Mary was my guinea pig for my coaching qualification last year and despite being fired 24times over the last year – mainly when I tell her that she shouldn’t run or needs to take a rest – she has always rehired me. So it was at our athlete coach chat at Delightful Deserts in Kenilworth we discussed last week’s Beachy Head Marathon and how her legs had loads of running in them but it was her lungs that stopped it!
Somehow over a latte and some ice cream we ended up being entered into a 7hour hard cut off event in Reading – well it is only 1 ½ hrs away!
Running two marathons so close together has some huge advantages for me… mainly kit! Although washed and clean for a while and been nagged to put it away. I hadn’t! So no check list was needed I just grabbed everything I used the previous week! Even the contents of my race pack were in a box – I am sure I just scattered them over the living room but obvious the running fairy collected them together and put it in a crate!
The very civilised start time of 9:30 meant I wasn’t even worried when we only left the house at 7:05. Arriving early we got a prime parking spot 25m from the start / finish / aid station.
Saturn Running the company organising the race has gone cupless to reduce waste. You had the option to borrow a cup (free) or get your own pop up cup for £3. So after collecting race numbers and returning to buy the pop out cups we spent the time getting ready for the race – which was mainly deciding what to wear or what not to wear! The forecast held the hint of rain but mainly indicated that it would be a pleasant teen temperature and dry! I stuck with my normal summer outfit but with an addition of gloves.
Gloves were the only thing I had actually add to my kit from last week. I used my old faithful gloves for Beachy Head but after many years of use the seams gave out! So I raided my selection – going for a Ron Hill. Unfortunately I didn’t realise that I have one than one pair so managed to bring two left gloves! Rather than the thumbs fitted to the side they had been designed for comfort so the thumb was positioned for the left hand! Luckily I am a resourceful man so it was simply sorted.
The reason I so readily agreed to letting Mary do this race – apart from the weather forecast looking far more favourable – was that it was a timed lap event. If the weather went bad she could add layers every 3 and a bit miles or even stop after one and get a medal.
The route followed a lot of Reading parkrun’s course. Running out along the Thames Towpath all the way from The British Canoe Centre at Wokingham Waterside down to Sonning Lock West. The instructions advised road shoes as despite the route taking in paths over fields the going was good to firm. Once at the lock you rounded a virtual cone at the turn around point and head back the way you came! With one minor detour around a field to make the distance correct. As the route was mainly along the side of a river used by barges on a towpath it was fairly flat! No obvious walk breaks to admire the scenery.
Whilst not glorious scenes from cliff tops and over the south downs of last week. The canoes and house boats gave something to look at to pass the miles away, as did the fairy houses and troll bridge.
The plan wasn’t for us to run together but to keep to our own preferred pace – Mary being metronomically regular mine starting fast and as I tire slow down! As an addition to Mary’s marathon birthday present of last week I added in some Bone Conducting Headphones – UKA race legal and a way to help pass the laps. However the MP3 player I used to show Mary her headphones she took to be hers! So I was left to run with a very limited selection on my phone!
The first 4 laps happily passed by – 13 miles done 13 to go. At this point my stomach decided to grumble! After having disappeared into far too many wooded areas in the past not returning with my buff I slowed to a walk. My Mr Bump vest really had a bump! I walked on contemplating everything I had eaten that could have caused the issues to return. Mary caught me up and after checking that I wasn’t having another episode caused by lack of salts ran on.
As my pace slowed my calves felt tight, then my ankle started to niggle… My body was telling me to stop. However passing a marathon buddy mid lap she just said keep moving forward. Mary echoed the sentiments as I passed her again – so I kept on walking. Having had a DNF for no good reason in a marathon other than deciding I didn’t want to go any more I pushed on.
Taking my water bottle from my bag at the turn I adjusted the strap on my waist pack and suddenly all the pain in my abdomen eased – the bump started to dissipate – thankfully as runners finished their were less around so the dissipation was less noticeable to others! I guess the last time I used that running waist pack I was a more aerodynamic model and the tight straps had cut in to me!
The niggles in my leg played on my mind so I kept on walking and singing alone to one of the 14 tunes on my limited playlist to take my mind off the distance left. One great thing about Aftershokz Headphones is that although you can hear the songs you also have a full awareness of your surroundings unfortunately for me that did include me hearing a mother and son’s conversation as I marched passed!
‘Mum that old man knows all the words to Cheerleader by Omi!’
‘I am not sure he knows the tune!’
Thankfully my marching speed was enough that Mary didn’t lap me as I started my last lap leaving the well-stocked aid station with a handful of nut butter filled pretzels, grapes and blueberries!
By the time I finished Mary had showered and dressed in clean dry warm clothes.
This was our first race adventure with Saturn Running and it was a delight. The Aid station was really well stocked, lots of helpers and marshals out on the first few laps (Although with the navy signs with electric blue and pink markings it would be difficult to go wrong!) The medal was a nice and the goody bag worth containing almost as many calories as I ran off! Definitely highly recommended.