Tuesday, 20 September 2011

1 down and a lot to go!!!

So Sunday came and Sunday went, but, not without bringing a whole new answer to the retorical question "what did you do at the weekend?" This was the weekend in which i would run my first marathon. In actual fact my first marathon would run across a route that was in its first year. My first task was indeed the Grafham Water marathon.

I am familiar with some of the route having run a single loop of about 8-9 miles on a previous occasion. I have also cycled around it three times in assisting Sam Robson in his first ever unofficial marathon. On this occasion the organisers had plotted the route to deviate through a village and fields to mean that the marathon would be a double loop. I was pleasantly suprised by the up beat attitude of everyone undertaking both the marathon and half marathon. What was a lovely touch was that the marathoners had a brown strip across their numbers. I like to think that this is to distinguish their madness.

I arrived with Sam at the start line and we seperated to be reunited at the finish line. I entered my predicted finish "time pen" and awaited being allowed to walk to the start line. So at 10:12am we were released on the first adventure in my challenge. Initially i was faced with two big challenges, the first was not getting carried away in overtaking people running the half marathon. The second was ignoring the mileage markers. The main problem with these was on the first lap. Each of the signs had two markers eg. 1mile/14miles. It made it very difficult on the first lap to feel like i was eating into the mileage. Despite this i plodded on and was pleasantly suprised when i got to 6.5miles in 58minutes. I should point out at this point that i forgot to put my Garmin 305 on and so it was a massive relief to hear i had gone out at a sensible pace. I settled in to a run walk routine and continued to plod over the hills and far away. Eventually i turned a corner only for the reservoir to reappear on my left, a sure fire sign that i was nearly at the end of the first loop. I made a mental note of this point for the second loop as i knew it would give me a much needed adrenalin boost.

I had made the decision that throughout this race i would work off a conbination of water (with electrolytes) and gels. I had visited TriSport on the saturday and loaded up with goodies. I was pleasantly surprised that the gel i bought (described as rocket fuel) lived up to its reputation. It gave me a needed kick and i was feeling good as i began to enter the 14th mile. I was feeling strong and i ate into the next couple of miles without too many noteable issues. Following a planned walking break i cracked on with my intention of running a mile and then walking for a small amount of time and then running another mile. The plan was working and when i asked a marshall for the time i was on for a time of around 4hrs 25-30min. I was really pleased with this prospect. Despite this my mother always taught me to expect the unexpected. At somewhere between 19/20miles this happened. My right calf cramped and felt like it was going to explode, in addition to this my quad decided to cramp. I was forced into a position of walking a lot more than i had intended to do. After a minute i decided "stuff it" and reached for the ibuprofen. The next annoyance immediately occurred as when i first took them i must have not put them back in the pocket of my bag properly and my painkillers were gone gone gone. I expect there i a rabbit somewhere dosed up. I prefer to think that a runner behind me found them at a time of need.

Left with no choice but to suck it up and be sensible whilst trying to pushing as much as was plausible. This is a moment in which the enormity of my challenge hit me. 6miles to go and this is only the first race of 5. After striding out up the hills and then jogging only to stop as soon as my legs cramped i was losing time on previously dream finish time. At 24miles i was loving the experience but the legs were hurting and the heavens had openned. The rain was not too bad and actually when it stopped i felt a little better (possibly psychological) than before. At 24.5 miles i could see three people way ahead of me and i set about pulling them in. My leg appeared to have eased off a bit and though they felt heavy i was feeling pretty good. I appeared to have found a pace that allowed me to keep going whilst just floating under the cramping threshold. The cheers from all marshalls was helping me keep going and at this point the marathon was feeling pretty isolating. Reeling in the three runners was just what my brain needed. I ran past one runner who looked like they were resigned to walking the rest of the way (all power to the fact they got across the finish line) and as i approached the 25mile marker and water stop i caught up to the next. It was lovely that we were able to exchange pleasantries and congratulated each other knowing that this was the final push. I was keen to kick on and catch the next person. He was a little further ahead than i hoped, but, with the water on my left i knew i was near the end and so i pushed on.

There was strange moment with 1/2 mile to go. I could see the finishing flags and and the man in front was only about 75 metres ahead. I thought about kicking on and getting past him before the tarmac. The sensible side of my brain kicked in and reminded me that i had two more marathons a half marathon and an ultra to go. With the memory of my legs at 19miles i decided to let him go. Suddenly just in front of me i could see a beautiful chocolate labrador and my beautiful wife waiting for me. The first thing i heard was "you're looking pretty good" and this was followed by an excited dog wanting to run into me. I later learned a few of the people coming across the line were looking a little worse for wear and so my concerned wife had come to find me. We jogged together for a bit and then she let me kick on. As my feet touched onto the grass of the home stretch i realised that for definate i was going to finish this marathon. A surge of adrenalin hit and i sprinted the last 20 metres across the line. After the congratulations someone asked me if this was my first marathon i explained yes. I went on to chat about my "little adventure" to which i was wished luck and provided with a red bull shot.

The run was great fun and a lot of hard work but it was rewarded when i went to the timing machine to see how "fast" i had gone. Up on the screen came the moment 4hr55min20sec i was delighted with that. I knew i had lost a lot of time to the cramping, but, was always keen to break 5hrs in my first run. So there is the bench mark for the next run. With that said i have been reading up on the Beachy Head marathon and that is another beast entirely.

Two days on and i am feeling pretty good. A little tired, ridiculously hungry, but pretty good. My legs are not to sore and tomorrow i shall get back out on the roads again. The only injury i have is two blisters and with these safely compeeded up all is fine. I did read yesterday evening that it takes the body approximately 42 days to recover from a marathon. Good job my next one is not only 12days away...oh....wait at minute........

I am determined to keep going and come the finish line on the 19th November i will have covered 136.7 miles. If the first 26.2 are anything to go by then its going to be one hell of an adventure.

Whilst i love to run i am doing this to raise as much money as i can for St Wilfrids Hospice. Please give generously and help me raise £1500 (or more). Every you can given will help spur me on and only make me more determined to finish. Only 120.5miles to go!!!