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Race Reports 2013

 

July  

 

Niamh reaches dizzying heights..........

27 July : Swiss Alpine - 21k (half marathon) 2:50:30 

Figured it was about time I did a race report  (and lets face it - no one else from Biddulph is likely to cover this one this year! [ I would have Niamh but I was washing me hair that day -Ed]

More than a race is how the organisers describe it!  The Swiss Alpine is a running festival with race distances from the ultra 78k to a 10k walk - all run over fields and tracks around Davos in Switzerland.  I ran the 21k a fantastic race that started on a bridge in the valley below Klosters -  the flawless Swiss organisation took us by special train  (runners only - though one 'normal traveller' got on, not sure what happened to her.) to a field where a temporary station had been set up to let us all off and on to the bridge.  On the bridge I started to have second thoughts - I was surrounded by serious looking runners, I could see the start of the trail zig-zagging up the mountain, the temperature was already in the 40's... 

After the start we had only a few meters on the road before we started the first (of many) steep climbs - this was a short one though that was quickly followed by a suicidal steep descent over loose shale and rocks - the image that came to my mind was of a herd of lemmings - because believe me in that crowd there was no stopping, no slowing down, and heaven help you if you fell.  Once down that steep bit the trail levelled out and the pack started to spread out before starting the first serious climb up to Klosters - at the bottom of the trail you could look up and see the line twisting above you, making it clear that this was one climb that was going to go on and on and on and on.  The majority of the route was run on good woodland trails- though there was one point that the trail was actually a stream (given the high temperature that was quite welcome at the time), for part of the route the trail was definitely single file only and no overtaking!  For anyone thinking of running this one in the future - if you want to race then get out of Klosters ahead of the pack - the trail between Klosters and Davos is largely narrow, steep and precipitous with a sheer drop on one side and once the person at the head of the line gives up and starts walking its a long time before you'll be able to get by.

 After a number of ups and downs the trail let us out high on the mountain above Davos with a fantastic view of the lake, and far far below us the stadium that was the finishing arena.  After all the careful zig-zags to get us to that point the route planner had either got bored, or realised that they were running out of kilometers to get us the finish, because the final descent was a stunning, almost straight downhill through the centre of Davos  (crossing an extremely ricketty scaffold over the main road) and into the arena where we finished with a final 3/4 of the track before being presented with our finishers medal and a freshly poured, ice cold beer! 

With the climbs, the altitude change and the heat the Swiss Alpine is without question the hardest race I have ever done but the experience was fantastic.  The views are spectacular, the route twists round and round and gives you some amazing rewards in the scenery around you - well worth every calf screaming minute of the climbs! 

 
                            

                                                                ~Niamh

Nice one Niamh - anyone fancy that for a club outing next year?  

 

This just in from Craig Walker ......


Race report from Fan Dance Race in Brecon.
Fan Dance Race - Summer Series 24km
Finish time - 4 hours 9 mins (carrying 35lbs plus food and water)
Inspired by a former work colleague who completed the event in the January snow, I recently entered the Fan Dance Race summer series which took take place at Pen-y-Fan in the Brecon Beacons. The event was run by an ex SAS soldier, Ken Jones and would follow the same route used for SAS selection. Candidates for special forces selection have to complete the course in under 4 hours 5 minutes carrying 55lbs plus weapon, food and water. We would have to carry 20lbs less in our bergen, though still a hefty 35lbs plus food and 4 litres of water. The previous weekend two SAS candidates had sadly died in the area due to the physical demands in the immense heat. There was a worry that the event wouldn't take place but the decision was taken to bring the start forward from 1000hrs to 0800hrs and for entrants to carry 4 litres of water instead of 3 plus we had to leave an additional 2 litres at the turnaround RV point at half way. As it turned out there was plenty of cloud cover and although it was in the mid 20's the heat was nowhere near as suffocating as the previous weekend.
I arrived at the start lined outside the Storey Arms Centre at 0630hrs to weigh in and register having camped overnight in Brecon. There were already plenty of people milling around getting kit ready and taking in water ahead of the 0800 start. I was slightly worried that my bergen would be short on weight but as it happened it was bang on 35lbs so I was good to go. I added my water and food after weigh in (taking the weight to over 40lbs) and slapped on suncream and my hat and waited at the old red phone box with the other intrepid competitors waiting for the off.
The course is 24km of rough terrain. The footing all the way round is very uneven and great care has to be taken with foot placement or you risk turning an ankle quite easily, especially with bearing so much extra weight. The route leaves the Storey Arms centre and summits Pen-y-Fan via Corn Du, respectively the first and second highest peaks in South Wales. The first 3 miles is almost exclusively climbing up to the summit of Pen-y-Fan.
You then descend down the Fan for several miles onto the RV turnaround point in Tal Fechan Forest before retracing the route back up the Fan via the madness of Jacobs Ladder before descending back down to the Storey Arms.The reality of what goes down must go back up 2,000 feet again hit when I saw the ascent back to the top of Pen-y-Fan, contouring Cribyn. Positivity was the key but the scale of the challenge was apparent and all idea's of sub 4 were destroyed by the quad burning, lung busting ascent. By far the hardest physical challenge I have ever undertaken. Ahead of the race I had expected to enjoy the downhill but the reality was that it was so painful on the descent. My toes were getting a pounding in my boots and I had so many hotspots all over my feet in the last couple of miles that it took all my will to keep putting one foot in front of the other to finish. I made great time in the first 8 or 9 miles and was powering to a sub 4 hour finish, ahead of expectation.

When I finally got to the top I had a quick look around at the stream of people stretching back out across the course for miles and I couldn't help but feel pleased to be among those at the head of the load bearing pack. The 2 mile descent to the finish was broken up by a welcome ascent of a couple of hundred metres, easing the pain on my feet. I never expected to be hoping for more uphill to take the pressure off!
I 'staggered' back down to the Storey Arms to be greeted by Ken Jones with my finishers Fan Dance Patch for a quick photo opp. To be honest I just wanted the hog roast that I knew was waiting for me at the end, the smell was gorgeous!
I finished in 4 hours and 9 mins, just 4 minutes outside the special forces cut off time, so not a bad effort in the end. I couldn't help but be slightly disappointed not to break 4 hours and bar a wrong turn 3 miles in due to cloud cover and following the leaders I may have just done it but the effort of the day and what was by far the toughest physical challenge I have ever undertaken saw that the disappointment didn't last long.
As soon as I finished I said 'NEVER AGAIN' but that lasted all of an hour. After I staggered back to the car for the 3 hour drive home after a very welcome shower I was already hatching plans to take part in the winter edition in January.


Bring on the madness!!!

 ~ Craig

top effort there Craig, hope the feet are OK! [Ed]
 

 

May

Julie Harris writes on the ......

Bupa Great Manchester Run 2013 

I have run this race for the last 5 years and always enjoy it.  You get the excitement and atmosphere very similar to London without the effort of running 26.2 miles. 

I wasn't particularly interested in running it this year because of injuries since the marathon and I knew I wouldn't be quick.  So to make the run worthwhile I decided with 4 days to go to try and raise a bit for charity.  I agreed to run in a pink tutu and leg warmers if I raised 50 for Tusk Trust.   I exceeded the total, thank you everyone who sponsored me. 

The weather was great this year, sunny and possibly slightly too hot as we aren't acclimatised to temperatures above 10 degrees C!  My family were coming to watch this year too.

I usually get as far forward in my wave as I can as the amount of runners can hold you up but this year I decided to leave my GPS at home and was only going to check my monitor once I had crossed the finish line.  I opted to stand in the sun instead and kept nice and warm until the start.  Our start time arrived, and we gave a 30 second applause to Drummer Lee Rigby who was from Manchester.  It was a nice gesture and quite emotional.   

The gun went and we were off - no we weren't!  They funnel the runners in quite tight before the start line which is great because then we are thinned out for the race.  It took 4 minutes for me to cross the start line and then I high fived Greg Rutherford.  Fabrice Muamba was on the other side of the podium. 

Amazingly I saw my family at about the 1 km mark.   I felt good and went on feel for the whole race, which was a good experiment.  I knew I wasn't pushing too hard and my legs were holding up.  It was very hot around Old Trafford and Salford Quays.  Not too many spectators in this area but lots of music and run through showers which are great. 

I arrived at the 8 km mark feeling fine and started to look for my family again. This race was very different from any other I have run because I have always concentrated on myself first and the crowds and everything else is an added bonus.  This time I took everything in and appreciated the atmosphere and support and almost forgot I was running at times.  Maybe it's the way to go in the future!   I saw my family with about 200 metres to go and finally allowed myself a sprint finish. 

I was very pleased with the run and haven't felt any effects from it.  I just wished I had checked my watch in the last few hundreds metres and I would have put in an extra spurt to get under 56 minutes.  Finish time 56:01 not quite a personal worst!

Just to add.  My children ran the Mini Manchester run the next day.  It is a fantastic event for children, it is based at the Etihad stadium and you can use the indoor and outdoor athletic tracks, which my son loves.  They all have t-shirts to run in and get a medal and goodie bag at the end.  They feel a real sense of achievement and it gets grown ups running too, many of whom struggle with 1.5km distance.

~Julie

Edinburgh Marathon

Hee Hee - here come some reports from Edinburgh Marathon ...... the first one from the King of pacing - King Shuff

The Last One...... !

What started 20 years ago when long hair and a certain moustache were all the rage (in certain movies) finished on Sunday in Edinburgh! The 26-2 mile marathon distance..   To put down everything would take me far to long and as people have seen on my Facebook posts the best speller in the world I am not.

So the last 1 started a few months back over a glass of wine between the wife and Steve J I do believe! The running was going well at the time so I thought why not? Training started well with again some fantastic company (you know who you are) weeks past and not too bad, then after the miles started to pickup I picked a problem with my left heel (something something it is) painful I have to say. Sadly towards the end I did miss some midweek runs which were not going to help on race day. As the tapering week approached I was convinced it would be 60/40 against starting :-(  4 days of golf ball under the foot and lots of deep freeze got me to thinking if I could make the start line: I would get round some-how.

Okay my first and only moan ! Travelling by train !! glad I don't do it very often, that's all I'm saying....

Race Day

With there being 2 start lines some of us met at the apartment we had booked ( very nice too ) at around 8-45am. After a few photo's a number of trips to the bathroom we said our good lucks and headed off. Slight delay at the start but eventually we were underway. Just before I go on I would like to mention a very lovely person who I spent the next 18 miles running along side, Rachel, I hope my little knowledge of the marathon helped in your fantastic time  for London last year and your incredible time this time  x. Okay the race, first 10 miles feeling really good a little too fast in places but a mention from Rach and we were back on race pace. With 11-5 miles approaching I spotted the now world famous BRC wiggly worm with one of the best supporters underneath it, Mr Jones you are a legend. 12 to 16 mile is when I first started to feel the problem in the foot and by 18 it was starting to worry me. After a stretch and a drink I got going again but knew then it was going to be a challenge to get round. By now Rachel had started to pull away and looked really strong. Struggling on there was a nice section where  other runners were running  in the opposite direction and I managed to spot Dawn, Toni, Christine, Niamh, Hayley and yes my lovely wife who I managed to have a quiet word with   (no petting signs ) Bonus. Seeing everyone was just the boost I needed. Again the wiggly worm and by this time pins and needles in the sore foot at 23.5 miles I new I could get through to the finish. The last 1 mile was really nice and well supported and even better knowing ( even more sure it was  the last ! ) it was my last marathon.

My finish time didn't really matter but if someone said I would give you a 3-43-07 marathon time a week before I would have snapped there hand off !!

To all those that ran Sunday you were all fantastic, incredible times for Biddulph Running Club.

Before I finish I have to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to all those people who gave there time to run with me on all those training runs ( you know who you are )

Sadly my first training partner, Lee,  is no longer with us,  loved and missed dearly. x.

To my wife who stood there for hours waiting and  keeping our home together while I was off out running. ( love you )

.....and finally the last massive thank you to Biddulph Running Club for giving me the chance to run my four London marathons.

First Marathon 1993: 4-00-01  .............

 Last Marathon 2013: 3-43-07.....   respectable. 

 ~ Shuffy x.

Thanks Kev - brought a tear to me eye that. [ Ed ]

.....And another from the ever entertaining Hayley

Dear webbie person :-)

Race Report- Edinburgh marathon :-) 

Ahhhh!!!..... I have two main over-riding emotions when thinking back to Edinburgh marathon....the main 1 is utter embarrassed disgust at my shocking time .....5.59 sommat or other! (I'll make my weak excuses for that later). The other one however, is the utter pleasure it was to run along side you other guys from Biddulph running club and see the support guys at mile whatever it was, with Nigel's wiggly worm (Nigel it was bigger than I expected;-)). What a brilliant experience! One of the most entertaining days of my life for sure. 

I am so, so sorry for breaking into your concentration if you had the unfortunate pleasure of being bawled at by me if I managed to see you running.....I was just so excited and pleased . Sean ...so sorry for forgetting your name and addressing you as ''thingie from Biddulph!!'' ....Tracy again...I don't know why I forgot your name .....so sorry - what an idiot. Christine special apologies reserved for you as I realised, when it was all too late, that I completely broke your concentration when I shouted you, but your response will remain with me as one of the funniest moments of my life! - It's still making me laugh now! - You kinda went ''Awwrawwwwyyyyerrr'' - I think you were just so deep in concentration and I'm ever so sorry for startling you.

It was just lovely seeing you guys and I think I actually managed to see almost all of you, except the lucky few who missed me :-) .Don't be too disappointed - I'll get you next time (lol) ! Kev you weren't quite sure at first where that voice had come from were you :-), and you were kinda random waving like a submarine telescope (lol) . It was just great! Thank you guys for a memorable experience and so so SO well done for your amazing achievements!  

      I think looking back I was rather silly to attempt Edinburgh marathon as I was still nursing really bad knee pains from February / March......I limped through London marathon with a shocking time and a similar thing happened in Edinburgh ......I was banged up to the eyeballs on pain killers, and by mile 11 the pain was becoming pretty grim so I stupidly knelt down to try and stretch something and when I bounced back up, there was a ripping sound in my right knee and it was pretty much all over from then really . I kinda jogged, moaned and sweated my way round the rest of the course managing only a bit of a spurt down the finish line out of sheer anger at myself at such a rubbish time, and the fact that there was a film crew waiting for me there to film a documentary....(something I accidentally slid into)  [ did you injure the crew and was it the kind of slide you could put on You've Been Framed, Hayley? Ed]. I'd spent the first few miles running the course loaded up like a 'buckaroo donkey' with power packs and micro phones wired to me with an agreement to give interviews at various points in the course.......by mile 3 I soon realised that the power packs were heating up down my spine so had to shout at the lovely film crew ladies to remove all the extra baggage I was carrying ....so to be honest I think I made a mess not only of the race and my times, but their filming too. 

       My race was a disaster ,but I will remember it with such affection and humour thanks to you guys ! It was an utter pleasure to see you all (both runners and supporters) and I bow at your brilliance as runners and people :-) ! 

   I'm not sure what the future holds for me running wise now.  As ever the doctors' voices echo in my head .....but I still need a satisfactory marathon time for me .....I did London 32-33....34 mins or so quicker last year and I still feel like I have only really ever given the marathon attempts a 30% effort . I reckon I need to give them another crack...we'll see......I'll stop at 12 I reckon :-) . 

Thank you guys and very well done :-)

~Hayley Martin xxx

OK, two great reports. Now we are scraping the barrel - here's war and peace from Steve J......

"I'll never do one....."

Yes, I know, I said I'd never do one (a marathon that is). But, during the sampling of a few glasses of je olde janx spirit with the Shuffs one evening last year, Tracy was looking for something to get her running mojo back on track again.  The talk of marathons came up, Tracy was questioning my stance on never wanting to run a 26.2 miler and somehow - not sure how - it's a bit hazy -  she threw down a gauntlet with something like, "If you enter Edinburgh I'll do it too!".  The wordage may not be totally accurate but you get the picture. I picked up the gauntlet, dipped it into the wine glass and accepted the challenge. Fool. So, apologies for that, in the following weeks we dragged along another nine - possibly ten - BRC members to enter the 2013 Edinburgh Marathon. Who'd have thunk it?

Training - following the plan.

Apparently the best way to prepare for a marathon is to follow a well thought out plan. These can be downloaded from such luminaries as Runners WorldRunning Free, England Athletics and numerous others. I hate plans. They lull you into some kind of false sense of security by making you think that by meticulously following one you will automatically finish the task successfully without so much as breaking sweat. Personal Pension Plans: need I say more? So, I got a plan. It was a 18 week one (I think) printed neatly on several A4 sheets of paper.  I hated it. It involved running on Wednesdays. I didn't want to run on Wednesday, I mean, who does?   Could I do a little more on Tuesdays and Thursdays and not do Wednesdays please?  The plan didn't reply.  They never do. That's another one of their problems.  I then heard you can adapt the plans to suit your personal needs.  That became the new plan - not use the plan - well not really use it.  It was pinned up behind the bathroom door ......

Travelling to Edinburgh.

Planes, trains and automobiles or so the film goes.  Apart from boat - but we don't live near the beach -  these are the only real options to get you there - oh, sorry bus, but National Express wouldn't get you there in time for race start - even if it didn't break down. And they usually do.  The train became the favoured choice. Arrive at Crewe to leave at 9.10am, change at Manchester Piccallilly to zoom up the West Coast and arrive feeling refreshed at the Edinburgh Waverley Station before you had time to finish a couple of cream crackers. That was the plan. And I already told you about plans.  It started well (they always do), then at Manchester, we saw that the Edinburgh train departure time had changed. We asked at the information desk - they knew nothing. They told us to ask the ticket office. They knew less. Then a man with a sandwich board appeared - a bit like the one below

but this one said something about all the rails between Preston and Carlisle has been ripped up and the train had been chucked in the skip.  The upshot of this meant we had to go to York, get off that train and find another which went up the East coast. All this takes time - especially when the York train is so full of York race goers that it can barely manage 25mph.  Honestly, through that long tunnel I didn't think we were moving at all. Should have gone by bus.

Accommodation.

The great thing I found about the Edinburgh marathon is that it isn't in London.  All BRC members seemed to land reasonably priced (well reasonably priced for a capital) digs. Additionally the marathon starts about 5 minutes walk from the railway station.  Which is handy - cuz you will have arrived there just 5 minutes before the race-start.  We stopped in one of the Travelodge chains on Rose Street; clean, functional and only 5 minutes walk from the railway station (but in the opposite direction).  You wouldn't think it was a hotel, just a small sign and automatic door tucked in-between a row of three pubs gave it away.  Travelodges: "rooms with en-suite provide everything needed for a good night's sleep and are close to where people want to stay". Or so their adverts say. Well, I'll give em the location bit.  It's tough to settle down anyway when you are thinking about ruining your legs and risking cardiac arrest the following day. It's even tougher when the surrounding pubs decide to chuck their empty bottles - a thousand at a time - into their skip half a dozen times until about 2am in the morning.  It was the night before the Scottish FA cup final so I guess a few jars of IRN Bru were in order - as was the shouting. It wasn't too bad after that - at least until 6am when the council dumper truck came along and chucked all those fifty thousand empties in its gut.  God how my gut lurched.  That was followed by two more noisy dumper trucks presumably collecting the revellers.

Race Day.

We all met at Kev and Tracy's apartment  - which wasn't anywhere near a pub - but it was only 5 minutes walk to the start line and even closer than the railway station.  I had to have a brew - it's a tradition even if it does mean wanting to go to the loo at the start.  As usual there wasn't enough porta loos around the start area - there were more than at the Great North Run  - but then again everyone uses the road embankment there.  Anyone caught using the green shrubbery at Edinburgh would have their bib number taken off them by the marshals and be asked to leave.  Due to the athlete/loo ratio the shrubbery was used - a lot - fortunately only those who snagged on a thistle got DQ'd cuz they were easy meat to catch.

Race Plan and Race

I hadn't got one.  Well, no, I had really - finish the race, that was the plan. 3hours 30 mins was a tentative don't know what I'm doing target time.  Kev and Rach were in yellow pen - just a row behind myself and Sean.  Our other BRC'ers started on a different road - about 5 minutes walk away - all to join up somewhere along the route. Big hugs and good wishes were said, Sean and me tried to move closer to the front of brown pen.  I was pretty relaxed and couldn't understand why everyone wanted to stand up for 15minutes before the gun.  I nearly always sit down - and did this time too. Sean was aiming to go 1.15 for the first 10 miles - I thought this a bit scarily fast and I wouldn't attempt to stay with him.  A few minutes late but BANG! we were off, then stop, then off, then stop, then off.  It's always the same on mass starts.   Having said that I thought we got into normal stride pattern fairly quickly after the start line.  Sean looked keen and was dodging on/off road & in and out of other runners - classic weaving.  I was running slower but spotting short cuts and so just hanging on to his heels.  We were 15.10 at two miles and I felt great.  Breathing was relaxed, legs good, heart wasn't in mouth, all in control.  Sean began to move steadily away - I didn't attempt to stay with him.  I then got a bit puzzled.  Not wearing a fancy GPS watch I thought I could simply record the mile times at the mile markers. I clocked a sub 7 minute mile (which would have been far too fast) then did an 8.04 then a low 7.  I wasn't changing pace that much and the course was pretty flat at that point. Coming to the conclusion the mile markers were useless I just tried to stay relaxed and keep it nice and easy. It was brill to see the BRC supporters at about 12 miles including Nigel J and his infamous wiggly worm - which I heard he later got caught on a thistle and was asked to leave by a posse of marshals. Sean was just in sight - a few hundred yards up the road......

A tale of two halves ..... & two calves

Half-way was achieved in under 1.40 - which was a bit quicker than I really wanted but as I was feeling OK - it was time in the bag and I could afford to back off and save a bit for the notorious 18-23 gruellers.  At 16 I started to feel the first pangs of fatigue - blaming pubs, bottles and council dumper trucks I plodded on  - only to feel twinges in both calves just before 17. Yes, my achilles heel is my calf - well both calves. By 18m I was both totally knackered and starting getting cramp quite badly. Sean was gone and having a blinder of a run.  The last eight miles were a combination of run/walk/crawl as the cramp just got worse. I got slightly less tired - only because I wasn't really running all that much. I saw - or heard Dawn coming toward me on the opposite side of the road - unfortunately I'd just gotten hold of a water bottle from the nearby drinks station which meant I was now carrying two - the other was orange juice mix. Attempting to juggle the bottles and high-five Dawn I dropped the water and saw it roll under the feet of the opposite side runners.  No worries - I got most of it back and didn't mind the little rest.  Trying to compensate for the cramp I think caused pain in the upper legs. Double Ouch. Thanks to the encouragement of a lad called Gaz from Wolstanton who was also suffering cramps we both hobbled in together to finish just under 3 hrs 34.  Not bad I guess for a first attempt but no-where near Mr Greeves who did a stunning 3.14.  Massive well done! to all the BRC guys who did the race - and to Pip who completed her first ever half marathon.  Big ThankYOU to all race supporters both our own inimitable ones and those that lined the route.

The moral of the story is: if you don't want to do a marathon then don't drink alcohol with Mrs Shuff...Oh don't give me none more of that Old Janx Spirit.... Would I do another? No, I'll never do another. But if I did I wouldn't rule out Edinburgh it's a great city (as cities go) and everywhere is only 5 minutes away ......

~Steve   

April

A report just in from Julie Harris - after completing her 3rd and hilliest marathon yet

( will she ever learn to just say 'no'.... ?)

Worcester Marathon 2013 

Race day had arrived!  I eagerly got out of bed and checked on the weather.  I have a reputation for running races in extreme weather conditions and I almost got away with it this time, there was 'only' strong wind to contend with. 

I was feeling much more relaxed about this marathon.  I'm not sure if it was because I am more experienced or because it was a smaller event with fewer logistics to worry about or because I only knew for definite that I was running on the Thursday before.  Training had gone well but as soon as I hit the taper my body seemed to give up.  I had lots of muscular issues with my legs and even had acupuncture twice the week before the marathon. 

The race started and finished at the Sixways Rugby stadium.  Parking was free and plentiful (as were the toilets! [free toilets! they charge 50p per p in Wales! - Ed]  ) and I arrived at the start line relaxed but hoping that the niggles in my legs would go numb after a few miles (thankfully they did!)  I said to my husband "Well, I've made the start line I've no idea if I will get to the finish."  Later I found out that he'd said there was no doubt I would complete it even if I had to crawl! 

I waited in my pen, optimistically standing in the 3 - 4hr pen!  I knew there would be a lot of people overtaking me but I wanted to get ahead of the 5 hour runners in the next pen.  We couldn't see the start but they walked us pen by pen to the start line which was down a bridle path.  We set off and I didn't see my family at the start, only my 5 year old son saw me.  How we missed each other I have no idea, it wasn't that busy!! 

The race consisted of about 800 half marathon runners and 244 full marathon runners.  We all set off together, the course is described as undulating and I knew there was a hill close to the start.  It was a baptism of fire for my sore hamstring but it held up okay and I had a good idea that it would be fine for the rest of the race.  I settled down into race pace, the wind was behind us for the route out and the sun was shining.   

After a couple of miles we entered the first lap.  The route was on country lanes meandering through small villages.  There was a good atmosphere and a moderate amount of cheerful spectators, the roads remained open but there was hardly any traffic and most waited until we had gone past anyway.  We began to encounter hills about 4 - 5 miles into the race.  The first one went by okay and then there was another one and then another one!  There were 4 biggish hills on the back stretch and as you finished one you could see the road heading up the next one.  I didn't have any problems with these hills on the first lap.  My aches had gone numb by now and I felt happy and relaxed.  I lost a little bit of time on the hills but it didn't matter.   

We encountered the strong head wind as we came to the last leg of the lap.  At mile 11 the half marathoners peeled off and headed for home.  I thought I might find this tough but I didn't.  I felt a feeling of superiority that I was continuing and they weren't!  I was surrounded by men now as most of the women had headed for home.  The race had really thinned out and I had been worried before the race that I would be on my own and might make a wrong turn but it wasn't like that.  There were still enough runners in sight to keep me happy and the marshals were fantastic.   

The second lap was very different from the first.  There was more traffic so we had to stick to the sides of the road in places.  I had been running in the middle of the road to avoid the effects of the camber on my knee.  The spectators had all but disappeared but the marshals were very supportive and cheered us on.  The plus side (or minus depending on how you look at it) of a two lap race is that you know what's coming and I had planned my gels around the hills giving me optimum energy on the steepest bits. 

Inevitably, I suppose, my left knee 'went' at mile 14.  I was bitterly disappointed that it had happened again.  I didn't panic and tried to relax.  It was difficult to cope with because I had already had to put up with a good few miles of discomfort and then getting sharp pains in the other leg takes a lot of tolerating.  I had intentionally run this marathon as it wasn't a pancake flat city marathon like I had run before hoping that my knee would be okay.  At least I knew the pain would go after the race and shouldn't cause any long term damage.   

I soldiered on and came to the most difficult part of the course for me.  There was an extra loop on the second lap.  It was about 3 miles long on very quiet lanes.  There was no one about and the whole lap seemed to be up hill.  There was a very long drag for about the last mile of the loop which almost finished me.  Miles 17 - 20 were the hardest of the race for me.  Every part of my body and brain was screaming at me to stop.  I didn't want to walk and pushed on for what seemed like hours.  If I walked I was worried that I wouldn't start running again.  I decided that I would run to 20 miles and then have a walk, after all there is no shame in walking after 20 miles!!!  My knee was very painful by now.  I even considered pulling out at this stage as I knew my time wouldn't be great and I'd had enough of the pain. 

Eventually I came to the 20 miles marker and thankfully walked!  My knee instantly felt better.  I don't know how long I walked for, it wasn't long but at the time it felt a long way.  I then ran as much as I could but I did walk as quickly as possible up the hills as I realised I could walk up them just as quickly and it didn't hurt my knee.  I did overtake a runner who was running whilst I was walking! 

All the runners were friendly on the last lap and we all spoke to each other as we overtook or were overtaken.  I knew when I got to the steep, little canal bridge manned by a very hairy marshal there would be one last hill and then 2 -3 miles to 'cruise'  to the finish with a very strong head wind.  I had decided that at mile 24 I wouldn't walk again and I didn't.  I was very pleased with the last 2 miles.  I overtook a few runners and pushed on.  There was the hill to contend with near the finish but this time it was a steep downhill.  This sounds great but with runner's knee I was almost crying out with pain but I wasn't going to stop I just wanted to get it over with!! 

We entered onto the canal towpath for 400 metres, that was a good part of the course.   Danny Kay [was he in White Christmas? - a good dancer too! Ed] the 71 years old marathon runner who has completed 473 marathons was just in front of me.  We then came off the canal and according to the route had 200 metres to go.  I could see the stadium and our car but I couldn't see the finish!  We entered the car park and still had an extra little corner to do but I didn't care because now I could see the finish.  There was a small but enthusiastic crowd at the finish line and I saw all my family cheering me on!  I managed a sprint finish to cross the line in 4hours 23minutes and 51seconds and I was the 23rd lady to finish! 

I experienced sheer, undiluted relief when I crossed the line.  Emotion swelled up inside and I really wanted to sob with relief but I had to keep myself together for the children!  At the finish of my previous marathons I have been surrounded by strangers so I could do what I liked!  I had to concentrate on my breathing for a minute or two as my chest was tightening with the emotion but once that was over I felt fine. 

I would recommend this event for it's excellent organisation, ease of access, excellent marshals and scenic route.  I thought the organisers were a little bit tight as we only got a technical t-shirt with half and full marathon on it.  So I have nothing extra to commemorate this marathon than the half marathoners.   It certainly isn't a race for runners who feed off the support of the crowd or for those who don't like hills.  I knew this course would be undulating but I have run a lot of races now and to me it was more than undulating.  Would I run this course again?  I would run the half marathon again as the hills aren't as much of an issue as for a marathon but I don't think I would run the full marathon again. 

Will I run another marathon?  If I can get assurances that my knee has a good chance of holding up next time then yes I will but if I am going to get this every time then maybe it's time to try something else.

 ~Julie

 Thanks for the report Julie and a massive Well Done! from all at BRC.