You might know I was thinking this marathon might all go wrong as I had been suffering one or two injuries which I do believe, were all inter-related and self inflicted. In the end it all came together and I even shaved a couple of minutes off my last MK Marathon by coming in at 3:56. Now I know that result isn't going to set the world alight but I can tell you, I was delighted.
Getting ready started the night before by laying out the clothes I was planning to wear and this turned out to be an almost new outfit with my Ron Hill shorts, X-socks and dhb tri top kindly sent by Wiggle for me to review; more about that some other time.
Gravel for breakfast
Breakfast was a small bowl of gravel. When I say "gravel" this is in fact the term Rachel uses to describe my breakfast cereal. You see, it consists of a little basic muesli with added oat bran, a spoonful of ground flax seeds, a few sunflower seeds etc. I suppose she might have a point, in describing it as "gravel" but take it from me it's brilliantly healthy. Also included are some fruit, a dollop of yoghurt, coffee and Cherry Active to wash it all down. Apart from all kinds of healthy nutrients to keep me healthy, there's a good supply of carbs to keep me fuelled. Not too much though, last thing I want to do is run with a full stomach (this is the nearest a man gets to know what being pregnant is like).
Anyway, I drove up to Milton Keynes, found somewhere to park and strolled over. It was looking like the perfect day: not too hot, not too cold, not windy or wet. Just right.
Arriving in MK
I am used to this venue, the MK Dons stadium and this is a great place for the marathon to be based around, probably good for football as well. To keep warm it seemed most runners were inside the bag storage area, which coupled as the VIP Bike Park and a place to hang around waiting for the cue to make a move. Needless to say there was a steady stream of runners using the toilets (there never seem to be quite enough) and unsurprisingly some men had a last minute pee, yards from the start.
Once I was in the starting pen, I found my way to the 4:15 pacer, thinking that would be a pretty cool time, given my injuries. As I was hanging around, alongside the other runners, little conversations nervously started up as we jogged and shuffled on the spot in an attempt to keep warm. The PA system had the usual annoying rubbish coming across, including instructions to do a few Mexican waves. Basically this was killing a bit of time as I think the start time had been and gone. Eventually though the gun (horn, actually) went off and off we went. Well, we didn't really. There was the usual agonisingly long period to even start shuffling forwards before getting to jog my way across the starting line.
As soon as I had started, I then started to feel even more nervous as some self-doubts rattled through my mind. Would my calf muscle hold out okay? What about shin splints? What about my hip, that could be even more serious? That ground looks concrete hard if I trip and fall. Am I going to be too cold going around? Too hot? Will I make it....? You get the drift. And yet those unhelpful thoughts melted away as I gradually got warmed up. For the first two or three miles I seemed to be surrounded by a lot of other runners, all packed closely together. I had no idea where the 4:15 pacer was.
The runners around me seemed a mixed bunch, all age groups, men, women and a lot of heavy breathers! Some seemed to be sweating a lot and grunting, so I was half checking they were okay and not about to keel over. Nobody did, although one or two looked as if they could. I consoled myself they were in the relay race and this is where individual runners would cover a few miles and then hand a baton over to someone else waiting.
The miles drifted by
As the route took us through the closed streets of MK, we must have been a fantastic sight with runners tightly packed on both sides of the roads. Marshals were all well positioned. I remember catching sight of a couple of race officials on Eliptigo bikes escorting the last runner. It was a woman on her own, really struggling to move herself along and yet I thought "there's something I admire about you for trying".
The miles drifted by and eventually the full marathon and half marathon runners split in different directions. This thinned out the field quite a bit and yet the profile was very similar. Perhaps more women split to do the half? Not sure. In the full marathon there seemed to be some really good runners who seemed really accomplished and running with good form. At this point I normally latch onto someone as a pace maker and I did just that; a runner who was cruising along almost effortlessly. This was helpful for me as she was running at a good, steady pace and able to weave in and out of others. I kept up with her for several miles.
The mile signs started to become longed-for sights and yet they seemed to crop up when the time was right for me. As before, I was wearing my analogue watch which is good enough at giving me a rough idea of the time so far and then I'd try to calculate how I was doing. By the time I'd passed the half marathon point, I realised that I could come in on 4 hours if I was fortunate.
And now the second half
The second half of the course seemed the best. I knew I was being tested and thoughts ran through my mind about whether the pain of my various injuries would flare up and cause me to retire. I had a couple of Ibuprofen tablets in my pocket, so I popped a couple in my month, one after each other, and crunched them up into the most digesting, foul taste and then swallowed. What I needed was a drink station but this seemed to be so far off!
On the subject of drink stations, these seemed to come along just as I needed them, spaced out at good, helpful points. I made sure I took a drink at each until I got to the 20 mile mark, when really I was feeling I should now make it without any extra water, Gatorade or gels. Also at the 20 mile mark were a couple of Portaloos and I decided to make use - and boy, did I need it! Running after that brief comfort break was wonderful!
My legs were starting to flag a little but I was so determined to keep going in the last hour or so. There were now more and more runners who were walking and or jogging slowly. I desperately wanted to maintain my pace for fear of slowing down and not being able to run properly. There were some slopes leading up from some of the underpasses and these seemed to really cause people to walk. The steeper these went, the more effort I pout in to dash up as fast as I could.
When I got a glimpse of the MK stadium at about the 24 or 25 mile mark, I felt very encouraged and even more determined. I checked my watch and did my best to work out a 4 hour time was possible. In the last half mile I really went for it with every bit of energy I could possibly muster. I could almost hear people say "flash git" as I overtook several slower runners as I approached the stadium and once inside the ground my heart lifted. There I was, finish line in sight and I was eager to make it across the line quickly, but without making a fool of myself. Seconds later, I was across the line and it felt so good!
Part of the course design is to keep runners moving after their finish as a sort of cool down. There was a St John's Ambulance crew on hand, just in case. I got handed a bottled of water, got my medal, goody bag and then I went back to watch others finish. Sitting down close to the finish I sunk deep into the seat, loving every minute. My body was tired, a little cold and shaky; yet I was on top of the world. I was having to hold back my smiles, my euphoria, my delight. I watched the glee and delight on the faces of other runners as they too came in, on top of the world. Cheers and greetings were there from many friends and families, all sharing hugs and cheers together. I shared their joy.
Reluctantly I made my way out of the stadium after a little while. I needed to get home to my family but not after whispering a "thank you" to the Good Lord for bringing me through. My mind was buzzing, loving it, wishing I could do it all over again!
Marathon in numbers:
Distance: 26.2 miles / 42,195metres
Fastest runner: 2hrs 37mins
Slowest runner: 6hrs 51mins
Number completed: 1559
Total completes: 589 out of 1559
Position male: 514 out of 1167
Veteran 50+ position: 88 out of 215
Fastest 50+ veteran 2:50
My time (chip time): 3:56
6 mile: 54:08 male position 853
13.1miles 1:56 male position 751
20 miles 2:58 male position 595
Estimated VO2 max: 38.6
Although I am pleased with my results, I am humbled by the two men (Kevin Smith and Jonathon Norton) who are both in the V70+ group and beat me!
|Waiting for the start|
|All shapes and sizes very welcome|
|Nice to share the experience|
|Thanks to St John's Ambulance|
|KFC (Keep Fat & Chubby) doesn't quite seem right|
MK marathon 2013
Mk marathon 2012