For a while I have seen medals and goody bags from events run by Saxon, Vikings and Normans and been extremely envious of the great bling. Even though I have had the weekends free the races are normally run from venues in Kent and Sussex way so to do one of their events would mean a long travel and overnight stay.
Recently they have started to branch out and hold a few races in Northampton. So with family commitments meaning Mary was stuck at home I took the opportunity to pop another race in the diary. Not particularly well planned as later I surrounded it with other marathons that would mean this would be the 4th week in a row I attempted 26.2ish miles! I snuck it in the diary early as these events sell out quickly – although on Friday there were 5 spaces still free.
The Beatrix Potter Race is a 6 hour timed challenge, run as many or as few laps as you want over the six hours but you must have started your last lap before the cut-off point. So 1 lap gets you a huge medal and a great goody bag, it started as 6 laps then went to 7 on Friday night but due to an emergency bridge closure it ended up 8 laps for a marathon.
The route was a basic out and back affair along the bluff. On one side a river the other a very noisy main A road. The concrete path fairly flat but that seemed to constantly slope very slightly uphill no matter which way you seem to run but was broken by a decent slope (after Piece of Cake I couldn’t describe it as a hill – although by lap 6 it felt mountainous). A small loop end the path crossing a small nature reserve before heading back down the path – with the river and road having swapped from right to left or left to right. And from over a mile away you can see the brick building that is the Holiday Inn or the lap count point in the distance over the bridge. This wasn’t a marathon for views but for the distance and bling.
Once runners find a race organiser they like or that is in their area they do multiple events, SVN recognise this and issue special race numbers to those who have run 500, 1000 or 1500 miles with them! So at the start of the race after the safety talk, two 1500 race numbers were issued as well as a flake. (It was someone’s 99th marathon! – who knows one day that might be me) so with a lap counter card attached to my waist pack we were soon off.
Laps ticked away fairly uneventfully, having now done a few multi-lap marathons I have come to realise that with nothing to take your mind off the running negative thoughts can creep in. So part of the plan is to find distraction techniques – difficult on a boring route. Dave Phillips would be pleased his training sessions have become ingrained as I counted as I lamp posts – 17 in 0.8mile stretch and used these to vary my pace. I chatted to random runners for part of the laps – this is a great way of passing the miles.
After the hill on lap 3 I saw some race rubbish a gel packet rather than risk a race not being allowed back to a route for littering I bent to pick it up and place it in the next bin on route – beside it was a small green and yellow lap counting card with four holes. Running on I binned the unused gel and pondered the misfortune of another runner (one that was ahead of me as I was just heading into the turn point.) It was at this point I reached back to check my card only to find the cable tie and a tiny piece of card left. My own sweat had saturated the card so much that is had ripped and fallen from the cable tie! I was in the same position as the other runner who had lost a card, but I did have a card… maybe not mine but still a card – in fact one that would mean I could really trim 3.74 miles off a marathon.
As I came into the turn point I offered the found card.
Not to be punched but to hand in. As much as I wish to have a sub 5hr marathon, I want to know it was honest and above board – I want to look back and know in my heart that I had run it. Explaining my predicament and ready to prove that I had already run 13.4 miles on my Garmin I was told another runner had already given in a card they found on route… one with 3 holes punched!
As after consuming a few cocktail sausages and a slice of water melon (No gels on offer at this event… just a range of real foods – cakes, savouries and fruits) I started off on lap 5 – leaving my card behind.
Lap 6 was probably my most eventful lap the rain came! A good sharp downpour. It was a reminder to me and other runners on route that it is a good idea to check if your white top goes a little transparent when wet! My Mr Bump vest doesn’t – but that can’t be said of other runners clothing! The rain was rather cooling and refreshing but it did make the muddy sections through the nature reserve even slipperier it also made the cows (or possibly water buffalo) move.
Standing on the middle of the path I was face with a large black beast with wide horns staring at me! Cows are one of my biggest fears – justifiable as cows have killed 74 people in the last 15 years whereas dogs have only killed 17 in 8 years!
The evil beast glared at me with its dark eyes, I could tell that it was deciding if I would be a tasty addition to its grassy mouthful that it was slowly chewing.
Now I have watch Steve Backshaw on Deadly 60 so I knew the drill look them in the eye and make yourself big to scare them off… Or was it to look down and away to show you were no threat.
In the end my solution to the cow problem took more of a left field option – actually it was more of a left path and fell into the field option!
In my worry over being trampled to death by this herd of fiends I wasn’t watching where I was going so slipped off the raised track and fell into the spiky plants at the side. Mooing with amusement the cows let me pass.
Once back onto the path I started the return leg to start lap 7.
Lap 7 & 8 are normally more peaceful as by this point the marathoners running around 4 hours have finished and started to make their way home. A few tool the opportunity to run extra laps!!! Well it is a 6 hour challenge. It is at this point I was wishing for an ice cream van – okay it was still raining but I do like a lolly towards the end of a long race. Unfortunately this wasn’t to be so each lap I tried a different treat or three from the aid station at the turn point – cheese straws, cheese scones millionaires shortbread. No wonder I haven’t lost any weight despite running 4 marathons in as many weekends!
For a moment as I came into the end of lap 8 I considered adding an extra lap but realised for me a marathon distance is plenty! So I rung the bell to end my run.
Daniel Connolly 26.2 – 05:21:41