Alan Purvis …
Why does anybody want to put themselves through the pain of running 26.2 miles?
When I first started serious running over thirty years ago it was regarded as the pinnacle of a lifetime in the sport. About the only marathon around was the Windsor to London and it would have a field of maybe fifty or so small, wiry men who had served their apprenticeship with 5, 10, and maybe 15- or 20-milers. The London Marathon, Great North Run and all the other big events opened the floodgates of ordinary mortals prepared to put in the miles and the effort. There are runners now who have done a marathon but never raced a 10k.
In our own club we have people running the West Highland Way, the Bob Graham Round and not just a single marathon but turning round and doing it all again! The first question asked by non-runners is “Have you done the London Marathon”? Having reached the twilight of my running career this was a serious gap in my record. I became too slow for the Harrier League a couple of years ago, went over an hour for a 10K, two and a half hours for the half-marathon and almost last in the Northumbrian Coastal Run. So when Steve Cram put forward the idea of a run round Kielder I thought “yes,its local, probably flat, not likely to be hot and my last chance.”
Despite the proliferation of marathon training schedules available I relied upon what I know about my capabilities and the time I had available for training. My regular exercise had consisted of two days running on the roads, three days in the gym doing strength work and sessions of rowing, cycling and running, with two days off. The extra work would be three or four early-morning runs, gradually-lengthening long road-runs and only one rest day. I believed that three or four days of multiple sessions would replicate the stress expected in a marathon. Although I knew that it wasn’t recommended to do a training run more than, say, 16 or 17 miles I thought it would be a psychological advantage to get nearer to the target, so I got up to 23 miles. [ Good idea, Ed. ]
Having generally arrived home wrecked after these runs I realised that I would have to take food on board! I entered the world of gels and sports drinks which was a bit different from malt-bread, bananas and Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut bars I used to eat on longer triathlons some years ago! Experimenting with the gels showed that I had difficulty in tearing open the sachets so I took a small pair of scissors to do the job properly without squirting the stuff all over my vest.
At the race itself I was pretty quickly dropped by the majority of the field but, after fears around the eight or nine mile mark that I mightn’t make it, I knew after half-way that I would. My finishing time of over six hours would make many runners think, “Oh he must have walked half of it” but I ran every step of the way although at barely more than a really brisk walking pace. At that speed I didn’t suffer much after the race and, like many people who have done a marathon, I didn’t want to lose all that fitness so ran about sixteen miles a few days after. I even thought about doing the Newcastle Town Moor Marathon in November but, having put my wife through the misery of waiting for her husband to cross the line after most people were back home for tea, I was not too disappointed to have missed the entry date!
… Shaun Roberts …
When this race was announced, we had a lot of talk on the list as to whether the high cost was justified, especially as there didn’t need to be road closures. Well, arriving at Kielder early on this cold and foggy Sunday morning, you could see where some of the money was being spent. Shuttle buses, paid marshals, traffic control, temporary car park roadways – all sorts, that a club-run race normally doesn’t have to pay for. Sadly, though, a bit more time on the planning side might have been a good idea. There was a long queue of cars trying to get over the dam and down to Falstone to park – but the shuttle buses were trying to get up and down this same narrow stony road, which slowed down the whole process. I was surprised that the race was only delayed by fifteen minutes.
Very sociable before the off – lots of the usual suspects were here, including quite a few fell-runners. Dave Robson wisely decided not to run with an injury, but was there taking some great photos – see link below. And very photogenic it was too – we’d passed a huge ‘sea’ of white fog coming north from Hexham, and there was a similar fog over the reservoir, that burned off soon before the start, giving some perfect mirrored reflections of the North Shore treeline. Steve Cram, whose brainchild this race was, started us off. He also ran the race, despite recently flying in from Delhi – but his pre-race chat seemed a bit edgy to me, as if he could have done with a bit more sleep.
Off at 10:15, on a short tarmac loop near Leaplish, then onto the Lakeside path. Conditions were perfect – cool, but not too cold, then later bright without getting hot. A bit of a breeze, but nothing too strong, even coming into it across the dam. I set off pretty firmly and found the first stretch up towards the Castle to be fine – faster than I’d done on a recent recce – and I covered about eight miles by the hour mark. I knew that wasn’t going to last though, and sure enough, the endless succession of short hills pulled my pace down a lot, so I only covered another seven miles by the end of the second hour. Most of the surface so far was cycle path gravel, which isn’t the fastest, but it’s quite nice, having a bit of ‘give’ in it. So getting to the tarmac on the dam felt really hard underfoot, and the soles of my feet started to ache – as did the ligament in my right knee that’s been giving me some gip for a couple of months. I didn’t have to walk any hills, though, until just after the twenty-mile mark (2h40m), when my legs were just crying out for a break – I started to walk the steepest slopes.
Into the woods onto Bull Crag Peninsula, where I managed to keep running between short uphill walks. It seemed to take an age to get to the finish – time seemed to slow to a crawl, as I kept checking my GPS to see how much was left: 1m, 0.9m. 0.85m, 0.82m … the last mile seemed to take as long as the first eight had done! Finally, we got to the source of all the loudspeaker noise we’d been hearing for miles across the water but couldn’t see – and the assembled crowds were great. After the elite types had come in, I reckon most spectators were actually bored silly, which is the only way I can explain the huge cheers that went up as I put up a thumb to the left. I did the same to the right – more cheers. Sod it, I’ll really get them going, I thought, so I did an arms-wide, aeroplane-stylee set of swerves to the finish, and they went wild! All very nice, and it started to erase the memories of the last few miles.
The queue for a massage was pretty short, so within five minutes of finishing I was sprawled on a table with a young scouse masseuse pummelling my aching legs. For some reason, the organisers had roped in twenty sports massage students from a Liverpool college – excellent! Hope they got paid. Just what the doctor ordered – until I tried to stand up afterwards. Jelly legs! In fact there were a lot of runners hobbling around, asking themselves, and others, why this had been such a hard run. The simple answer was: the endless undulations. No really massive hills, but an awful lot of smaller ones, that stopped you getting in to any real rhythm. Saw Fiona afterwards, who’d had a good race, also Andrew and Grahame who’d also done well, on what is a very hard marathon course – well done to everyone else who got round …
Just time to experience one last niggle on this first-run event. Had to wait over forty minutes to get on a shuttle bus back to the car park – as I could have seen coming, the buses had again got caught up in the stream of traffic leaving the car park. Time for a good chat with a bloke who’d just run the race in his Vibram FiveFingers, which is to say, close to barefoot! He’d had a good run for 25 miles, but the chunky stony finish got to him in the end.
… Andrew Thompson
Just to add a bit to Shaun’s report, this race was a funny one – the hundreds (thousands?) of little hills were hard but also had downs to go with the ups which did give recovery time in readiness for the next bit. Not going to mention PMA this time though, for Dougie’s sake, think he is getting sick of my ‘run at them screaming’ chat.
It did get very tough towards the end – the hill at 20 miles was a killer. I managed (apart from half of the above mentioned hill) to run the whole route so I was pleased with myself about that, even though I slowed down a lot towards the end. I also did exactly the same as Shaun – the last mile I found myself checking my watch every ten steps wishing it over. When I checked three times and it was still on 25.27 miles I gave up on that and a minute later I found myself singing ‘Holiday’ by Weezer very, very loudly (without an ipod) while stumbling over the moors – think I lost the plot a bit there! I went past one man in tears sobbing loudly but I’m not sure if that was my vocals or the never ending last mile. Great route overall, not easy but it was never going to be. I’ll be back next year.
One last thing: thanks to Dave for appearing at the top of three different hills on the route armed with his camera – the encouragement was appreciated, reckon he must have covered nearly marathon distance himself …
|15||LIZZY HAWKER||Road Runners Club||F||1||2:58:22|
Honourable mentions to Andy Biggs (DCH), 3:34:48, Phil Green (NFR), 4:30-ish, Steve Gustard (DFR) 4:42:04, Chris Hassell (NeVets) 3:49:38, Linda Noble (Darlo) 3:28:51. Steve Cram finished 158th in 3:46:12.