Bristol to Bath Marathon 2015 Highlights

After starting a long and dull race report (you know the sort – just look at some of my early reports!) I decided I was even boring myself and I’d better start again. Here goes.

The amazing thing about the Bristol to Bath marathon wasn’t the start, or the finish, or the support between the two. It wasn’t the number of Portaloos or water stations, or the weather or even the medal. It was the sum of all these things, and a little something extra – how I felt on the day.

As I’ve already written, I loved every minute of this race. I didn’t look upon it as a race, but as a last long run. Bizarrely unlike most people I read about, I love the long runs in my marathon training – all on my own, carrying my stuff, really feeling like I’m travelling around where I live. I took this attitude into last Sunday with me, and it did me proud.

I had some lucky breaks, like finding 2 Portaloos with no queue just when I needed them, at mile 3 and mile 17-ish. Also you know that moment when you’ve just taken a gel and your mouth is really sticky and you really really need some water but you had wrongly guessed where the next water station was? Well, imagine at just that point hearing your name called, and seeing a friend offering you some water (Thanks Nat!).

Headphones = no smiles. Me - lots of smiles!
Headphones = no smiles. Me – lots of smiles!

I had considered taking my ipod along for the tough bits where I had anticipated little support (between the two cities, including the two big hills). I was glad I abandoned this idea, because the support was amazing. Plenty of people around me were listening to stuff, which was really annoying when I was talking to them, only to be ignored. I was running at one point in Bristol next to a man who was wearing a running top emblazoned with the Welsh dragon. A spectator started loudly singing the Welsh national anthem at him – but as the Welshman had earphones in he completely missed it. What a waste. I, on the other hand, stayed completely in the present listening to the cheers and applause, and enjoying reading people’s banners. My particular favourite was held by a bored looking teenager and read “IT WASN’T EASY GETTING UP EARLY TO MAKE THIS BANNER, EITHER”.

Smiling AND Jazz hands. What was IN that gel?
Smiling AND Jazz hands. What was IN that gel?

The route was flat and hilly. The first half was mostly pancake-like, with everyone I spoke to anxious about the second half. I was mentally prepared to walk up the hills if I needed to (I was expecting to if I’m honest) but in the spirit of just taking everything as it came when I actually got to the hills I felt fine and just carried on running.
All the way around I could see the flags of the 5 hour pacers just ahead of me. This was perfect as my ‘Gold medal’ goal was to finish in 5:15 (which means averaging around 12 minute miles) and if I kept them in sight I knew I was on track without having to keep on looking at my Garmin. My ‘Silver medal’ was to beat my Brighton time of 5:25, and ‘Bronze’ was to finish with a smile on my face. With the prospect of the hilly second half I told my family I expected to take around 5:30, so they could plan getting into Bath without having to hang around for too long.

As we hit the long Kelston Hill at mile 20 I slowed to a walk to pull out my sports beans (not a euphemism) and then ploughed on up the hill slowly running and chewing. I tried visualising the hill as actually going down rather than up to see if it helped. Actually it did – don’t know what was in those sports beans! I could see the now much smaller group of people with the 5 hour pacers were walking up the hill. I gradually caught up with them until we all reached the top of the hill and we started running together.

For the first time there were the most amazing views of Bath from the top of the hill. We could see it! It was only about 4 miles from here. I overtook the 5 hour group and caught up with a couple of Run Mummy Run friends who had been run-walking from the start. At the next hill I left them behind as they walked and I ran. I smiled, and ran, and smiled, and ran a bit more, and realised I was actually feeling sad that this amazing run was coming to an end.

The downhills were sore on my right knee by now but I was excited to be back in Bath. Running down streets I usually go shopping along was an amazing experience, as was seeing the bemused foreign tourists taking photos of exhausted runners against the backdrop of Bath Abbey.

The sneaky hill just before we entered Victoria Park was cruel, but seeing the mile 26 marker was enough to make my throat tighten with emotion “Don’t cry yet!” I sternly told myself. A glance at my Garmin told me I was definitely on for an amazing time, which made a sob rise inside me again. “DON’T CRY YET!!!” Into the park, crowds of people lining the barriers, spotting the finish line ahead, “Still don’t cry”, suddenly hearing “LUUUUUCCCCYYYY!”, turning and seeing my daughter waving frantically at me. She was the only member of my family who had made it to the finish before I did, despite initially not being able to find the park on the way from work. Amazing!

As the sobs threatened to escape, I roared over the finish line, for the first time ever feeling justified in raising my arms to the sky. My official photos of this moment might not be pretty, but they’re the ones that best tell the story of this run.

Roaring. Not sobbing. Honestly.
Roaring. Not sobbing. Honestly.

Thankfully my daughter took a slightly less deranged photo.image

Fabulous. I beat even my Gold medal target, so I guess I won Platinum. I finally felt like I’d run the marathon I should have been capable of for a long time. Nothing else to say, just more smiling.

Apparently I didn't look like I'd just run a marathon
Apparently I didn’t look like I’d just run a marathon

Marathon-eve

It’s the day before the Bristol to Bath marathon. I’m trying to rest as much as possible (hello sofa!), whilst carb loading (hello flapjacks) and hydrating (hello little girls’ room). I know what I need to take tomorrow, I have a lift to Bristol arranged, I have my refuelling plans made and I have my race day outfit sorted. So why don’t I feel ready for the race tomorrow?

image
Outfit for tomorrow.

This isn’t my first marathon – it’s my third. Has the novelty worn off? No – I still get ridiculously nervous before any race, no amount of familiarity seems to change that. My taper was less of a gentle reduction in mileage and more of an abrupt brake to zero, but I’m not too worried about that either: I’m rested and injury free.

My previous marathons have been away from home, involving a hotel stay, a restaurant pre race meal and complicated family arrangements. Tomorrow I will have slept in my own bed. I will have eaten a home cooked meal. I will have had my usual porridge and favourite cup of tea. It feels more like preparation for a final long run than a race. I have realised though, that that’s okay. My long runs have all gone well in training – no pressure, no hassle, just a long way to run. I suspect the hard middle miles of tomorrow won’t have roads lined with applauding spectators so like my training runs I can just concentrate on running rather than high 5-ing or waving. I’m even considering taking my ipod for some podcasts. Too relaxed an attitude? I’ll find out tomorrow.

image
This card means a lot

Marathon number 3

Did I mention I’d entered another marathon? No? Well I’ll confess I was in denial that I was training for a marathon for quite a few weeks, despite eyeing up the race and discovering several of my running buddies had already entered.

My first marathon in 2012 was run after missing 5 weeks of training due to injury, and after a longest run/walk of just 14 miles. In 2013 I ran my second, after proving to myself I could complete the training. Although I completed this marathon over 40 minutes quicker than my first, I had a couple of ropey moments. Apart from the miraculous toilets and someone playing “Jump Around” when it was all I could manage to continue shuffling, I have always had the feeling that I still haven’t given the marathon distance my best shot. Hearing about a brand new race, very local to me, was too tempting to ignore.

Without an official training plan I started upping my miles, keen to see how I felt before committing myself. It was only when I’d comfortably run 14 miles that I stumped up the cash and entered.

The inaugural Bristol to Bath Marathon is going to be held on 25th October, starting in Bristol (not surprisingly), running around the streets of Bristol for nearly a half marathon before finally heading out to Bath via a couple of horrible hills. I am already planning on walking up both of these inclines (it’s 26.2 miles -who needs hills as well??), and I really must have a recce of them beforehand just so I know what I’m dealing with.

Exciting stuff!

Post Marathon Reflections

I’ve had a few days to reflect on my race, and also some time to reflect on the fact that a young man collapsed on the course and later died. I also, very sadly, have been thinking of the people of Boston. Although I’ve felt guilty for enjoying my race, and for thinking about a race report, and even for still being here to run and race again, I’ve come to the conclusion that if we stop running, if we panic, if we stop racing and enjoying our running then we’ve let the evil s*ds who did this win. We owe it to the people of Boston to hold our heads high, and run.

So with that in mind I wrote a very long race report (do I do any other kind?!) and had a good think about Sunday and the race and how it went.

Looking at my Garmin times, I did indeed slow down in the middle section of the course, but apart from mile 2 which I went too fast on mile 26 was 11:37 pace and the very last bit was my fastest at 11:22 I *really* wanted to finish! I’m really pleased with this, because it did feel like I was pushing at the end so I’m glad the numbers show that. My final time was 5:25:41 which was 47 minutes quicker than London last year. Before the race I’d thought about my ‘Gold, Silver and Bronze’ finishes. Bronze was to finish under 6 hours, Silver was to finish under 5:30 and Gold was to finish by 5:15. I’m delighted I achieved my Silver medal.

New PB!New PB!

Something else I noticed was the amazing signs and banners people were holding. Maybe its a Brighton thing, maybe the people of Sussex are particularly entertaining, but I did laugh at some of them:-

“Worse parade ever”

“Chuck Norris never ran a marathon”

“Any fool can run. It takes a special kind of fool to run 26.2”

Hurry Up Runners, my arms are killing me holding this up”

“If you feet hurt its because you’ve kicked so much butt”

I loved the couple of people holding bowls of slices of fresh oranges. So lovely and refreshing, especially after gels!

About mile 20 I was thinking that running a marathon was just too hard, and I couldn’t see how I could ever get any faster because it takes such a lot of energy just to complete the distance. I guess I’m not planning on running another marathon anytime soon. After London, I straightaway knew I needed to try again, to see if I could manage the training; to see just what it felt like to race that far; and to really feel I’d given it my all. I did all of those things this year, and I’m happy with the time I ran.

Other great achievements from the race were – my new shoes felt great all the way through. Despite only running in them for 10.8 miles before the marathon, which I know is a huge no no, they just felt fantastic, comfortable and supportive all the way around. No blisters, no rubbing, no pain! I also managed to avoid any chafing – obviously I got that out of the way in training. Actually, the only lasting pain I have is from the sunburn I caught on my arms. Good job I had applied it to my face or I would have been a total beetroot!

Excuse me a moment, must just go and polish my medal again, and put some aftersun on my poor arms…

20130417-172653.jpg

Brighton and Boston – worlds apart, but close in our hearts

Before I can write about my race at the Brighton Marathon yesterday, whilst I am still processing my thoughts and feelings from the day, the dreadful news from Boston Marathon has hit our TV screens.

Two marathons, two cities, thousands of runners and many more thousands of supporters, families and friends – what a difference a day can make. Two days with such different endings.

My heart goes out to all those affected by the explosions at the end of the Boston Marathon: family and friends of those that are reported to have died, people injured, the emergency services and hospital staff working so hard. Please know that many, many people across the world, and especially runners, are praying for you right now.

And of course, I’m sure that everyone who ran the Brighton Marathon yesterday is thinking of the family and friends of the young man who collapsed during the race and died shortly afterwards. Our prayers are with you all.

VLM Part 3 – Some Final Notes and Thoughts

So much time has passed now (well, nearly 2 weeks, but it feels like a long time!) I’ve shown off my medal to many people, including a child who admired it and said “Did you win??!!”. I’ve been out for a couple of runs this week, nice and slow, but just great to be out on my quiet country lanes again.

After the marathon, it was shocking to learn of the death of a runner just before the end. Really brought it home how fragile life is, and how we must grab every minute we have and make the most of it. Amazingly, over one million pounds has now been raised in her name for The Samaritans. Quite a legacy.

Race Stats
One of the most impressive stats  that was published was the following:-

 Over final 7 km
You passed
516
runners
And
5
passed you

I like passing people at the end of a race!

Gels
On a more practical note, I want to record my ‘nutrition strategy’ for the day, because it seemed to work, so might come in handy again.

Before I left the hotel at 7.15am, I had porridge, toast and tea for my breakfast. On reaching the start area I had another cup of tea and a flapjack, and then about 45 minutes before the start I had a banana. (I remember eating it, standing in the loo queue for the 3rd time!) I think I took 2 ibuprofen around this time as well. About 30 minutes before the start I ate one of the thick and gloopy PowerBar gels (which taste like Calpol smells, by the way!)

Around mile 6 I started on my ShotBloks, eating one per mile. Lovely little blocks of sugary goodness!

At mile 12 I had a High5 Isogel These are more like a drink than a gel, so much easier to get down. Taste quite naturally fruity rather than the artificial ‘orange squash’ gels they were handing out on the course.

At Mudchute, mile 17 I took a High5 IsoGel with caffeine and took another packet of ShotBloks with me. I ate a few of these from mile 20, but after a couple I couldn’t stomach anything else so didn’t bother.

Mental Note – DO eat something as soon as you can afterwards. I didn’t, and ended up feeling queasy and faint on a Tube and had to sit on the platform for a minute to recover.

There – I think that’s it. Now to plan the next one!