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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon

Sunday 20th October 2013 saw the inaugural running of the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon, starting and finishing on the campus of York University.

I wasnt entered in this race and didnt really expect to be here at all after myself and Hannah opted to run the Budapest Marathon last week instead.

Since we had bagged times of 2:58:53 and 3:01:18 respectively in runs which had gone as well as we could have hoped we were really enjoying our post marathon week of laziness, eating and drinking. 

It wasnt a lot different to a normal week to be fair, running every day with every run at 8 mins/mile +, the only difference being that the distances were shorter.

But by mid-week it was becoming noticable that neither of us had legs that felt like they had just done a marathon. Hannah's attention started wandering to the entry she was sitting on for Sunday's Yorkshire Marathon, she had tried to sell it earlier in the year but transfers weren't allowed so it was still there and available to use.

My first comment was along the lines of 'dont be bonkers' but it didnt take long for me to actually become jealous that she had an entry and by the time it got to Sunday morning I was itching to do it as well.

Temple Newsam parkrun

On Saturday 19th we went over to Temple Newsam in Leeds for our usual Saturday morning fix of parkrunning. Because Temple is quite a testing 5K course we reckoned that this would tell us whether we were just imagining that the legs had come through unscathed or not. Before we got going though it was great to see just how healthy Ronnie Bray was looking just 6 weeks after his heart attack. He was as bouncy and loud as ever as he went about his usual motivational routines!

The intention was that I would run it pretty hard and Hannah would run it at a similar effort level to that at Warsaw parkrun a week earlier.

My legs felt great and despite there being two muddy sections where I came to a virtual standstill, recording an 18:13 on a hilly course 6 days after a marathon without pushing overly hard suggested recovery was going very well.

Hannah looked very comfortable as she ran an untroubled 21:30, an identical time to that run in Warsaw last week, the day before Budapest. With this being about 3 minutes slower than she could potentially have run this acted as a nice leg stretcher without doing any damage.

The Run Director for the day was John Robson and John was also running the Yorkshire Marathon with an aim of going sub 3 for the first time or at least a very big PB. His training, which had been blogged for the previous 16 weeks, suggested all was nicely set up.

So did this mean that Hannah had now decided to run on Sunday? Well, kind of ......... but we still needed to go to the pub to consider some more :) She then came out with my favourite line from Saturday - 'Maybe I should think about doing some carb loading then'! :p Not really textbook to start considering carb loading on Saturday evening, but better late than never I suppose.

Race Day

After finally deciding to run, there was no particular aim in mind, Hannah was just intrigued as to what the legs could do when they were feeling so sprightly. If it went pear shaped at any point it was no big deal, the usual precautions had been taken of carrying a foil blanket and having a rough idea of the best dropping out points. Also, it was useful to find that there was a live tracker so at least I would have some idea how she was getting on.

Nobody at all knew that she was running. Well that is until I bumped into John Robson in the pre race loo queue and he asked the direct question.

 The Start

The honour of getting the race under way was handed to that famous Barnsley lad going by the name of Dickie Bird. I'm sure that he has never had to follow on from Tony Audenhaw's tales of pre race poos before but there's a first time for everything.

0-10K (42:24) :

After running 3:01:18 in Budapest a gentle start was the most important thing, 2 or 3 minutes slower in the first 10K is a small price to pay to ease the legs through keeping them as fresh as possible for pushing on later.

So when I saw 42:24 come up for the first 10K, ie 6:50/mile or 2:58:30 marathon pace,  I was hoping that it had been an easy section of the course because it looked too quick. 44 or 45 minutes would have been more comfortable but she isnt one to get carried away in the early stages so it was going to be interesting to see how things developed from here on.

I only became aware that there was a live leaderboard when John Broom sent me a message to say that he had noticed that a 'Hannah Oldroyd' had gone through 10K in 15th. The leading ladies had gone through the same point in 37:20, with 5th place being 38:43 and 10th place being 40:43 as can be seen below:

 10K - 20K (40:54) :

Having thought the first 10K at 42:24 was a touch on the quick side at 2:58:30 pace, to then see the next split at 40:54, ie 6:35/mile or 2:52 marathon pace, made for much more relaxed viewing. She was clearly enjoying herself and would probably be pulling out at some point!

So 1:23:18 at 20K. The leading ladies at this point went through in 1:15:17, 5th was 1:18:47 and 10th was 1:23:10. This led to the first double take at the leaderboard! This meant that she was only a mere 8 seconds off breaking into the top 10. Well, this was getting interesting:

Halfway (1:28:27) :Just 1.1K after the previous split there wasnt likely to be much change from the previous but just for the record the leader was now through in 1:20:22, 5th in 1:23:44 and 10th in 1:28:18. So still just a handful of seconds outside the top 10, the next split at 30K was going to be very intriguing!

Although it then dawned that before we saw the 30K split they were going to be running right in front of us. I had gone over to the 18ish mile point which was an about turn point on the marathon course and had been set up as a Marathon Talk motivation station by Tom Williams.

As I kept an eye on the tracker to see what progress the runners were making, Mr Williams (on my right) had to contend with both the coldness (having just got back from Hawaii watching Kona) and sleepiness, having been doing some serious hob nobbing the evening before (see pic below):

For those that dont recognise these guys, they are Noel Thatcher, 6 times Paralympic Gold medallist, Paul Evans, marathon PB of 2:08:52 (and I believe the last British runner to break 2:10), Tom  and Dave Moorcroft the former 5000m world record holder.

Impressive line up indeed but back to the race and as the leaders came through we couldnt help but marvel, as usual, at just how easy they make it seem:

As the leading ladies started passing it would have been no surprise if Hannah had lost a few places and earmarked the point where we were waiting as her dropping out point with it being the closest point to the finish. It wouldnt have mattered, she would have been happy enough having run a lively half marathon or so the week after smashing her marathon PB.

Counting the ladies past I got to 8 and then guess who appeared next up the road? So she was clearly still going well, was up into 9th place and significantly ahead of the 3:00 pacing group. This was now getting very intriguing. Was she on the ragged edge and about to fall apart or could she actually finish this in a decent time?

Well, this picture answers that question pretty well:

And in close proximity was an equally joyous John Robson:

You dont look that happy in a race just before you're about to drop out so onto the 30K split:

20-30K (41:18):

That meant that the 3rd 10K had been covered at 6:39/mile or 2:54 marathon pace and was starting to get into the realms of I wasnt sure whether the tracker was working properly!

The leading lady went through 30K in 1:53:28, 5th place in 1:59:05 and Hannah was now in 9th place with 2:04:36.

Absolutely anything could happen in the next 10K.

30-40K 43:18:

Anyone who has ever fallen apart in marathons will know that you can lose time hand over fist once the wheels come off so to see a split of 43:18 or 6:58/mile for this section with the Budapest Marathon still fresh in her legs was the most impressive part of the race.

The leader at 40K went through in 2:31:47 and 5th place was 2:47:52. But hold on, who is that in 5th place? Either the tracker really has gone off into loony land or a certain Hannah Oldroyd is now up to the lofty heights of 5th! How did that happen?

Obviously if that was correct it just about guaranteed a sub 3, something which hadnt even been considered. This was just meant to be an experimental run to see if the legs could get round two marathons in two weeks, not an attempt to go even faster.

The Finish (2:57:53):

The actual finish time didnt matter at all now, whatever it turned out to be was bound to be impressive and way beyond anything even remotely expected at the start of the day:

There is a downside to running quickly and that is that your journey to the pub can get delayed. This was the post race interview with the Yorkshire Post, which was shortly followed by a lengthy chat with Mike Tomlinson. But after having TV cameras thrust in front of her straight after finishing in the last two weeks at Stormont and then Budapest she is at least looking a little less freaked out by the post race interrogations now.....

This was the final result finishing 5th lady and, equally impressively 43rd overall. She was probably the only person on that leaderboard wearing a number, the rest had their names displayed:

Other Performances:

Kelvin Dickinson (3:08:18):

Just ahead of the 3 hour pacers at the 18 mile mark. Kelvin (in white with green hoops) was that 3 hour pacer just two weeks ago at Chester doing a fine job in coming home in 2:59:45 on that day. York wasnt a target marathon in any sense having done his most impressive marathon work for 2013 back in January when he ran 2:58:32 one day and then 2:56:42 the very next day!

John Robson (3:01:55)

John ran a massive PB taking 26 minutes or so off his previous best to bring his marathon time more into line with his impressive times at shorter distances. There will be more to come but this was a big step forward in conquering the marathon.

Jocelyn Payne (DNF)

This was a disappointing race for Joss and, although she probably wont agree at this stage, in the fullness of time it will probably prove to be of little importance in the great scheme of things.

2013 has seen Joss become the fastest U23 marathon runner in the UK for 29 years with 2:45:58 at Manchester in April. The early pace was ambitious going through the first 10K at approx 2:43 pace and here she is below running alongside Shona Fletcher in the early stages. By 17 miles it was over but there will be quicker marathons in the future and probably on quite a big stage;

Caz Hall (3:25:09)

Caz also acted as pacemaker at Chester two weeks ago pacing the 3:45 group around but that clearly took nothing out of her as she ran a very evenly paced race. Highlight of 2013 was at VLM where Caz landed a PB of 3:11:44.

Ian Ogden (3:09:21)

A fine performance to bring home a 5 minute PB beating his previous mark of 3:14:14 set at VLM this year.

More than can be said for his posing though:

Adam Prentis (3:22:36)

A valiant effort by the Harrogate parkrun Event Director to beat his PB of 3:21:41 set at Chester last year. Adam is one of those 'tougher than steel' characters who completed Comrades just a few short weeks ago.

Marathon spectating is thirsty work so shortly after the finish, and being the weak and gullible types, we were led astray by Kelvin and Caz in the direction of The House Of Trembling Madness on Stonegate in York:

 It was here that the day took a distinct turn for the worse when I realised that to match my age grading from the week before in Budapest Hannah would have needed to run 2:58:23......... and she ran 2:57:53! Umphhhh :p

Friday, 18 October 2013

Budapest Marathon Adventure

Budapest Marathon
Sunday 13th October 2013

It has been a little while since the last post but that doesn't mean that it has been a quiet time on the running escapades front.

In fact, since the last post 16 weeks ago there have been 46  races/events of various kinds across distances ranging from 800metres to the marathon and geographically spread across England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Netherlands, Poland and Hungary.

In summary, it has been a brilliant and fascinating 3 or 4 months culminating in last Sunday's Budapest Marathon run along the banks of the Danube.

As a bit of background to this, the marathons attempted since getting the running shoes out of hibernation in 2008 have been:

2009 April - Blackpool Marathon 3:24:17 (Age 42)
2009 September - Fleetwood Marathon DNF (Age 43)
2010 October - Amsterdam Marathon 3:04:27 (Age 44)
2010 November - Milton Keynes Track Marathon DNF (Age 44)
2011 April - London Marathon 3:18:30 (Age 44)
2012 April - London Marathon 2:57:04 (Age 45)
2012 October - Chester 2:55:36 (Age 46)
2013 April - London Marathon 3:11:29 (Age 46)
2013 June - Cork Marathon 3:06:19 (Age 47)

Inevitable Slowing ?

For the first 20+ marathons that I completed there was always an inevitable slowing of pace towards the end, sometimes a steady decline but sometimes a complete falling off a cliff scenario. Even my PB involved a 12 minute positive split!.

However, since London 2012 things have been different in that the second half slowing is no longer an inevitability. Apart from London this year, which involved a strain from tripping on a water bottle, the other three marathons have involved holding an even pace or even slight negative split.

And with that background the main hope from Budapest was to achieve more of the same and try to feel strong towards the end, thus helping to convince myself that the others werent a fluke.

So, after a brief visit to Warsaw, which included a trip around Warsaw parkrun, it was onto race day.....

Before the start:

This is what we were greeted with just before the start in Heroe's Square - misty, calm and mild. Absolutely perfect for the early stages although we knew the sun was forecast to be out and burning our foreheads before we returned back at lunchtime.

The Start:

Off we go and 26 seconds in all is going well so far with Hannah clipping my heels....

0-5K 21:55 (projected finishing time 3:05:00)

The aim was, as always, to build the race layer by layer with eight 5K layers being laid on top of each other followed by the final push for the line.

5-10K 21:30 (proj. 3:03:14)

It all felt very pleasant early on with the very wide boulevards allowing you to run in your own space almost from the off without the usual barging from the over enthusiastics. The first two 5K layers were just about allowing tendons, muscles etc and everything else to get up to working temperatures with minimum strain.

10-15K 21:24 (proj. 3:02:21)

After that first 10K was out of the way the course passed over the Danube via the Chain Bridge onto the Buda side of the river. The Buda side is the hilly part of the city but thankfully the course stayed close to the river and remained very flat.

It was around the 14K mark that I first saw the Sub 3:00 pacers as we negotiated one of several about turns. I wasn't going to chase them as such but nonetheless their bright balloons were going to prove a useful visual clue as to how things were going as the race progressed.

The 14K about turn was also the point where I first saw how Hannah was getting on. Clearly she was going well timewise as she was only about a minute behind but she wasnt looking particularly happy with proceedings so it was a case of fingers crossed that it was just a bad patch. 

15-20K 21:10 (proj. 3:01:27)

From 14-21K was a nice flowing section although by now the mist had gone, the sun was out and the temperature was climbing quite rapidly. But it was the same for everybody so lets get on with it was the thought at this point.

Halfway 1:30:47 (proj. 3:01:34)

20-25K 21:02 (proj. 3:00:38)

After halfway and back across the river onto the Pest side I was now entering that questioning stage, trying to make my mind up as to whether I was starting to fade and was going to have to be careful or whether I was actually feeling pretty good and could afford to get stuck into the last 10 miles. Cautiously I was tending towards the latter.....but you never know!

25-30K 20:52 (proj. 2:59:55)

Pre-race, I had mentally prepared for the section on Margaret Island being the make or break section of the course with it being the crucial 28-33K

As we got onto the island there was the first real feeling that this wasnt going to fall apart. We were now entering the final third of the race and I was still thinking in terms of building the race rather than hanging on as has often been the case in the past.

There is a 5K long running track on Margaret Island with a proper track surface but only one lane wide. When I first saw it I thought that it might be a welcome change of surface for a kilometre or two. Wrong! It didn't take long to get back off it and realise how wonderful hard tarmac is.

30-35K 20:57 (proj. 2:59:27)

Just after 33K:

Because I had mentally made the island the make or break section, it felt wonderful to be coming off it at 33K feeling ready to push on and having the sub 3 pacers now right in front of me.

9K to go with everything still working smoothly was a nice place to be. The well being factor was also growing due to constantly passing runners. It was more to do with their slowing than my speeding up but it still helps the cause :)

35-40K 20:53 (proj. 2:59:05)

There was a really nice feel to the last 7K with the sun now shining brightly, the noise of the crowds building and the little legs feeling like they have never felt before in the closing stages of a marathon.

Approx 35K:

Returning to Heroe's Square at 37K:

Finish 2:58:53

It wasn't the fastest marathon, or even a comeback PB, but the feeling of crossing the line after enjoying every section of the race was a definite first....... but hopefully to be repeated :)

It was nice to turn round and see these guys finishing shortly after considering that they had been out of sight in the early stages:

And look at this for a finish, Hannah completely off the ground looking for all the world as if she is finishing a 5K rather than smashing her marathon PB out of the park.

3 marathons in 2013 and 3 negative splits - London 3:16:29, Cork 3:09:51 and Budapest 3:01:18

 Post Race:

Not bad for October, relaxing post race in glorious sunshine with cheap beer on tap :)

The Walk Home:

Our route back to the hotel later in the evening took us back through Heroe's Square and it has to be said that this sight is pretty stunning:

Monday Meanderings:

The day after race day we went for a coach ride............with a difference:

In short, a great venue for a marathon and one to be highly recommended.