Updated: Jul 15, 2020
Yet another example of how not to prepare for or even run a marathon. Sometimes, I shake my head and wonder when will I ever learn? Still another 26.2 chalked off.
I know some people really dislike multi-lap courses. I have to admit I quite enjoy them. Once you've done the first lap, you have an indication what to expect, sometimes the weather improves or deteriorates or just stays consistent. The great thing whatever happens is that you can still challenge yourself to keep pace and wave fingers in the face of the elements. There are maybe marshalls that are really friendly or supportive around the course that you can look forward to a quick chat with, to buoy your spirits, a friendly face and comment never hurt anyone.
Newcastle Town Moor (Toon Town Moor) Marathon is such an event, 7 laps, a pleasant course, bit of dirt track, wide open fields, bit of tarmac and throughout very friendly and encouraging marshalls. Not too undulating either (always welcome). Back to earth with a bump though.
After Snowdonia Marathon a few weeks ago and a semi-respectable time, following a PB at York, I had an fake inkling that I was on the up. Work has been a bit consuming the last few weeks, which has been brilliant, but my training and effort has waned significantly. Okay, let's face it I've not run, not once. Zero training and then an attempt at a marathon takes me back to my days as a 20 year old, when I could barely manage it, unfortunately I'm over double that age now but with clearly a similar mentality. Just wanting something is not enough of a reason to acquire it. I wanted a new PB, especially after completing the first lap. Despite only 3 1/2 hours sleep, a rush to register, a lack of breakfast and poor fuelling preparation, I felt great. How the mind can play tricks on you. Unrealistic expectations, the great gift to myself. Even better than the false hope I had given myself was the welcome sight of a friendly face, George (Gloves) Sherriffs; I'd missed the opportunity to congratulate George at his 100th marathon in York a few weeks earlier. As a fellow 10in10er he occupies a certain place in my heart. Adrian (The Train) was there too, although as a City fan, he's clearly keeping this Liverpool fan at bay for the moment.
Seven laps thought I, great spirits thought I, friendly marshalls thought I, friends running too thought I, 30 minutes a lap thought I. Oh well! 4 out of 5 it'll have to be. If you are reading this and have entered a marathon please follow someone else's advice and certainly don't follow any of my behaviours. It has taken years of winging it to be this lucky and toned by the skin of my teeth.
I arrived at registration at 9:15. I'd left my kit in the car (5 minute walk away). Toilet evacuation is generally a must before any run, I'd not performed this ritual. So I managed to join the queue at 9:29 at which point the gun went off. Silly bugger! I ran to the start line and joined all of the other runners. At this point I was moving really well, I felt up for it. At the end of lap one, I thought I'd visit my friend Fields (W.C. Fields). However, instead of following the lap around to bypass this area, I ran the opposite way, some friendly half marathon runners let me queue jump, then had to run back and rejoin, thereby passing the place I wanted to visit and had already visited looking like a buffoon in the process. Time at the end of the first lap (including half lake lap) 35 minutes. No problem, I still feel fantastic. Second lap time completed and the timer registered 64 minutes. All cool I thought. Then those little thoughts began to creep in, thinking I was something I wasn't, nor had I put the effort in to be. I'm going to clock the next lap in another 30 minutes, thought I. As I passed the timing pads of the third lap, strangely I was bang on time. This is all gravy. Never take the distance of 26.2 miles for granted, anything can happen, no matter how confident you feel.
Four laps to go and on this course sub 3:30, at last. As part of my love for running I really do try to make happy. I say cheery thank yous to the marshalls, chatting whenever they are free. I say hello to other runners, congratulate those who are doing really well, or struggling, or who I get the chance to run with for a while, I really do try to encourage everyone in the event. They are doing something notable, even if it is their first or their 100th. A marathon is no mean feat ...
I'd estimated from looking at finish times from previous years that the winners would glide by me on lap 4 or 5. I'd mentally prepared myself for this, as I hate being overtaken at the best of times but I'm not in their league, not even close. So, half-way round lap 4 the first of the 'elite' runners came by me, effortless, they seem to make it look so easy. I'm still plodding thinking sub 3:30, but then the wheels start to come off. It doesn't bother me though as I still mentally feel great. I say 'morning, great running' or words to that effect as each of the sub 3 hour marathoners pass me. Each one acknowledges me with a thank you. The sentiments I utter, I wholeheartedly mean, even if admittedly I sometimes think (of my 20 year old self), if only. They truly are fantastic athletes and each one must have put in the hours and have significant talent too. Each of the leaders says, thanks in recognition of my comments. That is until the fifth place runner passes me. Now, I know I should have done the training, I also know I'm passed it. I also know what it means to get some genuine recognition and encouragement. Two things went through my head as 5th place passed me. First, I could kiss goodbye to a sub 3:30 finish, my pace had dropped off, my groin ached (never done that before) and my watch had not tracked my run (so my head dropped) and to reiterate I had not done the training so didn't deserve a decent finish this would have been deserved had I undertaken the hard work. Second, even if you are an elite athlete or someone chasing a time on a marathon and someone, a marshall, a fellow runner tries to acknowledge your efforts, at least recognise it. The guy who passed me in fifth was the only one of about eight or ten runners who lapped me who didn't acknowledge my comments, he flashed by one of the marshalls too. I don't know him, don't know his state of mind but his seeming disdain for both the marshall and my encouragement just left me thinking that he was no GB athlete, no real elite performer and a little kindness or manners goes a long way, much longer than 26.2 miles. He needs to remember that despite his success, he is still essentially one amongst many and not above a little involvement within the running community he enjoys, he's certainly no 'elite' athlete above others and in my book, much like myself, he's 'not all that'.
One of the comments I was fortunate to hear on the course was from one of three plodding Betties. Let me clarify, a plodding Betty or plodding Bob is the one who makes a running club, he or she turns up weekly, they regularly volunteer, give freely of themselves for others and run simply for enjoyment, for them running is a social competition and activity. They were doing the half marathon part of the course and were clearly enjoying themselves. It was evident from their high spirits they would achieve the half. It is truly wonderful seeing individuals from all walks of life, pitting themselves against themselves and a distance to achieve a milestone. Unfortunately, as they had been running as a group, the Betties had clearly taken a wrong direction and all three had added a distance to their 13.1 mile event. One of them was complaining in what seemed to be a semi-serious but perhaps light hearted manner of this mistake, let's call the leader 'Julie'. You have to try to read this in a Geordie accent, 'wi-aye pet and just think we might be at the end now, had Jooolie not taken us the wrong way, supposed to be doing a half marathon not an ultra-half.' An ultra half? Really, an ultra half? I had a lap to go at this point, it was food for thought and helped me grind out those last 3 odd something miles. With my half trip round the lake for my daily ablution, perhaps I could register an ultra marathon, it might make up for the fact I'm not 'all that'?