Race Review – the RB Hull Marathon

The Hull Marathon will take place 2 years to the day from my first, the 42nd Berlin Marathon, and will be my 13th so far. 13 marathons in two years? Unlucky for some, but will it be for me? We shall see. But first the preamble.

Ok, the fun and games are over. (Puts on game face). Two DNFs at Comrades and Ultraks Matterhorn, a few fun ones completed (Beat the Boat, Chase the Sun, Pride, and then Bacchus) and I am back on the marathon trail at Hull. A strange choice for me, as I didn’t plan to include it on the list, in fact it was nowhere near the list, but not completing the laps at Bowieathon, and the aforementiond ultras, meant I needed to make up the numbers fast to complete my 12 in 12, which is a ball ache as you are trying to fit marathons into very few free weekends at the end of the year. I first found and booked a Phoenix race, that based on the fact they run them virtually every weekend, and this? Marathon machine Steve Edwards talks so highly of Hull marathon so I thought I’d give it a go.

I blame him

Training has been going very well, after 12 weeks of recovery and rehab with my knee, and the aforementioned short runs, and Shaun Dixon is getting me to a point I am happy to push myself. 7 hours in the mountains of Zermatt is enough for me to think I can pull off the last 6 marathons of the year and all sub 5 and, with a bit of luck a PB, but we shall see. First, I need to get through Hull. Hull? Hull?

What do I know about Hull? I think it would fit on the back of a matchbox.

  1. Oh, Larkin.
  2. Geographers study there.
  3. It is on the Humber and has the Humber Bridge spanning it.
  4. It left Yorkshire to create it’s own county (Humberside) but is since back? Maybe. Not sure.
  5. It is currently the City of Culture. Although I am not sure if this is the UK or European version.
  6. My old university housemate Damien’s family owns the Kingston Sausage Company, and a farm in Flinton, that I guess is close by.
  7. They like their rugby. Hull Kingston Rovers comes to mind. I think this is league and not union.
  8. According to Col they like their fish and chips, Googling Fish and Chip shops near my hotel and 20 came up. So I guess he is right.
  9. According to Bodders it is Cod Head land, I think because the locals are known as cod heads (see above).
  10. Hull the football club played in the premiership and I want to say in yellow. And have since been renamed the Tigers?
  11. According to the marathon patch I bought for this race in anticipation, the M62 goes there.
  12. It is over 3 hours from London by train via Doncaster.
  13. The Housemartins and Everything but the Girl came from Hull. The former brought an album out called London 0 Hull 4.
  14. Rod Hull did not come from Hull. But maybe Emu did (note: the race starts by a small zoo where there were, yes, you guessed it, emus. And wallabies).
Local celebs?

Not by the Numbers at the City of Culture

Maybe it was my fault, as I never read the race emails discussing training, relays and expensive merchandise, but I was not the only member of #ukrunchat who didn’t realise that they were not posting out the race packs, and that you needed to 1. Go collect them from a college somewhere in a city most of us had never been to, and 2. That this had to be done before 5pm the day before. My train gets in at 4:48.

I am a bit disappointed by this, to be honest. Someone said to me, that this is common, most races do but I am sorry, I race 30 times a year and MOST DO NOT DO THIS. London, sure, Brighton, but anyone else? Yorkshire? No. Manchester? No. MK? No. Overseas do, and that makes sense, but this is not overseas.

It turns out that Hull is the City of Culture this year and the race HQ where you pick up your bib had an art exhibition that the organisers promoted. I asked if I could have the pack mailed to me, and the twitter account, email account and RD all came back, which was good. But in the end we, and it isn’t just me, now have to rely on someone else to pick my pack up and meet me after. So a special thank you, my guardian angel, for doing that for me.

It is kinda Grim Up North

I arrived in Hull, the much vaunted City of Culture in a rattling old train from Doncaster that seemed to pick up drunkard hoards in the small villages along the way and deposit them right outside my central hotel. The hotel was attached to a shopping mall and beside a pretty busy road. Not ideal.

Dinner was nice but did involve passing numerous homeless people begging on the way, a few drunks, and a lot of boarded up shops. This, it turns out, would be my walk in the morning to the KCOM Stadium, the start (well next to it) and the finish (in the stadium) of the marathon.

Zero sleep and the walk the next morning involved more of the same, a domestic on the street in front of me, and a pretty dirty rail bridge that lead to the stadium where, thankfully, everything else seemed to be nice and, from here on out, I would see of a lot of a city that has some really nice parts, and some really cool features, like the bridges that appear on the tee and around the medal.

The Race and the Route

The race started next to the stadium, not in it, and it was quite reminiscent of the MK marathon, that does the same, and also has the finish inside. Looking around there was about 1000 marathon runners, but our numbers were grown by there being two relays happening at the same time, a 2 person relay, where they did a half each, and a four person relay, where they do just over 10K. This meant there were more people on the route, which was fine, but when suddenly someone comes belting past you at KM30 and you are hurting, it turns out they just started their 1/4 of the race you are doing.

The race started at 9am and we ran out and into the shopping streets of the city but the odd thing was, that there was no one around. It was a ghost town bar the marshals (who were superb throughout) standing on corners and pointing us the right way. And there were a lot of turns at the start, we barely made a block before we turned again, and again, and again before we finally escaped the maze of the city centre and arrived at a water stop, and the river.

And the river is wide and spectacularly so, much wider than the Thames, the Hudson, the Medway, any river I had spent a decent amount of time on. It was quite a sight, as we edged the water for a ways before turning back and into the town for a long loop that brought us all the way back to the river again and one of the many small bridges.

It was here that we started toward the famous Humber Bridge. It was in the distance, you could just about make it out over the cargo ships, through eyes watering from the stench of the bales of garbage rotting in the docks, as tall as a house – a big old stinky house.

This was reminiscent of the industrial estate in the Brighton marathon, empty of life and desolate. Like I said the start and finish did remind me of MK, as did a few underpasses, and a few roundabouts. The next bit, from what I remember was a very very long there and back similar to one I ran at Manchester mararthon, that would take us to the bridge and then back over it, with a small detour down some country lanes. It was along here that I realised that the water tables were just that, water tables. There was no additional fuel here, no Lucozade or Powerade, or Coke, or JBs, or anything. The supporters, and the support was very good from the town, came out with JBs and Haribo, and orange segments and bananas,  the tables were sparse though. That is until I got on the long straight, looked on the other side of the road and spotted that around the 20 mile mark we would actually get Lucozade, Hallelujah.

It was hot. I was thankful for the water, even if it was in polystyrene cups

It was a hotter than expected day and the water tables, with their cups, were about 5K apart. I could handle that hydration-wise but I was going into yet another marathon with barely anything in my belly and no gels. Along with my phone I had four mint creams, and a mini Mars bar in the back pocket of my OMM Pace shorts. And yes, I was a full kit wanker with the matching top.

What this meant was that after 15K, 20K, 25K, and 30K, I would wash a mint cream down with a cup of water and then keep going. It was a NO MUSIC affair that, back in the old days I would gripe about and, actually, shhh, this is a secret, don’t tell anyone, but I did bail on a few early races that banned headphones as I relied on it so much mentally. Nowadays I am a bit of an old pro, and especially the ultras this year, I ran without tunes so was ok with it. Who doesn’t like the sound of the long, drawn out death rattle of a pair of heaving, straining lungs, and the slap slap of their sore feet on the ground? Music to my ears. TO MY EARS, I SAY!

Take It To The Bridge

The Humber Bridge is a big thing both physically and metaphorically. You climb from a countryside B-road/lane, turn and it is right there, larger than life in front of you. You are already on the approach, an incline with a small crowd of onlookers cheering, before you mount the monster itself.

They had closed one lane on the “there leg”, meaning you ran on the outside lane? Inside lane? The lane closest to the sheer 30M drop into the river below.  Traffic raced by on the other side of a set of cones and, on the other side of the bridge, those on the “way back” running along the footpath.

It was on the way across, on the long, long up to the middle and the hump, that my energy levels finally said “bye bye”, “see ya”, “sayonara.”

Let the Mind Games Begin

If you have ever run with me, especially if I am trying to get you through a race, I have a lot of ploys/schemes/methods/tricks, whatever you want to call them. Carl has been on the receiving end a few times, just little things to push you when you don’t want to go on. You know the lyrics. “Keep on movin’, don’t stop no, like the hands of time.” For the long ass downhill onto the other side of the river, and then the loooooooong return across the bridge, and for the rest of the race, I used a simple one.

Upon the buzzing of my Polar watch to say a KM has been reached I would slow to a walk for a count of 100. And when I reached a ton? I ran until the next KM and the next buzz. It worked for me as the 100 count equated to about 200 yards, so really I just had 800m to run either side of a rejuvenating walk.

A Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Once back across the chasm I hit the last 10K relay point and I knew I was on the way. That last 10K boom. It was here that two unique things happened, well unique as far as my racing life goes.

ONE – you turn onto the running track of a local club. This is cool. You enter one way, do a lap of the spongy red track, and exit a different way. But, as I circled the outside, taking a middle lane, I reached a timing mat. They wanted, at somewhere way after mile 24 on a hot sunny marathon, you to run 100m sprint. Who was I to say no?

It’s on like Donkey Kong

And how did I do? Not my finest, but I was a little tired.

TWO – Ringing his bell in the middle of the road on the loooooong way back to the city from the bridge was the town crier. He was ringing his “final mile bell.” The only problem, as I kept running, was that he wasn’t at mile 25 at all. He was quite a bit off.

Hear ye! Hear ye!

Stadium Finish

But, my watch was spot on distance wise, and as I made a few turns, looking for the stadium floodlights I couldn’t see them. I was flagging big large and was desperate to finish when I finally made the parking lot. It was here that I met with a guy limping.

A marshal told him to run to the finish but he could barely walk, so I told him to walk it, arms wide and to milk the moment. He agreed and, with a handshake, I ran into the stadium.

Where I was cheered on by my fellow UKRUNCHATTERS, looped around the pitch and applauded a girl singing Sweet Child o’ Mine, and marathon #13 was done and dusted in 4:58, sub 5, could take a half an hour off that, but meh! Next time. I also got to meet up with my MK stadium finish partner Lisa Freeman once more, to make it perfect.

Trio!

Goodies, Goodie-Goodie Yum-Yum

The goody bag was a little thin on the ground, an apple, a granola bar and…

Apparently they dump it on their chips up there. It is a thing. There is a nice girly tee in baby blue that brings out my eyes and the medal…

I am a fan. Unique, not sure what the story is that I am part of but am happy to put this on the rack.

Summary

I actually really liked the marathon. I didn’t enjoy the part of town I was in, or the hotel, or the walk to the stadium much but the route itself was far nicer. I did like the river, the varied parts of the city you get to see, other than the stinky garbage bales. If there are any downsides, I would say that the water tables should have lucozade earlier and more fuel options (although it does stop you sugar crashing), and that they post the race packs. The map in the booklet and even online is so tiny you can’t make out the detail or the numbers, so maybe expand and zoom in on the city parts where the route is all winding.

And the photos. Nothing was said. The last few years it has been our friends over at Sussex Sports Photography, they were named in the race guide, this year? Nada. And nothing on the website. The RD responded to me when I asked to say that the photographers were volunteers and they were collating the photos. This is a new one to me, and we shall keep our fingers crossed for a decent set of snaps from them.

So, I ran the Hull marathon, the first 25K was pretty comfortable and I am only at week 11 of my training plan, I got sub5 despite all the walking/selfie taking, the medal is good, the patch is good, the tee is good, and, if we do get the photos, am sure they be will too. It’s happy hour again! And, now, with all that I can say I have done the Hull marathon once and London once, I can update that Housemartins album cover.

Maybe the VLM ballot with make it a 2-1 scoreline

So, in the age old tradition:

WOULD I RECOMMEND THE HULL MARATHON? I absolutely would. The RD and team were great at communication leading up to it. I like the race, the route was great, minor tweaks and I would say it was perfect. Good tee and medal. Stadium finish? Tick. A lot to like about this marathon. I know people get hung up on UK alternatives to London, but I have done London, Brighton, Manchester, MK and I really rate Hull. I can see why Steve Edwards likes it so much.

WOULD I RUN THE HULL MARATHON AGAIN? That said, there are plenty of others. I do need to run Liverpool RNR, Edinburgh and Loch Ness before I start to run the UK maras a second time, so not at present, although I am open to the idea.

NEXT UP: YORKSHIRE MARATHON

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