When Saturn Running put out on Facebook a 7hour timed, multi lapped event that was listed on the 100 Marathon Club website up in Durham during at the start of the half term holiday it should have been a no brainer to enter and give this race as a gift to Mary. After all, we met at University in Durham decades ago and she loves the Indiana Jones movies.
But – and there is often a but with me – it was in February, and with Mary’s asthma so erratic it was a risk.
By the time I decided she was very well insured and I had enough clean kit for at least 3 marathons it had sold out! I got onto the waiting list and my luck came in, just as it had for Mary all those years ago in Durham.
Being miles away I had to book a hotel, but to make it a real running weekend for Mary I decided to travel up on Friday part of the way to run a parkrun, then travel on. York seemed an ideal stop off especially as the parkrun was known for being flat and on tarmac, so a nice gentle start for Mary (and nothing to do with the ‘Y’ I needed to complete the UK parkrun alphabet). It’s all about Mary!
It was like we had never been away from University as Marathon day started with the traditional 6am fire alarm and the need to evacuate the hotel. The last time I went out in just my pyjamas I chased off 4 masked burglars, so I was a little apprehensive.
I was a little nervous that my 55th marathon would have been run barefoot and in tartan pjs. At least this time no one would have been able to say I forgot my kit! Thankfully I didn’t have to test the supportive nature of nightwear as it was a false alarm. But bang went our late start as the hotel I carefully chose was only half a mile away from the start. (9:30am)
So Mary had her luxury MOMA porridge pot in bed. (Currently on offer at Tesco for half price).
Rather than wait around we left all kitted out at 8am. Mary modelling her new floral marathon kit bag with many pockets for all the usual paraphernalia needed for races. Who knew baby change bags could be so adaptable?
For a lap marathon with such a decent cut off 9:30 seemed an odd start time, late! As we wandered to registration it became clear why… Junior parkrun was on part of the route but it would be all over by our start time.
Numbers collected, we were ready to race. We just had to wait a hour. Normally we know loads of Wannabes on the 100 marathon circuit but not today as this marathon pulled from the North East; however a very friendly group of runners to chat to and pass the time with.
After George gave the usual safety briefing the race started, the 3.28mile loop started on the river bank heading back towards the Cathedral and Castle before crossing Baths Bridge and running back the way we had just come but on the other bank. During the day I was entertained by the college rowing teams practising on the water, bringing back the times I myself took to the water!
The route then moved away from the River Wear to the Old Durham Gardens and the HILL. I use capital letters deliberately: 65m of climb each lap, passing the laughing pony and llama (which Mary decided it was too small for a llama so was an Alpaca). It was such a good hill, University runners ran hill reps… mind you they only ran it 5 times and I walked it 8!
The views over the hills and back towards the city made it all worth it. So did the steep gravel downhill before turning back towards Maiden Castle – the University Sports area, not the ancient hill fort!
During the race we were offered views of rugby, football and lacrosse matches all taking place over the course of the day as we ran around and around.
Then crossing back over the river on the bouncy green bridge before a woodland section and back to the well stocked aid station. Mary now highly rates cinnamon swirls washed down with coke as marathon fuel!
For a February the weather was excellent, dry and almost double figures. It was nearly perfect apart from the wind! Not mine but atmospheric wind.
No matter which direction we went it seemed that we ran into a headwind. Using me as a rather large windbreak helped but as it swirled around Mary couldn’t run and communicate. Well, apart from having a strop at me on lap 3! She later apologised but I was hurt – next time I will try and order perfect weather.
At the beginning we decided that for the last lap we would have a walking cool down and rehydration lap as we have a few other marathons coming up. Especially now as Dave Phillips has challenged us to have a combined total of 100 at his 500th Marathon at Stratford – bring it on!
After collecting the cool Raider’s themed medal and goodie bag we started the short walk back to our hotel.
Unfortunately it was up a huge hill. You don’t build castles and cathedrals on flat ground!
Back at the hotel I delighted that the room had a shower and bath, perfect for relaxing marathon weary legs. Again we got a University experience! The bath was designed for a small short women. As I sat in the bath I got a scum line along my knees and back. Obviously it was designed for Jawas – sorry wrong Harrison Ford movie!
Saturn Running continues to impress me with great organization of races and support at a good price. I highly recommend them for training runs of variable distances all the way up to marathon – I am sure that an extra lap or two for am ultra will be good as well but even I am not that daft…Yet!