Well this was the one that I was really nervous about & had been for most of the year. As race day approached my training altered to fewer but longer runs, 4 weeks out a flat 18 miler down the Mawdach (hard), this was on top of my Welsh 1,000m race. 3 weeks out a very hilly triple loop circuit through the Coed y Brenin, 22 miles & 5,400′ of climb, had wanted to get to 26 miles but hit the wall at 18 so cut it shorter, that said the climb was bigger than that I’d be doing on race day. 2 weeks out from the café to far side of Bathesda & back, 24 miles but a more modest 2.400′ of climb (mostly on the way back).
All 3 helped to build my confidence but I still knew the race would be a different level again.
Race day itself had a poor forecast of Heavy Showers & Blustery winds, thankfully they got it wrong, the Showers stopped one hour before the start & the Cloud & not too Blustery wind made conditions almost ideal.
Fearing parking would be difficult I decided to walk to the start from my house, a nice little 2 mile loosener for my Calves. This also gave me additional Ablusion time (always a factor with me, am I alone?), having eaten my last Full Pasta meal mid-afternoon the day before (Gaby’s Lasagne) I felt I’d got this ‘minor’ detail spot on! Nutrition on the day itself was 2 Banana’s in the 2 hours leading up to the start, 4 Gels during the race & 1.5 Litres of Lucozade Sport before & during the race, I am quite happy to carry a heavier bag than most if it gives me the knowledge that I have back-up energy on tap. My bag was not too heavy though at just over 1.5Kg (approx. the same as the weight I’d deliberately lost in the build up to the race). A mile in the extra Gel I’d planned to take pre-race became a temporary weight on my mind & a constant weight in my bag.
As the race got underway at 09:00 I knew that my early pace was too hard but that is what I tend to do these days in the hope that my steadily improving Stamina can help me to hang on. At mile 6 I felt O.K. but thoughts were mostly 20 miles still to go. At mile 10 I overtook a Female runner (Amazon-esque)who had been leaving me for dead on the downhills & level ground only for me to narrow the gap on the climbs. A mile or two later I teamed up with Carmine from Perugia in Italy (now lives in Norfolk) this gave us plenty to talk about over the next 3/4 miles or so including of course Italy. The most amusing anecdote from this conversation was my asking Carmine what he thought about the fast Female decender, he responded, probably she’d overdone it & didn’t look dressed as a Marathon runner, I agreed. 2 Hours later the same Woman would cross the line 1 minute ahead of me & 8 minutes ahead of Carmine, a great leveller of don’t judge a book by the cover.
Through miles 15 to 21 I was feeling good, but as I got nearer to my regular training grounds my knowledge of the hills yet to come began to get on top of me. The last 5 miles were brutal, I think I passed more runners than the 3 who passed me but even the slightest hill caused me to drop to a few seconds walk to get some Lucozade Sport on board, this was probably doing me more Mental good than anything else. At last the final hill came & went & the long downhill run in suddenly became easy & enjoyable as the crowds cheered & called out our names.
My time of 4:09:29 placed me 49th out of 260 Finishers (400 had entered), I was very pleased as it was better than I’d expected despite being on target for sub 4 hours at the halfway stage. It all made the madness of a first Marathon with 4,400′ of climb suddenly a very good thing to have done.
Race organisation was great with clear improvements on last year, my thanks & appreciation to the organisers, Marshalls & Drink Stations & to Stephen Edwards who seemed to think I looked well enough for a brief interview at the line (think he was being kind or simply seeing if I was still alive). After a quick chat with Carmine I then ambled back home & time for a quick coffee with my Neighbour Bill before Mike arrived at my House to give me a lift to the Café where I could relate my story to anyone who’d listen, sorry but you know what I’m like when I’m enthused!
Next up Gran Paradiso & Mont Blanc, travelling out this Saturday, perhaps I only entered the Trail Marathon to take my mind of these!