Kielder Marathon – Sunday 13th October 2019

Race Report by Debbie Simpson

In 2018, three amigos from Allison & Dotty’s group (Allison Rae, Kathryn Walker and Debbie Simpson) successfully completed (and enjoyed) the Kielder half marathon finding the course undulating rather than excessively challenging as they had feared.

Some weeks later during a training run and without a drop of alcohol in sight (honest) the same three amigos decided to up their game and step up to the challenge of the full marathon distance in 2019.  So, with the positive experience of the undulating half marathon and perfect weather conditions under their belts and the assumption that the rest of the course would be fairly similar, they began their 16-week marathon training with an initial air of quiet confidence, tinged with a little apprehension for their first-ever trail marathon.

The 16-week training programme began in earnest but, as anyone who has trained for a marathon knows, 16-weeks is a long time and can throw up a lot of problems and challenges before even reaching the start line and this programme was no different with injuries, illness, holidays and family events all doing their best to derail the programme.

Nevertheless, the amigos pressed on regardless and lined up together at the Kielder marathon start line. Kielder is a weekend festival of running with various runs taking place on both days.  Saturday dawned bright and sunny for the 10k and Duathlon and competitors were blessed with perfect running conditions.  

Sunday, however, was a different kettle of fish altogether. As the three amigos and partners drove through thick fog to the start, it didn’t look as though they would see much of ‘Britain’s Most Beautiful Marathon’ route at all!!  Eventually, the fog lifted to reveal Kielder at its best – stunningly beautiful and perfect running conditions for a second day (or so they thought).  With the sub two-hour marathon record broken the day before, the pressure was off the amigos to try and achieve the same so they each reverted to their own Plan B race strategies.

After the obligatory visits to the toilet facilities, it was time to line up at the start and before they knew it, they were off and greeted immediately by the first incline of the day (a sign of things to come).  The first mile took them out and back through what would be the finish line to the roar of the crowds and cheers from their partners who had been unexpectedly joined by two other group members, Dorothy Harris and Jeanette Gratton, a sign of the strength of support they’d received from every member of their group from day one.  

The field of runners stretched out across the course with the three amigos in awe of the spectacular views and enjoying the perfect running conditions.  Sadly, the Met Office know their stuff and right on cue, the forecasted rain came and the initial light drizzle about an hour into the run turned into a torrential and consistent downpour that stayed for the whole day, adding a whole new dimension to the race.

Kielder is definitely an area of outstanding natural beauty, almost magical in some areas of the forest, but behind that beauty lies a brutal terrain which demands respect and will challenge the strongest of marathon runners (undulating it wasn’t).

All three amigos gave 100% effort and commitment to this race as you would expect but devastatingly after months of hard work and training in all weathers, two of the amigos had to withdraw deep into the race.  The third amigo had to do more walking than running in the second half but managed a soggy celebratory ‘sprint’ of the final few metres to the finish line, oblivious to the plight of the others.  She was greeted at the finish line with her husband’s words of motivation ringing in her ears, ‘I didn’t think it would take you that long’!

Some would disagree but it’s not always about the time you do but about the time you have and the three amigos will take away a mixture of memories and emotions from that day.

The support from each and every member of Allison & Dottys group was outstanding and the surprise visit from Dorothy and Jeanette was the icing on the cake.

Will they return to Kielder next year?  Heck, yes!  Will it be the marathon or the half?  We will have to wait and see ……..

Full Race Results: https://www.chiptiming.co.uk/events/kielder-marathon-2019/

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