Thursday, May 10, 2012

‘A Marathon Moment’

Wow – thank you Maiden Newton Runners for giving me the opportunity to do the London Marathon in 2012!  Running around in the darkness before BST, it didn’t really hit home what this wonderful day would involve emotionally.

Essentially, I was lucky and thankful to have the opportunity to run it because I missed the ballet last year (it was done in dusted by May – so get on-line quick for 2014!)  Charlie Spencer and I were the only two who wanted the club place.  So we agreed to help each other, by getting a charity place as well.

On a chilly run to celebrate New Year (well, we are a running club!) I quizzed the Phil, the club chairman upon what the expectation was of me; he said ‘none – just turn up at the start line!’  Now this is easier said than done, because there are another 40,000 or so trying to do this at the same time, on the same Sunday morning in the same far corner of London!  The other bit of advice gained from Lin, Martin and Dave was ‘get the miles done in training’.  Needless to say, this is hard too, but it proved fundamental in the end.

 Although a major task in the 3 months beforehand, the training enable me to literally enjoy and remember every mile ran during the race, for the faces and sites seen, and music and cheers heard, and not the pain endured.  I’ll skip the training bit to the fun bit, but is worth mentioning that we live in a beautiful country.  It was joy to explore the paths of Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Southampton and even Slough (!) during the training.

Established in 1982, the London Marathon is fantastically well organised; from publishing advice and tips a month beforehand, organising an exciting expo in London in the days before race; to markers with clocks at every mile, and food, drink and Vasoline provided when ever needed, and the fact that you get your bag handed to you within minutes of finishing!

Getting to the Start is nerve-racking, especially if it is a new experience, and if you have a track record to cutting it fine to the start of races!  And having a pee beforehand was a tough test of nerve in itself; 30 minutes in a queue leaving 10 minutes to throw the bag in the lorry and find the relevant section of the Start before 09.45!  It could all go very wrong, and being surrounded by fellow runners all feeling the same ‘uneasiness’, it was easy to strike up conversation and hold each other’s bags whilst we warmed up.  Filtering into the Start was seamless, and everyone around me was beaming, probably because like me, they had made it!!

It was not until passing under the first mile banner that the relief hit me, and I was able to enjoy myself.  I’d been keeping this quiet, but I had sustained a knee strain during the last weeks of training, which hurt when I walked.  In the last 2 weeks of training, I cycled instead to rest it, and it was only after running a few minutes did the jarring go.  The rest is history!

During the race, the music and party atmosphere was just sensational; an electric charge beamed out of the top of my head throughout.  The Caribbean sounds of South London just transported us to the second half of the race, where they say the race really starts.   Then the sights of London begin; the Shard, Tower Bridge, the City, etc (even the Institution of Civil Engineers at mile 26 – don’t tell me you missed it?!)  And whatever one thinks about bankers, they had a great party going on in an intimate amphitheatre of Canary Wharf’s steel and glass, and it was amazing to run though and experience.

It started to get harder after the City, and the quads started to pull after 17 miles.  However, my pace was steady and I was on track to get my target time.  So I remembered all the training I had put in, focused on my action and dug in.

One thing that is hard to do is spot loved ones in the crowds.  Looking at faces, they appear to look through you in the main because they are looking through for their loved ones.  ‘June’, the lady dressed as a Cheatah, and Super Mario brothers 'Mario and Luigi'  received the majority of casual support in our section of runners.  On mile 23 I got mine – friends Steve and Rachel gave out Neanderthal shout and eye contact was gained, just when I needed it!

Now runners were starting to pull up 50 m or so; either walking, stopped by cramp or those that had fallen.  This was unnerving, and the mind started to wonder; did I tie up my shoe laces properly?

Another thing that was surreal was the tunnel under one of the bridges on the Embankment before Big Ben – we descended from the Strand into darkness, and then silence.  Only the sound of panting runners and pattering of trainers echoed off the walls.  These few minutes allowed us to compose ourselves, check the hair, and practice the victory celebration.... then we rose up the ramp, the crowd fringing the edges of daylight above, and the sound returned.

I got over the line in under 3.5 hours (ok, 3.29 so I cut it fine!) which was my goal.  Behind the scenes at the Finish, it was eerily silent again.  Here, we were able to collect our thoughts, and give mutual congratulatory glances at each other, and even shed a tear!  The hum drum soon returns though, when we filed out from behind the fencing to join friends and family.  Here, I met with Dave, Lin, Martin and Charlie and we shared our stories.

I am very thankful to Maiden Newton Runners for giving me the place, not least Charlie; and for supporting me on some of the long runs during training.   It was an electric day, one that I’ll remember forever and comes recommended!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Poole Runners Summer Series - Race 1

Last night Martin and I headed down to Upton Park near Poole for the first 3.5 mile race in the summer series organised by Poole Runners.  Although we have enjoyed a couple of seasons of the winter series of 5k races also put on by Poole, it has taken us a while to get around to the  summer version - although summer was not a word you would readily use to describe the weather last night.  The setting could not be faulted - the park is lovely - the cold, gloomy weather was anything but.  The race started at 7.30 and I was getting worried that I would need a head torch, there was never any question about whether or not to wear gloves!

Our expectations were low as we lined up at the start - our legs are still in post marathon recovery state and I had a disgusting snotty cold as further excuse for poor performance - but we had decided a race would be a good boost to our rapidly declining fitness levels and so at 7.30 we joined in the headlong rush from the start line, conveniently situated next to the toilet block in the car park!

Despite this inauspicious start the rest of the route was lovely as we turned, almost immediately, onto a pleasant tree lined track to begin our first lap. My legs felt light and strong and I set off at a brisk pace keeping Martin well within sight for most of the first mile and a half. There were some tight turns and muddy bits, not to mention a few tree roots and then a section of easy running along a board walk with the lake to our right. I was very aware of a female rival breathing down my neck on the first lap and just before we re-entered the car park to begin our second circuit she passed me but then seemed to slow down.  As we ran down the tree lined lane for the second time I overtook her and she seemed to fade and drop away.

Most of the second loop was really hard work as my legs began to protest at the misuse they were suffering but it was made slightly easier knowing what lay ahead and although I was expecting to be overtaken at any moment I managed to hang on to the lead in the ladies race despite another challenger appearing on my shoulder.  The finish funnel came into view much sooner than expected as the race did not finish where it started and Martin was there encouraging me to sprint in for an unofficial time of 22.34.  He had finished over a minute ahead in 21.23 and although the results have not yet been posted I suspect he will have been the first V55 finishing as he did somewhere in the top ten.

All things considered a good result and we are already looking forward to the next one!

This is a really excellent race and a very pleasant way to spend a Friday evening, especially if the weather is more seasonal!  Here is a link to the rest of the series just in case anyone is tempted: