Thursday, 5 July 2012

My first marathon

Once I recovered from a stress fracture of a toe at the end of February this year, I started back running off road to ease my foot back into regular running. This turned out to be a “eureka” moment (more like month) as I realised that this is where running was at for me. Not quite goodbye road forever, but definitely the mud and hills were where i wanted to run.
I built this up gradually and started to wonder how far I could go. A chance meeting on 30th May told me about a trail marathon, but the closing date was 31st May. A marathon? Really ! Me? With a feeling of now or never, I got on the computer and pressed the GO button before I could change my mind.
I had a month to get my head around the idea and to be fit enough. I was running every day, so I had no problem upping the mileage on the weekend runs. Where I live lends itself well to hill, trail, bog running, so I got stuck in.
The race ? Well it was the Lakeland Trail Marathon around Coniston Lake on Sunday 1st July. I spend quite a bit of time on Twitter and get great support from the fabulous people on there, but i decided to keep this quiet. This was something I had to do myself. There were two people who knew about it because I helped tempt another into doing it (his first too) and a very special friend.
We agreed to run this together, despite never having met before (Twitter power ! ).
I travelled to the lakes on the Saturday and met my friends in Ambleside. We went to Coniston to register and collect our race numbers. Suddenly it was very real. I had a race number and was chatting with a man I had not met until half an hour previous, and we were about to embark on a journey neither of us knew about ! Exciting times.
Pre race evening preparations consisted of a couple of pints, followed by a delightful meal of sausage and mash. Lots of friendly chat. I felt so comfortable with these people.
I had booked into a campsite. Being an old bloke, I dont camp. Period ! So I had borrowed an airbed and was sleeping in my van. This is a small van, and whilst at 6ft I’m not huge, I am about 4 inchs too long for my van. I fell asleep quickly and all was well until 12.30 when the “neighbours” got home, decided to sit out and chat until 1.30. Peace for 10 minutes until the snoring started. Oh God, no. I’m running my first marathon in about 5 hours.
After some sleep, it was morning. Rain lashing the van woke me up ! Oh yes, here we go. I got into my race kit, pinned my number on, eat my pre race meusli smoothie (food of the running Gods) and headed off to the start about a mile away.
I met my friends there, attended to pre race briefing (no I never heard a word yet ! ) and we were off. As I have said, we agreed to run together. I wasnt sure how we would actually do this. It turned out that we had quite different running styles. He ran almost all the hills. I walked frequently. He descended cautiously, I freewheeled. I found the first third of the race quite tough. The hills were much shorter and sharper than I imagined and found it hard to get any sort of rhythm. My mate was cruising along steadily in front, occasionally looking back waiting for the thumbs up from me to indicte I was OK.
Somewhere after halfway the terrain changed quite dramatically. Now we were running moorland, bogs, stream beds, stones, the works. I was probably starting to hurt by now, but to be honest I dont remember. This is what running is all about for me. I noticed the 15 mile mark pass before my watch ran out of battery and went blank (note to self : charge up your watch ).
I can hardly believe we ran 11 more miles from here, it was just so much fun. Somewhere I got all silly and flew down some rock strewn, boggy hillside with total abandon. The fact that it had been grey and rainy all day didnt matter.
The terrain flattened out a bit after this and my buddy moved on nicely. I found it harder and thought of something I had read on a blog (@rhinomittens your advice to your pal), JUST KEEP GOING. I kept going. I could see my companion trip over tree roots a couple of times. I knew he was tiring, so shouted at him “keep dancing, man, keep dancing”. He knew what i meant.
The last couple of miles were alongside Lake Coniston and onto the playing field that was both the start and finish. I was delighted (but not surprised) when I saw my guy slow up to a trot a mile from home to allow me to catch up. We ran that last bit side by side, chatting, got a huge cheer from the crowds at the finish, crossed the line hand in hand. We were immediately hugged by the third member of the team. Job done. Happy? Yes. Elated? F*ck YES

1 comment:

  1. You're a dark horse!

    Amazing - sounds like awesome fun. Well done you and your new friends :)