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.
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.
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.
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.
It was over. Fairly anticlimactic really. But I finished and that, after all, was the point.
Nice legs, shame about the face.