My first marathon

14 09 2009

This weekend I fell in love with Fleetwood the most unlikeliest place for a first marathon.

When marathons are mentioned athletes speak of London, Paris, Berlin, Boston, New York…. but there aren’t many that can say they ran in the inaugural Fleetwood marathon ! No hiding amongst thousands of fun runners in this one. Definitely one for the purist. My number 2025 was actually in reality number 25. Just 135 runners finished the event.

The field was joined by a similar number of athletes running the half marathon. This could all end in tears if the route was not clear as the courses split after 10 miles. I had no intention of running a half !!

The course was flat as a pancake. Of the field many club athletes had entered hoping to run a personal best. I was hoping to run the whole thing and hopefully get a time of 4 hours 30.

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The weather for the day was fantastic. Bright and sunny for the most part with temperatures peaking at around 19 degrees by the finish but hovering around 16-17 for large chunks of the race.

I have never felt so nervous at the start of a race. I decided to run with my camelbak which contained my mobile phone, energy drink, plasters, tissues, flannel and vital personal information. When you are greeted at the entrance of the venue by ambulances and paramedics it certainly focussed the mind. “I might be seeing you later” I joked with a lady paramedic.

Soon I was stripped off and waiting at the starting line. The gun sounded and within seconds I had crossed the line despite starting at the very back.

I'm the one with the hat

I'm the one with the hat

My race plan was to run at 9:30 pace for the first 17-18 miles and then embrace the wall and run at 12:00 pace thereafter. Helen was to refuel me at 17 miles with fresh carbo loading drink.

I used a pace band with target times for each mile. I found myself clocking the first mile in 10:15. Too slow. I had been too cautious. I eased up ever so slightly and started overtaking some runners very steadily. Slowly slowly now. By mile 3 I had reached the first drink station and was on target to within ten seconds.

I felt I could now relax. The key was not to run too quickly. Stick to the plan. The course was quite complex but involved three main loops and so three chances to see Helen and the boys. I hadn’t expected to see them at mile 7 but there they were. I was so happy. I felt so strong and was bang on 9:30 pace.

No longer at the back at mile seven

No longer at the back at mile seven

Away I went this time the course took you along the promenade towards Cleveleys. It was still fairly early and so not many people around. There were beautiful views out towards Heysham, Barrow and the Irish Sea and you could also see Blackpool tower in the distance. Running doesn’t get much better than this.

By mile 10 the field was approaching the split and soon after the half marathon runners veered left and I continued towards Cleveleys with the marathon runners.

A couple of miles later I found myself almost alone on a complex part of the course with not a visible runner ahead of me. The loneliness of the long distance runner came to mind. Thank Goodness I could see a race marshal ahead of me. The marshalling was excellent throughout. She pointed me in the right direction and I could see some runners ahead. Slowly a gained on them. I was running well and within a minute or so of my pace chart.

At 13 (half way) I began to feel the subtle stiffness of lactic acid build up. I am used to this but slightly disappointed it had started so early. It was going to be a long way home. Helen was to meet me at 17 with more energy drink and a banana. I focussed on getting to her in my goal time.

At 17 miles and still smiling

At 17 miles and no longer smiling !

I stopped and eat half a banana while Helen poured more drink into my Camelbak. My goodness it felt heavy when I started again. I was now five minutes off my goal time but now was where my cunning plan would work. I only had to run each mile at less than 12 minute pace and I would now gain time over my goal time (I had built the wall into my race plan). I was now noticing more people walking. I kept going but it was hurting. I caught up with two guys that were running a nice steady pace and stayed with them all the way through to mile 23. Helped a lot having company and I went out of my way throughout the race to chat to runners. Everyone was so friendly. I clawed the lost time back and was now bang on target again for a 4 hr 30.

At 23 I stopped to drink my water and just could not catch up with those guys again. To be fair one of them had run 142 marathons ! I settled into my own pace and was soon joined by a lady athlete who had been struggling. We ran the last three miles together encouraging each other at well under 12 minute pace.

It was a lovely feeling at mile 25 knowing we had 20 minutes or so left to achieve 4 hours 30.

The last mile went relatively quickly and then I saw Helen and the boys. What brilliant support. My new friend said how lovely they were. I felt such pride and a lump in my throat.

Teaming up for the last three miles.

Teaming up for the last three miles.

The end was in sight. The Marine gardens came into view and as we turned the final corner and dropped down there was no surge left in my tired legs – just numbness and aches.

After what seemed an age following a loop around the gardens we arrived at the finish. A time of 4 hours 24 minutes. I had completed my first marathon and competently. I did not feel any elation or ecstasy. There were no huge crowds to greet me but the loving arms of my wife who has supported me throughout. That’s all I needed.

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line


Her indoors

Her indoors

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Fleetwood here I come

10 09 2009

I have rested this week with only two three mile runs. I feel butterflies in my stomach. The weather is set fine. My body feels rested and full of energy like a spring ready to …well “spring”.

Tomorrow a big fish and chip supper.

Saturday will be an early start and I will be supporting Helen in her Fleetwood 10k. Go Helen Go !

On Sunday I hope to call myself a marathon runner.

Let’s hope my dream doesn’t end up like the Fleetwood pier.

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A week to go

5 09 2009

Well the Fleetwood marathon is only a week away and I am really looking forward to the challenge.

We were away in Cornwall for over a week and this did mean I had to tinker with my training regime mainly due to travelling when I needed to do my long runs. I had to cut back on the mileage a little but made sure I did my long run of 18 miles. This was a killer ! 6 laps of 3 miles around our holiday cottage in Marazion including a very steep incline (6 times) and an additional hill. I did it though in a respectable time but Cornwall is a tough place to run.

On our return I did a 14 miler but felt absolutely exhausted from mile one and nearly had to call Helen out to come and collect me. I think the 18 miler the previous week, together with the travelling had just wiped me out.

I have decided to take it easy for the last two weeks and jump off the programme. I just need to make sure I get to the starting line fairly fresh. I think I have built up the endurance and rest is more important at this stage. I proved that this week. After my poor run on Monday I took 2 days off and ran superbly well on Thursday and pretty well today. I have run just 4 days this week and aim to take it even easier next.

For those that don’t know much about long distance running – this tapering down is generally the way to tackle a marathon. It gives the muscles time to build up stored glycogen (through carbo loading) and then hopefully off you go on the big day like an uncoiled spring.

I have reached the conclusion that my regime just didn’t suit me. I was slowing and feeling weaker and weaker rather than improving form. The programme I followed was an old style programme based on mileage. Next time I’m going to go for quality of training runs rather than quantity and see how that works out.

One reason why I chose the old style programme was the mileage involved. This now means I am way past Bordeaux and if my calculations are correct I will be crossing the Spanish border towards the end of my marathon. That would be nice ! Depends how much I run next week though.

I’m getting really excited now rather than scared. I will be aiming for a solid 4:30 marathon but my main goal is to run the whole thing without walking – whatever the time. Bring it on.

st-michaels

Beautiful St.Michael’s mount in Cornwall