Race Date: Sunday 8th October 2023
Race Report by Kate Waddicor
I had to check the date on the title of this report, I definitely thought I was running in the height of the summer in Chester last Sunday! I have run in Chester previously, the marathon four times and the half once. I had qualified for a place in the England Masters FV65 team when I ran in Manchester Marathon earlier in the year. So, no Striders vest this time, but I was happy to be wearing the England vest.
Having been to Chester several times to race I have a good routine in place. I know which hotel to book. It is very relaxed. It is a reasonable drive from Sheffield. The first couple of years we drove over on the morning then back in the afternoon. But, these days it feels easier and a bit of a treat to stay over. (I also persuaded Mr W that as we are so close to Wales we should go to our favourite North Wales holiday destination on the Monday for a few days of sea air and beach walking – great recovery!)
On the Saturday afternoon I went to the racecourse to meet the England Athletics team and collect my back bib. It was also going to be a Wales Masters Athletics event and a British Masters championship – so quite a lot happening!
The hotel were offering breakfast but it seemed too late for me (I like to allow plenty of digestion time!) so I went to get my porridge pot and bananas (I have practised this breakfast just in case I couldn’t get it the hotel restaurant, where I would have still had porridge and bananas!) Nice to be walking and stretching the legs after the drive over. I did not need to worry about carb loading, I ordered the fish pie in the hotel restaurant and I have to say it defeated me!
Sunday morning was bright and warm already as I sent off at 8.00 am to the hospitality suite for the various championships taking place. Nice to have a specific gathering place, avoid the damp grass and not have to use the porta loos. Also good to meet other Masters athletes – okay, check out the competition. I have to say there are many more Masters athletes these days, the quality of running in all age groups is astounding. There were some group photos then it was all about getting warmed up and into the zone. The race starts on Chester racecourse. The atmosphere is really good, there are about 3500 runners so enough to make it a big race feel but not enough to feel totally swamped by other runners.
The race is introduced by the Mayor of Chester from the top of a tour bus. He does it every year and manages to make it the best race introduction I have heard – and I have heard quite a few. England masters start at the front of the pack – the nearest I have ever been at the start of a race – I took my place and reminded myself not to start too fast just because I was at the front!
The race started at 9.00 am. So many runners in caps and sunnies on this bright October morning. I set off at a comfortable pace and it all settled down after a mile or so. I was running strong, the training had paid off. Chester isn’t dead flat but there is some elevation (719 ft) You run through the city centre then head into Wales then it is quite rural for a few miles. There are less spectators here but enough to get the odd shout out. The good thing about having a back bib with may age on it is that other runners (yes, passing me!) were very impressed and encouraging. There are two out and back sections (mile 8 to 9 and miles 13 – 14) – I quite like these as seeing the runners ahead gives me a boost! There was a drumming band at the start of the longer loop and it was great to hear them twice.
At mid day it because really warm. Lots of runners were walking, a few were getting assistance from St John’s Ambulance staff and a few ambulances were heading toward more seriously poorly runners. There were plentiful water stations – about every 3 miles, also every other station provided High 5 Aqua Gel. So it wasn’t the lack of water, but there was very little shade and running in heat takes some planning and preparation. Following the very hot half marathon at Newark last year I knew how to dress for the day and how to keep as cool as possible where there was little shade.
Considering the conditions and seeing so many runners struggling I had a review of my race plan and decided to ease the pace off and finish running, happy and well rather than broken. I finished well, I was happy and feeling good. Yes, I always wonder afterwards if I could have done more but to be honest I did my best on the day. I was 4th in the England Masters race, 4th in the British Masters championship and 5th overall in the Marathon – for my age group. I sometimes think I cannot wait for my next age group category but looking at the women in that age group I still have a lot of work to do! It is wonderful to see so many older athletes still running and running extremely well.
It is definitely a marathon I would recommend. On the day there is also a Metric Marathon – 26.2km. I kept wondering how some of the runners in the later stages were looking so fresh and how on earth did I not see that runner dressed as a duck pass me earlier on? Then I realised they started later and did the last section of the marathon route. I have no idea how anyone could run dressed in a full duck costume even on a cold day, never mind 22 degree heat!
Would I do it again? Most likely!
It is a really well organised event. The pre race communication is excellent. The webinars are well worth a listen – best tip I got was ‘dress for mile 2, not how it feels at the start’. That has been helpful for me in races and running generally. The goody bag, let me tell you about the goody bag! It is really generous, a cotton bag with lots of treats, the medal, long sleeved running top, High 5 isotonic tablets and gels. Previously a buff but this year a sweat band – could have done with that at the beginning!
Three Striders were among 3465 runners who lined up for the Chester Marathon. The men’s race was won by Marshall Smith of Ashford AC in a time of 02:21:32. Naomi Mitchell of Reading AC won the women’s race in a time of 02:41:21.
Full results can be found on the niftyEntries website.