Having had a whole summer of DNS on races due to a niggling Achilles I was desperate to get back to running properly. The first of three Labour of Love events at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday) gave me the perfect chance to race. As a six hour event if I completed one 1.88mile lap I would get a medal, 14 gives you a marathon!
Despite having hated my first 5 marathons I have been wanting to get back to them. So much so that I have paid to go to a physio, done some peculiar stretches as well as having my tight calves pulverised! Thankfully this has meant the physio cleared me to give marathon running another try. I am guessing she expected more of a build up and maybe training rather than a few slow and steady parkruns and a horrendous Kenilworth half marathon.
Running Miles offered a very civilised start to the race with free tea and coffee and biscuits on offer.
Soon it was 9am and after a quick briefing 39 runners set off around the cycling track on the site of an old record factory – hence the medal.
Although we started off together after the first incline it became clear that our very different race strategies to make the marathon distance in the cut off time meant we wouldn’t be able to run together. Mary’s strategy was her very effective old favourite – run to a constant set pace. My tactic was rather different! Knowing I was vastly undertrained and massively over racing weight I knew it was unlikely I could run 26.2 miles so I went for the; run as fast as you can for as long as you can and hope you have enough time in the bag to walk what is left! At the outset I knew that if I wasn’t going to make the cut off I would try to get to ½ marathon, maybe 15 miles and then stop – as long as my Achilles allowed.
The first few laps positively flew by and as it was a double loop – all the way around the track – turn round a cone and run back – it did mean that Mary and I would pass each other often. Just enough to exchange a greeting or a nod. But it also allowed me to see that my higher pace meant the chance of lapping her!
I am sure this very notion kept me running far longer than my total lack of training actually allowed for. Despite slowly slowing each lap after 11 miles I was less than a half a mile behind her (or technically – ahead by 1.3miles) but my legs decided that the slopes had taken too much of a toll – so I resorted to walking the uphill sections and running the down – my gap to Mary steadied, as the walk breaks grew longer (as the start of each slope slowly moved forward and the downhill started latter each time) Her steady pace meant she started to pull away.
The course was on closed full tarmac but apart from the incoming planes into Heathrow the surroundings didn’t offer the amazing scenery that a White Star Event offers. Had we realised that we would be on our own for the race we might have bought along some music. As it was I had to make do with the odd conversation as I was lapped or as I lapped a few runners.
Despite enjoying a small treat at the very well stocked aid station each time I passed – I have finally learned that I don’t need to have everything on offer – at 20 miles my legs told me that no matter how much I wanted to lap Mary it wasn’t going to happen as they could no longer manage any running so I dropped to a walk. Looking at my watch I calculated that I should finish in time of 5:45 the cut off time would be safe. The cut off was 6 hours – no laps could be started after that – so you had 6hrs to run 13 laps – as long as you had started the 14th before 6 hours you were free to finish it.
The meeting points between us started to change even more, Mary was slowly recovering lost ground! There was a real risk that I would be caught and overtaken by her! As I plodded on the runners started to dwindle on the track – those there to run a marathon were finishing and only those using the 6 hours to run an ultra and us slower runners were left.
Going down the hill I passed Mary once more and advised her she had plenty of time to make the cut off so she could walk the uphills! She didn’t. So as she moved out of view I forced my legs into a very weird running action – I didn’t want her to catch me. With less than a parkrun to go passing Mary as I trudged up the long hill for the final time I knew I would safely finish ahead of her.
Crossing the line I was given the option of going on for an Ultra (maybe another time!) but decided to call a stop to my run and make up my own 6 item goody bag and wait for Mary to cross the line as I enjoyed a free coffee.
This is the second Running Miles 6hr Timed Challenge I have done this year and I have been very impressed with the level of organization and the friendliness of the events. There aren’t many small events that have a medical support team on the course on standby! The aid stations are excellent and you get a decent goodie bag and medal. You don’t have to race for 6 hours or event marathon distance so you could easily use them to get in those long training runs! I would highly recommend them.