Jez Newsome and Anna Hammond took part in the inaugural Birmingham marathon on 15th October. Jez writes:
“Following success at the Brighton Marathon earlier this year (new PB 03:28:08) I set my sights on bettering this at the inaugural Birmingham International Marathon on the 15th October 2017. As the first Birmingham marathon since 1985 and with work colleagues running I entered the event before it sold out with over 5000 runners taking part. Also with my brother recently moving to Boston, MA I had designs on combining a family visit with my running the Boston Marathon. Although with no ballot entries this would only be possible if I could shave another five minutes or so off my PB to qualify for a place at Boston.
With my target set at 3:20 I embarked on a 15 week training programme covering over 550 miles of regular runs with mixed speed and distance. I also needed to train smarter so Shane Roach our experienced and able club coach scientifically formulated a training plan for me. Part of this included a Jack Daniels table which as a whiskey lover inspired me straight away but I’ve since learnt this to be nothing to do with the drink (unfortunately!). Shane also encouraged me to train toward a sub 3:15 goal as this time would provide me with V41-49 GFA qualification for the London Marathon, a buffer for sub 3:20 and was my longer term training aspiration. I bought into the faster time as an aspiration, followed the training plan and so the scene was set!
The weather was unseasonably warm at about 16 degrees but with a chilly 10mph wind. At 7:00 I boarded my pre-booked shuttle bus from central Birmingham to the start six miles away at Alexander Stadium, the home of British Athletics. As a Great Run company event the facilities and organisation were good with food, toilets and water all in correct proportion. After a short group warmup we were promptly released at 8:30 from the running track onto the 26.2 mile course.
I started optimistically alongside the 3:15 Duracell pacer, James Wright, with the intention of staying with him at least to the halfway point to secure a sub 3:20 finish. I had my fuelling strategy meticulously planned with a selection of SiS gels for each half hour including one important caffeine gel reserved to boost the final miles. After taking my first gel I remembered to check where this special caffeine gel was on my belt only to realise I had just consumed it, great start I thought!
The course was hillier than I anticipated throughout with the initial section consisting mainly of dual carriageway overpass inclines but at least the roads were closed to traffic! The urban feel continued through industrial areas where attention was needed to avoid bollards, cones and general debris on the route. But this improved once we passed the Selfridges building at The Bullring with its iconic aluminium discs which is also the start point for the Birmingham Half Marathon. Running through Cannon Hill Park provides a welcome rural scene as well as more supporters before Edgbaston Cricket Stadium, Selly Oak and Bourneville the home of Cadbury’s.
The route loops back on itself so mile 16 to mile 24 is a repeat of mile 8 to mile 16 and this section includes a few relatively steep roads. I managed to keep with Jimmy the pacer past the half way point until one of these hills around mile 21 where the incline left me lagging behind and demoralised. I battled up that lonely hill barely over walking pace wondering what damage the slower final miles would do to my finish time. But after the top I recovered quite quickly, the Cheddar hill training had worked, and I picked up a good pace. Whatever I put in now was going to improve my PB, now was the time to give everything I had left, this is what I trained for. A new determination had set in as I started to chase down the pacer pushing to the end despite the unwelcome incline toward the finish. Every laboured step being one closer to a better result.
Crossing the finish line is a bit blurry. I saw 3:15:19 gun time on the finish board and Jimmy the pacer shook my hand congratulating me on making sub 3:15. I could not believe it but a quick check on my watch and the app confirmed my chip time as 03:14:55. I had achieved my sub 3:15 with just five seconds to spare, days like that don’t happen very often, I was elated and will be for some time to come!
Anna Hammond also represented Cheddar Running Club completing in an impressive 03:38:14 (6th Female 45-49) and also achieving a PB!
I’d recommend the Birmingham Marathon and I’m now very much looking forward to running the Boston and London Marathons!”
Very well done both of you!