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Yorkshire Marathon

Yorkshire Marathon – Every Cloud…

It’s funny sometimes how clouds turn out to have a silver lining, or in this case a golden one.

I entered to compete in the Yorkshire Marathon earlier in the year, knowing that it would make a great finale to the racing season. Training had been going well, my chair was set up perfectly and the build up to the event had been organised and relaxed. My target was to try and beat my personal best marathon time of 1hr and 53 minutes and to dip under 1hr 50 minutes.

On the day before the race my car was packed, my drinks were prepared and the alarm was set for 5:30am. I arrived in York on the morning of the race at 7:15am. This left me plenty of time ahead of the road closure and I was in the elite athlete’s area well ahead of schedule. I methodically prepared my energy drink, changed into my racing top and began to visualise the race.

With around 30 minutes to go to the starter’s gun we climbed into our chairs. That was when my moment of panic hit. As we went to push out of the building towards the start my racing gloves weren’t on my handlebars where they always are. I panicked, searching quickly through my rucksack but to no avail. I grabbed the organiser and blurted “my gloves, my racing gloves, I must have left them in the car.”

It must be said that in almost 20 years of racing wheelchairs I have never ever had an issue like this. Despite flying all over the world and sometimes having very little time to prepare due to delayed flights or buses dropping us on right at the last minute I have always been super organised.

I’m not sure what caused this out of character blind panic to the situation but as one of the organisers ran off in the direction of my car I wheeled slowly through the masses to get to the start line with the other wheelchair athletes. I sat waiting, unable to warm up, as the other athletes sped back and forth priming their muscles and focusing their minds. Then it happened…. The gun went and I was still sitting there stationary. We agreed that I would catch up the other athletes when my gloves arrived, as long as it was before the mass of runners set foot along the 26.2 mile course. Sadly this didn’t happen and one by one the runners took their first steps of the Yorkshire Marathon. I sat and watched as everyone filtered by on their individual journeys.

I have to say that the organisers were absolutely brilliant, and incredibly patient with me. They hatched a plan for me to race in the 10 mile event with Hannah Cockcroft once my gloves were found. So I waited. The news came back that my gloves weren’t in the car either but had been found in a plastic bag in the baggage hall. It was the one bag I didn’t check as I have never once put my racing gloves in with my portable ice pack before. What an idiot? As the embarrassment grew and frustration set in. It was compounded by Radio York’s decision to announce the error of my ways over the loud speaker to the assembled crowd that included some friends. This was followed by a live on-air interview that made matters even more public.

Anyway, my gloves arrived and Hannah and I were set underway just ahead of the runners. The 10 miles that followed were haunted by my distant thoughts of being in the wrong race. The course twists through the centre of York and around the Cathedral. It’s an uneven surface and my chair bobbled over the cobbles as Hannah pulled out a small lead. Once we were on the flat open roads I was able to find my rhythm and pace and close the gap. The rest of the race sped by and before I knew it I was faced with the last steep climb to the finish. Muscles burned as I ground my way to the top and then found a sprint up to the line to take the winners tape.

It’s funny that after a dark moment were I cursed myself for a cloudy lapse of focus and organisation should come a moment of glory. To be honest it didn’t feel like glory and I was reluctant to celebrate. However, yet again the organisers made it into a moment to remember. It wasn’t a silver lining as it turned out but a gold one.

I must thank Danni Carr at Runforall who looked after me so well and at no point made me feel like the idiot I actually was.

I’ll be back next year for the full 26.2 miles of the marathon.