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 marathon was the beginning of something that I have never done before, that is to run 3 marathons in under 2 weeks. We flew from Dubai to Glasgow on May 1st and after spending a day with the in-laws (including a round of golf), we flew by Easy Jet to Belfast. We rented the car from airport and drove straight into the city to pick up my race kit from the park. Later on we headed up north to see the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
Next morning, the race started on a typical overcast Belfast day. Nadia and kids were there at the starting line with me. It was a big field and great atmosphere that one usually expects from a big marathon. One of the interesting things about the race was the timing chip that was embedded in the race bib rather than on the shoe.
The race route was interesting as it cascaded through the historic streets of Belfast. Around the 20K mark, I was beginning to feel weak and badly needed some sugar. To my luck, the route turned downhill and passed through one of the most affluent areas of the city where lots of residents were cheering on runners with food and drinks.
I must have had 3 or 4 chocolates on the way that gave me the boost I needed to continue. The latter part of the course was along the river where the wind and rain was brutally strong and the cold temperature didn’t help either. I slowed down my pace and as I entered the downtown area, the wind picked up again.
The finish was at the park where Nadia and kids were waiting for me. They were a little worried as I took longer than expected. Later Nadia told me that she had actually walked 5k’s to get to the park from our hotel as the roads were closed due to the marathon. After a bit of rest, we headed back to the hotel via the race shuttle bus and stopped at Tim Horton’s (yes, in Belfast) for the worst coffee I have ever tasted in my life! The rest of week was spent driving across the beautiful Emerald Isle.
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.