The Tow Path One and the Wake Up Call…

I’ve now got two more marathons under my belt. Number two was better than number one (but not by much!) and number three was both a complete disaster and at the same time exactly what I needed.

A friend recently commented that I must be really fit from all the training. I had to admit that my preparation has been really bad, and almost nonexistent between marathons two and three. It was such a relief to get to the finish line in one piece that the drive to get out and run again went out of the window. I’ve come to realise that there is a big difference between running a single marathon a year and undertaking multiple events. Eddie Izzard is approaching god status at the moment!

The Tow Path One

There weren’t a whole lot of marathons to choose from in February, so I entered The Breakfast Race in Walton on Thames, organised by Phoenix Running, on the Monday in half term. It was another, shall we say, low-key event that only the seriously committed (or stupid) would take part in, with just under 50 entrants.

The course was again based on ‘laps’, this time a little longer at 3.28 miles, ‘out and back’ along the Thames tow path. There was a bit more to see, but it was still pretty cold and muddy!

Breakfast Route

Being on a tow path meant a pretty flat course, which was a welcome relief after the previous event, but nevertheless my old friend cramp came to visit around mile 22 and hung around for the next four miles, meaning that my time was a little slower than I’d hoped.

Just before I collapsed...
Just before I collapsed…

However, my welcoming committee more than made up for the pain in my legs! My lovely family were there to cheer me in (and steal sweets from the checkpoint tent). Then we retired for a pint of something cold (good idea to have the finish line outside a pub!) and a closer examination of the medal, which I’m sure you’ll agree is a work of art…

It's all about the medal!
It’s all about the medal!

The Wake Up Call

I had the best part of a month between marathons two and three, which should have been enough time to get my breath back and then pick up the training again. However, my initial enthusiasm / panic had waned and this along with the continuing cold and dark mornings gave the idea of going out for a run very little appeal. I was also lucky enough to spend a week away relaxing in the sun in the middle of February, and unsurprisingly copious amounts of beer aren’t that conducive to training either…

So it’s fair to say that by the time the Charnwood Marathon came around, on March 19th, I was not exactly ‘match fit’. There wasn’t a lot of information available about the route, and I rather foolishly assumed that it was going to be relatively flat. I was in for a big shock when the course took me up and over Beacon Hill, Bardon Hill and Bradgate Park, covering approximately 2,500 feet in all.

There are three fairly big hills on this route!

Given my lack of recent training, my plan was to simply finish this marathon and not worry about the time. That’s just as well, since along with the hills I had to deal with three A4 sheets of very detailed directions. The course was barely marked, and at times would make apparently random turns across fields or down cul-de-sacs. More than once I had to stop and work out just where the hell I was supposed to be going, or retrace my steps when I got lost.

An excerpt from three pages of directions
Try following these when you’re running!

Cramp reared it’s ugly head again on the way down from ‘Old John’ in Bradgate Park, caused by an ill-advised leap over a wide ditch that took me by surprise. Rather than stop and step over the gap gingerly, I decided to launch myself into the air with an extra long stride. As soon as I’d left the ground I realised my error, as a jolt of pain shot up my right calf. I hit the earth and collapsed in a heap, cursing my stupidity. After rolling around on the grass for a while, I gave my calf a quick stretch and hobbled off again.

Looking down from Old John...
Looking down from Old John…

I eventually finished the event (in around 50th place out of approximately 80 runners) with more than a little navigational help from a truly inspirational guy who had beaten cancer (twice) and has since clocked up over 350 marathons for cancer research.

Finish photo
A little upset there was no medal on this one…

But even with the lack of training, the unexpectedly hilly nature of the course, the mind boggling directions and the occasional bout of cramp, I realised about half way through the race that I was actually enjoying this marathon (a bit). Without the internal pressure to hit a particular time for each mile I settled into a steady pace that enabled me to think about what I was doing and why.

Despite what this slightly self-absorbed blog may suggest, the reason I’m running 12 marathons this year is hopefully to raise awareness of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and the work that Duchenne UK is funding. I may moan and groan a bit, (maybe just enough to get some sympathy donations?), but whatever pain I feel during training and the events themselves pails into insignificance when compared with the experience of the children and parents affected by DMD (the facts listed here are heartbreaking). There is hope on the horizon, particularly with recent advances in gene therapy, but research and clinical trials are so expensive that it can sometimes feel like a pointless endeavour. However, every pound given really does make a difference, so once again, thank you for your kind and generous donations.

This last marathon was something of a wake up call for me. I can’t just lurch from one event to the next without putting in any effort. I feel that if I don’t give it my best shot, I’m not being true to those who have donated, and in turn am letting down the charity and the cause that we’re seeking to publicise.

So, since Charnwood, I’ve been out running on a much more regular basis, clocking up approximately 75 miles in training. I’ve also been reading up on a technique to improve stamina and performance, which should help me with marathon number four, the Kielder 50K this coming Sunday 10th April. At approximately 31 miles, this ‘ultra’ event will be the longest run I’ve ever undertaken. With nearly 3000 ft of ascent, it’s not going to be flat either. But I’m not worried, I’ve got Eddie Izzard as a role model…

Wish me luck!

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