I was invited to run the Chester marathon, as part of the England Age Group Masters Marathon Team in May this year, following my run in the Brighton Marathon, which is a qualifying event.
When I recovered from the shock and ascertained that this was neither a wind-up nor was the email supposed to go to another Alison Jones, I decided why not. It seemed such an honour, now how to explain this to my family back in Scotland! Since we would be trying to beat a Celtic team consisting of Scottish, Welsh and Irish athletes.
This has been a fairly busy year so far, this being my 30th Marathon and 12th this year so that kept the nerves at bay in the build up to this occasion, just another marathon, what’s to worry about, until you put on that England Vest!
I arrived in Chester on Saturday, after a four and a half hour drive, all prepared to spend a sleepless night in a strange hotel, all be it a strange hotel five minutes from the start / finish area, at least I got that bit right.
The marathon start was due for 09.00hrs but we had to meet English Athletics and collect age and category numbers to put on our backs, I felt like writing on mine (but I do not look a day over 40) but I would have had to add until half way then I’ll look 80, not enough room for that so just left it as it was.
The first predicable problem was collecting my back number, I gave my name and was told I should be in the other queue (Celtic Team) until I said “au contraire” I resisted adding Blackadder, you will be glad to hear, since I pulled up my SJ sweatshirt and showed him my England Vest, I think he knew that sketch too as he looked very relieved.
By this time the buzz was becoming infectious, I spoke to many of the English team members and received the same question, which I am sure you can guess but they were equally proud to be running in an England vest, although not many were wearing the shorts (who brought the shorts up with them I will never know, I am a midwife and they exposed bits that even I have never seen.) Most were wearing an alternative.
After collecting for photographs and a group photo we were released to get ready for the race, which is code for join the toilet queue and drop your bag. Amazingly there was no queue for the toilet and the bag drop was easy. The race starts and finishes at Chester racecourse, which is somewhere I have always wanted to visit, I just did not imaging I would be running the last half furlong of it on two legs.
I had not looked at the course profile beforehand and had the impression Chester was fairly flat, which it is, but I did not take into account that 19 miles of the race is in Wales with the first 4 in England and the final 3 also in England of the 7 miles actually in Chester they all contained hills, especially the final 3 miles with 2 long steep hills to contend with.
I started too fast, yes even with my experience it happens, especially when you start with the elite runners, so by the half way mark I was sub 4 hours, looking good for the 2nd half, alas I started to feel the pace a bit and had to ease off, having been pre-warned about the finish, the last 10 miles, which I usually find okay, seemed to take forever.
The standard of running was amazing, the lady who won my age group ran 3.16 but that’s what you get when you choose the best, someone called Alison Jones is still out there wondering when their England call up is coming, I for one am saying nothing!
This was a fabulous experience, being part of a team, wearing an England vest and not making a complete fool of myself. Would I do it again, if asked, definitely, but I must have a word about the shorts.