Things don’t always go to schedule. The plan at the start of 2019 was to do some ultras (OK quite a lot of ultras), culminating in Lakeland 100 in July. Then a period of rest and some condensed training for Bournemouth and Chicago marathons for October in an attempt for some decent times, ideally a PB. Or maybe two. I am greedy.
2 months isn’t long to switch your training around but with a 3h14 trail marathon in preparation for Lakeland I was reasonably confident I wouldn’t be far off pace.
The reality was less rosy. I felt wrecked from Lakeland (although pleased to be one of the 50% that got around) took August very easy, with a long (for me) break from running and concentrated on drinking as much beer as possible at the Beerathon race, and then repeating the beer on the all-inclusive holiday that followed to make sure I was properly rehydrated. I only just scraped 200 miles for August, my lowest mileage in years. I convinced myself this was enough rest and I was good to go again. Stupid.
September beckoned, with ideal running temps and perfect weather. I started with the amazing Dunstable Downs marathon as a check of fitness, taking it on feel, with an aim of a sub4 which I missed due to getting lost like an idiot. I finished but with a bit of a knee twinge that as always I ignored as this approach has worked well for years of running. Mostly I was annoyed that I’d gone over 4hrs for the first time in more years than I could remember.
10 days later and the knee was forgotten so ran another marathon at the Enigma event in Milton Keynes, finishing with a respectable 3h33. Nearly a month left to drop 15 or 20 minutes which I convinced myself was possible as everything was going in right direction. Chicago was going to get smashed.
Then it all went wrong. In the space of a few days I went from running well to my first ever DNF, at a 10 mile race. I only managed to cover 5 miles as that’s where I’d parked the car.
With two weeks between injury and Bournemouth, and a further week to Chicago it now looked doubtful I’d even get around either event, I could barely walk. I checked the cut offs, 6.5hrs each so in theory able to be completed at a fast walk. I know from ultras that I don’t fast walk even when fit. I amble like a man taking in the view so I needed to get to a point I could at least run some.
After some treatment by Rudi at The Treatment Lab I resolved to take the full two weeks off running before Bournemouth. After a week I was going stir crazy so risked a short jog with the dog. 2 miles with intervals of running and walking. It was like a Couch to 5k course. I repeated this a couple more times over the next week to test various shoes to see which suited my knee best but never risked more than 3 miles a day.
Friday we went down to Bournemouth and in the morning I managed 6 miles in the woods with mates and dogs, taking it very gently. I was still noticeably stiff but I was better rested than I’ve ever been having covered around 15 miles in two weeks.
Bournemouth is always a great weekend with the family, with kids races, plenty of tourist stuff and the marathon on the Sunday. This year Cloë, Billy and I ran the 5k again. Or as Cloë likes to mention, they ran it, I sort of limped it.
Standing on the start line of the marathon after wishing good luck to my mate Ajay running his first ever marathon I was struck by imposter syndrome stood in the white pen right behind the fast club runners. I’m often the fat bloke surrounded by racing snakes in these pens but can usually muster a respectable performance with a course best of 3h17. Today I wasn’t even sure I was going to get around. Not having properly trained, carrying a dodgy knee and about 5kg of pity fat from not running, this was not going to be my finest hour.
Liberal application of deep heat was all that was left for me to do and we set off.
Taking it easy to start I was passed a lot but gradually found my pace and by mile ten I was running well and keeping sub 8 minute miles relatively easy. I may have been undertrained and fat, but I was so fresh from the enforced taper. Only on the slight uphills as the road rolled up and down over the coast did the knee make itself felt.
We dropped down to the sea at mile nine and felt the wind right in our faces. I couldn’t quite draw in the group in front for shelter. Every year I’d wondered how much harder the marathon would be with be with a headwind, this year I was going to find out.
I still felt positive. So positive that I forgot energy gels make me vomit. I’d not risked one since Bournemouth 2016. I took one climbing the hill after Boscombe pier at mile 12. For a whole half mile it was fine. Then it wasn’t and I spent the rest of the race holding down a mouthful of sick. Every burp had tinges of bile and even the water tasted like stomach contents. Fecking amateur. Thankfully I had shot blocks to use instead. Except I dropped them somewhere around mile 17. Fecking amateur.
Rest of the race went much as expected for someone with a dodgy belly, excess weight, lack of training and no fuelling. I had to walk the normally fast downhill at mile 13 as it was too steep for the knee to take. A comfortable 1h40 HM was followed by a laboured lacklustre 1h53 second half and I finished in 3h33m32s, annoyed not to get the full set of 3s.
If you’d have asked me two weeks ago I’d have bitten someone’s hand off for a 3h33m. Now I feel a bit deflated knowing a sub 3h30 would have been within reach had I fuelled better, ignored the bloody gel and didn’t have to battle the wind and sand dunes worthy of MDS.
Still next week it’s Chicago, lets do this all over again, try not to eat stuff that makes me vomit and be able to run on roads not beaches.
UPDATE – The day after the Bournemouth Marathon Festival 2019, the organisers dropped the marathon distance and renamed the event Run Bournemouth. Citing issues with the council they’ve decided to make the Half Marathon the main event. This is a real shame as there are few running festivals that incorporate all the race distances and at such a great location.
The race calendar is already awash with overpriced and overhyped half marathons. Road marathons are now an endangered breed. Given events like the Great Run series, London Landmarks and Reading HM have shown punters will part £50-£60 for 13.1 miles, I can certainly see the financial appeal for organisers. Why go to double the effort, double the road closures, double the volunteers for only an extra £10-£15 a head income when can just ramp up the HM price and be home by lunchtime?