Dorney Lake Marathon / 6 hour Challenge. 04-03-18

Before you read any further I must apologise to my usual readership in advance as for this marathon I had no major problems or critical missing kit items, although I still can’t find my comprehensive kit list.  So it probably isn’t really worth reading on – the usual entertainment is missing.

Like two weeks ago this was another mystery marathon!  I had considered doing another 105 ½ laps around the Telford athletic track but as that would mean missing a parkrun I had ruled it out.  Somehow I must have found another marathon for the Sunday and not recorded it anywhere!  However the great thing with smaller events where you collect the number on the day you get an e-mail in the week giving you final instructions.

Then the snow came!  A few flakes, then a few more– SNOWMAGEDON!  – and by Friday the parkrun cancellation list was massive – so no parkrun.  Events kept cancelling but RunningMiles updated their website with details of a course inspection and weather forecast, even a gritter on standby! SO it was still on.

My normal marathon preparation went out of the window – Yes I do prepare, mainly by eating a Sainsbury’s BBQ Chicken pizza in the car washed down with full fat milk and a cheesecake for pudding!  However the snow put pay to all that as even with clearing the drive and the worst of the hill I wasn’t willing to risk it just for a pizza!  So jacket potato, cheese and beans were the order of the day – I was hoping for no repeat of Beachy Head (1 or 2!) or London but with portiloos every 2.62 miles I felt I should be okay.  If it was really bad I could stop!

Anyone with any sense would have used the snow day to find and prepare all the kit needed for a marathon – from previous reports you might have realised I am far from sensible.  So It was at 6:30am I was hunting for various items of kit.  I had at least got a pair of trail and road shoes in my car (parkrun essentials!).  As next week I am running a potentially muddy wet course I decided to road test a new pair of waterproof socks – so called experts say never try anything new in a race but rules are made to be bent a little if not broken!

Leaving the rest of the family sleeping I drove off getting from drive to the main road – all 200m was the worst part of the drive – gritting and warmer weather meant an easy drive, in fact beyond junction 6 of the M40 you could barely see the signs of snow!  Which was good as the SatNav chose a very interesting route of small lanes to get to Eton Dorney Rowing Lake.

Number collection was quick and simple so I sat in the boot of the car putting on my trusty old shoes taking care not to leave the keys anywhere, before putting my spare kit in my dry bag – only to realise I had forgotten gloves!  I was tempted to wear my spare running socks on my hands but decided that it was actually reasonably sunny – so I took out my sunhat.  I decided that I didn’t need the sun cream!

Standing waiting for the off I felt cool!  Perhaps I had overdressed!  Normally I like to start cold knowing I warm up quickly.  Well there was a medical team on standby

I am getting very used to lap marathons and they all record how many you have done different ways – collecting hairbands, getting a card punched and electronic timer.  Today was a new one on me – 8 white and one red velcro tabs on your number, every lap rip one off and stick it to the turn around board! Once you have used the red on you are on your last lap.

If you were on the 6hr timed challenge you could stop at any lap and collect your medal – distances change on the medal :O or even add on tabs to run further!

The course was 1.31 miles out to a gate, around the bin and 1.31 miles back using a road put in for the Olympics that passed alongside the rowing lake which wasn’t visible for the majority of the lap and through a nature reserve.  Being March there wasn’t much to see, even when you could see the lake no boats from Eton were practising, the nature reserve was just coming out of winter so was mainly twigs.  Although the presence of a very excited deer running alongside us runners and a red kite added some entertainment on the flatish (Actually there was only a gentle incline on the course but by lap 7 it felt huge!) tarmac course.

Despite having my Garmin (no HRM as I haven’t seen it since my last marathon!) my pacing was beyond diabolical…  As always when I am on my own I set off far too fast – in fact my speed per mile nicely mirrored the time of the race…  9am 9.XXmin miles, 10am 10.XX minute miles, 11am 11.XX min miles, noon 12.XX – I wasn’t going to run a negative split!  I was just going to suffer the second half of the marathon.  However my experience of previously bad pacing came in to play as I knew a combination of brisk walking for a lap or two and then a run 3minutes, walk 2 minutes strategy would bring me home.

What makes these type of lap marathons – especially after you have done a few is the people and the social side.  You recognise people – maybe not by name but by their tops – and they recognise you.  For a while you fall in with someone and chat; two ladies doing their long 18 & 23 mile run, a native South African living in Windsor for 10 years doing his first marathon, Michael, who at Dirty Running lapped me in his Gloucester City Marathon top and was on his 430ish marathon.  Even when you fall out of step you pass each other on the out and back and offer words of encouragement.

Another thing that makes these events and distracts you from the laps is the aid station at the end…  No gels but so many tempting goodies.  My new running favourite Turkish Delight!  Although they did try and poison me!

Flat coke has become Mary’s favourite in a race and apart from causing me to need a one letter change to my running vest due to the gas. (Mr BURP rather than Mr BUMP!) It does come in handy when I am flagging a bit.  So at lap 5 I took a cup, and again at lap 6, running on I got bloated – which I expected but started to suffered pain in my side – my imagination decided that my kidneys had packed up due to the stress I was putting on them.  At the gate I realised that I was being daft as my kidneys weren’t located on the front of my body!  It was only when back at the station of delights that when waiting for the drinks to be topped up I realised it wasn’t coke but pepsi!  Mary has banned me from drinking pepsi as it causes me pain!  With only 3 laps to go I shuffled on.

By now runners had finished and the course emptied, leaving the few hardy souls doing the full 6hrs, at a speed I only dream of and the slower marathon runners like me.  The weather stayed kind but occasionally a bitter wind blew in that moved the flags as well as biting into exposed flesh.

I really enjoyed this event and have already been looking at their website for future races – with laps even if you weren’t ready for a full marathon you could easily use them for a fully supported longer run, that you get a nice medal and a pick six items for your create your own goodie bag at the end.  Makes it well worth considering.