Nottingham was the final leg of my 3 marathons in 3 weeks campaign. I had booked a rental car to drive to Nottingham but then decided to take the train as it was dangerous to drive for 6 hours one way and then drive back. On Saturday 11th September, I boarded the 2pm train for Nottingham. It was not a direct train and had to change stations at Warrington. The 10 minute walk from Warrington Central train station to Warrington Bank Quay was at one of the most dangerous walks I have ever done. It was basically walking through a ghost town on a Saturday afternoon and I was just praying and hoping that I do not run into a gang of thugs. Luckily, I survived and reached the other station which was beside the shopping square.
On the way to Nottingham, I sat in a cabin full of drunken Englishman who had returned from a football game. Finally, I reached Nottingham central and walked at night to the hotel. It was at least a 45 minute walk, contrary to the 15-20 minutes what I was told. It was a cheap but clean 30 pound room with an attached bath. There were a couple of other marathoners staying at the hotel. In the evening, I went down to the bar and met up with some couples from New Zealand. After an early night, I woke up fresh at 7am and after breakfast, took the bus to city center for the race. The marathon was well organized and they had already sent me my bib via mail. It was hot and sunny but as the race started, it became overcast.
We ran through some of the most beautiful and picturesque parts of Nottingham. The highlight was running through the forest park and around the lake. The course support was perfect with plenty of fluid stations along the way. They were serving bottled high protein lucozade, the best you can find in the market. A few miles from the finish, we ran beside Trent Bridge and saw the cricket ground from outside. After about 5 hours and 13 minutes, I crossed the finish line and received a nice medal.
After the race, I walked back to the train station and had to wait 3 hours for the train. To kill the time, I went into a fried chicken joint and stuffed myself on the greasy food. The journey back to Glasgow was relaxing. I reached Glasgow central just after midnight and Shazia and Amana aunty were there to pick me up. I got home just in time, took a shower and then we all headed to the airport to catch the flight back home to Doha. Hence, the mission was accomplished, i.e. completing 3 marathons in 3 weeks!!!
Until I ran this marathon, I had never heard of getting sandblasted at the beach. Fleetwood marathon was the first of the 3 back to back marathons I was running as part of raising funds for the Pakistani flood victims. On the race morning, I drove from Glasgow to Fleetwood in my rented car. The journey took about 3 hours. As I reached the Town Hall in Fleetwood, it started raining quite heavily. The wind speed was around 34Km/h and I needed my running wind breaker to keep me warm. At the registration desk, they couldn’t find my bib and I also forgot to bring my confirmation email. After much deliberation, the race organizer gave me another bib. (When I reached Doha, I found the original bib on my desk, as they had mailed to me while I was away in UK!!!). The race started along the sea shore under overcast and windy condition. Within the next few miles, I realized what I was up against. All runners were getting sandblasted, and it was painful, liking someone poking countless needles all over your body. Basically, running along the Blackpool coast in a force 10 was not fun. Many experienced marathon runners ended up walking (me included) for a little while as the wind and sand being kicked up was enough to remove skin. After all, who needs expensive microdermabrasion treatment when you can do this and run a marathon at the same time!!!! The race course was all along the shore, out and back, so there was no hiding away from the forces of nature. It was absolutely impossible to run and my body temperature was cooling down fast which is dangerous from a medical view point. With about 10 miles to go, I bumped into another runner who had literally given up running and was merely walking towards the finish line. That runner was an Albanian Muslim and had been living in UK for 20 odd years. We ended up chatting the entire course, mainly about politics, the war in Balkans and races around the world. At the 26 mile mark, just 0.2 miles before the finish line, we stopped and took photographs and I did the same for him as he crossed the finish line. I gave him my email address after the race, but somehow never heard back from him, maybe he lost it. Anyhow, it was a tough race and am glad I completed it. Straight after, I changed and left for Glasgow, getting there after 3 hours.
A lot happened in the week leading up to the Windermere Marathon. I played 3 rounds of golf, spent 2 days in Alton Towers and did a bit of sightseeing in and around Glasgow . A day before the race Nadia opted out of the Lake District trip due to exhaustion, so I had no choice but to go there myself. We had rented an automatic car from Enterprise especially for this trip so that Nadia could drive!!! On race morning, I woke up at 6am and thought about quitting the race. After thinking for about 10 minutes, I assured myself that I am actually super human so there is no way that I would miss the race.
So, on a bright sunny day I drove down from Glasgow to Windermere, Lake District. It was a 2 and half hour drive but took me about 3 as I had to make a dash to the WC along the way. After relieving myself and feeling a lot lighter, I continued my journey to Windermere. I got there about half an hour early but was stuck at the Brathway estate gates for about 20 odd minutes due to traffic congestion. I had to run across the field to get to the station to pick up my timing chip and join the starting line…so that cost me about 4-5 minutes. The race itself was a treat….by far the most beautiful race that I have ever run to-date. The scenery was breathtaking, beautiful hills on one side and the Lake Windermere on the other.
There were a few steep hills along the course but by and large the route was rolling. There weren’t many supporters along the way apart from when the course went thru the small towns. At around 20 mile mark was the main Lake Windermere tourist attraction and I was well on course to do a sub 5 hr marathon. However, it started raining heavily there and it continued until I got to a mile from the finish line. Along the route I was competing with a British soldier who was running the marathon in his military gear with a 50 pound pack on his back. I made a point not to lose to him and I didn’t !!! I crossed the finish line in a little over 5 hrs. As they took off my chip, I walked ahead searching for the medal, but it wasn’t there. Disappointed, I asked around for it and was told that the they have run out of it and one would be mailed to me. It did arrive about a week later and Nadia brought it back with her from Scotland. Hence, I achieved my target … running 3 marathons in 2 weeks. Not bad for someone who doesn’t train for marathons!!!!!
This was the second marathon within the week. After driving around Ireland for 5 days, we took the plane from Belfast to London Stansted. During the stay in London, we met up with Tata Mamu & Kiren/Shafiq as well as visited Cambridge. On race day, we drove to Halstead, about half an hour drive from Stansted. The race was a much smaller affair than Belfast but was in a picturesque town in county Essex. The race started at 10am on a hot sunny day. My legs were already sore after the Belfast marathon and all the hiking we did in Ireland. To make things worse, the first km or 2 were all uphill. Luckily I started chatting with a couple of runners and they assured me that the rest of the race is pretty much flat with a few rolling hills. The scenery was amazing, running thru the rural roads with farms on either side.
The support was minimal on the course and very few cars along the route. For the most part I pretty much ran alone and had I not had support of my IPOD, the journey would have been quite boring and tough. I continued at my own pace and was well within the 6 hr cutoff. Finally, after about 5 and half hours I reached the main street finish line. Nadia and kids were there with the video camera to shoot by finish line video. After the race, I stopped by for a massage and then we headed back to Stansted to catch the flight back to Glasgow. Oh! By the way, the medal was amazing…much bigger and better looking than Belfast.
This was the only marathon that was taking place in UK at that time of the year when we visited Scotland. So I flew from Glasgow to London Stansted and after renting a car at the airport, I drove straight to Tata Mamu’s place. I stayed with him for 2 days. On Saturday, I visited my cousin, Fahd in London and spent some quality time with the family. Nadia and Zara didn’t accompany me to London as Nadia was expecting. On race day, I left London for Winchester (an hour and half journey). At the starting location in Winchester, we were taken by bus to the neighboring town of Salisbury. On the bus ride some of the runners were quite surprised that I came all the way from Canada to run such a low key event! About 10 minutes before the race start it started to rain quite heavily. Since the course was all country side trails, it became really slippery. There were some down hill stretches where it was even difficult to walk. There were a lot of hills along the way which took a big toll on me. However, the scenery was breathtaking. The biggest challenge was at the 18 mile mark, where we had to run up a hill that continued for the next 3 miles. That was when I decided to quit, and I almost did. But then I realized that I still have to climb the hill to get to the finish line as I was in the middle of nowhere. As usual, I had the mental strength to continue and so I did. About a few miles from the finish, there was a beautiful golf course which helped me take my mind of the pain and move on. I finally finished the race under 6 hrs and there were a sizeable number of people at the finish line to greet me. I stayed back for the post race massage and by the time I left Winchester it was already 6pm. My flight from Stansted was at 9:30pm which I thought was enough to get me to the airport. Little I knew, I was stuck on the M25 for over 2 hours and by the time I reached the airport, it was only 30 minutes left for the flight to take off. I didn’t even have enough time to fill the gas, so just left the keys at the counter and rushed to the terminal. The final twist came when I went to the wrong gate and with 10 minutes left before take off, I was stuck in the tram and didn’t know where to go. Luckily, an airport attendant came to my rescue as she called the airline to wait for me and then took me from a short cut to the plane. I just got there in time before the doors closed. This was a close call. Had I missed this flight I would have to wait till next morning and would have surely missed my flight back to Toronto. All in all, a great adventure that had a happy ending!
Ziyad Rahim is an adventure-runner from Pakistan. He currently holds 10 Guinness World Records in long-distance running, ranging from marathons to ultra-marathons.