Milton Keynes Marathon – the run in

It’s an hour before the marathon and I slowly haul myself up and away from the booth at McDonalds. Quads, calfs and the egg sized blister on my right heel are screaming as I walk towards the baggage drop off area. As I stumble and groan along the concourse outside the MK Dons stadium I’m passed by a succession of tall, rapier thin, athletic types in the process of their preliminary warm ups. I shuffle past, staring enviously at their fresh faces, fresh clothes and almost certainly fresher odours, wishing I had had a t-shirt printed, “Hey, I’m not a broken old man incapable of running another step, I’ve already run 30 miles you losers”.

As I mentioned in the previous post MK Marathon had arranged for me to get a pre-race massage so I flopped onto a table and allowed Simon from Body Limits Clinic, Newport Pagnall (shameless plug but why the hell not, he’s got lovely hands…) to do his worst.

He did.

As soon as the agony of this was over there was about 5 minutes to the start of the race. Normally I’m the keen one heading to the start half an hour before I need to having got to the race 2 hours before I needed to. This time, however, I was in no rush. If I started dead last it really didn’t matter. There were more pressing issues at hand. Or foot.

I had brought spare shorts to wear for the race but it would mean taking my shoes off as the Ashmei shorts have a very snug merino wool inner short. I couldn’t face trying to put my shoe back on so decided to carry on in the same shorts. As the weather was getting hotter I was worried I would get a bit uncomfortable “down stairs” but as it turns out this area was about the only part of me not to feel any discomfort at the end.

I chucked my sweat laden race pack at an unsuspecting baggage handler who carried it gingerly, as you would a dirty tissue, to the farthest end of the hall, quarantined.

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I joined towards the back of the pack near to the 5.15 pacer. There was an interesting mix of people in there. Mainly they seemed to be first timers, anxious about getting round but also a fair few sporting their 100 club vests – old hands in amongst the nervously laughing newbies. Rather than thinking I had 26 miles to do I figured I was already over halfway through my race. I hoped this would make it less daunting. Later in the race it really did help; at this point though 26 miles is a feckin long way still to run.

The race started and about 10 minutes later, so did we. I tried to keep my pace slow and stay with the 5.15 pacer. For the first mile it went OK clocking a 10.35 minute mile but the pace was interminable. I decided I couldn’t go on at that speed (I would later yearn for a pace that quick) and accelerated a little to find the 5 hour pacer. The next few miles were pretty good with crowds on both sides as we weaved through the shopping area. Soon though the fatigue kicked in and, together with the heat and any other excuse I can think of, I faded badly. By mile 10 I was in a bit of bother. I had no energy, was constantly thirsty and a tiny bit pissed off. I’ve hit the wall once before – ironically at MK marathon two years ago – but not when I still had 16 miles to go. It was going to be a long afternoon if I didn’t sort myself out. Luckily the water stations are only every 3 miles rather than every mile so a) I couldn’t drink too much more than I should (or so I thought) and b) I had a target to aim for. Try to run to each feed station and then have a 10 minute walk. Unless of course there is even the slightest incline, in which case engage ultra marathon training and walk.

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So that is what I did. For the next 12 miles I pretty much ran/walked the marathon. But I was drinking too much, taking on a whole Gatorade and half a bottle of water every three miles. I knew it was too much but couldn’t help it. At 18 miles I had to stop for a wee in the bushes. To have enough liquid in me at mile 18 of a marathon meant I was seriously over doing it and gave me the jolt to calm it down.

I had passed the 4.45 pacer some time before but towards the end of this stint he passed me. Something was suddenly triggered and I decided that he wasn’t going to beat me. I had a purpose and an interest and for the final 8 miles we played the slowest, dullest game of cat and mouse as my geriatric frame slowly overtook him, like an overloaded lorry overtaking another uphill on a motorway. Then I’d have a bit of a walk and he’d overtake me, and so on. For miles. And miles.

Finally, a couple of miles from the end I did him, bashing out a 10.20 minute mile and leaving him spluttering in my dust.

Coming into the stadium and seeing the 200m-to-go sign was a great feeling. I crossed the line and felt like theatrically collapsing on the ground to be nursed back by a bevy of St John’s ladies but all I could actually think was “there is about a gallon of Gatorade that really wants to see daylight again.” If any pictures had been taken after I crossed the line I would have looked like I was reinacting Stuart Broad’s reaction to Ben Stokes’ Ashes catch. All I was doing was trying to keep my stomach contents in their right and proper place.

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It was over. Fairly anticlimactic really. But I finished and that, after all, was the point.

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Nice legs, shame about the face.

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Milton Keynes Marathon – the run up

As I have mentioned (endlessly) over the past few blogs, the idea for April was to run three marathons on consecutive weeks raising money for South Bucks Hospice (www.sbh.org.uk). London Marathon, on the 24th was the culmination of this.

There have been thousands of blogs over the past couple of weeks about people’s experiences of London so I won’t add to them. All I can say is that it is a very special marathon, different to any other I’ve run and I shall be applying every year, despite the slim odds.

Even before running London, knowing it was the end of that particular challenge, I was seeking something else to look forward to. Maybe running marathons so close together gave me a permanent “runners high” but I couldn’t comprehend not running another one for a while.

So, between Brighton and London I signed up for the Milton Keynes Marathon. I’ve run it twice before and although they change the course a little, I was comfortable knowing what the set up was like.

However, rather than just run the marathon I decided to run the 30 miles from Wycombe to Milton Keynes in the morning and then run the marathon. This would give me a total mileage of 56 miles and hopefully around 11 hours on my feet.

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I’ve agreed to run a 24 hour race around a local track in June so I thought this would be a good way to get some serious training in and get a bit of bling at the end of it!

So first to get my kit together. I decided on a 3am start which would get me into MK for about 9 am. MK Marathon had kindly agreed to let me get a massage at 9ish (the power of twitter!) so I had something to aim for. As this was all about time on feet rather than speed I figured this was a fairly comfortable pace for 30 miles (around 12 minute miles on average).

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But obviously it meant carrying a torch, reflectors, lights, jacket, gloves etc. I also took a change of shorts and top. The top basically because I didn’t want to be waiting around in a sweaty, damp shirt before the race. The reason I took a spare pare of shorts was that I was trying out a new pair of Ashmei shorts. These had just been delivered and while I wanted to give then a good test I wasn’t confident they would be comfortable for both distances.(I was wrong.)

At the last minute I swapped the Ultimate Direction bottles for their soft ones which, though having a smaller capacity, were more comfortable on my ribs. I also only took a few of the jelly babies and didn’t take the Body Glide as I had a sachet that would do the trick in MK. What aren’t shown as they were still in the fridge are the peanut butter bagels and pork pies – don’t leave home without them.

So 2.30 am came and I got dressed and was ready to go. How ecstatic do I look?

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As soon as I stepped outside I realised that the gloves and cap weren’t necessary so dumped them inside and got going.

It’s pretty obvious but it’s really dark at 3am!

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The first few miles were on a country road with no footpath so I was pleased not to see any cars. I pretty much knew all the route so hadn’t brought a sat nav, though I did have the route programmed into my Suunto Ambit Peak if I needed it.

It was amazing to be running, completely alone, before even the birds were up. The only sound I heard for the first couple of hours was a fox doing whatever foxes do at that time of night. Whatever it was, they seemed to be enjoying it…

After about an hour and a half I was off the backroads and into Wendover. I’d decided this was where I’d have a bit of food so out came the peanut butter bagel. Again, I look thrilled.

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It tasted great and gave me a bit of a boost. the next section was all residential and a series of straight long roads as I made my way to the A41 at Aston Clinton.

Here there is a lovely little cut through that takes you to Bierton and onto the Wing road. As I got to this little road there were signs saying it was closed. Not a problem, I’m not a car. Just as long as they haven’t taken the bridge over the canal down I’ll be fine. Oh, crap, what if they have taken the bridge down? I had no idea how to get the MK if they had. Plodding on I got to the bridge and thankfully it was still there.

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What was also there, however, was a familiar feeling in my right foot. That feeling that a bit of grit was rubbing gently on the side of my heel. I knew from Reading Half Marathon that this wasn’t grit, this was another blister. I already had a Compeed plaster on the previous 3 blisters in the same place so wasn’t surprised to see another one poking out from the side of the plaster. I whacked another Compeed over that one and managed to get my shoe back on. I was 12 miles into the 56 and feeling a bit crap.

No time to feel sorry for myself though as I came across the reason why the road was closed.

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Not only had they dug up the road, the developers had decided to build a new estate where the road should have been. It looked like they were building a replacement road but it was going in completely the wrong direction for me.

I ran along the now muddy track hoping I’d see a familiar landmark to aim for. What I did find was this…

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I’d found the other end of the road but also an 8 foot high fence. I ran along it for a while trying to find a gap but there wasn’t one. Eventually I found a small gap underneath and managed to crawl under. It was 5am and I really wasn’t up for this!

The next section was pretty bland. The route took me 7 miles up the main road into Wing. It seemed to be slightly uphill all the way except for the serious uphills. The monotony was broken only by avoiding the Arla milk trucks and Morrison artics hurtling the other way. I also saw 3 ambulances which didn’t make be feel any better.

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At Wing I treated myself to a pork pie, king of all running foods. I wasn’t hungry but knew I needed something. The final 8 miles were fairly undulating across country and eventually into Bletchley. There I finally saw the sign I was craving.

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A mile or so later I was there.

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It was 8.30, I was dying for a coffee and something salty and McDonalds was just around the corner. Perfect!

It was crowded with runners and supporters so I took my coffee, full fat Coke and hash browns to a table already occupied by a fellow runner.

As I poured salt into my Coke runner and I looked at each other. Without needing any words, with just that look, I knew what he was thinking.

Dick.