never a play list based around Birds of the British Isles!  The impossible we do today, miracles take a little longer!  We’ve been joined on all or parts of our training runs by running friends – variously Sarah, Mike, Chris, Rachel and others and this has helped to break things up a lot.

Some of the gang who ran the Hull Marathon / Relay

As part of her training, Jo signed up to the Humber Bridge Half Marathon in June.  Sarah and I decided to join her, and on the day Rachel and Laura ran with us too.  Throughout our runs, there have often been bits of quizzes and funny facts all to distract us – Jo had a number of football and general knowledge questions for us on the Humber Bridge HM, which kept us amused for a mile or two.  But, as you will see, that was nothing compared to the idea she cooked up for the Hull Marathon.

Did I mention, we did some leaping?

Hull is a full marathon as well as offering a two or four person relay option.  As mentioned in my last post, Rach was signed up to the full marathon and planned to run with us – just 9 days after completing her first marathon [yes, I know – she IS mad!].  Sarah and Laura were both part of (different) 2-person relay teams (with Emma and Fiona respectively) – both running the second half of the relay.  Emma and Fiona were running for a time, but Sarah and Laura weren’t racing so planned to wait at the changeover point and join Jo, Rach and I for the remainder of the event, thus re-forming the Humber Bridge HM Fantastic Five team.

With about two weeks to go before the marathon, Jo announced that she would like us to have a mastermind style quiz for the second half of the run.  She is SUCH a DIVA! No end to her demands!  We picked our specialist subjects and then she gave us each the name of another team member and we had to write 10 specialist subject questions and 10 general knowledge and put them in a sealed envelope to bring on the day!  If I didn’t already know we were going to have some fun, I certainly knew now!

The day before the marathon, we went over to Hull and did a parkrun (as you do) on the way to collect our numbers.  At some point that day, Jo told us about a section of the course at about 22 miles, which goes through an athletics park with a track where there would be some timing mats over (I think it was) 200 metres. 

This was for the fast folks to have the chance for a timed sprint.  Jo announced (demands, again!) that we needed to have a special move for this stretch and after some consideration, we came upon the idea of cantering across the finish line like horses!  Then someone came up with the idea of coconuts (like Patsy on Monty Python’s Holy Grail).  Jo swears it was me.  I grant you, I might have said, in passing, but without any  thought that it would be taken up, “it’s a pity we can’t have coconuts” – but it was definitely Jo who said, ‘perhaps we could’ and started to wonder whether Brigg Lidl sold coconuts! 

By the time we dropped her off home, the idea had grown and I knew that there was no way we were going to Hull without coconuts!  So, in the spirit of being a good running buddy, I said, “leave it with us.”   One trip to Morrison’s later and some dedicated work from Chris, and we had 5 coconut shells, halved and ready to go..... and lots of coconut to eat!

On asking Jo how she was feeling on the morning of the marathon, she told me how she was framing it in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed: “well, I’m going for a little tour around Hull with Fran and Rach, stopping for a picnic at about 12 miles, then after that we’re going to meet up with Sarah and Laura and go to the Humber Bridge.  There’ll be a quiz and a bit of music, then we’ll be horses cantering on that track.  And then we get to go in the KCOM stadium and run right past the tunnel where the players come in. Oh and there’ll be a bit of running.”

And that was exactly what we did – and more.  The tour of Hull took us around the city centre shopping area, through industrial areas, leaping through residential areas, where it seemed EVERYONE came out to greet us in their pyjamas / dressing gowns / string vests / nothing but a nappy (age dependent) and shout,  ‘give us a twirl!’.  We naturally obliged – I’ve never twirled so much – I think Mike would have been proud of us!  We did some leaping too. We loved running the harbour / old port areas and looking at the new swanky apartments.  We did (our impression of) some highland dancing when we ran past bagpipe players,  did some leaping, ran through an area of the docks not normally open to the public, used the male loos there. The things you hear during a marathon – Jo and I using the loos and Rach shouting out, “I’m having a full on wash here!”  I was dead proud of Rach – she’s our lovely delicate little flower and there she was in the men’s loos, in close proximity of the urinals, having a wash!  Did I mention, we did some fantastic leaping?

Just before we joined up with the rest of our gang, Jo saw her brother and had a hug and we were joined by Jo’s sister-in-law for a part lap of the park.  It was funny.  As she’d joined us for a little trot and was clearly fresh, we (Jo, Rach and I) decided to temporarily abandon the walk-run strategy and just run for that bit.  I was tickled to hear Jo’s sister-in-law say something like, “yes, it’s not far, might as well just run it” .... apparently oblivious to the fact that we’d already run nearly 13 miles and still had about the same to do again!  You had to be there :-D   It was in the park here that we also saw Rach’s sister, Kate and their mum. 

We caught up with some army guys carrying bergens with a really loud speaker and boom, boom music.  We tried to stay behind them for a while because the view was quite nice, but unfortunately they were walking the whole way, so we were way too fast for them!

It was a real boost to pick up Sarah and Laura at the halfway point and we had a further lift to the spirits as we saw Jo’s Chris  as well as a great gang of our running buddies who were part of a relay team and were still at the changeover point, having done their bit.  A hug fest ensued and that gave us a few minutes rest.

We got into the run-walk rhythm again and headed off for the most difficult stretch which was a long (perhaps two miles) stretch taking us towards the bridge.  We deployed the blue tooth speaker at this point and had a bit of music themed around our specialist subjects -  Queen, The Beatles, 80s pop, Disney and the film Matilda .... I’ll leave you to match the subject with the person!  One thing that made this section more bearable was that it was an out and back section and we could look out for our running buddies coming in the opposite direction.  We saw Mike (J) – on the full marathon and Chris (A) and Lottie Bell doing their half of the two person relay.

Eventually we made it to the bridge and Jo pronounced the quiz OPEN. Der der der deeeeeeer, der da (sing the mastermind music!).  Thank goodness we had this distraction, because it was really windy on the bridge and I could tell that Jo was flagging a little.  Rach and I were getting tired too, probably still having Mablethorpe in our legs. I think we may have slightly picked up the run pace too when Sarah and Laura joined us, just because they were fresh and we had someone else to chat to.  We each took it in turns to ask the questions, Magnus Magnusun style – to the point of interrupting the final question with some beeps and saying, “I’ve started, so I’ll finish!”  Great fun. 

As we got past the second tower of the bridge, guess who appeared down on the pathway running towards us?  Cheryl!  Awww, bless Jo. This bit was really emotional.  I think partly because Jo was feeling tired and the wind was making it hard, and we were hot, and partly because we’d managed to keep  Cheryl’s possible appearance quiet – Jo was completely overcome with sobs. That brought a lump to all our throats.  Cheryl ran the rest of the way over the bridge with us, then disappeared and reappeared under the bridge where she’d asked the band to play us something suitably uplifting – Super-Trooper!  As we trotted off to make our way back onto the bridge on the other side, Cheryl disappeared into the distance again and we resumed the quiz.  Jo seemed uplifted at this point and once halfway over the bridge went into rebel mode and we found ourselves running without any walk breaks for about a mile.  Laura and I hung back a little with Rach who was an absolute Super-Trooper at that point. She was really getting tired – it’s a massive deal to run your first marathon and then run another one 9 days later.  She was in need of more fuel but sick of jelly sweets.  Mini-baby bel cheeses seemed to hit the mark.  I could tell she was finding it tough, but she was an absolute rock – never complained once, just got her head down and got on with it.

After a mile or so of Jo-Mo in Rebel mode, Sarah read the situation well and suggested we resume the run-walk strategy.  It’s all very well bashing on downhill (off the bridge) but we still had 6 miles to go, so no need to get giddy.   As we turned to do our return journey down the out and back section, there was Cheryl again and she kept popping up here and there along the way, getting back in her car – pulling a bit further along and running a little bit with us, once again breaking things up.

We reached the timed track section and out came the coconuts from my little drawstring bag, drinks bottles being quickly collected up and put in the bag!  What a laugh we had. My tiredness was forgotten as I trotted and cantered my way around with my fellow horses and ponies, much to the amusement of the single official remaining at the track.  As we came out of the area – there was Cheryl again, videoing us with her phone and laughing her head off.    Coconuts were put away and drinks bottle returned as we set of for the final stretch.  Rachel wouldn’t be parted from her coconuts ...... Jo had said we would need them again for the finish and I think Rach had runner’s brain, was tiring fast and just needed to avoid any unnecessary extra faffing!

The final run back towards the stadium was a bit difficult.  Roads were reopening seconds ahead of us and although there were still marshals present, some of them didn’t know which way we were supposed to go next.  Although Jo knows the area, she said afterwards that she was beyond working out where to go and it was Sarah who kept us on track, asking people along the way at that final stretch and spotting the remaining marshals. 

As we approached the KCOM, we still had just under a mile to go – this would constitute a lap around the outside of the stadium and ¾ of a lap inside the stadium.  At this point – talking of things you hear on a marathon – Jo said, in rather a posh, but serious matter of fact way, “OK, now Sarah, can you get the coconuts ready please?!”  Hilarious! Surreal!  The drawstring bag was undone for the final time, bottles gathered, coconuts deployed and off we went on the lap outside the stadium.  I must admit I was at the end of myself by that point, as were Rach and Laura and we dropped back considerably from Jo, who seemed to have got a second wind, and Sarah, who was very focused on supporting Jo.  They waited for us at the entry to the stadium and although we caught up at that point, my legs just couldn’t go quick enough to keep with Jo, who was already cantering into the limelight, clattering her coconuts as she went!  Laura, Rach and I were still flagging and Sarah dropped back to join us.

It was the perfect ending – it was so right that Jo Mo was as lively as you like, head held high, enjoying the moment and able to canter on ahead, whist we four trotted behind and came over the finish just line a few second afterwards.  The clatter of 5 pairs of coconut halves being bashed echoed wonderfully around the stadium, now almost empty apart from the faithful CRC runners and supporters waiting to cheer us in.

What a day.  I was so proud of Jo and Rach and grateful to Sarah and Laura for the additional support.  And tired.  And emotional.  What an amazing ending to a wonderful hat trick of marathon debuts.

I love this pic of us all after we'd finished.  Thanks you so much to everyone who came to support and to those who ran  themselves and waited for us to finish.  Too many to mention without risk of leaving someone out - you all know who you are.

Special thanks to all who took photos on the day and have sent them to me - you bring the story alive and create very special memories for us.

Having had the pleasure of running along side 3 people completing their first marathon - Chris, Rachel and now Jo, I just want to re-post the following pic, aimed an anyone who is thinking of training for their first: 

To read about the other two marathon debuts, click here for Chris and click here for Rachel

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