Two weeks ago I ran a marathon with 14 tunes on my phone playing over and over and over again! At the speed I run at I heard them many times over. As I like to learn from my many errors I purchased a great little Bluetooth MP3 player and proceeded to dump every song on my computer on to it.
Being an avid parkrun tourist and less than 50 parkruns away from the Green 250 top, I try to avoid Saturday marathons as they mean no parkrun. But this Saturday race from How Hard Can It Be started at 4:18pm (Sunset) and continued until 7:20am (Sunrise) meant that a parkrun was possible.
So after a trip to Bedford parkrun, it was home to pack my kit – yes possibly packing it up the night before would be far better than having to hunt last minute for socks – and then driving up to Coalport. Looking at the weather forecast and taking onboard that it gets colder by the river I added running tights and a long sleeved top to my regular running kit.
Realising that a McDonalds pancake and maple syrup would probably not be enough fuel for a marathon and as I needed to stop for batteries I would get grab to eat on the journey. As I drove up the M6 I realise I had forgotten the AAA batteries for the head torch! This prompted an emergency visit to a service station as the kit list mandated two set of new batteries. £9 lighter but now able to run.
The comprehensive race instructions gave clear details on parking – £3 at the YHA but it was a good 10min walk to the start! Arriving at the race HQ on the disused railway and the number collected I sorted out my remaining kit into my lovely UD running vest and I was ready to go. Very warm but ready to run.
As the daylight faded the race started. 3 laps -one short 7.4 miles and two longer 9.4 miles. So I pressed the volume up button and my Aftershokz Titanium bone conductors came to life.
Mile 1 – Let’s Get ready to rumble.
As Ant and Dec sang I quickly got into a sensible pace and ran down the firm trail in road shoes as advised in the instructions.
Mile 2 to 5 Little Less Conversation – JXL, Elvis Presley
Aftershokz Headphones are allowed to be used in UKA licenced races as they allow you to hear what is going on around you as you hear the music keep hear what is happening around you. This is useful as I have yet to read the instruction booklet to work out how to pause so when I started to chat to Terri, a runner I have met at previous events and a RD of Ludlow, I could hear everything even as the music played on.
As we chatted the light started to fade so the head torches came on. Terri had planned to start walk running at mile 5 so as our Garmin’s beeped she stopped and I carried on running
Mile 6 – Crazy Crazy Nights – Kiss
There are very few races that it can feel a bit like you are wimping out by only running a marathon; however having turned early to do the small lap I did question why. I had so much time that a smallish ultra would have been on the cards.
Mile 7 Get Ready for this – 2 Unlimited
After having my number recorded by Denzil at the race HQ clutching some chocolate mini eggs I headed out into the dark for lap two.
Mile 8 – 10 Higher State of Consciousness – Wink
After a while in most long runs you manage to get to a comfortable place and the miles tick passed. At this point I regretted not reading the instruction manual as song after song of rubbish kept coming on and I had no way of skipping them despite trying all the buttons on the headphones. I considered hunting for the MP3 player but that was buried under my first aid kit, poo pack and sun cream – always good to be prepared for any event in a race – I relaised that it would take too long.
Mile 11 Saturday Night – Whigfield
By now I was being passed or passing a steady stream of runners all with different degrees of illumination. A few runners wouldn’t have looked out of place in the movie Tron with their head torches, LED arm bands and reflective detailing on their kit. So despite being on my own in the dark it wasn’t long before a fellow runner would pass.
Mile 12 Tubthumping – Chumbawamba
As the moon shown down from the crystal clear sky and the temperature dropped, I successfully managed to find a pot hole to catch my foot in. I gingerly commando rolled and was back on my feet in no time impressing the runner who was just behind me. After checking I was okay and unhurt they ran on.
Mile 13 Walk like an Egyptians – The Bangles
Despite telling the runner I was okay, I was rather shaken up and could feel my good ankle start to moan so I decided to walk.
Mile 14 I’m a Gummy Bear
Making it to the far aid station I briefly considered calling it a night as my ankle just didn’t feel right but after refilling my bottle and taking a large handful of jelly sweets, I once more returned to the dark.
Mile 15 – 17 Eye of the Tiger – Survivor or Don’t Stop me Now – Queen
I walked and walked. Forcing one foot in front of the other, determined to get back to the start. As I walked on I remember back to the one Marathon that Mary holds over me – The Lunatic. A three lap night marathon where after two laps I was mentally broken and refused to go on. I had the running in my legs but my brain wouldn’t let me continue. So I wandered to the finish as she completed her third lap and finished a marathon where I had DNF after my name! I couldn’t let this happen to me again so at the turn around I went back out for my final lap, determined to finish.
Mile 18 I think we’re alone now – Tiffany
As I left the aid station, the school bell rang to signal that someone had finished their race. The first marathon runner was home. I now knew that the number of runners that I would see would slowly drop as people finished their races.
Mile 19 – 20 Don’t Stop Believing – Journey
Knowing I still had so far to go and just wanting it to all be over I forced myself into a run. Run two songs walk for a song just until the far aid station. The pain from my ankle had passed but my legs were so tired. Maybe running a parkrun in the morning and a marathon 7 hours later was not the wisest course of action.
Mile 21 Don’t Turn off the Lights – Enrique Iglesias
With the aid station behind me I set off back up the hill at a slow shuffle.
The world started to close in and I could feel the darkness creep into my vision – a sudden panic hit me that I was suffering from lack of salts and my brain was starting to shut down like it had done at a few other races in the past. But I quickly realised that I was fully with it as yet another rubbish song hit my ears. It wasn’t my perception that was fading it was the light! My head torch was dimming – time to change the batteries.
There is just one issue with changing batteries on a head torch – how do you change the batteries when you can’t see what you are doing?
Kicking myself for not noticing them dimming at the aid station I had no choice but to cut my pace and use what light was from my head torch and the moon to walk.
Mile 22 The Theme from Harry Potter
In darkness going along a quiet wood lined road as the mist from the river drifts in and the air temperature drops and a chill hits you, the very last thing you need is the Harry Potter theme and an owl hooting as it flies just overhead the white underside gleaming in the remnants of your torch light. Pulling on my gloves I walked on just a little faster.
Aftershokz are fantastic for hearing what is going on around you but at just past 10 on a dark lonely road the buzz of electric pylons and the rustle of a rat scuttling into the bush along the road side is rather unnerving!
Mile 23 – Praise You – Fat boy Slim.
Squeezing though the gate for the 6th and final time I was now really starting to suffer. Not just because I am rather large and the gate was rather narrow, but lugging 18st of runner and a full backpack around is hard work. Just as Norman Cook started to mix the tracks the power failed completely!
Mile 24 – 25 The sound of silence.
Not my head torch but my head phones!
So it was that I started counting steps until the finish as I pondered what would happen if my head torch decided to also pack up. Thankfully it didn’t get to that. As passing the caging I knew I was on the last 200m the gleam of the fairy lights on the aid station came into view. My promised Freddo and medal were soon in my hand.
Another marathon added to the books and more lessons learned.