Sunday, 9 October 2011
Kielder (Britain's Most Beautiful Marathon)
I blame Marc Grierson really. He was going down to do the Liverpool marathon and hoping for rain. The rain that was due to pour all over Edinburgh had tried to oblige by shifting South but had got stuck over Northumberland. As it got light and Richard, Peter and I were driving down to the Kielder Forest I tried to convince everyone that it was going to dry up later. Suddenly the opinion in the car seemed to be that it was my fault that we were doing "this stupid marathon".
Anyway, fast forward, it stayed wet.
The race start was a bit delayed for the final runners to get off the shuttle buses. (Not having read our event information packs, neither Peter nor I had realised that there were shuttle buses, its quite lucky Richard had paid more attention!) It was a bit of a long wait in a cooling drizzle and quite a fresh breeze but we reckoned once we got going we'd be happiest if we were just wearing vests. (Vests and shorts and trainers of course.)
I thought I'd pushed far enough forwards towards the front but had deceived myself once again and had the devil of a job skirting round fairies and, well, runners who were slower than me but better at pushing right up to the front and then jogging 3 abreast on the narrow trail and chatting.
I ran too fast to start with just blindly trying to get a bit of space. It quite quickly became apparent that the quiet warnings we had read about "short, steep hills" were absolutely right and that this course was going to be tough. The trail itself was very well-groomed and road shoes were fine for it. A lot of people were wearing trail shoes but I think my feet would have been trashed by the end without much cushioning or support.
I ran the first 3rd optimistically and then started to fade. A lot of people went past me up to 17 miles. This was very dispiriting. Then round about the 17 mile mark I had got caught with a group of guys who were running along and chatting and kept overtaking me and then slowing down and taking ages to let me past. They meant no harm but they were really pissing me off because I kept having to slow down and speed up for them so I decided to get moving a bit and just leave them behind. I found I was able to handle the increase in intensity and keep running harder, which felt absolutely great after I'd felt so defeated.
The most effective bit of pre-race prep I'd done was watching videos of marathoners on you-tube yesterday and in particular Ryan Hall who is a screaming maniac for Jesus. He was describing how he chants ole, ole, ole, ole - when he's running, as used by bull-fighters, which he reckons is the same as Allah, helping him to run and transcend himself. This was now playing loudly in my head and continued much of the time to the end. It still seemed a long way, but I was feeling so much better and moving back forwards through the field as many people were struggling with cramp. I was glad we'd done plenty of hills and particularly the two breweries recently. I was feeling okay on the hills.
One particularly pleasing set of events was that at mile 9 a runner had bounced up to me and said "Are you alright? Feeling alright? Its a hilly course isn't it? I really love it. My name's Mark" and bounced off into the distance. At about mile 23 I thought the t-shirt and shorts looked familiar and I was delighted to see the now serious face of Mark. "I'm feeling much better now." I said as I passed him. "I feel terrible now" he was man enough to say. haha OleOleOle Ole....
Okay my time was not what I'd hoped for but I adjusted my expectations lickety split after embarking on the roller-coaster which is the Kielder Forest trail. I was pleased to run in in 3hrs 55mins (hopefully 3hrs 54 when adjusted for chip time).
Steve Cram was there in person at the end. I wish I'd been man enough to go and speak to him but I was too tired and too shy.
The goody bag was great. We got a towel - handy in the circumstances, I'd been out in the rain for nearly 4hrs - a good technical t-shirt, sweeties, maybe a gel, a banana, a nice big chunky medal.
I saw Izzy Knox shortly after finishing. She'd run a stormer in 3hrs 25mins. I think it was too short for her. She said her legs were still fresh. Shortly after picking up my bag I caught up with Peter and Richard. Peter had a lot to say about the inclement weather but had done well. Richard had done stupidly well on no training and having slipped in a park run yesterday too for good measure. Roly was there too. Grimaced ruefully about what a tough, tough race it was. We were all agreed on that. Not long after David Allwood came in. He's been having problems with a groin strain. It WAS a tough course.
So. 10th marathon ever. 35th race this year. Season's best time by 9 minutes. Yeah I know but Cape Wrath was hard too. I feel very jolly. Full of pizza and wine. If you do this marathon do some hills in training.