At 2:23pm on Sunday 13th April, I crossed the finish line of the 2014 London Marathon in a time of 4 hours, 18 minutes and 37 seconds. I had a smile on my face and agonising pain in my legs but I had successfully completed the task that a few days beforehand I wasn’t even sure I was going to attempt. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fast but I finished it and, all things considered, I’m happy with that.
The run itself went as well, if not better, as I expected. It was a beautifully hot day (well, apparently not that hot but it felt like it was well over 20°C) and I started the race calm, relaxed, happy and pain-free. I had stuck to my plan of having no plan and had resisted the urge to bring my Garmin “just in case” because I knew that if I was wearing it, I’d start stressing over pace and time which I didn’t want to do. I found a comfortable pace early on, easy to do when surrounded by so many people, and stuck to running comfortably – low heart rate, easy breathing, barely pushing it. I was stunned by the sheer exuberance of the crowds even in the first miles through Woolwich and Charlton. Early sunday drinkers crowded outside pubs that had inspirational music – well, “Eye of the Tiger” – blaring from speakers; masses of people lined the streets cheering, shouting encouragement and holding signs of support while children held their hands out to be high-fived by passing runners. It was incredible and unlike anything I’d ever experienced and enough to put a smile on even this old dour face.
The miles started slipping by and the first 10km seemed over in no time as we passed the Greenwich Naval College (scene of the final showdown between Chris Hemsworth and Chris Ecclestone in “Thor: The Dark World”), past the Cutty Sark and then up through Surrey Quays. I kept an eye on the clock at each mile point and worked out that I was roughly sticking to 8:30 miles which I was happy with.
I’m a bit out of kilter with race reports. As I mentioned in the last post, I have raced a couple of times since last year but have yet to write about them but I’m starting with the most recent because it’s so fresh in my mind. Well, fresh in the same way that a pack of supermarket chicken bought from the discount counter and is a few days past its Best Before date is fresh. But before I talk about that race, I want to share some feelings about a race of sorts I did back in November – of sorts only in that it was a club only race and counted towards the club Off-Road championships but there were numbers and times and places and everything so it counts.
The race, which takes place on the route of the popular Ridgeway Race which our club holds annually, is a trail run through the beautiful National Trust woodland and is just shy of 10 miles long and takes in about 775ft of elevation (according to Strava). I was excited about the event because a) I’d never done it before b) it was my first real challenge after injury and c) I love the course. It’s a handicap race with all runners setting off at different times – slow to fast – with the aim of having everyone finishing at about the same time (although this hasn’t yet happened in the events history to my knowledge). The winner is the first one home, irrespective of the time it took them.
All told, the race went well for me. I set out too fast and paid for it later and still don’t manage ascents that well even though they’re relatively benign compared to anywhere outside the Home Counties. But I pushed myself as hard as I felt comfortable, maintained focus and managed to run my fastest time on that course (even allowing for the fact that, technically, a route change made it 0.1 mile shorter), finishing as I did in 1:18 on the nose (so an average of 8:17 mins/mile). It would have been faster too if not for the extra challenge of getting caught behind a couple of ladies riding horses down a narrow path – this slowed the group of runners I was with down to a walk for a couple of minutes. Perhaps the enforced rest did me good and enabled me to push the last couple of miles a little harder than I would have done otherwise. Any which way, I got a time I was pleased with on a steep and muddy course and, more importantly, I really, really enjoyed the run.
So what does this have to do with last weekends half marathon?
A race report from the archives of an old blog. I ran my first Half Marathon with only two weeks notice after a neighbour pulled out at the last minute. It was one of those spur of the moment decisions I said yes to because, well, why the hell not? I recall being in fairly decent shape, all things considered, but I certainly hadn’t trained for it. Another case of “Kids, don’t try this at home!” Then again, this is still my PB time for the half.
Windsor Half Marathon
It was 20 degrees yesterday which I would call rather hot for the season. Or I would but I seem to have a memory of September always being quite hot. Admittedly, never quite 20 degrees hot but still.
Anyway, a friend and I drove down to Windsor where we joined 5000 people to do the Windsor Half Marathon. I’d like to say that another reason I haven’t been around much is because of the copious amount of training I’ve been doing for this race but that would be a lie and you know it. The truth of it is that I only agreed to do it two weeks ago after someone I know who had entered pulled out and offered me their place. I haven’t run more than about 10k all summer and this was twice as far.
Blood. Sweat. Tears.
As I sit here typing this I have my Lakeland 100 UTLD Finisher 2012 medal nearby and I look at it and I think “Yes, you literally are the result of my blood, sweat and tears.” No, not literally as in it’s made from my viscera and bodily fluids because that would be weird and gross. And improbable. But, oh my, tears have been shed, blood has been spilt and so much sweat has been, err, sweated. There was also copious amounts of mud, rain, sun, jelly babies and, importantly, smiles.
Now I come to try and write about my experience and how the event panned out and I’m stuck. I’ve given away the ending already so there’s no suspense wondering whether I made it and no drama in wondering if I’d make it before the cut-off. I suppose it’s a little like the film “Titanic” in that you know what’s going to happen at the end – except in this case there are less icebergs, no bands playing and I didn’t get to paint a picture of a naked posh bird. Yeah, actually it was nothing like Titanic at all.
So all that’s left is for me to tell you how it all played out. Unfortunately I can’t promise it won’t be a little bit mundane.
Today was the final round of the Chiltern League cross country and my club was in a strong position to do something that they’d never done before – stay up in Division 1 for a second consecutive season. The turnout to make sure this happened was fantastic with more people than ever coming along.
This was my first race of the year and I prepared well by eating my own body weight in bacon, sausage and eggs for lunch. Okay so I wobbled and plodded around the ice and snow covered fields and felt like vomiting every step of the way but at least I was warm. And smelled vaguely of bacon. (Note to self: have a single banana before the next race. Preferably three hours before the start.) It was such a schoolboy error and I should have known better but I hadn’t really got my head around the fact that I was racing but it happened and it didn’t kill me.
Despite my bloatedness, the race went okay from the point of view that I got around and I was reasonably happy with the time. The course was 6.18 miles by my Garmin and it took me a little over 48 minutes (with the first 5 miles being run in 39:10 which I was happy with). The course in Wing was three laps (one short, two long) of some fields. The ground was hard and rutted and I’ll be honest that I didn’t push it hard because I was terrified of putting my ankle over – I could feel it aching a little anyway – especially this close before the big race coming up. But the course was one that MC Escher would have been proud of as I’m sure he was inspired to draw a picture of impossible stairs that only ever go up! Every slope seemed to be a climb. Okay, I know really that there was a steep descent from the start but the rest of the course seemed to climb interminably. Or maybe that was my lunch.
Still, a nice bright sunny day out and a cold, brisk chill in the air livened up the occasion. The ladies and gents from the club did a sterling job and we were safe from relegation by a 1000 points. Now I know what’s in store, I’m looking forward to next year.
The last time I ran cross-country was back in about 1994 at the Leeds University cross-country championships. I remember it well – actually, no, that’s a lie. It’s very much the dim and distant past but I do still have the long-sleeved top that DOSS AC (the Leeds Uni cross country club) had made to commemorate and that yours truly designed. And I ran it. And it was in Meanwood Park in Leeds. Apart from that I recall absolutely nothing – although it’s likely there may have been beer involved.
Anyway, yesterday I put on a club vest for the first time in over ten years and ran for my club at the first round of the Chiltern Cross Country league. The Chilterns – an area of outstanding natural beauty with so many beautiful tracks through stunning woodlands and forestries and marvellous trails along the chalk downs. So obviously the event was held at Luton Airport. Okay, to be fair, it was Wigmore Park but it’s right next to Luton Airport – as in, I think one side of the park actually runs alongside the main runway.
Still, a race is a race is a race. The course itself was three laps around the park, each lap being about 3km long (which, I’ve been reliably informed, means it was 9km in total – or 8.97km according to my trusty and brand shining new Garmin GPS thingymajig). Having met up with my club, got my number and appropriated some pins (why is it that I have three film cases full of pins and NEVER remember to take them to an event like this?), warmed up, been denied some cake and quickly asked someone how to use my new wrist mounted running computer device macguffin, I lined up at the start with the 214 other runners. Then the gun went. Well, actually, it was more of a whistle. Or maybe a beep. Or perhaps someone just said “Off you go then lads”. I’ve got no idea but people started running and I figured that meant the race had started.
And bloody hell did they go off quick!
Quite obviously, I’m not the only person to have written a report and there are plenty out there. I’ve added those I know about to a list below. Feel free to send me links to any more (or request that your link be removed if you prefer).
(Note: all links open in a new window/tab)
Photos & Videos
1 Added 18-Aug-2011
2 Added 23-Aug-2011
The conversation I’ve had most since coming back from Coniston goes something like:
“How did your race go?”
“Okay – but I retired after 75 miles.”
“Oh dear, what happened?”
Sometimes, I just tell them about twisting my knee and injury forcing retirement, giving them an explicit reason that’s mostly true (the knee was still weight bearing and wasn’t swollen so didn’t force retirement). Most importantly, it doesn’t lead to more questions. Other times, I just mumble something indistinct before distracting my interrogator with an offer to make a cup of tea (which is normally effective but was greeted with funny looks when I was in the middle of Waterstones.)
My experience of previous DNFs have always been fairly straightforward; for example, the first time I attempted the OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) my team mate and I made a simple navigation error and got extremely lost in some thick fog. We found ourselves 5km away from where we were meant to be and couldn’t make up the deficit, leading us to be timed out. (We were in good company that weekend as famous adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes was in the Elite competition and was disqualified after missing a checkpoint entirely.) The Lakeland 100 was a different matter; I was tired but not exhausted, in pain but not disabled and had a little under 16 hours left to cover 30 miles.
So what was the reason behind my decision to pull out? Continue reading
A week and a half ago or so, I took part in my first attempt at the Lakeland 100 ultramarathon aka the UTLD100 (Ultra Tour of the Lake District). Quite an experience it turned out to be too.
Lakeland 100 is actually a misnomer as the course itself is about 105 miles in total (or 104, depending on who you ask), starting and finishing in Coniston and covers a mind-bogglingly large amount of ground in between. After the relative success of my attempt at the 85 miles of the Ridgeway Challenge last year, I decided to enter this on a whim – and because it was on my list of things to do before I’m 40. And also because I don’t do things by halves and figured that, hey, why shouldn’t my second ever ultra race be what’s probably the hardest ultramarathon in the UK?
You already know how this is going to turn out don’t you?