I’ve run MK marathon every year so had to keep the streak going (there’s a hardened club of ever-presents all fighting it out to be the last one standing, Highlander style but with less beheading). Unfortunately I also wanted to run the Thames Path 100 miler which is always the same weekend. Could I manage to bang out a 100 mile race, rest for 24hrs then make my way around a marathon? Only one way to find out.
Original plan was to use the full 6h30 allowed for a finish and just get around. Then I was offered a last minute pacer spot due to someone dropping out. I’ve always fancied a go at pacing and wanted to help out my local marathon. Would 5h15 be possible on trashed legs? Only one way to find out.
TP100 went well and I finished under 23hrs (read here for the full account). By 11am Sunday I was back home, showered and in bed. I had to crawl upstairs. My right calf was so knotted I couldn’t put my foot down. It looked doubtful I could even walk the distance. Sometime in the afternoon I realised for the first time in my life I might have to suffer a DNS (Did Not Start) and would be letting down the runners. With liberal application of deep heat and some painkillers I walked up the shops to get food. It wasn’t pretty but I could walk. Rest of day was spent rehydrating and dozing on sofa. I ordered a massive pizza for dinner. I ate two slices and fell asleep.
Monday 6am I awoke as body had caught up on sleep. Laying in bed I stretched out legs and they all seemed present and correct. So I tried to stand. Everything from the chest up ached. I’d spent a day getting out of bed or off the sofa by basically throwing my head and hoping the body would follow since my legs couldn’t manage without assistance. Now I was paying the price. Running kit (slowly) put on, I took dogface for a long walk in the comparative cool and tried some light running. It wasn’t too bad so grabbed some cold pizza for breakfast and jumped in the car with Dave Lewis to make the start and pick up my pace gear.
The legendary Steve Edwards was pacing and running in just the pacers bib to keep cooler. An inspired idea I copied and was thankful for as the temps rapidly rose from ‘mmm lovely spring sunshine’ to ‘oh my God has the route been diverted to the Sahara desert?’.
After congregating for a group photo we assembled in start pens for the runners to find. As the green wave set off (about 20mins after the first pen) I had half a dozen with me. Let’s try not to let them down now legs. I’ve asked a lot of you yesterday but let’s manage a recovery run. Thoughts flitted from “5h15 is nearly 2hrs slower than my normal pace, this’ll be easy” to “My knees don’t seem to bend and I needed help to get out the chair earlier. My first marathon was barely quicker than this. How was this ever a good idea?!”
The first few miles were an effort to run and constantly check pace. 5h15 is 12 minutes miles so the numbers were easy but getting the pace bang on was tricky and took some time to settle in. I was about 25 secs ahead by mile 5, trying to adjust pace for the inclines. Having been left for dust by the pacer at a recent half marathon, I was conscious that 5 seconds a mile faster than planned may be too much for the runners with me so I worked hard to drop back down, aiming to hit each mile marker closer.
Gradually the gap narrowed but I still lost people to the heat. Today was not a day for PBs and it became a cycle of picking up runners, trying to motivate them to stay but inevitably losing them again. Most runners have gold, silver and bronze targets for races. Doubtless many I passed had 4h45 as the main goal, 5h as the fall back and 5h15 as the absolute must beat target so often my bouncing balloon heading past was greeted with muffled curse words. I bumped into Dave again and we ran together through Woolstone and he relayed the detailed refreshment strategy he had of his better half Laura waiting for him on course with beer. It sounded good. My wife and kids were away for the weekend. How would I secure some beer?
For many miles I ran with local runner Tom, running his first marathon and he looked strong before a loo break and stop to greet his girlfriend just before halfway held him up. I went through the time for the HM on 2h36, a minute ahead of pace so took the opportunity of some spare time at mile 14 to relieve club-mate Chris of half a cider as we passed the Ship Ashore at Willen. It tasted amazing.
The back half of the race was much of the same, passing many runners and offering advice, encouragement or support where able. The locals were out with their hoses and orange segments and it was great to see the community spirit and real difference they were making.
At mile 21 I spied Laura and managed to beg one of Dave’s ice cold beers (thanks for driving this morning, I’ve stolen one of your beers) which spurred me on to the finish, trying my best to drag as many people with me as possible. One guy in a wolf costume was doing an amazing pace considering those comparatively naked were struggling to match him in the heat.
Again people came and went, pulling up at the small inclines with agonising grimaces. Offers of salt tablets to help with the cramp were refused though. I’d make a rubbish drug dealer if I can’t even give stuff away.
At mile 24 I was basically on my own again and left to keep the pace going to finish 5h14m.
Well done to anyone that finished the marathon or half, conditions were tough and even some of the pacers running well within themselves struggled to get their target times. If like many I chatted to this was your first, then enjoy the medal and come back next year, they’re not all this hot!
10 minutes after finishing I was refreshing with another beer before joining club mates Neil and Jon in the terrace bar to watch the rest of the runners and drink some more. Then went home to dinner of cold pizza. Basically I’ve eaten pizza for three straight meals. I may be undermining my image as a pro athlete.
Back again next year for number 8!