Windermere Marathon

It’s been two weeks and I haven’t written about the marathon!

Windermere Marathon was held on Sunday 20th May 2018, starting and finishing at Brathay Hall near Ambleside in the Lake District. The route takes in a complete anti-clockwise loop of the lake.

This would be a weekend of firsts. Our first time staying with Sarah’s family, I met some of Sarah’s extended family for the first time, our first visit to Lancaster, our first visit to the Lakes and the first time I’ve had an ice cream during a race! There are more but we’ll get to them.

Windermere Marathon wasn’t on my race radar until June 2017 when Sarah’s Uncle Andrew asked the family if anyone would consider running a marathon with him to celebrate his 60th birthday in 2018. Five of us said yes.

At that time I had completed the London Marathon two months before and had already signed up to Chester Marathon for October 2017; another marathon wouldn’t be a problem!

I wrote about Chester in an earlier post; I missed my sub 4 hour goal and eventually signed up for the Great Welsh Marathon.

That race would be five weeks before Windermere and I would get my sub 4 and come to the conclusion that marathon running isn’t for me.

I’d planned for the race to be a training run towards Race to the Stones (RTTS) which is a 100km Ultra Marathon that I’ll be attempting to complete over 2 days in July. When I saw the race elevation I knew it would be a long day! I’d figured around about 5 hours for me to get around the course in one piece.

After GWM I was feeling good but the drive to Norwich at the end of April did something to my right knee, it was aching and only got worse. A physio told me I have tight glutes which I can’t disagree with as my flexibility is very poor after years of not stretching properly.

So from being fit and raring to go, I was now unsure if I’d even get on the start line!

I rested and did the stretches from the physio. The knee felt a bit better by the time we got to Lancaster on Friday and I joined Sarah, Andrew and Cousin Dominic on a run the following morning. Whilst not 100% I felt that I would at the least be able to start the race.

We drove to Ambleside just after Harry and Megan had begun their vows and parked up at our hotel for the next four nights; Wateredge Inn

We walked to Brathay Hall to collect our race numbers. The distance was a mile and also happened to be the very last mile that we would run the following day.

Me, Andrew and Domonic with our numbers (photo by Alison). Not pictured are David, Henry and Lizzie who would arrive later in the day.

Later that afternoon I was stood in Lake Windermere cooling down my sore knee.

(photo by Sarah)

I woke the next day feeling as though I’d get around but it might just take a bit longer than the planned 5 hours. Our group of six runners had discussed race strategies and agreed that we would cross the start line together and stay as a group for at least 2 miles.

Two of the group, Domonic and Lizzie were running their first marathons and although had trained well were in the deep end with a tough debut course.

We did cross the start together and we did stick together for 2 miles as this photo proves.

David, Lizzie, Henry, Andrew, Me & Domonic (photo by James Kirby).

Soon after I had moved ahead with David, albeit briefly before he put the afterburners on and disappeared into the distance.

I knew that there was a challenging hill at mile 7, so I stuck with my running and decided to see what the knee could do. I wasn’t anywhere near my usual marathon pace of 9:00 per mile but I was running.

Andrew, Domonic, Henry and Lizzie had kept together and caught me up just after the 6th mile. I’d slowed to take on water as I was getting hot (more on this to come!) and we set off as a five. Initially I struggled to keep with them but the hill appeared and we all slowly made our way up.

As this race was a training run for RTTS, I was wearing an Ultra vest with water and other essentials. It was the first time I’d worn it, missing out previous runs due to the knee issue. It was a warm day and I just got hotter and hotter wearing it.

I was taking water on from my bottles and also the water stations. I dropped off the back of our five to eat a Clif Bar at mile 9 and my Ultra vest was soaked, this made me think I needed more water. I was wrong. By mile 11 my stomach sloshing about and I had to stop and walk to ease it. I told the other four I would see them at the finish.

I was sending updates to Sarah and friends via text and Snapchat as I went. The above was taken as I was walking the water problem off at 11 miles. I’d sent Sarah the following by text “11 miles @ 1222pm. Bit tired, hills are not fun. David left us at 2 miles, other 4 are running together”.

A few minutes later I took a selfie:

This is 11 miles in and I look shattered! Looking back, it’s amazing that I finished.

I plodded on, I remember sending Snaps that said “knee hurts to walk but okay to run” which quickly turned into “knee hurts to run now too”. Or words to that effect.

Somewhere towards mile 15 or 16 I caught up with Henry and Lizzie. I could see them ahead and couldn’t believe they were walking. I expected that Lizzie in her first marathon was having a breather but it was Henry who was suffering.

I walked along with them as my knee was now very painful and I took in the views across Windermere.

Henry had mentioned that Lizzie should run on with me so when I jogged back to them and said I was going on, Lizzie did indeed come with me. Although perhaps I was going with her as she set off at a great pace that I struggled to keep with.

Lizzie was running at my normal marathon pace but my knee and the fatigue just wouldn’t allow me to run that pace, I slowly dropped off the pace and shouted to her to keep going as she was looking so strong. It wasn’t long before she was around a bend and gone.

I was on my own again, walking and running up and down each hill that appeared.

At mile 18 I text Sarah, actually I text my sister Sharon by mistake “Through 18, knee is bad but I’ll finish. Lizzie is ahead of me, Henry is behind @ 1.51pm”

My sister asked if I was going to carry on or stop, I told her I would finish. It took a few minutes for it to sink in that Sharon had replied not Sarah, I then realised I’d not text her. I really was tired, mentally and physically.

The race route had mostly been on closed or half closed quiet roads until it came down into Bowness-on-Windermere. As I ran down the hill there were suddenly lots of cars and people around. It was quite odd really going from the peace and quiet of just runners and the occasional spectator to a cacophony of noise and support for these mad people running a marathon.

My next two texts show that I was starting to suffer: “20 miles @ 2.12pm” and “21 @ 2.30 – slowing doooooowwwwnnnn”

Over 15 minutes for that mile, my knee was not good. I had just got to the top of mile 21 which I walked most of.

I had read pre-race that there was an ice-cream vendor at the top of mile 21. However there was a very long hill to complete before getting to the top. I had taken cash with me just in case.

I took this picture at the bottom of Ice-Cream Hill. The hill continues up a bit more around a bend at the top of the picture.

I got to the top and saw an aid station which had cake! It was lovely, as I ate it and was about to get plodding again I saw to my left the ice-cream vendor! Rejoice! I shuffled over and bought a lovely chocolate chip cone.

I set off walking enjoying my treat and the words of slightly jealous runners who congratulated me on a great idea.

Two miles down the road though my stomach wasn’t so happy to receive dairy and complained a bit but all was fine.

The last 3 miles were a struggle but I got into a run walk rhythm with other runners as we sort of leap frogged along the route in that way runners do. I’d run past a walker, then I’d walk and they’d run past, and so on and so on.

Somehow Strava recorded mile 24 as my quickest of the previous 11 miles. I must have got a bit of pain free running done.

I sent my last text to Sarah “25 @ 3.21 nearly there”.

I knew Sarah would be somewhere on the last mile to run with me to the finish. I saw her ahead just before the turning towards Brathay Hall estate with her Grandfather Ron.

I was in a bad way, I was walking and in real pain. There were finishers making there way back wishing me well and I just wanted to get to the finish so I could stop moving!

I reached Sarah and shuffled on. The finish was after a hill into the estate, not something a tired runner really wants to see. I knew it was coming and I knew it would hurt.

I’d put my phone on to record a video of my last ever marathon finish and listening back it’s Sarah encouraging me on to get it the top and finish but I just couldn’t run up it. I’d gone all tingly, pins and needles like, I get that when I’m massively fatigued. Sarah is wishing me up the hill and I’m just saying I can’t I’ll run from the top.

Once at the top I did duly run and made my way to the finish line, I was over taken just on the last straight and momentarily did think about sprinting but I decided against it as I think I would have collapsed!

Finished and a medal.

The medal is the first in a set of four but I won’t be returning for the other three!

Overall this was the most enjoyable marathon I ran. Yes it hurt and it was hard but that’s what was good about it. It was the most demanding marathon I’ve run and would certainly recommend it to veteran and aspiring marathoners as it’s a great test of yourself mentally and physically. Plus it’s in a lovely part of the UK.


David – 04:04:16

Lizzie – 04:46:14

Domonic – 04:56:08

Andrew – 04:56:08

Gary – 05:06:43

Henry – 05:42:27

My splits from Strava:

One thought on “Windermere Marathon

  1. Brilliant, truthful rundown of a tough day at the office.
    Great to meet up, loved every minute except maybe 4hours on Sunday!
    Take care of Sarah oh & the knee,
    Good luck on your return to work


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