At around mile 10 you cross into Wales, though I clearly wasn't paying attention! The weather was still grey and pleasant and there were little pockets of supporters along the way. The water stations were well stocked (with tiny bottles, not cups - yey!) but I saw a few people (actually, I think all wearing England vests) walking back the other way. I normally take my next gel at 1:20 so being a creature of habit, that's what I did, though not the whole thing. I took a couple of sips of water at every aid station as I was conscious that the main advice for pregnant ladies is that you need to stay well hydrated.... which is ironic giving the need for the loo all the time!
Miles 13-15 are the the only section where it loops and you get to see runners coming the other way. I love this on marathon courses as you get a real boost shouting for each other, especially on the quieter races. I was feeling the effort in my knees now - something I've not had before, but I guess it's the change in gait and extra weight. I wondered how long I'd keep up the pace for as I was still averaging under my 7'27/mi, which I knew was Mr B's target pace for 3:15.
Back through Holt and Farndon and out of Wales again, there were some good crowds and a couple of bands to give a boost. A good thing too, since there was a kicker of a hill at just before mile 17 and 2 hrs in. I later found out that this was the point where Mr B really suffered, and I'll be honest I nearly stopped and walked but I was still really enjoying it and I didn't want to stop unless it was for health reasons. I also knew that it was time to take some of the next gel at around the 2 hr mark, so it was something to give me a boost (by the way, Torq Rhubarb and Custard are surprisingly nice!)
After that, the next few miles were more effort but still comfortable and we were joined by the Metric Marathon runners coming the other way. Again, I found this a real help as it gave me new people to pull me along. It's funny though how different people's minds work different ways, as Mr B found it really dispiriting seeing fresh looking people at this point.
I was wondering when we'd get back into Chester and also thinking about the famed hill at mile 24, but still cheering other runners and enjoying the countryside. It's never *easy* doing the last 6 miles of a marathon, so I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thinking about a nice sit down at points, but in general it felt comfy. I had a few chats with the bump/hitch-hiker along the way and told him that he just needed to give me a good kick if he wasn't happy and I'd stop right then! It had started drizzling by now and I was quite glad of the coolness. I had a caffeine gel which I could take for extra oomph at the end if I wanted but I decided not to bother as I felt like I'd had plenty of sugar by then.
It's not until miles 23/24 that you start to get back into the city and by now people were starting to egg each other on to hit times. I eased off the pace a bit in the hope I'd see the 3:15 crew and saw a few people I'd chatted to further back. At this point I was taken under the wing of a very sweet guy who told me to 'leave it all out there'. I didn't have the heart to tell him I wasn't planning to do that today! He told me that the 3:15's were way back (implying they were far off pace) and so I figured I might as well just try and sneak in under it. Mile 24 was actualy quite a bit of incline, but they have "race angels' who run from the bottom of the hill to the top with you and then send you on your way. A really nice idea.
Round the corner, down along the river and despite the drizzle there was a good turn out lining the route back to the racecourse. I knew I had 3:15 in my sights and couldn't quite believe it, so it was great to relax into the finish. You enter the race course on the bend and run the final section on grass. This was largely ok, though a bit squidgy and I hear it got really boggy later, which is pretty tough at the end of a marathon! As I came down the home straight I even managed to put in a tiny spurt of speed and over take a couple of people.