I am sure that reading my marathon race reports during 2017 has been a useful guide to any potential marathon runners out there. As if there was a mistake to be made, I have made it. If I could forget something I have forgotten it!
After 21 or 22 marathons this year (I seem to have lost one – or maybe my mind has chosen to blank it out) I am not sure that I could make any more mistakes.
Marathons with decent cut off times are always a winner in my book, however normally this means they are muddy, hilly affairs so I will need every second to drag my carcass around – as despite running so many marathons I am yet to achieve that racing snake look – all sinew and speed! However Denzil’s Sunrise to Sunset Marathon is a little different, it was a challenge event – You had had from sunrise 8:20am until sunset 4:01pm (If you wanted to run all that time!) to complete 1 or as many 1km laps around a (fairly flat) cycling track to claim your medal. On signing up for me that meant 7hrs 41mins to run a marathon which, after Bovington Marathon 12 days earlier, I was grateful for every extra minute.
The only issue with an 8:20 start time – and a race being over an hour from home and collecting your race number on the day means an early start! So the night before I got my kit ready the night before – much like Santa Claus I made a list and I checked it twice.
Unfortunately, being Boxing Day, Sainbury’s was closed so my usual prerace meal of a BBQ Chicken Pizza and a slice of millionaires cheesecake all washed down with full fat milk whilst sat in my car in the carpark was not possible. I decided to have cheese on toast instead – that is a bit like pizza! But even that was scuppered as the bread was mouldy and the cheeseboard had gone! So I made do with tropical granola and bio yogurt.
Despite my lack of prerace nutrition, (After Christmas Day at my Father-in-law’s and Boxing day at my mum’s I was hardly lacking in available calories) I went to bed feeling quite positive that I had everything I could possibly need.
My alarm rang just before 6am, I dressed in my laid out kit – so organised it was even in order of how I would dress – the only slight error was my left sock was on top of my right sock and I have to put my right sock on first! Grabbing a breakfast bar (I was in a rush!) I went out to the car to find SNOW!!!
Checking my e-mail, Twitter and Facebook then the BBC weather forecast the race still looked on. I was tempted to call it a day but 22 marathons… Being a little bit strange about numbers I had to chance it. 23 is an odd prime number and would leave me feeling a lot happier. So I decided to risk the drive. Once on a main road there was no issue – in fact there didn’t even appear to be any snow around the M6 in Birmingham.
At 8 o’clock I was ready to start to run… Number collected and attached; unfortunately my race shorts zip pocket had broken but I had 4 emergency pins ready! Lap counting card on string attached to my race belt. Postrace bag and race supplies left at the lap counting point. I was even first into and out of the facilities. This was oddly feeling all organised.
Shortly before the start I saw Stuart and Kelli who rather than have a lazy day and watch old films and then go out for a meal had decided to come to do a little race as a birthday celebration for Kelli going into a new age group. HAPPY BIRTHDAY
At 8:20 the race started, half marathon runners with almost a full lap, marathon runners half way round (Well a marathon is 42 195m). Having a track marathon before I knew the secret to ‘enjoying’ / getting it done! for me was not to view the event as a race but more a social occasion – take every opportunity you can to chat to others, as after seeing the same scenery 10 times you pretty much know the
From the lap start the course took a gentle downhill passing the football pitches and children’s play area (in the cold weather or maybe the day no one was out using either!) behind wire fence on the left until the path made a 180 degree right hand turn around a mound of earth to with a nature area alongside the Shrewsbury Canal – popular with local dog owners on a stroll. The small central reservation split the two sides of the track so along this part you could greet fellow runners. After a flat section the central bank grew as the tarmac rose gently upwards towards an office unit and the next 180 degree turn passing the Sports Village and MUGA (Multi Use Games Area) and heading back to the Race Headquarters (Gazebo showing off the medals and the feed station).
Running around the track I realised that there were more Massey Runners taking part! Elaine dressed in a homemade none sew Red and White Tutu and Katy were there. Greetings were exchanged repeatedly as we passed each other. In fact now I have done a few marathons I have realised that there is a bit of a circuit for marathon runners (hope you spotted the deliberate pun 😉 ) and that I recognised a few faces from other races – Jermane (The Bear) form Bovington who got me round the last 4 miles – but ditched me in the last 400m with a killer sprint 😉 Gina who I first met at Groundhog Day (She loves track marathons) doing her 99th marathon! And others that I have met a few times but I am not totally sure of their names and by now feel it is a bit rude to ask them! This was going to be a great social run.
At the start I had set in my head that I would be marathon running this route for 6 hours, safe in the knowledge that the slight uphill would become more and more noticeable as the race went on. By lap 5 I already had a strategy for later in the race, walk the uphill section run the rest – in fact a convenient placed traffic cone at the side of the track marked where I would allow myself to stop.
It has taken me a few marathons (and Ashby runs) to learn that I need to ignore pace but follow my heart rate – stay in the zone. So despite heading off at 10:30 pace which for me would be a huge PB if I could maintain it I needed to look at my heart rate – 124 perfect, so I kept at this pace.
All I needed to do was work out when I needed to take on refreshments – Based on the weather and how I was feeling I decided that 13 laps seemed like a good first point to stop as it meant I would only have 30 to go and then every ten laps. With this in mind I just fell into the zone – really enjoying the run.
Briefly the clouds passed over the sun and a sprinkle of snow fell for a lap. But it didn’t settle and soon the sun came back out.
For 9 miles Stuart was slightly ahead of me, but much to my surprise I slowly I caught him and over took him and kept on going, my heart rate never really drifting from my target. The miles ticked by and around ten miles I heard Stuart tell Kelli he planned to stop at a half marathon.
Lap after lap passed. Each time at the gazebo getting the card punched and another lap done. As I ran I did the maths; I could be finished around 5 hours if I didn’t tire too much. As my watch read just short of 16 miles I saw Stuart walking and chatting to Kelli and asked him how far he had run – 15miles… Definitely not the half marathon he had said!
I suddenly turned into a marathon bully and told him he couldn’t give up now – I reminded him how he had said last year that he regretted not doing the full marathon at the Snickerthon after he had done the half. I told him he could walk the rest with the time limit if he needed. So we ran on as a pair.
After ticking off a few more laps we joined up with Kelli wearing her birthday balloons on her last lap to run in to the finish with her and we kept talking. Dave Goodwin’s Gold Silver and Bronze goals kept us going for a couple of laps. Talking about lack of training or my total lack of training (just run a marathon every few weeks) and the idea of a few training runs for Coventry Half in 2018 (or Ashby) and the 10 mile loop into Kenilworth (with feed station) – It will happen at some point.
After a few laps I nearly lost Stuart as he started to walk – I then told him of my walking point cone and from then on we adopted this strategy – although I feel that he felt someone had moved the cone further on. At 23 miles ish we had a parkrun to go or 51minutes if we walked it all but we kept on going walking a bit running a bit.
Having lapped Stuart earlier in the day, rather than ring the bell and finish out at 5:20 for the marathon I decided to run his last lap with him, joined by Kelli. As Stuart rang the bell I asked for another card (having had all the numbers punched) I had set out to run for 6 hours so it seemed silly to stop now.
So I ran on with the idea of going for a few more laps just until I reached 6 hours, then I thought, well a true ultra is 30 miles so maybe I should run until then.
After recovering a little, and getting the Sunset to Sunrise medal to get a matching picture Kelli and Stuart waved goodbye and headed home to celebrate the rest of Kelli’s birthday. But thankfully leaving some cake – I decided that I wouldn’t eat it during the race, having learned form my previous mid run cake moments! I ran on.
As I ran on I met up with Gina and … I have no idea of her name! All I know from our chatting at various points of the day was that she arrived late due to icy roads in Church Stretton. Having started late she was 7 laps away from her marathon so I decided to keep them company for a few extra laps.
At this point I decided that 49 laps was a nice number (7 x 7) – who doesn’t like an odd square number? I was then persuaded that I should run 50 laps but 50 being even and a multiple of 10… meant I had to go on to 51 laps but 52 was better apparently! But for me 52 was clearly out so that meant 53 laps – okay 10 more than I planned but a prime number!
So with my Garmin showing 33miles, my laps showing 53 I finally rang the bell to end my race.
In a rush to grab one of the last remaining chunks of cake left by Kelli to celebrate her birthday, saved by Denzil’s mum at the aid station, I forgot to collect my medal! However that was soon sorted out and I could collect my emergency kit (jacket, sunglasses etc – good to be prepared) and head to my car to finally warm up!
In the end Sunrise to Sunset wasn’t my last marathon of the year as it turned out to be my first official ultra. So my record of being a marathon disaster can continue however my record of ultra running starts with a great success.