#SavageMums Chief cheerleader / pit stop director / fellow hero …. does The Great Welsh Marathon

Finally! rather than the crap I come up with, my chief cheerleader / pit stop director / fellow hero / newly promoted running partner has found his writing voice. Ladies and gents, I introduce you to the other half of this running journey, the most stubborn supportive, kindest man alive, the man who runs marathons without training and the man who got me round my races last year ….. (but is still working on getting me round this year! 🤔😂) Folks! .. I give to you the legend that is Chris Moy … who has very kindly filled in the blanks I left in my failed attempt at The Great Welsh Marathon…… enjoy.

Many, many moons ago now, Savagemum asked me to write a piece for her blog so as to put a slightly different slant on the running world we have largely shared together for well over a year now. Lurking in the shadow cast by some truly wonderful (and in some cases, deeply honest) pieces about various runs, the on-going battles with mental health, coping with asthma and indeed ‘running drunk’ is where you will find me – cowering in awe at the prospect of trying to measure up to the quality of content that has gone before me.

For those unfamiliar with where I fit into this blog, I am the artist currently known as ‘chief cheerleader / pit stop director / fellow hero’ to Savagemum – we started the same ‘Zero to Hero’ programme with our local running club back in 2017 and we’ve become the cohesive running machines (ahem) we are today as a result. Side by side. Ish.

Getting this first piece ‘right’ is essential for me to my getting any more ‘blog space’ in the future, and given I couldn’t for the life of me work out how to go about setting up my own, I figured I had better give this some thought. Please do not expect this to be the ‘Iron Man’ to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Don’t set your hopes on this piece being anything vaguely ‘Star Wars – A New Hope’. Pitch your expectations more in the realms of the soap-tastrophy that was the BBC’s ’Eldorado’. (Those not familiar with the series are clearly too young to be using the internet unsupervised!). This is likely to be my ‘one and done’. There is unlikely to be a season two. So here goes.

I can’t quite pinpoint the exact point that I suddenly developed the desire to want to run a marathon. I’d watched London from the comfort of my parent’s front room year after year on the BBC. I’d watch the Olympics every four years, the European Championships in between.

I’d never really been much of a runner myself generally. I took part in some cross-country during middle school, but with no finishing place that ever remotely hinted at a visit to a podium. I played a bit of football – and for a while my speed over short bursts became my ‘go to’ asset – sadly, most other aspects of my game were not at the same level, and so that fell by the wayside too in time as family and growing up crept up on me.

But I eventually got back into running. And then joined a club. Which ran a programme that took me on and the pipedream started to become actually……possible. It was like school again. We had teachers, we had a timetable. We even had matching uniforms!

Three marathons later, I’m still alive to tell the tale, so for anyone out there that thinks it can’t be done, that they can’t do it? Well, you can.

I guess I really ought to start to fill in some of the gaps Savagemum has left open (oo errr!) – starting with the Great Welsh Marathon 2019 which was a 26.2 mile slog around what felt like a slightly basic ‘figure of eight’ Scalextric track style route. Making runners pass the finish line that many times without actually finishing is tantamount to emotional and physical torture. Factor in a wind chill in the minuses and 20mph+ winds blowing right into your face and pushing back on my (not insignificant) frame just added to the challenge. Compared to other races I had taken part in, the starting field was relatively low in numbers, and by the time the ‘half’ runners had done their bit, our particular part of South Wales had started to become a slightly lonely place as we ploughed on.

Around the mile 20 mark, as Savagemum has already stated elsewhere, the weather conditions combined with her asthma took its toll and her race (for that day) was run. I remain certain to this day she could have gone on, but health management comes first. Common sense won (which isn’t often the case, when SM is involved!). Savagemum would live to blog another day…..however, following a somewhat foolish pact made before the race that if either of us should fall short for whatever reason the other would continue, this left me with around six miles, three of which would be into the wind on what felt like a near-empty route devoid of any human life. For a short while, my worry for my stricken partner masked any discomfort I felt in myself. The next course Marshall I passed, I asked to check on her as she made her way to the finish line knowing she wasn’t all that far behind me. A few moments later, a small silver mini-bus trundled past me, and I could just make her out, sat in the back, wrapped in foil ready for the oven. A momentary sense of relief soon gave way to pain and loneliness though.

For three horrible miles, I re-traced my steps from earlier in the day around the final loop-end of the course. For those three miles, running into the wind, the odd straggler would pass the other way, having completed their loop and offered the kind of soundbite sure to draw violence from even the most placid of people – “it’s just round the corner”, “almost home now” etc. It wasn’t, I wasn’t. I felt like I’d been out so long that Marshalls had been replaced with seagulls in high vis-vests…….the water station teams had given up – the last station on my route around Mile 24 was half a box of gels sat in the middle of a table while the volunteers threw everything else in a hire van nearby…..local sea creatures had wandered up off the coast line and set up camp in the portaloos [insert own crabs joke here], and I’m sure I even heard the coastal tide mutter ‘ Are you still going?’ at least once….I even caught a far-too-close-for-my-own-liking glimpse of the ‘tail wagging’ team. By this point, one of the course cameramen (presumably now frozen in place) pointed his camera at me and did well to not get flipped the bird and punted well and truly in the zoom lens. I wasn’t all that ‘up’ for a photoshoot at that point.

I struggled on, and after what felt like a lifetime, the final few hundred metres was down a slight incline and a turn right to actually cross the bright red finish line I’d passed countless times before – even the inflatable finish line had lost some of its air-filled rigidity and looked somewhat under-whelmed as I passed beneath. Did it just sigh at me? This finale all came with the support of my seemingly renewed and somewhat warmer (she’d gone and fetched her hoodie) Savagemum who was there to help me home. For this race, and so many others that I have started and finished, she will never understand how much she drags me through, even if she’s not always there in person.

With all that said, for a marathon course with limited options in the local area for routes to use it was actually quite pleasant. It was very well organised, and superbly marshalled. And forget all you know of Wales – this wasn’t up hill and down dale. It was fairly level for the entire route……it was just the wind that detracted from it (and as one Marshall politely pointed out; “You ARE in Wales, my friend…”). If the cut off time was longer than circa six hours, I would go as far as to suggest this would be a good place for first timers to give a marathon a go (but check the weather first!).

The following morning, as my plate struggled under the weight of a help-yourself hotel breakfast buffet and brown sauce cascaded over the side and onto the table, we reflected on the run from the day before and those that still lay ahead. We bemoaned our lack of discipline and commitment, both to training and our diets. We discussed the various obstacles placed before us that had held us back, prevented us gaining any training momentum…….We weighed up if anyone would know if we aborted plans to ditch other races we had signed up for….

Now, I am not a huge believer in all things mystical but as we sat trading excuses, eating our bodyweight in breakfast and bemoaning our aches and pains, it was like Wales sent us a sign.

Approximately 10-15 feet away from us, the figure of a man ghosted into our peripheral vision. Not just any man either. Perhaps THE guy that best exemplifies commitment, effort and graft in the Sporting arena. He has undoubtedly been a walking advert for discipline, focus and commitment to diet and training for decades. A guy who I imagine took every possible excuse he could think of over his years at the top and digested them washed down by a protein shake. 11 time world champion, six time Olympic champion, MBE and Knight of the realm Sir Chris Hoy was enjoying his breakfast just yards away from us.

So, in closing, in light of what we achieved that weekend and with half an eye on what lays ahead of both me and SM this year, I leave you with a little bit of Sir Chris….

“Training can be monotonous, and it is hard work, but you never lose sight of why you are doing it. Every single effort of every single session counts in the months and years leading up to a big event…..”

What a legend. Good things DO happen in Wales….

Thanks for writing for me Chris! Don’t leave it so long next time!!!Until next timeSM xx

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