Tales from the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon….


“Come on Martin, well done.”

Just one of the many lasting memories of my running in the York Marathon 2015.

Having your name on your number is a great idea, total strangers calling your name really does lift the weary legs.

Pre-race photo Andrew, Cath, Emma, Jonny

A beautiful sunny morning greeted us Elswickians. (Couldn’t think of a better word) The organization of the event is excellent considering it is only in its 3rd year. A great bus service to take you to the university where the start/finish is and an excellent event village with a great atmosphere. We all met up prior to the start and not one person made pre race excuses about having some imaginary injury or illness. (Unbelievable I know)

The start was 9.30am so we leisurely strolled on up and after the usual GOOD LUCKS and a man hug with my big brother we squeezed into our respective zones. I managed to worm my way to the front approx 6ft behind the eventual race winner. (As close as I ever would be)

3,2,1 and off we go. Now pace yourself Martin, use your watch as planned. This is only my 6th marathon in 33 years of being an Elswick member so I’m not as experienced as some (Davey Jardin) so my pace judgement history is not good.

The first 2 miles sees you passing the stunning York Minster where there are thousands of noisy supporters. More go on Elswick/Martin. At this point a TV camera pulls alongside and starts filming the 3rd placed lady from York Knavesmire Harriers who is beside me. Now try and look cool and composed and DO NOT speed up I say to myself. Yeah right. As the camera pulls away I check my watch and see a 6.15 mile split, damn, ease up silly boy. At 3 or 4 mile there are Ben and Mary with possibly the loudest gobs of the whole day. (Cheers guys).

The miles are flying by and I’m running consistent 6.34/6.40 miles as planned. The route made its way out into THE STICKS with a few undulations but nothing too serious and not many spectators. At mile 8/9 there was an extremely loud bagpipe band and a large group of supporters which was very welcome. More beautiful country lanes took us to the half way point and the start of more spectators. At about 14miles at Stanford Bridge was the first of 2 U turns and masses of supporters more come on Martin. (People must have really good eyesight to read your name at a distance).

Through 15, 16, 17 miles and we head into the 2nd switchback where there are more huge crowds and big video screens up. Now it’s a gradual rise for a mile or so to a left turn just before 20 mile. After the DRAG my legs were tiring so I decided to just get my head down and not look at my watch but just click my splits for reference later but I was still going quite strong.

More country lanes at miles 21 & 23 (cos I totally missed 22) then 24 and we’re on the city outskirts, not far now, at this point a really thin fast lady flew past me and I can’t say what words came into my head at that point but they were very rude words. 25 and a half miles and a left turn, oh you’ve got to be kidding me, there is the steepest hill on the whole course, only a few hundred metres though.
At the top I REALLY thought my breakfast and energy gels were coming out to play but thankfully they didn’t. 500m to go now and just soak up the applause and shouts, a brilliant downhill finish. I wanted 2.55 and finished in 2.55.30. A happy boy.
After meeting my wife Sharon I was very keen to wait for WOR KID in his first marathon after only 2 years of running. I see him finish in 3.21.29 I am amazed and a bit choked as he was as we had ANOTHER man hug. Very proud of him.

We have a very slow achy walk to baggage reclaim and wait for our fellow harriers. Everybody arrived as knackered and happy as we were MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. After lots of cracking banter we departed for a well earned beer or 9. Everyone did themselves and the Elswick vest VERY VERY proud indeed. I would definitely recommend this race to anyone, it is a possible P.B course. Go on give it a go. It’s only 26.2 miles.


Well what a fantastic day we all had at the York Marathon. The day started for me feeling positive about the race to come, but the nearer the off time approached the more nervous I became, wondering if i could last the distance.

Anyway when the race finally started I just kept telling myself “stick to your pace” and make sure I don’t get carried away with the crowd and run far too fast early on. As the race progressed I felt really good in myself and happy with how the race was going.

Marathon Man, Shaun Connelly

As we left York Minster behind and headed off out into the countryside I met a great guy from Birmingham called Mike who was aiming for the same finishing time as me of 3h 30mins, we chatted and stayed together from then on. One of my biggest fears began to creep up on me at around 20 miles in, the dreaded cramp, but because of the fantastic support from the Elswick Crew who came down to support us I managed to hold it off.

Along the route there were many fantastic local supporters who cheered us on our way , which really helps during the hard later stages. Anyway, as we approached the 25 mile marker and turned sharp left; we were greeted by a pretty steep hill (which at this point looked more like Everest lol), but knowing that I had nearly achieved my goal , this was not going to stop me now.

After reaching the top it was downhill to the finish. At the point of 500 metres to go I suddenly felt such euphoria that I felt no pain, just overwhelming joy and pure emotion. As the crowd cheered when I crossed the line, I am not ashamed to say the tears just came out as I hugged a man called Mike who I only just met that morning.

What a day. What a race. We all met up afterwards and I was so happy that all the runners from Elswick Jonny, Catherine, Emma, Martin and Myself all ran way better than we had expected; we achieved something that I know will stay with me forever. I AM A MARATHON MAN yessssssssssssss 🙂


It was around this time last year and I’d just completed the fruit bowl, they had the York marathon on the screens in the timing vans and I thought I’d rather run a marathon than run the fruit bowl again, so I did!!!

The dreaded sprial stairs!

After a near miss with a metal bar I was on my way to York with Catherine and Jonny. After checking into our apartment (which had a ridiculous staircase) we went for a little jog to loosen your legs and check out the start. We woke up to a nice dry day and after coffee and porridge we made our way to the start line.
Once started I soon settled into a nice steady pace, cheered on at mile 3 and 4 by our very own club cheerleaders I picked up the pace a little. The course itself was lovely and flat with a mix of countryside, villages and towns, there was a lot of support from other NE clubs and random strangers which really helped.

I started to struggle at mile 23 which luckily was were our cheerleaders appeared again!! Half a mile from the finish and I came other all emotionally and very nearly cried. I finished the race in 4.08, not bad for my first marathon.

The race was very well organised, nice and flat, lovely t shirt and medal, brilliant company. Will I be back next year? With only 8 minutes to knock off to get a 4 hour marathon you bet!!!!


26.2 miles. I’ve always thought a marathon is a very long way to run and never really believed in myself that I could complete one. Watching Matthew Alderson, one of our friends from Blaydon Harriers, finishing just in front of Shona Fletcher (female winner of the York Marathon 2014) was perhaps one of the catalysts that started to change my mind. As he ran with Shona, he featured heavily in the channel 4 coverage. It was so inspirational to see someone we knew well from the local running scene, perhaps if I trained really hard I might be able to do it? After all, York is not too far to travel and I thought it looked like a good course (FLAT!).

Celebratory drinks

The morning the race entries opened I thought might as well enter Jonny too as a surprise so we could spend even more time together training!

The training had been going well, meeting up on a Sunday morning at the club with fellow marathon runners Richard (Berlin) and Scott (Kielder). The last long run turned into the worst run ever, after struggling to get to 10 miles I was sick at the quayside. Miles away from home, with no phone and no money on a sunny day I end up walking and jogging another 10 miles to get home. This is when the doubts started, what am I doing thinking I can run a marathon? I heed the advice not to throw one last long run in (thanks Andrea, Joanne & Emma), that I’ve done the hard work and now it’s time to taper properly.

I have never been so nervous before a race to the point I have a couple of mouthfuls of porridge and have a belvita biscuit for breakfast, not the best prep for running a marathon. The doubts linger, but nothing I can do now, just have to get on with it. My goal is to complete the marathon (just one will do), and to run all of it (no walking!) under 4 hours is the dream.

We are in our zones and ready to go, we are off! Running along in my own little world I see Jonny by my side. Immediately I tell him to leave me, unsure if I can keep up with him. We run together for the first 10 miles and eventually I drop back, not because I am tired because I am unsure of what is going to happen.

I have never felt so strong on a run and just enjoying the atmosphere, fellow North East running clubs (Tyne Bridge, Saltwell and Derwent Valley) cheering each other on and so many people lined the course.

I start counting down the last 6 miles and keep my music till this point as I knew I could not predict what would happen over 20 miles. The 20 mile marker comes and goes. I feel good. I loved seeing the Elswick cheerleaders at mile 23, I feel like my legs are tiring but I am still going strong! I am nearly there and then I see Ben and Mary, Mary runs the last long stretch beside me chatting about her sausage rolls she had made the day before at XC. As we are chatting there is a man shouting “You’re not running hard enough if you have time to talk.” I think I recognise him as one of the Blaydon Harriers. I take his advice. Off I go, up the hill I start pushing as I can see the finish. I have done it! I ran the whole way.

We regrouped at the baggage area and waited for our friend Andrew “no training for a marathon” Sheekey. A short walk back to the apartment for a glass of prosecco, shower and straight back out to meet up with the girls and Ben for a drink before putting the Elswick groupies on the train home. We headed straight back to eat pizza, crisps, chocolate (all things things we’d denied ourselves in the past weeks) ……… more celebratory drinks and dancing in our pj’s. It all got a bit too much for Jonny as he was tucked up in bed for 9pm! The best weekend with the best of friends!

My first Marathon done, absolutely loved it. Thanks Matt, for the inspiration and all the support from everyone at Elswick who made me believe I could do it. Completely can’t believe I’ve ran in under 3 hours 40 minutes. 2 days later Jonny casually mentions running quicker than 3:45 I’ve qualified for a 2017 London Marathon Good For Age Place. After the initial shock, plans are made.

See you in London baby!


So it was an absolute joy to come home after a day’s work to find that I’d been entered into the Yorkshire Marathon. Wonderful. Thanks sweetheart.

In my only other marathon, I’d not covered myself in glory. Injury before the Edinburgh Marathon in May 2014 had really hampered my training. In fact, I’d not ran over 14 miles and that was a good 8 weeks before. Unfortunately their rules wouldn’t allow a transfer or deferral, and as my injury (nerve irritation to my left ankle) had heeled I made the difficult decision to run. Mainly because I’m tight and I didn’t want to waste the race place.

My thoughts were it would at least give me a baseline of how fast I can run a marathon, when unfit, and should at least be an easy PB to beat. Everything went well through 13.1 miles (in around 1 hour 50 mins), feeling good up until the 18 mile point. Then everything went wrong. I got what I can only describe as debilitating cramps in my calf’s. Walking was impossible, never mind running. I had a 20 minute mile at one point. Eventually they subsided and I limped over the finish line in 4 hours 17 mins. Luckily Cath was there cheering the Elswick gang on and was there to look after me when I finished. I felt like death, I wasn’t good company. I couldn’t walk for 3 days!!!

Unlike Edinburgh, the training for Yorkshire had gone well, running with the new lads at the club Richard and Scott (who I’m glad to say followed my advice and joined the club when he and Amy moved up from Derby), the Sunday gang and of course Cath. We’d had some hard miles, I’d struggled on some of the runs and had felt 8:30 min/mile pace might be too hard after the 18 mile point. I was pretty sure if everything went okay, I’d beat my 4:17 PB and should get under 4 hours. Everything was then on a sliding scale, if I got under 3:50 I’d be content, 3:42 (8:30 pace) I’d be delighted and under 3:40 I’d be over the flippin’ moon.

Fast forward to Sunday 11th October 2015. It’s been a cracking few days, there’s been settled fine October weather, high pressure sitting right over the UK. Almost next to no wind. Sunny but not too hot. Temperature in the low teens. If Carlsberg did marathon weather reports…….

……..they don’t unfortunately but let’s just settle on the weather was geet good for running a marathon.

Jonny and Cath around the 4 mile marker

Of course wifey (you know her as Catherine) had done a complete number on me and had secured a spot in pen number 1. I was languishing behind her in pen 2. I’d hoped at some point I may catch her, but you never know if you’ll see each other in a race. I just hoped I didn’t catch her too soon.

I’d in fact spotted her after about a mile, but just took my time getting there. Not surging to get into gaps, waiting patiently behind slower runners. Eventually made the juncture around the 3 mile point. Didn’t get the greeting I had hoped for. Persuaded her that I would be on my best behaviour and that I’d gladly fetch her water and the moment we started running at different speeds, then we’d go our separate ways. She didn’t exactly crack up at my “we’ll get through the 3 mile mark, hit the afterburners and cruise in the last 23 mile” wisecrack; as hilarious as it was. She may have cracked a smile at the “how far is a marathon” joke. I was in stitches, as were a couple of the lads behind us. She’s a tough crowd sometimes. I should know better.

My watch afterwards showed we’d ran some really steady miles during this period. A lot of 8:22’s. I continued to fetch that water as promised, as we passed through the quaint little villages on the outskirts of York.

It was brilliant to see Katy, Sarah, Denise & Leah, then Ben & Mary at different points. A couple of times I mentioned to Cath after seeing the guys or after gels to rein in the pace. As good running partners do, she told me once or twice to do the same. “EASY!”

It’s funny that when we run together, we don’t speak to each other much. I suppose when you train or race with the person you live with, there’s not much to discuss. I guess we’re used to running in our own company, and talking shopping lists isn’t exactly riveting. We don’t tend to save important news for our long runs together either. That aside, it’s nice to have company.

Around 10 miles we had hit a little incline, the pace slowed a little and I eased away from Cath, it was at this point I thought if she didn’t want to go with me I’d push on. I dropped back to check that’s what she was thinking too. I’d planned on giving her a bit of advice, but it didn’t really come out, we just wished each other luck and a quick peck on the lips (to the delight of one of the marshals – I guess she didn’t get out much).

After that it was just mile after mile, keeping a steady pace. Chatting to a few people, listening to some of the crowd. Keeping concentration, keeping occupied with the task at hand.

We’ve all heard of the marathon disaster, hitting the wall between miles 18 – 24. Well I was wondering if it would be me. I’d been through the half way point quicker than I’d intended in 1 hour 48 mins. Every mile so far was way under what I thought I might be able to run. Still, I felt pretty good through miles 17, 18 and 19.

Mile 20, with only 10 km to go I decided I’d have a little dig at running a little bit faster than I had been running. Ran through mile 21 in 7:29. That tired me a bit, but what the heck, just run the next one a bit slower. Mile 22 came and went in 7:43. I chilled a little through mile 23 (8:03), but saw the girls again, got a massive buzz and kicked on.

Every mile thereafter was under 8 minutes. Saw Ben and Mary, knew I was on for the biggest PB I’m ever be likely to run. Chatted to Ben for a bit, he was apologising for the beer (that I’d insisted on him bringing for me) getting warm and shaking it up! I didn’t care; I only had 800m left. Saw one of my mates Ria from Saltwell on the final hill. She was practically screaming, it got me up the hill quicker than I’d intended to run it.

We’d jogged around the start/finish the night before so I knew the finish. It was all downhill to the line. I kicked again and my legs felt alien, a thought half formed in my mind. I wondered what stress to the muscles fibres I was doing. Would this make me sore in the morning? I suppressed the thought. No time to worry about that now, only 400m to go. One lap of the track. I was surging past a few folk, as the finish line neared. “Coming through on your left” I shouted, squeezing through Mark Cavendish style between a narrowing gap and the barrier. FINISHED!

Oh I felt tired all of a sudden. A little sit down behind the finish. I was probably only there a few seconds, it felt like forever. I eventually gatherer myself, collected my finishers goody bag. Got some water and sports drink. Downed half of the water. Found a nice little place to sit on the grass. Was instantly sick. About 8 times in total. Saw Cath, she looked so happy. I felt like death. I wasn’t good company. Turns out I feel like this after running a marathon. Who knew? At least I was walking okay(ish) the next day. Well kind of, normal stairs were about doable. The spiral stairs in the apartment were as enticing as a gravel enema.

After a little lie down, something to eat and drink, I managed to pull myself round. Seems I’d underestimated my fitness. I’d ran a 4 minute negative split, the second half of the marathon in 1 hour 44 minutes. Could I have ran a sub 3:30 on the day? Perhaps. I felt like I could have ran the first half 2 minutes quicker, but who knows? Considering it was 10 minutes faster than my ideal race pace, I can hardly complain. After all, it was a whopping 45 minute PB!!!
I wonder what marathon will be my next surprise. London 2017 baby?

Team Elswick Marathoners

Ben Hall

Great write ups… Martin, sorry for not getting to mile 18 in time to cheer you round… you were just too quick!
It was great see you all at the end and seeing how well you all done… well done!

tina mciver

Loved reading all your individual write ups and experiences!! Total inspiration and WELL DONE!! It’s a big commitment and you all are incredible!! I bet you’ve inspired a few wanna be marathoners with your enthusiasm!!

graham bell

Excellent write up. 5 insights to the wonderful world of marathon running! Hard work rewards. Each and every one of you PB’d.
That’s what I would call a successful weekend’s running 🙂

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