Team Poppyfields are a group of people from around the world who have helped in one way or another during 2013 to raise money for kids fighting Brain Tumours by exercising or indeed failing to exercise. This lot agreed to run at Bournemouth Marathon Festival and Chester Marathon (same weekend) to help raise money.
We started with Leeky, Michelle, Melanie, Mel, Sarah, Jarvy, Jonno, Gillian, Sharon, Anthony, Mrs B, Gareth and Gaz. Mark had already done The Equinox 24hr race two weeks earlier for Poppyfields and after WINNING IT with 200km we let him off doing Bournemouth.
So Mark had neatly kicked us off with fundraising as had Sarah at GNR!
With a few weeks to go Gareth had to withdraw on medical grounds due to a knee problem so we put a shout out for a replacement. Adrian, with a weeks notice and no training and not having previously run a marathon, stepped in. Unfortunately the Friday before Gaz had to withdraw due to a family issue for which our best wishes go to him and his family.
So, the plan was that Mrs B would kick us off on the Saturday with the 10k, Sarah would keep up the momentum running the half on Sunday morning and the remaining 11 of us would run marathons. 10 of us in Bournemouth and 1 in Chester. Still with me?
Myself, Mrs B, G Man & Belle made a weekend of it and travelled down on Friday night. Premier Inn nice enough with a cracking buffet style fill your boots fry up on the Saturday morning. Mrs B kept it sensible with some fruit and toast of course. I on the other hand ate for 4!
We wondered down the front and saw the crew setting up for the afternoon 10k and early evening 5k. There was a friendly buzz to the place that ran through the whole weekend. We had a blast in the arcades, a stroll along the Promenade and Pier and then popped back for Mrs B to get ready. We were then down at the start and she was ready to go in plenty of time....and the sun came out. Mrs B has recently been dealing with some Asthma like breathing difficulties (you will know from my Lichfield Half Marathon blog) so she was wary of this. Warm weather doesn't help! As the sun came out we were enjoying an unseasonal 20 degrees!
Mrs B moved off into her starting pen and we got track side. As the start horn went off a really good size crowd got cheering the runners on their way. Mrs B passed us looking strong about 250m on the course. We knew she would be back soon as the first out and back went one way up the Promenade from the Pier. They would come back, go round the Pier and then do another out and back on the other side.
Before she got back to us Leeky joined us and the Team was beginning to assemble. Mrs B whizzed by looking good. She chuckled as I yelled that she should pick her knees up! We then legged it under the Pier and got some pics as she exited the other side. G Man was ahead of me and track side and came running back to say that the inhaler was needed! Mrs B was already a couple of hundred metres ahead by now. My quick calculation was that me in Caterpillar boots on sand was gonna have to give it some to catch her so I was quite relieved when Leeky offered to do it (the man is a machine anyway...he used the run to catch Mrs B as his last warm up before the marathon!).
We cheered a few runners by as we waited for Mrs B to come back to the finish. A man in his Pirate top seemed shocked when I shouted "come on Pirate drill it in!" at the top of my voice. It wasn't long before Mrs B flew back passed us again and she sprinted up to the finish.
On the way to meet her we met Mel and Sarah supporting some of their club doing the 10k. The Team coming together nicely. We agreed to meet at the marathon the next day and wished Sarah luck for the earlier starting half marathon.
Mrs B seemed pleased with herself. A nice medal and shirt for her troubles and despite the heat, the inhaler and a packed start meaning a slow first mile she came in at something like 52:13 which was only 20s or so outside her PB! She had run well and looked strong. It was not lost on her that this was now the first step towards her London Marathon journey 2014 (I think she has now forgiven me for putting her in the ballot!!). What she had also done was lay the foundations for the Team Poppyfields take over of BMF2013. A good crowd were introduced to Team Poppyfields and Birmingham Children's Hospital with a top 10 (7th) category finish!
We all went back to the hotel to fuel up for the Sunday. Leeky choosing the chicken and mushroom risotto healthy looking thing. I went for the big cheese/bacon burger & chips combo. Apparently it has everything in there that is needed! We had a cracking night exchanging event stories, future plans, tattoo ideas, tenting issues, VLM stories and I think along the way Mrs B was able to absorb some useful marathon tips from Leeky for the forthcoming months. Leeky sank a couple of beers, I stuck to water and a Coke and that was us done. Leeky set off back to his hotel and George insisted on a quick bout of WWE wrestling before crashing out (I am sure this is how Mo Farah prepares the night before!).
Sleep was on and off as it always is. Felt good in the morning though and chatted to a few runners over porridge and fruit and cranberry juice. Mrs B and the rugs were kitted out in red Team Poppyfields T shirts and I was in my England Morphsuit and Team Poppyfields vest. A few great looks from people as we left the hotel. We grabbed Leeky from his hotel and went to the start. The sun was already out and clouds were non existent! It was gonna be a hot one for everyone.
It was great to finally meet all of the Team. Many I had been cyber pals with for a while but you can't beat a real life team hug can you? Sharon, Jarvy, Anthony, Jonno, Adrian and Michelle had driven down that morning. Mel and Melanie also met up. Sarah was midway through the half. For some it was a first marathon, for others it was nothing new. The nervous excitement however is the same for us all. Team Poppyfields were ready to smash this!
We were all in different start pens which is great because it spreads the exposure for the Team and the cause. Leeky, Jarvy and Michelle in Pink (fast) me in Green medium ish and everyone else were starting from Black regardless of their number. I felt good. Ready in fact. I had strained my greens, nothing ached, ankle felt fine, Morphsuit ok and without much further thought we were off.
Within 500 metres of the start I saw Mrs B and the rugs to my left shouting like loons! It was so nice to have them supporting as they had not been able to make it to a marathon before. It made quite a difference to my mood and was a huge boost. I couldn't really see anything because the sun was ahead of me. That means it just lights up the mesh inside the suit. As I concentrated on avoiding runners I heard the announcer comment on how many Birmingham Children's Hospital runners there were - that's us and that made me smile.
The start was good and flat and residential and there was a good show of support. I soon settled into my running although I felt at the time I was going too quick. It took about 3 mins to ignore my own advise to NOT run the long way round bends hi fiving the crowd and to NOT keep shouting to the crowd to 'give it some'. It sounds daft but shouting while running is tiring. Still, I couldn't resist as despite my shy, quiet and reserved exterior I really just want all the attention and crowd support. Thankfully throughout the race there was loads of it! I spotted Adrian (no training first time last minute stand in Adrian) in his home made Poppyfields top and asked if he was OK. He said he was but had gone off too fast. His aim was regular 12 mins miles.
We were at mile 3-4 ish and we were at sub 8:30 pace! It was too fast for me and certainly way over what he wanted so he was dropping his pace to ensure he made it. I wished him well and would see him later.
Before long I needed the loo - now I have never had to stop for a wee during a race but on this occasion the urge became desperate. I had just had cheers and shouts and hi 5's from Jarvy Leeky and Michelle going the other way (and Bruce who I had met at EMF 2011) when I reached a turn and water station at mile 5. I didn't want to stop but had to, after all running with a wee stained white morphsuit wouldn't be attractive. Into the gents loos and I asked 'sorry to trouble you but would one of you mind unzipping me' - ordinarily one of the worst things you could say in a gents public toilet but today it seemed almost normal. Someone kindly did. I peeled off the already sweat soaked suit, managed to hold the hood out of danger and did the necessary. Worst case scenario would be hood splashback - thankfully it went well. Back out to a drink of water and turning the buff I had on under the hood from a headband to a bandanna - even beneath the suit I could feel the heat pressing down on my bald head. The buff was soaked already. I re-hooded, poured a bottle over my head, took a bottle with me and rejoined. As I ran on I was so pleased to see the rest of Team Poppyfields coming up the other way and we all cheered each other on.
I always chat to runners - it would seem rude not too and they were giving me loads of encouragement from 'Sid you're a nutter' to 'bring out the gimp' to 'go on condom man!' (thank you Macmillan lads). I was loving the friendly atmosphere. I got chatting to a lady and I didn't need much encouragement to waffle on and on and on and on about Poppyfields, BCH, Mrs B and the Rugs, Outlaw and all things Morph. The good thing is that when chatting it helps regulate my breathing and is a great distraction. We were running at a similar pace and we spurred each other on. I couldn't see her properly due to the Morphsuit and us both running along but as I was getting loads of shouts and she got none I assumed she didn't have her name on her top. That was confirmed with a shout of 'go on Sid..........and Sid's friend'. She said she didn't have her name on her top but she was Esther.
We ran to half way without incident and I felt pretty good. At every turn and back I got to see the rest of the team and we were all going well both those ahead of me and behind. Hi 5's all round - one of which from Adrian nearly took my arm off! I chatted to Wolf man, Superman 287th marathon, I saw Cow man and St George. A runner from Aldridge running club thanked me for running for BCH as her daughter is treated there. All in all the atmosphere was superb.
All had been flat to about 11 or 12 miles. It seemed flat but very very hot. We turned off the Promenade and hit a hill. I don't mind steady hills but this was a steep little bastard. I kept running up the hill passing the walkers. Esther ran on too - the theory being to run without stopping as far as we could. Don't get me wrong I really felt that hill but hitting the top felt great to have run it and we were then on the flat heading towards mile 14 at the main Pier, the finish and Mrs B.
As we went down toward the Pier the route hair pinned left. I took the wide berth hi fiving the crowd and milking the cheering when Lou Cross leaned almost unnaturally far over the barrier and shouted something about me having to beat her 4:42 Berlin Marathon Morph time! Brilliant to think she popped down to support us. As I came off the bend and absorbed the wall of noise I spotted Mrs B and the Rugs on my left. What a sight for blurred Morphsuit affected eyes. They were giving it loads. I think I had a quick hug at this point before moving on. Such a relief to see them and to know I would be back passing this point again in a few miles time.
Another out and back to the other pier now. It was about 12.30pm and it was baking hot. Outlaw was hot but I had eye and mouth holes in the suit. Here with no shelter at all the heat was pressing down. At each station I tipped water over me soaking the bandanna and I was drinking enough too but the force of the heat was getting stronger. This was all to apparent when a Paramedic car cut through the coned area to treat someone lying flat on the floor by the furthest pier. I hope he or she whether runner or spectator was OK.We then passed another runner receiving attention propped up against a wall with spectators running over with water.
We passed a group of sea cadets shouting 'Sid Sid Sid Sid Sid' as we approached the main crowds again. I could feel my pace was struggling but it has to pick up for the crowds. I ran down through and around the Pier. Got a huge shout again from Mrs B and the Rugs and expected to see them again on the other side as I mistakenly thought we were off up the other side of the Promenade. I was wrong. Instead we turned, went through the finish and up onto the main road.
We then dropped back in by the Pier but turned up onto probably the biggest hill on the run. It was steep, it was hard, it was hot and it was draining. Everyone was walking it and three quarters of the way up Esther said she may have to walk. I suggested we get to the top before any rash decisions were made. We got to the top but I could feel I had probably been broken by the Bournemouth course with that climb.
I was still running as the course snaked through some trees and much needed shade but that was followed by a sneaky steady climb for about a mile. Nothing severe but a bit too constant. Everything now was beginning to tweak, left ankle, right shoulder, kidneys (outlaw kidneys again) and knees. I knew it was just the effort and nothing major but as the climb peaked I thanked Esther for her company and wished her well but I would have to walk. Before I could I passed a runner I had met at breakfast who was struggling and I suggest he crack on as we had done the hard bit. Then a runner past me saying she would buy me a beer back at the hotel as she was staying there too. While chatting I seemed to have continued rather than stop. The run down was steep and brutal on the knees. I usually lift more to take advantage of gravity but it was too uncomfortable. As we got to the bottom and back on the Promenade I was finally done.
Reluctantly I walked. We were at mile 21 ish. Esther walked too and we were joined by Melanie C who stopped briefly to chat and then cracked on.
Esther then took up running again and was soon gone. I would like to thank Esther (a now honorary Poppyfielder for helping me run to mile 21 (the furthest I had run for a long long time). I de-hooded to take on water - walked to about mile 22 and then re-hooded and started to plod. The familiar Morph plod, the just make it to the finish plod, the walkers are walking faster than my plod plod.
The support was immense. People on apartment balcony's, in their beach huts, on the beach. They were all cheering, willing me on. If I had known them I could understand but their will for me to finish was just outstanding. Michelle the first Poppyfielder went passed the other way (I guessed an hour ahead of me), Jarvy ran over to me and gave me a Jelly Baby as he carried on. It was the best thing I had ever eaten up to that point in my life. My pace picked up a little (snails were now left in my trail) and I shouted Leeky as he went passed. It took a moment for him to register me. I know why. He was in that place where everything was shutting down and sheer willpower had taken over to make sure he would finish. He looked gone. The night before we had talked about 'that look'.
At the end of the Promenade I passed a pub. It was rammed and to a man they all stood and cheered me by. Sometimes you have to be thankful you have the suit on because the tears were streaming down my face by now. I spoke to a Whizz Kid runner that was struggling and then passed two 10 year old girls who shouted 'go on Mr red white faced man'. I ran on, desperate to get to the turn for home. Esther past the other way and gave me a shout closely followed by Melanie C (who was running really strong). I reached the turn and could feel the wobbles coming on. There was a bit of side drift and it seemed a long way to the next water. I past a paramedic who asked if I was OK? He got the Morph thumb up that was given to everyone and I mean everyone that cheered me on in any way. I slowed to a stop near to where the girls were moments earlier. One came over and said she had two flumps left and I could have them both if I wanted. Well it doesn't take much to set me off but that hit me with both barrels. I took them gladly. Thanked her profusely. Thanked her some more and then again. I de-hooded and walked while eating the flumps. Definitely the actual best thing I have ever eaten ever. I re-hooded and walked to 23 and a half ish back passed the pub which set me off again. Once on the Promenade again I ran.
I took some water from a member of the public who had put a line of plastic cups out, I took some jelly babies from someone else, I applauded the drum band and the pub crowds who were as close to pushing/pulling me down the promenade as they could be without actually pushing/pulling me. A lady Pirate who I had shouted to earlier asked if I was Outlaw Sid and wished me luck. I like that title! My pace picked up and I passed Sharon, Anthony, Jonno, Adrian and Mel going the other way. I think I hugged all of them and urged them on. 24 went and then the magical 25. My pace picked up more as the outline of the pier became visible even through the suit. Bournemouth was about to get morphed!
As I approached the finish I am not sure what happens or where the strength comes from but it gets found from somewhere. Lou Cross was at the start of the run in. Her encouragement included 'you haven't beaten my 4:42' - that made me smile. Into the run in I milked it. No wimping in. I came down the finish posing, applauding and milking it. I stopped and dropped to one knee and proposed to Mrs B. She looked horrified. Then I left her to applaud the crowd and crew as I crossed the finish line. Victorious, Bournemorph!
It was wonderful to come down the steps to be greeted by my family. We then met up with Sarah who was supporting after the half and we saw Melanie C before she had to go. Leeky and his much better half Nicky, Michelle and Jarvy found us.
Lovely to meet Lou Cross too. Great to see a fellow (faster) morph! Adrian, Sharon, Anthony and Jonno joined us as they finished and together we waited to see home Melanie and the Team was complete.
Gillian had finished her first marathon in Chester too proudly sharing Team Poppyfields with the northern masses!
I am chuffed to bits, honoured and privileged to have shared this marathon weekend with very good mates that make up Team Poppyfields. Marathon Cherries popped, PB's set, friendships formed, war stories shared and a shed load of cash raised.
What started as a tweet or post suggesting we get a Poppyfields Team together for a marathon had somehow grabbed the attention of a lovely bunch of strangers that became friends through the months of training and the small matter of 26.2 hot miles!
We will be back bigger, faster and equally determined to help kids fight brain tumours. You can still do your bit of course. You can spread the word and maybe sponsor us a little at www.justgiving.com/top-poppyfielding or send a text of POPP51 £5 to 70070.
Finally, I would like to say thank you to BMF13 particularly the crew and marshals, every member of Team Poppyfields at Bournemouth and Chester & every Poppyfielder supporting us throughout the year, a big thank you to everyone who has so generously sponsored us and a particularly big thank you to Mrs B for tolerance, patience, understanding and love!