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Jane Bannister tells of her first marathon

The Leon The Runner event promoted by Phoenix Running was to be my first lap race and I booked this to join Leon in his 100th marathon. Having never done this type of event before I wasn’t sure what to expect. There were quite a lot of us SJ’s entered and we all met up at Walton Sports Centre where there was lots of chatter about how many laps we might do. At this point I remember saying I didn’t have a plan which is what made this race very different – I had only ever entered races where I knew on the start line what distance I would be doing. I didn’t today. Anyway once we walked over to the start line it was literally a couple of minutes and we were off.

There were probably about 150 or so of us and we would all be running along the public tow path out towards Walton Bridge and at 1.64 miles there was a turning point where we would then run back along the tow path to Race HQ and the tuck shop and collect a wrist band before starting another lap. The tow path was quite narrow and in places it was difficult to avoid the muddy puddles. It was great seeing familiar faces on the way out and back and there were lots of high 5’s and shouts of encouragement from both fellow Sandhurst runners and others out on the course.

Getting my first wrist band and a chance to stop at the tuck shop and refuel was different to any other race as we actually stopped and had a quick chat before setting off again. Time was not an issue, we had seven hours to do as much or little as we wanted. I’d run my first lap with Nigel, Jackie and Lina and we carried on running together. I’d taken a toilet stop at the cafe near the turning point and suddenly saw Blanche coming the other way but hadn’t seen the others which seemed a bit odd. Soon enough they appeared – it turned out they had been chatting and missed the turning point – but it gave me the opportunity to catch them up. Blanche now joined our little group as we headed on towards 4 wristbands and half marathon distance. At this point Jackie rung the 1920’s style School bell to indicate she had finished her race for the day. We carried on. Nigel and Lina were aiming for eight laps and Blanche five or six. I started lap five with Blanche and was still really enjoying this low key event although for Leon it was a milestone.

We kept seeing Leon along the route as well as everyone else and the high 5’s carried on. The Weir Pub was next to the start line and soon more SJ’s appeared sitting outside enjoying the warm weather and a drink to cheer us on and they were joined by others taking a break or those that had finished their race for the day. This had to be a highlight there was so much encouragement! Blanche got her to sixth lap and finished and soon after I was there too. Nigel and Lina had kept on together and were not far in front. At this point I knew then I either had to stop at six or go to eight wristbands. Six was virtually 20 miles my longest distance to date. So I collected my wristband and was off again – I was now going for marathon distance! Caroline joined me for the start of lap seven and soon enough I’d got that wristband and was joined by Richard and Martin at the start of lap eight – my final lap – and lots more SJ cheering. I soon had my chance to ring the bell and also the gong – I had a PB at marathon distance. I had received so much encouragement from my fellow club members along the way I felt very special indeed and now there were plenty of hugs and ‘well dones’. I was now a marathon runner. Not long to wait for Leon to come in and then the celebrations really started. We went to cheer Lance come in and I think that was then all of us. It was a truly memorable day – definitely the smallest event I’ve entered but it was big in so many other ways. Great to see so many of us out there doing what we enjoy.

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