My worry about the London Marathon, apart from hydration… or nutrition… what to wear… the weather… the distance… Actually on my list of worries about is pacing! I start off with great intentions but the moment the claxon starts and runners start I am like a Stallion in a stampede – all my plans and good sense goes straight out and I go for it!
After my Ashby disaster of last weekend I needed a race where I could lay to rest some of worries. A quick google search a quick reading of information led me to enter the Stroke Association’s race in Blackpool! With the range of race distances on offer, entry on the day, an 11am start and a Weightwatcher friend also doing the race at a similar pace it seemed perfect.
Due to the clocks changing for BST an early start turned into what seemed a dreadfully early start! As well as the clocks changing to summer time the weather did as well – it was pouring down with heavy rain. Despite this I arrived and registered in plenty of time, as the entry fee was the same for whatever race you entered I felt that despite the hike in last minute entry fees I was getting value for money compared to the chap entering the 5km next to me as I got an additional 200% of race for my money.
After the obligatory charity warm up routine all the 15km were released first, followed 30 seconds later by the 10km runners then another 30 seconds later by the 5km runners. This would be perfect for me practicing my pacing stratergy as I would be overtaken by lots of runners doing shorter distances but I just needed to keep my pace… Between 11-12min miles – my Garmin was all set and ready!
Dressed in my new warm weather Underarmour top for compression and cooling I felt maybe more layers would have been useful especially a water proof as it bucketed down. After 1 minute standing at the start I was completely saturated if I had remembered to lube up it would have washed off so my new top would have to do the business. Standing with the Elite group of 15km runners – I realised if I finished I was certainly going to be on for a top 20 finish!
The hooter sounded and we were off, despite the downhill start I reigned myself back, probably helped by my WWer friend telling me, ‘We are running 15km not a 5!’ If it wasn’t for the numerous and excellently placed marshals I am not sure I would have been able to follow the course. The night before I gave up studying the route of the course as it seemed to twist and turn all over the park to get to 5km and it definitely did that; passing bandstands, boating lakes, tennis courts, monuments, an athletics track if it hadn’t been for the grey murky wet weather it would have been a nice ‘run’ in the park.
After the initial hordes of faster runners passed, I dropped in to a nice conversational pace and continually chatted away. The loopy nature of the course meant you could see runners ahead and behind you all route and as you passed near the start and finish area you got the blast of ‘inspirational running music!’
The only downside of the route was a ¼ of a mile stretch around the outside of some football pitches that deviated from the path onto the grass… Or more accurately SWAMP! For the first time since studying A-level geography I actually got to see Saturation Overland Flow in action – somethings in school you learn thinking they will never be used in real life only to realise many years later how useful it is!
Coming off the boggy ground my special London running shoes were filthy so I took drastic action – jumping in the deepest puddles I could find and there were a lot of them, but my shoes came up a treat – my friend complained about being soaked – it was raining not me honest guv! – then reminded me that I would have to do the same stretch twice more so what was the point!
Crossing the line in 29:48 I realised my pacing was well off the mark but had remained steady – I was later shown my Garmin can show pace! However I was set to speed so I was constantly having to convert this to mins per mile to work out how fast I was going. I always find a bit of mental maths is always a great distraction on longer runs.
Ignoring the water stop – nice touch bottles – we headed out onto the second lap which was much like the first – however no one came charging passed in fact we slowly over took a few 5 and 10k runners! The skies briefly lighten and the rain died down to a drizzle, however ever this weather tease was short lived as it started to pour once more.
Towards the end of the second lap as we switched back on our route we passed another purple runner – a 15km – the first we had seen since the start – I guessed it was the leader, I was pleasantly surprised that he was blowing like a steam engine… I offered the customary ‘Good running’ comment and nod – which was barely acknowledge. It took me a while to realise that the chap far from being the leader was actually behind us by some way. Whoops!
Passing the clock at 59:31 I realised although I was going too fast my pace was even! The final lap was a lonely one for marshals and runners as so few had entered so only the slow and the hardy few were left.
I got to run between the raindrops to stay dry, the marshals on the other hand armed with drenched large purple foam pointer hands and being stood in one spot for the best part of an hour was testing the waterproof qualities of their coats. So the chatter started on the marshal’s radios with earnest, about who was out on course, who had dropped down a distance who was walking.
The grass field had become a slippery quagmire since all the runners had trampled over the area twice so my partners pace slowed for safety reasons – being the light footed gazelle that I am I kept going skimming effortlessly over the mire – okay maybe my firm landing went through the sodden top layer and found something more solid underneath.
When reaching the path and enjoying my paddling in the puddle as I looked back I could see them someway back so being the gent I am I left them! Deciding instead to sticking to my even pace – my friend had run Barcelona Marathon two weeks prior so they had reasons to not want to keep up the pace.
Enjoying the last comments to marshals and thanking them for their efforts I ran on. No sprint finish for me… this was even paced running – I crossed the line 1:29:02. After waiting for them to cross the line and collect a 15km medal (No cheap skating on generic medals!) I collected my bag and headed back to the car.
Although I gave up on the course map I had read about a sports centre, so after a nice word with the receptionist, I went in to shower and change into warm clothes before I began the mammoth drive home.
Race report by Daniel Connolly