Autumn 100 – Another go at 100 miles….

Apologies for waffling and lack of photos on this one.  I intended to take lots but mostly it was so hard I could barely think.  I may have given the end away with that,

The plan (or lack of)

Entering this was a little unplanned.  Fresh from success at the SDW100 a weird part of me (one of the few not in agony) decided it would be fun to do another.  Having run some of the A100 whilst pacing clubmate Chris (he’s basically a bad influence) it seemed natural to want to return to scene of the crime.  Checking online it was full. Relief!  There was a waiting list.  Hmmmm.  Simply adding an email address was all it took.  I stuck it down and forgot about it until one Saturday morning in September when an email arrived.  A place was available.  I had just 7 days to click the one-time only link to access the site and sign up.

After much debating I decided to proceed and secured the important permission from the wife.  With hours to go before the window closed I logged on and entered my second 100 miler.

Not having trained specifically for this and been focusing on speed for marathons since the 100 in June I was understandably nervous.  Chris assured me it would be do-able though and for once I took the advice of club coach.

Timings worked out that it would be 4 weeks after my 100th marathon and 2 weeks after Bournemouth marathon so there was no real time for distance training  – I was going to have to largely wing it on fast marathon training.  The transition from trying to hold steady 7:20 mile pace to something twice that would be an experience if nothing else.

The Autumn 100 isn’t the usual point to point ultra but rather a series of four out and back legs.  The plus side is you get back to your drop bag every 25 miles for change of gear or dry clothes and see the other runners a lot more.  The downside is you get back to your gear and can simply drop and go home….

The other issues is pacers are allowed for the second half, but only able to change at Goring so each must do a 25 mile loop.  Unsurprisingly the list of people wanting to cover near marathon distance in the dark, in October, and at what would likely be an embarrassing shuffle was fairly short.  In my case it was three and one thought better of it and went in for a back operation in preference.  I can’t blame him.

Just prior to race weekend there was a weather warning.  Storm Brian was forecast to smash the country and despite the innocuous name was promising 65mph winds and a good lashing of rain. Ideal.  It was enough for some of the Saturday events at Great South run to be cancelled.  They’re softies, we’re not.  The prospect of weather was playing on my mind a lot.  I wasn’t really trained, had a hard week at work and could still feel the previous two marathon PB attempts in my legs.  Despite a lot of miles I’ve seldom had to bother about rain.  Run fast enough and get the marathon done quicker and get dry.  That won’t work for this race.

Implementing the (lack of) plan

Saturday arrived and I’m up early waiting at the end of the drive for a lovely chap called Dominic to pick me up.  He’s volunteering to earn his place for next year so happy to give me a lift.  Downside is we need to leave early for his slot.  Laden down with far too much stuff (the weather forecast scared me to the point I may be carrying enough gear to do a full kit change every mile) we set off.  Biggest disaster of the journey is the first McDonalds we reach is closed.  Luckily the second is open and I can fuel up for the race with some stodge.

Getting to Goring village hall early means I can register (once they open) and go through the rituals of taping toes, applying lube and then sit in a corner and try and doze.  It gradually fills up and then time for the safety briefing.  Main points are – it’s going be windy on the Ridge, and in your face uphill.  A headwind uphill at mile 50+ is exactly what you don’t need.

During briefing I bump into some Bad Boy Running podcast listeners, including Allie on her first 100 miles who despite seemingly running an event most weeks is so nervous you could bottle it.  We wander to the start down by the river ready for the run to Little Wittenham.  After a short delay we’re off.  Unbeknown to me that few minutes will prove crucial later.

Leg 1

Chatting to a few other runners we set off at a steady pace.  The start is really congested so if you’re aiming for a good time you really need to get to the front.  After the first few miles I regret shoe choice.  Leg 1 is flattish so I stuck to road shoes and I’m slipping a lot.  But then so are most people on the inch thick slime.  I also intermittently regret my clothing choice.  The bright sun with occasional icy gusts means I alternate from cold to hot regularly and feel like I have the flu.  Then I recall how many people at work have been sick the previous week and wonder if I do actually have the flu.  Great.

In a master stroke of navigation, I go wrong at mile 6 as I’m blindly following the runners in front.  Fortunately, some runners see the signs and direct us down a dodgy alley back on route.  On the return leg I see Allie is not far behind and greets me with a “F*ck you buddy” (the customary greeting of Bad Boy Runners) my brain is too fuddled by now to get mouth in gear so I respond with a pathetic “Hi ya” or similar and miss out a prime opportunity to swear in the company of puzzled runners.

Having only done the SDW100 before I’ve worked off expected paces from that and for the first 25 miles I’m broadly on course.  Ideally I’d wanted faster over a flatter course and briefly held ambitions of a something sub 23hrs, but lack of endurance training is showing.  I’m knackered.  Far more tired than I expect after 25 miles.  Work and life has meant I’ve arrived tired and undertrained.  I expected the ultra to have sections where it wasn’t enjoyable I didn’t expect it to start so soon.  Even more worrying given the weather is basically glorious.

A thought process that started with me realising that this event would see me hit my monthly mileage target and take a wonderful nine days off running swiftly deviates to how great it would be to drop now and go home and not have to run this weekend any more.  It degrades further into thoughts of giving up running forever and just staying in the warm watching telly and getting fat.  Running is stupid.  Runners are stupid.  I want to stop.

A brief sprinkle of rain on the final few metres into Goring is a welcome relief and fearing any ill-considered decisions to drop if I stay in the aid station too long I decline my kit bag from the excellent volunteers and head back out onto leg 2 after a swift coffee that I once again manage to mostly pour down myself from the stupid plastic cup.  I carried the cup all along the SDW100 without using it as a hot drink seemed heresy in the heat.  Today it’s getting a real use and I’m wishing I carried a proper mug.

Leg 2

Out for leg 2 towards Swyncombe.  I’ve resolved to keep at it.  Jen is coming to pace me for leg 3 so just need to get through 25 miles.  Fortunately, they are glorious miles.  After a few miles through houses we’re out into woods and protected from the increasing windy gusts.  As with most ultras you see the same few people again and again as you leapfrog each other.  Jazzy calf guard man passes me, swiftly followed by yellow arm man.  He’s either got jaundice or a very asymmetric running top.

At mile 30 a marshal directs me across a busy road and then greets me enthusiastically.  Being rubbish with faces and names I’m struggling to place her and thankfully just before greeting her with a very ill placed swear word laden phrase she reminds me.  It’s Helen who gave me a lift to and from the CW50 last year (my first 50 miler and another “picked up by a random internet runner and hope they don’t kill you” friendship).  Full of enthusiasm she recounts how much she enjoyed the A100 last year and how the next section coming up is amazing.

Helen wasn’t wrong and running along Grim’s Ditch on a beautifully dry and hard packed path, dodging trees is the high point of the race.  At mile 31 the lead runners come past on their return leg.  They’re on 44 miles, so nearly a half marathon ahead already.  I could catch them on a quad bike I reckon.

The turnaround at Swycombe is in a van due to the wind.  It’s a sensible option rather than gazebos but a little cramped.  I manage to pour most of my coffee over again and struggle to find a foodstuff I can eat.  My cast iron stomach is not liking the look of anything today.  The volunteers have done a great job of decorating it in a Halloween theme so I grab some “Trick Or Treat” Haribo and with half cup of coffee in hand I’m off.  I later learn the reason for the Haribo naming as I find a pepper flavour one that takes me by surprise but raises a giggle.

Allie is seemingly gaining on me as it’s not far before the turn around I see her and then Steve who is striding purposely towards his sub24hr that eluded him before.  They both look strong.  I mostly feel like I want to be sick.

The run back down Grim’s Ditch is marred by stubbing my toe on a rock and the resultant jolt causes me to jar my back and it’s several minutes before I can do much more than walk.  I’m falling apart way too early.  What else could go wrong?  How about cramp?  My right quad seizes up mid-run and I grab a passing tree for support.  I’ve not really been eating or drinking well, and that includes my s-caps so take a couple and it passes.  Now to concentrate on running and getting as many daylight miles in as possible.

I just make it North Stoke as dusk settles and do two things I’ve never done at an ultra (or any race) before.  My guts have been churning and I’m hoping a visit to the facilities will sort stuff out.  It doesn’t.  So I sit down on an actual chair and eat.  Jelly and rice pudding is forced down.  Guts still not happy but push on for the final few miles to Goring hoping I’ll see my hat I lost on the out leg.  I don’t find the hat but do find Jen waiting for me at the aid station.  I change gear, tape my toe that seems to be rubbing and force down baked beans.

Leg 3

Leg 3 is the one I’ve been fearing most.  It’s where I paced Chris before and running up the ridge in the late afternoon sun on fresh legs was a pleasurable experience and only with 50 miles in his legs to the edge off his performance am I able to keep up with him comfortably.  Now I’m the one who’s lost their edge (if I ever had one today), trudging up in the dark with a belly that feels like it’s due to explode from either end and running into a headwind with the prospect of rain.  Jen does a sterling effort to keep my spirits up but it’s hard to motivate someone broken, especially when the wind whips through most conversations cutting the dialogue in two.  If the wind gets up much further I might have to tether her to something heavy.

I’d been looking forward to Bury Downs aid station as Lou (another Bad Boy Runner) was manning it.  Unfortunately, brain is so fuddled I can’t quite comprehend anything or anyone much and muddle through.  All it wants to do is remind me how good walking feels.  Every time I do walk I get cold and have to adjust layers.  Then when reminded by an increasingly frozen Jen “to try for a little jog” I get too hot and have to adjust again.  Fortunately, an oasis appears ahead.  Either the aid station is decorated like a disco or we’re about to disturb the least subtle dogging site in history.  The marshal advises me I’m in 48th position.  Jen is even more shocked than me that such an appalling lack-lustre performance could get me so high.  How badly must everyone else be suffering?

The run back down the ridge should be quick but legs are really not keen on running.  Each time I stop for a wee or to contemplate the pointless of existence Jen has to add another layer from her bag to avoid certain death.  If we’re out here much longer she may end up wearing every item of running gear she owns and some of mine on top.

The only problem I’ve yet to experience so far on the run is falling over or a painful stitch so fate deals a happy hand and I get a stabbing stitch that hurts to run.  Fortunately it passes as even exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP, see you learn something every day?) doesn’t want to be out on the ridge today.

Finally I make it back to Goring for the penultimate time.  Jen has endured the slowest 25 miles she’s ‘run’ in her illustrious running career and is well past her bedtime.  I’ve got 8hrs to do the final 25 miles.  It sounds a breeze.  First few minutes are spent eating cup-a-soup then it’s farewell to Jen and off again.  My Leg 4 pacer has had to drop out so it’s just me and a jaunt to Reading.  Goal is 3.5hrs for the out giving me some scope to slow on return.

The section covers some of the same path as the CW50 so I broadly know it.  Not well enough to avoid slipping and landing on all fours in thick mud, jarring the entire top half of my body.  At least I’ve ticked off the ‘final things that can go wrong on a run’ item.  I can hear other runners behind so if only to avoid been known as “that runner who fell over and lay there crying all night” I get up and push on.  Less than half a mile without grown up supervision and I’ve fallen like a toddler.

Somewhere in the woods we climb a set of steps so steep they should provide a stairlift, or so says my legs.  After some forest trails we’re out on the roads and heading into Whitchurch.  It’s now so late I run down the middle of roads, cutting any distance where possible and figuring getting hit by a car would be a guaranteed route to a comfy bed.

Just before I fly past a turn off a marshal charged with directly people to the aid station very quietly points me in the right direction.  The task of directing tired runners whilst making almost no noise to appease the neighbours is a tricky one.  Coming out the aid station I amaze myself with navigating what seems a tricky series of turns through a graveyard.  I’m a master of navigation and I also pick up the turn off after Whitchurch bridge.  Sadly this is where my skills flounder and I wander about in the dark trying to pick up the route and repeatedly missing the big arrow on the floor directing me onto the Thames Path.  There are no other runners around so I run to the river and turn in what feels the right direction until I see some marker tape.

The path is flat, mostly grass or smooth footpaths.  I’m grinding out the miles at a heady speed of 15min/miles if I concentrate.  It seems to be a popular misconception than 4 miles an hour, or 15min/miles is a steady walk.  It bloody isn’t for me and the only way I can keep the pace is by pushing on with an awkward forward leaning run, ticking off the miles and making sure the mile marker beeps with each fifteen minute segment.  My main Garmin died around the same time my dignity did as I fell in the mud so I’m on the backup one.  Although I started at bang on 75 miles I have no idea on the time, only that I have 8hrs less however long it takes a tired man to eat a soup to make about 25 miles and sub24hr.

Just after a lock the course leaves the Thames and approaches civilisation.  It’s a welcome sight as too many hours of concentrating on a small circle of light is mind numbing.  I’m fortunate to be caught by one of the regular leapfrog runners and his pacer who help direct me along the seemingly random turning through a fairly bland 1970s housing development.  Without assistance I would have assumed I’d gone well off course.  Instead I can just blindly run down the centre of the roads wishing I was wrapped up in bed like those in the houses we pass.

We reach a bridge that takes us up over the railway line.  James had mentioned something about a bridge and the final turn-around instructions during the briefing that seems a lifetime ago.  Is it this one?  Sadly not.  We’re greeted by a sign welcoming us to Reading and we’re back on the side of the Thames for more dark running and root tripping.

I’m sure this section of the Thames Path is lovely in the daylight.  Sadly at night it has all the appeal of a muddy track between the icy waters of the Thames and a graffiti covered railway line.  It’s the sort of venue you expect to come across scene of crime tape and later see on the news captioned by “Dog walkers find body by river”.

The path eventually widens out and we run along the waterfront through Reading.  A couple of drunks sat on a bench offer nothing more threatening than some slurred support which is handy as I’m in no fit state to out-run, out-fight or out-think them.

I pray every bridge I see come into view is THE bridge.  They’re not.  Returning runners advise it’s about 2 miles more so further death march on.  Finally we pass a Tesco (closed) and hit a bridge taking us over the River Kennett as it joins the Thames and a final run into the aid station which for comedy is situated at the top of Wokingham Waterside Centre.

The atmosphere in the room is an odd mixture of relief to have made it to the final turnaround and an unwillingness to go back out in the cold and dark to finish it.  General consensus of the assembled runners is the out leg has been long at 13.1 miles (by Garmin) to make up for earlier short legs so we have 4.5hrs to do a half marathon and break 24 hours.  Mentally I work out to add about 2h20 to my Garmin elapsed time to give me time of day and I need to pace to 25.6 miles by the reading.  Simple sums that will try my patience several times over the rest of the run.

Still being unable to eat and not having much stomach for drink I’m mostly running on fumes so head out quickly ahead of the other runners who inevitably pass me never to be seen again.  Within barely a mile I see Allie coming the other way, paced by Lee and looking fresh and chirpy.  It’s sickening how well some people look, especially on their first 100 miler.  Still a good excuse for some random swearing at runners.

Heading back through the houses the sun starts to rise and spirts magically lift.  I’m greeting every outward runner I pass with encouragement, knowing all too well how much the “murder by the railway line” section will suck their enthusiasm.

Reaching the Thames again and running in the morning sun through the fields the past 20hrs seem to evaporate and I alternate between singing (Boo Radleys- Wake up its a beautiful morning, over and over again) and talking with the wildlife “Good morning Mr Swan, how are you today?”, “Hello Mrs Cow you look very fluffy this fine morning”.  Then I break out in tears of relief that despite an awful performance I’m still on for the better buckle.  Big sobbing, choking tears like winners at academy awards.  It’s probably for the best I never win one of these events or I might drown the poor RD at the award presentation.

Eventually I get back to the final aid station and check in.  I’ve got around 4.5 miles left and I think about two hours left to break 24.  I could literally walk it, even at my geriatric, embarrassing the wife in Tesco pace.  Briefly I consider pushing harder and getting sub 23.  Sure it wouldn’t beat my 22hr22min time at SDW100 but would at least be in the same time bracket.  Yep I’m going for it.  Miles of death march are done with and now I’m going to run because I’m a bloody runner not a sodding hiker.  I keep it up for nearly 40 metres before I hit a hill and start walking.  Damn it, pass the hiking boots and woolly hats.

Leaving the village there’s a long straight lane and I can sustain a shuffle.  It’s not pretty and I pass the only runner I’ve seen looking worse than me.  He’s knackered his leg so is limping it home.  Heading down the dreaded steps I elicit a new curse each step taken.  There must be only a few miles left so I ditch excess fluids, keeping just enough for an emergency.  That 500g saved will make not a jot of difference given I’m carrying the world’s supply of coke in my distended belly and probably 10kg of my own ‘cushioning’.

The woods sections has some long and straight periods and I keep checking over shoulder to see if anyone is gaining.  I’m confident the gap behind is now enough I don’t need to push.  Sub23 was a stupid idea anyway.  23:10/23:15 will be fine.  Nicely sub24 and the quicker I am the longer I’ll need to wait for the family who are coming for me at 10am anyway.

I settle into an ambling rhythm enjoying the beautiful morning and route, greeting some walkers and likely scaring them with my overflowing enthusiasm for their dogs.  At this point everything is literally awesome.  I hold myself back from singing the Lego theme tune.  Storm Brian has blown away the clouds and it’s a perfect autumnal day.

Passing through a cattle gate I hear the familiar clatter as it closes behind.  Turning the corner I hear it again.  Someone is chasing me down.  After 23 hours I am not prepared to be passed again so I pick up my feet and break into the shuffle.  We’re going to have a shuffle off if they want to pass.  With each successive gate I pass there’s a gap of a few seconds and then a repeated clatter.  They’re gaining so I push on a bit more, grateful for the support from the fisherman out setting up for a competition.  Fishing sounds like a nice relaxed hobby with no falling over, stitches, exploding belly, leg cramps or the other side effects of running.

From memory I’m now out of gates so the only warning of an impending runner will be his or her hot breath in my ear.  Run.  It’s too twisty and too many trip hazards to risk a proper look back and end up in the Thames.  Finally I can see the bridge in the distance and I’m on a straight section of path.  I look back to see exactly no one following me.  The sum total of zero runners are behind.  I’ve imagined the whole episode and been in a torturous embarrassment of a sprint finish with my own stupid head.

Cheered on by a dog walker I leave the path and run up to the village hall, confident the pursuing runner can’t catch me now as they don’t even exist.  Triumphantly I check in and the sub24 buckle that has been keeping me going for 8hrs (probably the whole way given how early the pain came) is pressed into my hands.  I’m all out of tears so sit numbly on a chair as Lou attempts to force a sausage at me.  Despite an horrendous run I’ve broken 24hrs and by a decent margin.  By my reckoning I’m around 23hr20, so an hour slower than SDW100 but pleased to finish.


Only later after congratulating both Allie and Steve on their sub 24hr finish do I discover via a Facebook post my finish time.  22:59:42.  The combination of two Garmins, a late start, inability to do simple maths whilst tired and a fictitious chasing runner have combined to scrape me under 23 by the narrowest of margins.


Oktoberfest Milton Keynes 

A non-running post for once.  Hoping this pops up on searches to save people from disappointment.

It was the first event in MK so booked up with some mates to go.  Rather than cheap seats we went for the mid-price seated tickets.  £16.52 plus booking fee.  And for that you get…… access to an area a bit nearer to the stage and assuming not too busy the chance to sit on a bench.  

Apparently the entry fee covers the entertainment.  If so it’s overpriced.  No act for the first hour and then when they did turn up it was generic covers of chart hits with some umpah umpah songs.  The acts were pretty poor, forgot the words and if they were busking would probably starve.  Once drunk enough they were fun to shout along with, but so would be the death rattles of a broken dishwasher.

Also on the day they released some rules never before mentioned, including the ‘can’t come in 2hrs after your slot’ one which fecked one of our mates up.

Food stands available, £6 for a German hot dog etc.  No currywurst which is a poor show from a German festival.  

Of course the main point of a beer festival is the beer.  Germany is famous for beers so you’re in for a treat!  

After paying £5 for your plastic stein ‘glass’ or choosing to stick to disposable plastic you get a wide choice of two beers.  The range is really pants.  You’ve probably got a better selection in your fridge at home.  They’re sold in two pints so price is acceptable.

All in we had a good time, as getting drunk with mates and laughing at how badly you’ve been had is always fun but you come away with the feeling you’ve paid a lot of money to enter a tent and drink the German equivalent of Fosters as part of a cynical marketing cash in.

Next year we’ll put the £16 towards more beer and go to a pub with a choice of as many as three, maybe even four beers!

Bournemouth Marathon 2017 – No101

October means the start of another pilgrimage to Bournemouth for the marathon weekend.  Having run it every year (this year is No5) I feel compelled to keep going.  I’m hoping to be awarded the title of ‘ever present’ and carried through the town like a king.  Or at least get a decent discount like Milton Keynes Marathon do for their repeat offenders!

This year the running festival was a week later than usual.  Typically the weather is lovely for spectating and bit hot for the marathon.  Would the week later make a difference and would clashing with Chester, York, Royal Parks Half and some other big events affect the popularity?

If you’ve not run Bournemouth before then the main points to note are it’s a weekend festival of running with kids races (1km upwards) along with 5k and 10k races taking place along the promenade.  These all start and finish on the seafront so are great for spectators and runners as you can lob your hoodie to your mate, run your 10k, retrieve hoody and go find a beer or ice cream.  Or even beer flavoured ice cream.  These events all take place on the Saturday and almost without fail the weather starts as damp and a bit grey (maybe I’ll stay in bed rather than do parkrun) and ends up sunny and dry for the evening.  The 5k race starts at 7pm and is a festival of fairy lights and silly outfits.

For Sunday there’s the choice of the half marathon or marathon.  Both start outside of the town centre at Kings Park by the Vitality stadium, and both finish back at the main pier.

Second helping of breakfast before the marathon. I’m a propa aflete!

The half kicks off at 8am so an early race and means you may miss hotel breakfast to get there.  The marathon is a more gentlemanly 10am start meaning you get to enjoy a massive breakfast first.  Running is important but breakfast is more ‘importanter’.  If you’re inclined you can run both, but need to aim for a 1:35/1:40 half to give yourself time to get back to the start of the HM.   Weather for Sunday goes from ‘bit nippy’ through ‘this is pleasant’ and if you’re running at 1-2pm will typically reach ‘my head is burnt, why did I not wear sun cream, why is it so hot’.

Over my previous four attempts my times have ranged from “Wow” (third PB in 6 weeks, I’m the next Mo Farah), through “Meh” (not quite the time I was hoping for but solid) to “Urgh” (why did I think running all four events was a good idea, my legs will never forgive me).  This year the goal was to try and beat marathon 100 (3:17) and hopefully beat my PB of 3:15.  I was aided in this by running with club mate Matt, and we both planned to run 7:20min pace for the mile.  This figure sounds casually stated but I can still recall when that would have been an ambitious pace for a parkrun.

Bag drop time!

Shivering in the start pen (wearing the latest in bin liners) I was regretting not sticking a base layer on.  This was my first race outing of the 100 Marathon Club top and a base layer would have kept me warm and stopped the likely nipple chaffing that the cheap material would inflict.  The countdown got to 1 and Matt and I kept to the back of the first pen, letting the bulk of runners through to give us some room and set off.  Seemingly within seconds the clouds parted and the sun came out.  Now I was glad to have ditched base layer but regretting lack of sunhat.

After a few miles we settled in a rhythm and the 7:20 pace felt gloriously simple.  Matt was a little cautious, reasoning 7:26 would be sufficient and dropped a little behind.  Sensibly I should have too but liked the simplicity of 7:20 dead.  The early part of the course has a lot of out and backs so we could keep check on each other and as usual in any big marathon event I was finding a lot of people I knew in the pack to swap high-fives with, including my ‘Dad’, fellow club mate and namesake Mark Atkinson.

Somewhere around mile 5 or 6 I fell into step with another runner and after a brief chat we mutually stuck together and ran well.  I lost him briefly at mile 13 when I stopped to grab a drink from the helpful wife (the race provides water or gels only, no sports drink) as we dropped down onto the promenade before running out to Boscombe pier.

Just before the hill so I’m still happy!

Somewhere on the return leg from the pier I seemed to lose him but was still holding the 7:20 pace.  Then at mile 17 comes the kicker.  The course leads you under the finish gantry as a cruel joke, then up and over the bypass before heading back up a MASSIVE hill to follow the top of the cliff.  Sensibly this shouldn’t be an issue, it’s just a hill.  In reality it comes just as your body is starting to object to the pace and for many is the point at which you hit the wall.

Although I was expecting it, it still hit my rhythm and despite passing many runners I was gradually slipping off pace.  I risked a couple of small mouthfuls of gels and tipping water over me whenever I could.  Basically I was hot and tired.  And I could feel the plasters leaving my nipples so bleeding would soon follow….

Finally after a lot of looping in the residential streets the course drops down through a shady footpath back to the promenade at 20 miles.  Also the exact point at which the closing footsteps behind resolved themselves into Matt.  Those three miles of dodgy pacing had allowed him to close the gap and he sailed past on course to a massive PB whilst I struggled to hold the fade.

The crowd shouted and cheered but my sub3:15 faded as I ground out the final 10k to finish in 3:17, my second quickest and beating marathon No100.  Given the hills, the heat and only two weeks between PB attempts I couldn’t complain.  Finishing 79th out of 2000 runners also felt a decent accomplishment for a hot day.   Matt smashed a 13 minute PB with a 3:13 on only his third attempt.  The git.

Upon finishing, rather than the usual drawstring bag as given in previous years and also  on the Saturday races we were presented a funny little box.  Inside was the race top, some sachets and a running water bottle so small even the kids laughed.  I’m pretty sure it’s intended for administering water to a chaffinch.  I can’t imagine the running scenario that necessitates bringing water, but only a minuscule amount.  Maybe it’s a hip flash for nice Scotch?  Basically it all went in the bin.   The bags had been useful both on the day and since (my 2016 bag is finally falling apart due to overuse), the box is junk.  Please have a rethink Bournemouth as the last thing a runner needs after 26.2 miles is something pointless to carry.

The picture doesn’t fully convey the tiny nature of the bottle

Next for me is a slightly longer race, the Autumn 100 mile race in two weeks.  No more 7:20 miles, I’ll likely have many closer to 17:20.

Course Notes –

Start – Not a huge lot around and a walk from bag lorries to start so worthwhile wearing bin bag/old clothes to throw off at start, especially for the Half Marathon which starts at 8am.

First half of the marathon has a lot of out and backs to see other runners and the elites.

There’s two big(ish) uphill sections.  Not a huge issue if you’re expecting them.  If you’re from Milton Keynes they are of Ben Nevis proportions.  Don’t kill yourself running up, better to power walk, and take chance to drink/change ipod track or admire the views.

Fuelling – gels and water only, no sports drink.  Personally I prefer sports drink so I take some High 5 tablets with me to dissolve into bottles.

At mile 17 you do a lap of the main pier and then pass close to the finish gantry. You can almost touch it. Then you do a quick dogleg over the overpass and back down to the finish gantry again to really rub it in, before being sent up a climb away from adoring crowds to do a 9 mile out and back along the coast. If it’s going well this isn’t too bad. If you’re struggling you dwell on the fact that every knackered step you take forwards will need to be repeated back on even more knackered legs.

At mile 22 you take a turn inland, past annoying people relaxing in cafes and eating ice creams to loop a traffic island and then it’s a straight run back. The final section it’s best not to focus on the finish and the pier in the distance as it never seems to get any closer.

Mile markers are at times a little off due to placement of lampposts and it’s a fairly winding course, I normally get closer to 26.5m on Garmin so allow for that if you’re going for a time.

Finally I like to finish the race, run into sea, cramp up, fall over and nearly drown.  It adds an element of danger.