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Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The 3-1-5 Lancaster Marathon 2013

Sunday 1st December 2013

So this was the 4th marathon of the year, the most I've attempted in one year, following on from London (3:11:29), Cork (IRL) (3:06:19) and Budapest (2:58:53).

Why another marathon just 7 weeks after the previous one?

Good question.

Previously I have always thought that you needed sufficient time since the last marathon so you could conveniently forget just how much hard work/pain was involved!

However, the week following Budapest in October had been noticably different to other post marathon weeks in that I was actually itching to do another one pretty soon. So when it was suggested by a certain Caz Hall, while enjoying a beer or two after spectating at the Yorkshire Marathon on 20th Oct, that Lancaster was on 1st December it was hard to dismiss the idea.

And despite the fact that Hannah had just run two marathon PBs in two weeks she also seemed keen on the idea.

What did the 7 weeks in between look like?

The 7 weeks in between just followed the usual pattern of running every day, with every 'training' run being slow. 'Slow' means whatever speed feels comfortable but a typical run of 10k or 10 miles would see a first mile of around 10 minutes and an overall average of about 8:30/mile.

We would then race and/or parkrun every weekend with the 7 weeks between Budapest and Lancaster looking like this:

Sun Oct 13th: Budapest Marathon 2:58:53

Sat Oct 19th: Temple Newsam parkrun 18:14 (1st)

Sat Oct 26th: Scunthorpe parkrun 17:49 (1st)
Sun Oct 27th: Accrington 10k 37:57 (12th)

Sat Nov 2nd: Kingsbury Water parkrun 18:00 (2nd)
Sun Nov 3rd: Lode HM 1:22:04 (2nd)

Sat Nov 9th: Larne parkrun (N Ire) 18:39 (3rd)
Sun Nov 10th: Forkhill 10k (N Ire) 39:03 (2nd)

Sat Nov 16th: Sheffield Castle parkrun 18:10 (1st)
Sun Nov 17th: Brampton Carlisle 10 Miles 59:14 (44th) (Comeback PB)

Sat Nov 23rd: Hull parkrun 17:27 (6th)
Sat Nov 23rd: Norman Woodcock 5 mile 29:24 (Comeback PB)
Sun Nov 24th: Northumberland Big 10 1:02:58

Sat Nov 30th: Doncaster parkrun 20:03 (6th)
Sun Dec 1st: Lancaster Marathon 2:54:17 (1st) (Comeback PB)

So, in effect, all the 'sessions' between the two marathons are in the list above.

And the definition of a  'Comeback PB' is basically the fastest since 1993, or 20 years ago!

Race Day

Because the weather predictions for Lancaster on 1st Dec had been for winds of 20+ mph just 7 days before we took the option of not entering in advance and waiting to see if things were going to be calm enough to have a decent crack at what promised to be a very good marathon course.

As it turned out conditions were absolutely perfect so we went over to Lancaster and entered about 40 minutes before the start.

0-10 miles (1:06:18)

The first 10 miles were run on the cycle path up to Caton and then back down into Lanacster, pretty much the same route used by the Trimpell 20 in March of each year.

There was also a Half Marathon taking place at the same time so there were plenty runners around in the early stages as I tried to click into a sustainable rhythm.

Just out of habit I counted the runners in front before realising that there wasn't much point considering that there were two races mingled together. Nonetheless, there were 16 runners in front at the 3 mile point.

There was no way of knowing who was in the marathon as the only indication was the colour of the number which, of course, you couldn't see from behind.

At 7 miles the course went back past the start so I asked the Race Director how many marathon runners were in front. The response was 'not many'.

At 9 miles I was running alongside Sheena Logan, who clearly did have a marathon number on and she was wondering the same thing about how many people in front were actually in the marathon. I was up to 12th now so I reckoned it may possibly be as few as 2 or 3 marathon runners ahead. That would be a nice position to be in!

Not long after I noticed runners turning around and coming back towards us. This must be the half marathon runners. Counting them as they passed I got to 8, then 9, then 10, then 11..... Hold on, if all 11 in front have turned to finish the Half Marathon who exactly is ahead of us in the marathon? Nobody! That's who!

This was confirmed as a man in a fluorescent jacket jumped on his bike and said 'follow me'.

So I'm actually leading a marathon, right? Really?

Okay, deep breath, 16 miles to go ....... let's get on with it.

10 miles - Halfway (1:25:59)

The section from 10 miles on Lancaster quayside through to halfway at Condor Green is run along the estuary path below. This was a path that I used regularly for training runs as a student and as such I knew that it could get pretty slippy and squelchy at times. But on Sunday it was spot on and allowed a nice regular rhythm to be maintained just under 6:30/mile.

I was really enjoying this but there was also a voice telling me not to get carried away.

The point in the picture below is just after 13 miles on the way out and just before 20 miles on the way back with a road loop around Glasson Dock in between.

Halfway - 20 miles (2:09:58)

Glasson Dock in the picture below was at about the 15 mile mark

I remember thinking at the time that this is usually the point in a marathon where things start to get a little bit more serious and you start to wonder about when things are going to start hurting and getting uncomfortable. But there was none of that. I was really enjoying it and the legs just seemed quite happy with the prospect of another 10-11 miles at the same pace.

It remained to be seen whether that was reality or just bravado from leading a race.

20 miles in 2:09:58 or 6:30/mile average led me to start thinking about whether a sub 2:50 might be possible. Even if the mile markers were a little bit out it could just be on.

Still concerned about overdoing it and ending up doing a slow death march to the finish I decided to keep the current rate of effort ticking over to 23 miles and then, if I could, really have a good bash at the last 5K.

20 miles - The Finish (2:54:17)

It wasn't until back on the quayside at Lancaster that the legs started to moan a bit but since this was now the 24 mile mark I couldn't complain at that.

24 miles was reached in 2:37:05. So was sub 2:50 still a possibility? 12:55 for 2.2 miles at the end of a marathon? Probably not but as is the nature of these things it is always worth giving it your best shot as you just never know, the mile marker could have been a bit late, you might have misread the watch etc etc.

25 miles was passed in 2:43:37 which told me a couple of things:

a) A 6:32 25th mile meant that the legs were holding together very nicely indeed.
b) The idea of a sub 2:50 marathon was probably gone, not that I was overly bothered as a 2:51 or 2:52 would have certainly been grasped with both hands before the start of the race.

I was determined to finish strongly so really got stuck into the last mile back up the cycle path. Even though I was putting a lot of effort in now there was one extra gear kept in reserve for when I got sight of the finish, just for that last little finishing flourish.

But where was the finish?

I kept thinking that the lead bike was going to turn right into a finishing area but he just kept going on straight ahead further up the cycle path. I looked at the watch, 2:50 had gone (which was no surprise) as had 2:51 and now 2:52. Surely I should be able to view the finish by now?

Eventually I saw a crowd of people up ahead and there was still a little flourish at the end but when I saw the time at 2:54:16, a time that I was still delighted with, I couldn't quite reconcile the near 11 minutes for the last 1.2 miles as opposed to the 8 minutes that would have been expected.

As the other runners came in every single runner mentioned the same thing so at least it wasn't me going bonkers.

My first thought afterwards was how surreal all this was thinking back to 2008 when I decided to start running (or rather walking) again at 5 stones overweight. Winning a marathon? What me? Never! :)

If nothing else, at 47 the ageing process hasn't won yet :)

Below is a pic with the ladies' winner, Sheena Logan, with a time of 2:59:59 and 2nd place lady, a certain Hannah Oldroyd running her 3rd marathon in 7 weeks and coming away with a 3:02:50 to go with the 2:57:53 from Yorkshire and 3:01 from Budapest. Not a bad collection in 7 weeks.

More impressive performances were also landed by Kelvin Dickinson (3:00) and Caz Hall (3:29) who told us about this event in the first place and then dragged us screaming to the pub afterwards to celebrate.

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