Today - 1st July Good Luck to Matt on the Mont Blanc Marathon
Gary and I have now both run the Milton-Keynes Marathon, a first for both of us. Since then I have also run my first trail marathon, the brilliantly named Sarson Trail Neolithic Marathon which runs over the Salisbury Plain from Avebury to Stonehenge.
Well we couldn’t have had worse weather for our (and Milton Keynes’) first marathon. It was wet, cold, damp, windy and wet! I looked out of the window at five in the morning after a wracked sleep praying the drizzle would let up. But there was no relent, I got my kit on and was very glad I’d opted to bring my merino 150 just in case. Everyone was huddled in the MK stadium before the start trying to conserve whatever modicum of warmth they still retained before the start. I quickly decided on using my Windshadow Jacket for the duration, it at-least kept me dry for the start and although saturated by the sheer volume of drizzle it still blocked the wind right to the finish.
The worst part was the starting line up as Gary and I were in the fourth wave so huddled for warmth with the other runners like penguins until the first three sets had started and it was our time to move into starting position. With a quick ‘good-luck’ to those around us we were off. The route had been lined with musicians who spurred us on through the continual drizzle, it really buoyed the spirit to run along to bag-pipes, kettle drums and choirs to name a few (many thanks guys it was much appreciated).
All the training really paid off on that day. I was taking the advice of a customer who stopped into Rohan Winchester recently who ran mountain marathons and taking the first six miles as my warm-up (in that weather there was alot of warming up to do). So after a steady start by mile sixteen I was still feeling fresh and pushed up the pace. I wasn’t expecting a run around Milton Keynes to be so enjoyable (and definitely not so up and down). We’d both only seen the high rise centre and had resigned ourselves to staring at high street all morning but the route took us out along the canal paths and lakes and it proved a very distracting vista (exactly what you need for over four hours).
The finish line was within the stadium itself. Seeing the finish looming put a final spur into the pace and pushing for a final sprint I came tearing down the sloped entrance…luckily slowing down just in time for the sharp turn, almost taking out a photographer. Crossing the finish was an amazing feeling, to achieve something which previously seemed like an insane idea (lets face it, running 26.2 miles is hardly the choice of a rational mind) and to pull through is very emotional. I waited in the gallery to see Gary come round (we’d separated at mile 17) and congratulate him before disappearing to the nearest pub for a well earned pint!
Being a trail marathon this was a whole different box of frogs. The key wasn’t so much a steady constant pace rather to change tact dependant on the ground. The Sarson trail cuts over Salisbury Plain on its way winding towards Stonehenge from Avebury and I counted at least twelve hills en-route (including several of the ‘Seven Sisters’ which anyone who’s been on exercise there will recognise). And this was only seven days after Milton Keynes.
I’ll admit that I did get lost on the way there arriving just in time to hear the claxon go for the start. So tagging onto the tail of the runners I set off. Running off road along the trails was quite tricky as not only did I need to keep track of my pace but I also needed to pay attention and keep my eyes peeled for any ruts and large stones. I did make a couple of mistakes on this run. Firstly I started too fast and was over enthusiastic with the first hills. Secondly I’d forgotten some vital preparations as in my haste to get to the start I’d not put on any anti-chaffing cream (a must for marathons, plasters just don’t work should it get wet, eg MK). I was very glad that my family and fiancée were following which allowed me to apply the much needed cream and a chance to wolf down an energy bar before the biggest climb up to the Plain itself. Being at a slower pace at the peak I fell into chatting with a blacksmith, you don’t meet one every day, let alone in a marathon. The conversation really helped me along and distracted the mind wonderfully. But after that I was forced into a walk on the uphill sections. This was especially so when the sun came out just as I reached a large open patch with no shade which really drained the energy, I hadn’t planned for it at all and subsequently got rather burnt.
I was really glad when I finally got my first glimpse of the great stones on the horizon. But this wasn’t until mile twenty four. With a final push through the pain as my knees began to give in (they started aching around mile 18) I crested the final hill and let gravity pull me into a sprint finish (bless whoever decided to put the finish line on a downward slope). I crumpled at the finish line to be told I’d only been ten minutes off my MK time! No wonder I was cream crackered! I’m indebted to the students of the Bournemouth Massage School who were giving out a free massage to the weary competitors, it was very much needed.
So two down….only the big one left on 1st July. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Part 2 - The Road to Mont Blanc
Part 1 - Fancy A Run