The Banana Marathon aka The It’s Grim Up North Canal Canter Review

On 3rd July Jim, Stuart and I set off to run the Canal Canter marathon, despite being quite a small and very new race the organisation and friendly atmosphere was great, and certainly helped to calm my nerves!

Unfortunately the toilets were quite a way away from the start so after a quick hunt for a nettle free bush Jim and I put on our banana costumes and prepared to start.

The original plan had been to set off at 10 minute miles for the 10 miles out to Saltaire, then if I felt like I had it in my legs speed up to 9 minute miles for the slight incline back down to the start/ finish at 20 miles. The last 6? Whatever it took to get through them. I didn’t want to go out too fast to start with as the canal paths are quite narrow and my costume could have been a little bit of a hazard. I didn’t want anyone struggling to get round me to overtake when I inevitably  slowed down.

However that’s not what happened… 100m past the start line having found ourselves back together after being separated by going either side of the bridge, Stuart and I decided to run together, at least to begin with. I had split the race down into 3 sections, and didn’t want to think past the first one which I knew for me was going to be the toughest. The 10 miles out to Saltaire, followed by the 10 miles back to the start/finish and the last 6 miles out and back to the end of the canal.

For the first 10 miles we ran a very consistent 9 minute miles, with the splits only deviating from this when we stopped at the water stations, for a quick drink a few jelly babies and a chat with the marshal before setting off again on our way – Our strategy was very much similar to how I would have handled an ultra-breaking down the bigger three stages into lots of little check points using the water stations.

The second 10 miles felt mentally a lot different to the first 10, we were heading back in the direction of the finish, which also doubled up as 20 miles, the point in which I would know if it was all going to be ok! It also helped that after battling with the head wind and slight incline, we now had an easier sail back in the opposite direction. The main issue going back in the direction of the start, was that it was fast becoming a more reasonable time on a Sunday morning, the general public, all the dogs in Leeds and every toddler learning to ride a bike were out in force on the canal. It was great to see Leeds outdoor spaces being used and enjoyed but after tripping over the third dog who thought my costume looked like great fun, I was getting a little fed up. The last 10 miles were also fairly consistent sitting between 9.15-9.30 again only straying from this when we stopped at the water stations every 3 miles or so.

Getting to 20 miles was a great mental mile stone in the race, lots of familiar faces and a great sense of achievement knowing that most of it was now done and we just had the last 6 miles or 2 parkruns as we keep rationalising it as. After a little break at 20 miles for some sugary fizzy pop and a chat with everyone including Jim who HAD ALREADY FINISHED! In an amazing time of 3.08, and second place despite being dressed in a 6 foot banana costume – We set off again to get it finished.

Runhelenrun nearly at 20 miles
Almost at 20 miles!
Runhelenrun Jim nearly finished!
Jim almost finished, 2nd place overall in a time of 3.08!

I thought I’d find the last 6 mentally quite tough as it followed my old route to work, from when we used to live off the canal, many a time I had trained or dashed to walk in a hurry down that stretch of the canal, but it didn’t feel as bad as I expected and the familiarity was actually quite welcome. After 21 miles together I left Stuart and ran on ahead, he was struggling to find his own pace running behind me.

By the time I got to 23 miles, the turning point at the end of the canal I felt like a rusty robot, all form had gone out of the window, my right hip was barely mobile, my shoulders rubbed raw from the banana and the soles of my feet battered. At around 24 and a half miles I saw Jim and Rob in  the distance, I was really happy to see them but at that point I broke mentally, I tried to push on running again but Jim struggled to keep up hobbling behind, still wearing the banana, having already ran 26 miles and walked 2 to meet me. I felt bad leaving him behind so slowed to match his pace, chatting as we ambled along.

At 25 mile Stuart, back in his own rhythm had caught back up so I ditched Jim and fell back into stride behind my running partner, until he managed to up the pace on the last quarter of a mile and my body just wouldn’t let me respond. I finished the marathon in 4 hours, 23 minutes and 11 seconds. Exhausted and unable to speak!

Runhelenrun leaving Jim behind on the last mile
Leaving Jim behind on the last mile!

I’m really happy with my time and the whole experience, I was a little worried that it was going to be a complete disaster and I would end up letting everyone done after hurting my neck the week before and having my wisdom tooth out 3 days prior, oh and drinking too much on the company way day on Friday night and spending the day competing it it’s a knock out type events and throwing myself down giant inflatable slides…. and… and…. You get the picture!

Thank you to everyone who has donated so far, you’re amazing and it is very much appreciated! We still have a couple of the Cave Rescue buffs/neckers left to sell at £10 if anyone wants to buy one, just let me know.

Now for a few more pictures!




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