As Mary is contentedly snoring in bed exhausted from a weekend of running marathons, I am on the computer trying to decide if I am happy with how my running weekend turned out.
Many of you who have read my reports will know my speciality is a total lack of organisation when it comes to any race; each time forgetting some kit, forgetting to book hotels or arriving on the wrong day for a race!
This race weekend was no exception. Despite the race being in my calendar for months, being at the end of a half term and being a bank holiday weekend it still rather caught me out. So as I left for school on Friday, I was positive that I had signed up for all the races and had booked camping but I had packed no kit! As we needed a prompt departure to make the 3hr drive down to Dorset for this race, I sent Mary a comprehensive packing list:-
- Marathon kit x2
- Clean clothes x 3 days
- UD run pack and stuff
- Wash towel
- Tent and bedding
So she could pack it for me on her day off so we could leave after putting all the kit in the car. I know what many of you are thinking, ‘Should I trust a person that forgot pillows and a sleeping bag on a camping trip?’
My initial fears of poor packing were allayed as when we started the journey I was given a sandwich, cake and a drink as it may be too late to eat once we arrived and pitched our tent! She was spot on as a Friday night drive towards Dorset on a bank holiday weekend isn’t fun! After a detour off the M5 to save a 2hr delay we arrived at dusk in the camping field.
Like the well drilled Invading Roman Army we had pitched our tent perfectly in no time, only really missing the protective ditch and pike wall around the outside and camp chairs to sit on on the inside! But we had a bed and it was late so they wouldn’t be missed.
Preparing my kit for the following day, I noticed a set of parkrun kit! On Thursday I had seen a post on Facebook on the possibility of doing a parkun and starting the Saturday race a bit late! Being less than 10 parkruns away from my 250 shirt I couldn’t let this possible opportunity go even if my Achilles was niggly!
On Saturday Morning I collected the race numbers in pyjamas – it’s great when the race HQ is 30m away from your bed! – and checked that I was allowed to start late. Yes but I had to listen to the prerun safety briefing at 7:50 first! I didn’t pick up my number for Sunday as I wasn’t sure my achilles or hip would be up for it and didn’t want to tempt fate!
So with barcode in my pocket I listen carefully to the briefing before leaving Mary who decided to be sensible and not take any risks to start as I drove off down roads (farm tracks?) to run Seaton parkrun.
The pebbles and the heat wiped me out at the very beautiful Seaton parkrun and possibly the complete inability to run sensibly and gently. I had to skip the cafe as I had a marathon to try and run but popped in to tesco to grab a pre marathon breakfast (Lucozade and Cadburys breakfast bars!) and from their seasonal aisle two folding camp chairs before driving back.
Learning from previous race disasters (Bad Cow 2017) I did a quick kit change out of my moist parkrun kit into my Mr Bump top and I was off… only 3 hours late!
The reason I could get away with a late start it that the Saturday Race is a White Star Running (WSR) Frolic. The Frolic is a multi lap race for Teams of 4,3 or 2 and solo runners where all you have to do it run as many of the 6.1km laps in the 12 hours as you can. Teams can split the laps how they like but the runner must always carry the baton – squeaky chicken – cross the timing mat and decide run again or finish. You can even take a break between laps, visit the Piddle Beer Tent, grab a pint and a burger and then go out again.
What makes a WSR Frolic is a visit to the Love Station – a well equipped aid station – to grab sustenance, fluid (even beer!) and have a dance or a chat before running the remaining 2km back.
For WSR events the route was described as flat! But flat is relative (although 68m of elevation each lap wasn’t too bad!). The route meandered around pretty farmland, utilising dusty farmers’ tracks, fields, some public rights of way, a small river crossing! and only one stile.
One lap on a hot sunny day would be lovely but for a marathon you needed 7! Despite starting late I knew I had plenty of time but needed to be sensible as I was going to be running the next day. I adopted a run flat and downhill, walk the ups from the off but with an aim of trying to catch Mary up before she finished – not the daftest idea I have ever had but certainly not sensible, as I had no idea at what point on the lap she was on when I started! Three laps in as I chatted away to a runner on her fifth lap I finally sighted Mary on the chalk slope.
For half a lap we chatted and ran before we split again, her to walk the final lap drinking a bottle of coke to start her recovery for the race tomorrow, whereas I had to run on as I had another 4 laps to go.
Two bits of luck got me towards the end of the race; thankfully the clouds moved in and the sun beating down was muted, the bigger bit of luck was that I fell in step with a Yorkshire parkrun ED.
Having company on any run makes things a little easier as you chat away. The miles pass quicker but also she slowed my pace and to save my legs for Sunday that is exactly what I needed.
Collecting my medal and bottle of beer I decided that my leg was fine and I could collect my race number for Sunday after all! Leaving Mary to imbibe a cider and munch down food I made a ‘quick’ trip to Tesco. As I had failed to suncream my legs and had got rather red, comedy tanlines between my long socks and shorts, I needed some aftersun. As a sandwich, lucozade and breakfast bars had worked so well on Saturday it seemed like a good idea to repeat the same pre run nutrition.
My kits list worked well as I had a complete set of clean kit ready for the Invader Marathon including a brand new Mr Bump vest. The only thing I hadn’t asked Mary to pack were poles – because on Friday Morning I didn’t have any but after seeing the elevation profile, I realised there was only so much hand pushing on thighs I could take. I bought a pair at lunchtime!
As this wasn’t laps I packed off my UD run pack with electrolytes and gels and then everything I might need possibly need – First Aid Kit, Spreadables (Suncream, Vaseline, Sudocrem) and Poo Pack (Well after being caught short once before…!) I even popped in a light weight jacket, sunglasses and spare buff (Very useful multifunctional items) My packing for this marathon was perfect – maybe delegation is the way forward?
After applying generous amounts of suncream and spending 20 minutes trying to remove the excess from my hands I was ready to race. Unlike the laps event we had decided to spend the run together so I left behind my headphones and MP3 player and was ready to run.
Running along beautiful rural rights of way and (with permissions) private lands allows runners some amazing views especially on WSR events when they try and find the largest hill in the area (For this version of the invader the TWO highest hills in Dorset) but it does mean last minute reroutes when live farms make it less safe for runners large farm vehicles or livestock.
The route started with the last 4km of the Frolic… In reverse! So it was that the fast runners shot off and we found ourselves near the back remembering how to run. Adapting the sensible run the flats and downhills, walk the ups we were making good time. Then Mary changed strategy and ran an up! What had I done to upset her? (Actually don’t answer that the list is probably endless!)
Slowly she moved off into the distance at the first major climb I looked up and could see Mary already at the top! That was the last I was to see of her for 7 hours…
The route was brutal! I was so glad of the poles to give me a little extra push to get up, but the downs weren’t for me runnable. I run with all the grace of a rhino squeezed into lycra and technical fibre so heading down narrow paths with drops, roots and stones to catch out the unbalanced runner I had to play safe, and lumber rather than run.
When we signed up we knew that the cut off was the turn point for the half marathon route (They do one loop, the marathon do two!) was 3½hours. So knowing I was so near the sweeper there was no admiring the views or stopping for anytime at the love station or other aid station; iit was top up bottles and keep moving. The route offered a pub stop (Once on the half / twice on the full!) no need to bring cash as you could purchase a beer token or two before you started! To make the cut off I couldn’t stop!
3hrs 37minutes in I made it to the turn point a fraction under 15 miles with the sweeper just pulling in as I was setting off to leave. Having already run the route I asked the sweeper how she was doing for time and was told 10 minutes behind schedule! At this point I had a choice do it again, all 860m of elevation (2821ft in old money!) under pressure to stay ahead of the sweeper and make up the 10 minutes or be pulled at the next aid station…
Rather than turn right I went left and headed for the showers and a long wait for Mary.
Heading into the finish I was lucky enough to get a Half Marathon medal, as well as my pint glass and beer voucher (I nearly used it to drown my sorrows). A few minutes later the first marathon finisher crossed the line 4hrs 11!
Hours later Mary crossed the line, having managed to stay ahead of the sweeper and added another button to her tally of marathons on her Race for the Vest hoodie.
Over the weekend I ran 1 parkrun, 1 marathon 1 very hilly and long (16 mile) half and escaped with my achilles only slightly more niggly than when I started (Physio this week… who said running is a cheap sport?) So I should be happy, but still I wonder what if I had kept going for that 2nd lap… Could I have logged another marathon?
But the fact is Mary has claimed another marathon back on my total so I better secretly book in a few more to make them back! Just don’t tell her.