White Peak Marathon

I Have run a marathon. Okay, so it’s been done before. But not by me – Cliff Temple

So its Saturday and its time for my first ever 26.2 – a marathon, that distance that is supposed to be the biggest thing that most people will achieve in their lives, my first one. I had done things a bit backwards; ultras then marathons. This weekend I decided not only to run my first marathon but to complement it by running a very hilly half – the Eyam Half the following day. Why? because I am a wimp.

Marathoning is just another form of insanity – John J. Kelly

So in reality the distance didn’t scare me, it was the intensity to which people run marathons that scared me. One reason for doing the White Peak Marathon; I am a coward. There was no pressure I had not trained for a particular time I had just been running some nice long slow runs at times – 4 or 5 hours to do 20ish miles up some hills, down some hills – get the hillage? So whatever I did I would achieve unless I got a DNF. It wasn’t an easy course off road; being a gradual undulatingly uphill on the Tissington Trail for 11 plus miles before joining the High Peak trail supposedly ‘flatish’ for around 10 miles then dropping leveling out and repeating 3 times over just for a bit of extra added pain.

You entered a marathon with hills? You idiot – Don Kardong

A chalk line with the word ‘duck’ scratched onto the Tissington Trail and a little construction of “White Peak Marathon” draped over marked out the start. No clock, no big crowds, no tannoy no posh coaches no coloured numbers, no pens or chips. Just under 200 runners all naturally waiting for the go. That’s all.

I was number 13 – unlucky for some? We will see….I lined up about 10 or so deep from the chalk line, feeling ok reminising about being on the same ground some 9 months previous but going the other way smashing out a half marathon. I love this territory, I love trail so the perfect first marathon for me. Not unlucky for me at all.

And it was literally, one two three, go and we were off, beep I started my watch but had no idea how to pace, as usual I was going to listen to my body and just run. Initially it was hard to get a pace as the trail was narrow and lots of runners began out too fast. I soon found my own little space and began to run up the trail. Had it sunk in that I would be here for around 4 hours? No I was just running. In my head I had an idea of a time of 3.45 to beat club member Ian A-B’s first marathon time on the same ground (since then he has completed it in 3.10ish so to aim for a 3.45 was a happy medium for me)

Beep, mile marker one, everyone looks at their watches, not bothered about time but a sneek peek showed I had gone out too fast sub 7.30 minute mile. Do I listen to the watch and slow down, or ditch the watch and listen to the body. I do the latter – go away watch you are not my friend. And no you are not almost there

You don’t run against a bloody stopwatch. A runner runs against himself, against the best that’s in him – Bill Persons

The Trail was comfortable under foot, slightly pudddly in places no need for trail shoes, comfortable enough with the road shoes.The gradual climb meandered around the picturesque limestone landscape cutting through the heart of the Derbyshire Dales. Absolutley blissful. At times I forgot I was in a ‘race’ and just ran through the beautiful mist and fog, pushing through the wind at times which was blowing me sideways. Blissfully and undulatingly pretty.

The trail was definatly an uphill struggle, not an intense uphill but a gradual incline requiring a certain amount of power in both the legs and mind.The miles ticked on by and I ran and ran and ran. I was in a world of my own surrounded by this aweinspriing landscape, the odd horse or dog walker shouting out “Go lassy” or “Go Sheffield”. There were always runners infront of me just as there were always runners behind me.

Smile, you’re still faster than all the people behind you. – Unknown

The water station marshalls were extroundingly friendly. Before reaching them the marshalls would shout out “orange or water” I would nod and shout water please before thanking them dearly and passing over any energy gel wrappers or rubbish I had in my pockets. A lovely welcome every 4 or so miles.

Parts of the trail I remember from the Tissingon Half. In particular that Dandilion head at 8 miles that nodded at me and the piece of dog poo that was now decomposing after 9 months, but I am sure it gave me a wink of encouragement. The tree’s waved at me though the blowing winds as I passed through the 9 mile sign and onwards to 10 miles to Parsley Hey. Hey hey hey I am at 10 miles! I smiled to myself and felt happy. The Runner’s High If you smile when no one else is around, you really got it. I was living the run.

Confusion set in just after 10 miles as I saw two runners heading in my direction? Huh? Confused? Had some people dropped out already? Nope! I forgot that the race double backed on itself as more and more runners passed me, some smiling and nodding and shouting “well done” as I had now established myself as “first female”. Gulp. Onwards and upwards.

The best sight of all was a stripy deck chair at the 11 mile mark and guy drawing circles in the air to tell us to go round the cone and the chair. Fantastic! This made me smile. Such fun as I felt I was on my way back even though I had only done 11 miles. An acknowledgement at the 2nd female who was not far behind me at this stage and some cheers from the other runners heading up to the deck chair helped me gain a bit more confidence as I strided on going fast enough to get there but slow enough to see.

No Running, No Peace. Know Running, Know Peace. – #RunNerds

The Tissington Trail then merged confortably with the High Peak Trail and this gave me the impetus to speed up slightly more. It was supposed to flatten out here but I wasn’t convinced even though I could now see the limestoned track stretching far into the distance; another 15/16 miles infront of me.

Suddenly the reality set in that I was running a marathon, 12 miles in I wasn’t even half way, I had no idea of my time but I was still running. Yes I was still running! Result!

A gate approached, a gate? I have to stop, you are telling me to stop on a marathon and open a gate? No one told me about this. And another one to open? All adds to the pleasure of this trail marathon. Who needs city marathons when you have horses, dogs, puddles and gates to conquor. Bring on Nature!

Mile 13, welcome to Half way; Friden and the chalk line, for this the humble marathon was also accompanied by the similarly humble half marathon just a swift half of the full marathon, and that means that I was half way. Half of a marathon, is the runner half full or half empty?

No marathon gets easier later. The half way point only marks the end of the beginning. – Joe Henderson

And then nature really did set in. I had been running on my own knowing other runners were around 1 minute or so behind (including the 2nd female) but I couldn’t here them and as I dont have eyes in the back of my head or not rear mirror I couldn’t see them either so kept on running. However having seen a guy infront of me stop at a wall and do his thing this made my bladder jelous and it too decided that it wanted a wee. Look Paula Radcliffe stopped for a Poo on her marathon so why I can’t I stop for a wee. So I did. Quickly. I thought I had lost a lot of time weeing but at 16 miles i glanced down at my split time and it said just under 8 minute mile. I had no idea of accumulative time as I just couldn’t see the actual time nor was I bothered I just wanted to finish and that damm watch wasn’t gonna make me go any faster nor slow me down. But I had done my wee wee with under an 8 minute mile. How?

There is no app for this, keep running. – Contributed by Sgt. Austin Flor Unknown

However the wee had made me wobbly. A wobbly wee. . I just couldn’t get back into my stride, my energy levels suddently dropped an indication that my blood pressure had dropped. I got another gel down me and swallowed my first shot bloc. But that failed to help as my body stiffened up. I was only at 16 miles I had another 10 to go. My mind was about to explode as 3 runners came pottering up behind me and over took me one being the 2nd Female. I spoke my praises to them and let them go as I collected my thoughts and recharged my brain with the special portable brain charger called a ‘positive mindset’. Requires 2 AA batteries.

If the word quit is part of your vocabulary, then the word finish is likely not – B.G. Jett

Slowly the gel filtered through my body and my energy levels began to get back to where they should be. 17 miles, 18 miles, 19 miles they were passing nice and quickly now. Within those 3 miles I had passed three guys struggling to keep the pace. With kind words of support I strided on. A passer by told me the first female was only a minute infront of me, that I “looked strong” and could catch her. I still refused to look at my watch. I was just doing my best and nothing could deter me from that.

The Hopton Tunnel was a real blinder. Sinking into darkness as I stumbled through almost pitch black trying to pick my way through the rough stoney surface emerging the other side with a big wobble swaying with the light contrast. Perhaps another energy gel or Shot Bloc was needed. That was quite scary.

19 miles and 20 miles and blurg. I suddenly threw up in my mouth. I tried to take on some water at the next water station but just felt like I couldn’t get it down me. I tried another shot bloc and spat it out instantly. With around 10km to go I knew that I must not give up just yet. Just 10km its just 10km more.

You’re running on guts. On fumes. Your muscles twitch. You throw up. You’re delirious. But you keep running because there’s no way out of this hell you’re in, because there’s no way you’re not crossing the finish line. It’s a misery that non-runners don’t understand. – Martine Costello

There was supposed to be some decents coming up (or was that down?), so much so that the signs told mountain bikers to dismount from their bikes. Now you would think that downhill would be amazing at 21.5 miles but no. Just no. It was impossible to go fast down the hills after 20 miles. The quads were like stone, dry stone walls. The abductors were burning the aductors were on fire. The first punishing down hill was far from smooth, loose gravel took its toll on the concentration and before I could blink it was over and undulating upwards again. Two more of those punishing downhills to come.

23 mile mark means that I had about a ‘park run’ to run. Just a run in the park that’s all just a 5km park run. I had been supporting a homemade race belt as I was too tight fisted to buy a proper marathon belty type race pack thing. So my homemade thing had held a few gels and a little 330ml of liquid for 23 miles then suddently it got fed up of me winging I was tired and pinged off me. I stupidly ran back to pick it up, but lost my little water container which contained very little liquid anyway. Picking up my mind again I got a grip and continued on.

You might feel that you can’t. But then you find your inner strength, and realize you’re capable of so much more than you thought” – A. Blan

I over took a guy telling him we just had 3 miles to go then another who had begun to walk – come on, I plodded don’t give up! I was going through emotional pain but yet these guys must have been going through double that for I felt strong passing them.

The last down hill was on a bed of needles, pine needles, and hard muddy surface through the woods. I passed another guy who looked like he was tiptoeing down, for once I allowed my body to take the weight and tried to float down as easy as possible despite my quads screaming out for me to stop. My legs were giving up slowly but I must keep going.

We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey. – Kenji Miyazawa

The bottom of the hill could have come sooner, the canal was such a welcome sight. I had been warned about a 3/4 mile trail back along the canal but I didnt realise how hard this may have been. Flat yes but painfully long. Each ripple of water felt like another mile. Day walkers and families kindly moved out of the way and shouted much needed words of encouragement. I could just see the first lady way in front supporting a pink top and a guy just 10 seconds or so infront of me i would try and keep him in sight as I pounded round the tow path as strong as I could.

The blissful 26 mile sign came with a scrawly hand written “nearly there” message underneath I smiled at the lovely little signs, this was fantastically basic at its best. Lovin’ it despite the struggle to finish.

If you feel bad at 10 miles, you’re in trouble. If you feel bad at 20 miles, you’re normal. If you don’t feel bad at 26 miles, you’re abnormal. – Rob de Castella

I didn’t know tow paths could go on and on and on and that extra little bit after 26 miles felt like forever and beyond. Where was the finish? Suddently I saw a marshall standing way down the canal, was it going to finish on the canal surely not? No! Don’t be stupid oh marathon brain. I approached the marshalls who gave a great shout out for me then turned a sharp corner into a field with little bumps up and down across a little wooden bridge picked up the pace for the last 10 metres and straight into the finishing Gazibo to clapping and the guy taking numbers at the finish shouting “2nd Female in 3 hours 20 minutes and..” I didn’t get the last bit as my head exploded, my eyes blured. I pressed stop on my garmin but was too delirious to check the time. I didn’t care.

I staggered to the little table where there were ‘marathon mugs’ full of juice. The friendly helpers handed over my little goodie bag and I took advantage of the deck chairs that had been laid out for the finishers whilst trying to contemplate how I had just got through the last 3 hours and 20 minutes. WHAT? 30 hours and 20 minutes? Really. It was only then when I looked at my garmin and it read 3.20.04. If I had been a serious runner I may have been gutted that I didn’t run under 3 hours 20 minutes, but I am not serious enough to worry about time I just smiled at myself and collapsed on the picnic chair. Later I found out my official time was 3.19.59.

When you run the marathon, you run against the distance, not against the other runners and not against the time. – Haile Gebrselassie

After a few minutes I suddenly needed a Poo. I managed to yank myself up and hobble to the toilets past the small crowd of spectators and marshalls and with such lovely comments of praise; ‘well done’ nice lassy. The good news is that I just made the toilet in time. I think I must have been there for longer than it took me to run the marathon as I couldn’t get up again. My legs had ceased up. Eventually I yanked myself out of the cubicle, splashed some water on my face and jogged back to the finish to collect my bag, put on some warm clothes and try and get some recovery food and drink down me.

Conversation after long run

“I stopped off and had a pie while you were running” Julie’s Husband, Jim (non Lazy Runner)

“God don’t tell Marie that” Leon

“Why, won’t she let you do that?” Jim

“No way, she won’t even let us stop to have a Poo” Leon

Back at the finish I milled around and spoke to the third female who was from London commenting how really (really) hilly the course was. I smiled internally thinking that if she wanted to see hills then she should come and run Eyam Half Marathon with me tomorrow. Then gulped. What? I had to run a hilly half marathon tomorrow, on these legs? Oh. Right.

After meeting up with friends we headed back to the Rugby Club for well deserved cups of tea, crisps and malt loaf. I was also welcomed with a prize of £50 for 2nd Female. Lovely. And did I mention just then that I was about to do half of it again but with more hills the following day. Nutter.

There are two things you will never forget in Life. Losing your virginity and Running a marathon [and a half] for the first time – Author Unknown

I must at this stage thank my friend Shaun and his friend for putting up with me both before and after the race. Thanks guys. Whilst I was running 26.2 miles, Shaun ran 22 miles around a similar area and his friend brought home a White Peak Marathon time of 3.40. Not bad for a few runners dilly dallying in the White Peak.


Time: 3.19.59
Position: 25th out of 179
Overall position: 2nd Female




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