19 April 2024

The Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon: how I saw it

By Drew Wilson

With various aches and pains and no hill training under my belt, I knew this hilly race could potentially be very tough, particularly with the scorching hot weather on the day.

However, I had put in a decent amount of training and was quietly confident. I’d set myself a target of 1 hour and 40 minutes for the first 10 miles and then planned to just see how it went after that.

The start was fantastic. The cheers from the crowds really lifted my spirits and I set off at a comfortable pace. I chatted with other competitors and received regular shouts of “Come on, Drew!” from the spectators. The first 10 miles went pretty smoothly, and I hit my target time of 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Then the foot pain started. It wasn’t too serious at first and usually, it would ease off after a bit, but this time it didn’t. I took a brief walk just before the halfway point, which helped a bit. Unfortunately, at mile 14, the arthritis in my big toe kicked in, and it felt like I’d been shot in the foot! I had to stop for a few minutes to compose myself.

I was hyperventilating at this point, a mix of heat, emotion, and pain, I think. I was glad to have Lexi for support. The pain subsided and, inspired by Rob and Kev, I was able to carry on. I managed to do quite well for the next mile or so, aiming to run to the next mile marker before taking a little walk.

I can’t emphasise enough how amazing the crowds were; their energy was a massive boost. Otley was incredible – the whole village was celebrating. However, I was really flagging at this point, and my back was almost spasming. The “hill” at mile 18 was painful, but at the same time, somehow wonderful. The camaraderie was fabulous, and we managed to help each other get over the top. Around this point, my quads gave out, so even though we had plenty of downhill after mile 20, I couldn’t keep my legs going, and there was plenty of walking after that.

On some occasions, I just had to keep running because the crowds were so deep that there was nowhere to stop. I was actually praying for a break in the crowds so I could walk for a bit.

Finally, we approached the stadium where the finish line was. There were flags counting down the metres to the finish, but without any wind, I couldn’t read them properly. Was it 1000m or 500m? I was exhausted by this point, and the last few hundred metres seemed to last forever. I played to the crowd for the final few moments, and the applause was deafening as we turned into the stadium.

Finally, on to the red carpet and over the finish line. I’ve run about 25 marathons, and that was by far the toughest one, (I think my body is telling me something), but probably the most special. The weather was just right (for me, I like it hot), the crowds, runners, and crew were all outstanding.

The route, despite the hills, was excellent. I ran with some fabulous people on the day, and as ever, the Hornsea Harriers did themselves proud. It was a testing day for many of us, but we pulled through it. The day was for Rob, but we actually made it about all of us. Yes, I was in a lot of pain, but only for a while. Rob’s world has been devastated by this cruel disease – I just had a great day out with my mates!