Sunday, 20 November 2011

Luton Marathon

Setting off in fog this morning, there was a sense of deja vue.  Only nine days ago I started the Druid Challenge Ridgeway Ultra - 84 miles of hills and mud over three days - in fog at the top of Ivinghoe Beacon.  For me, running Luton marathon today was all about testing my recovery rate and whether I could even complete a marathon so soon after a multi day event.

Complete it I did, but this one was hard work!  First off, a huge thank you to the many marshals and spectators on the course today.  Everyone was smiling and clapping and it makes a big difference to many of us runners to get that level of support from strangers.  And to all the patient drivers - the route crosses a lot of residential side roads so plenty of people were blocked in for a while.

Despite the cold and foggy start, the sun was out for the entire run.  I wouldn't say it was warm, but I was OK in a long sleeve and hat.  This was a three lap course through a mix of residential areas and country roads, with plenty of twists and turns to help keep it interesting.  It isn't the most scenice course in the world, but the variety along the way did help.  I didn't really have a target time for today, just to see how it went.  My knees were a little sore for the first few miles and my ankles, legs and hips were all complaining by the end.  I settled into a nice steady pace from the off, clocking nine minutes miles fo the first lap.  The two water stations on each lap were just enough and I was gulping down the isotonic drink, despite the cold.  Maybe the homebrew beer and red wine with a huge dinner last night didn't help!

Chatting to a couple of runners on the first lap helped to pass the time and I knew I wouldn't be able to sustain the pace - its not far outside my 3:50:00 PB!  But I just kept going for the second lap, continuing with the 9 minute miles up to 18 miles.  I knew it was coming soon and it really hit me on the nineteenth - I had dropped a minute by the time I saw the 19 mile marker and continued to slow down after that, with a lot of shuffling and a little walking on the inclines and even on the flat.  I was feeling pretty miserable by now, knowing I had lost any chance of a good time and my legs were really suffering.  With five miles to go I knew I could just about get 4 and a half hours with a brisk walk and that goal kept me going, alternating between shuffling and running.  It wasn't like I was the only one suffering here.  Although a few runners were passing me by now, I was passing a few too.  I got a bit of a second wind somewhere between 23 and 24 miles and managed to pick up the pace again, mostly running now.  I realised I might pull back a half decent time if I could concentrate and ignore my fatigued muscles and tired brain.  I enjoyed the last half mile run in to the finish, clocking 4:07:56, not my best time but then I could never expect that given last weekend.

Luton Marathon 2011
That's a new record for me - 4 marathons in ten days, and I think 5 marathons in three weeks might be too.  I'm up to 29 marathons now and its time to take it easy for a while, to ensure my legs make a full recovery.  My next marathon entry is the Enigma Quadzilla in February.  Best not to even think about that yet!

I've seen grumbles online about the organisation of Luton Marathon and I know they have had cancellation problems in the past because of the weather and an accident beyond their control, but I thought today's event was mostly well organised (even if the portaloos turned up a bit late) and very well marshalled.  Thanks to everyone invovled for their hard work.

And good luck to the two guys running 13 marathons in 13 months in support of The CATS Foundation.  I said hello to them on the start line today (Luton being their second marathon) and saw them at Brentwood in October where they kicked off their challenge.