Dan and I got to the registration twenty minutes before the start after a bit of a mission to find a parking space and a nice brisk jog to the Pyramids to get our numbers. Then we found the toilets we'd visited last year (to avoid the queues for the 4 portaloos) were locked shut. Fortunately we were saved a trip into the bushes by sneaking into the gym with some other runners who looked like they knew what they were doing. I'm sure we weren't supposed to be in there, but when you've got to go...
When we came out, it was lashing down with rain, and as we jogged round to the start we saw that the race had already started, so we trotted around the stream of runners, joined in at the back, and were on our way. Dan had planned to run it as a training run, and run nice even splits for a 4:00 or so finish. I didn't really have a plan, so I made one up a few minutes in, which was to make the most of having the wind at my back, and then see what happened. So I quickly said good luck to Dan and zoomed (in a manner of speaking) off.
I weaved my way through quite a lot of people on the opening stretch along the promenade, and things just started to open up before the first of a few pinch points where I was forced to stop, wait, and then start again in single file, pretty much stuck at the pace of whoever was in front of me. This happened on and off for the first eight miles or so which was a bit annoying, and something I don't remember happening last year - although I did start a long way back this time around. It felt more like an interval session than the first part of a marathon, hoofing it to the next gate or narrow turn, and then slowing down again. I had no idea of my overall pace, although the five mile marker came pretty quickly, and since the rain had disappeared and the sun had put its hat on, I was starting to warm up by about mile ten and had my waterproof jacket off and tied around my waist.
As I hit the stretch leading up to the halfway/turnaround point I realised I was probably going a bit too quickly, and when I hit the turn I was sure I'd overcooked it a bit. Not quite suicide pace, but I reached halfway in 1:45:09. I was starting to feel the pace, but knowing I only needed a slight negative split to break 3:30 I decided to go for it, and nudged my pace up to 4:45/kms for a few miles on the open stretches to allow for a bit of a tail off towards the end. I saw Dan just after the turnaround and he seemed dead on his target pace as far as I could work out as we high-fived across the mud as we passed each other.
It was all going ok up to about mile eighteen, when all of a sudden everything went upside down, my mouth was full of mud, and I had some massive pains down my left hand side. I eventually pieced together what had happened - on a muddy part of the trail after a kissing gate, I'd slipped, my left foot sliding to the right across me, leaving me to drop like a stone smashing the outside of my left thigh and my left shoulder into the bank on my left.
I slowly got to my feet, realised I was now in everybody else's way, and stepped off the trail for a bit, checking for damage and swearing quite a lot. Fortunately, because I'd fallen so hard and fast I hadn't tried to stop myself, and so hadn't twisted anything. As far as I could tell, most of the pain was coming from the impact of my thigh and shoulder on the bank, and although both were hurting a lot, I started a slow shuffle while I spat mud out of my mouth, and mopped up the blood now flowing from somewhere under the mud on my hand.
The next twenty minutes or so weren't much fun, my leg was pretty much dead and I ran a couple of very slow kilometres, in pain, as well as terrified that my next step was going to send me crashing back to the ground. Then slowly, things started to feel a bit better. I'm not sure if it was the pain in my left leg easing, or that I was reaching that stage in the race where everything else started hurting and caught up the pain in my leg, but either way, by mile twenty-two I at least felt like I was running again. After some quick calculations I realised I had to run faster than my 5k PB pace to break 3:30, so I gave up on that target which mentally made things easier, so I relaxed a bit more, and actually started to enjoy the last few miles. I passed a lot of people from there, especially along the last beach stretch (which I made just before the tide came in), and back along the promenade which was a bit tough into the wind.
I had enough left to give it a bit of welly down the last stretch, and finished in 3:33:25, which on that course, with plenty of mud and a lot of bottlenecks wasn't too bad I don't think. If I hadn't fallen over I might've gotten under 3:30, but who knows. Even with wiping out it was my second fastest marathon of the year - although it was also the second of only two flat singles I've run all year.
Straight after the finish I met my Dad, and we waited to cheer Dan in - I was hoping he'd stuck to his pacing plan which was part of his prep for the SDW50 and not gotten too excited at the thought of a massive negative split, and he did, coming in pretty much dead on 4:00, so overall a good day for both of us.
A couple of days after and I'm totally recovered apart from the impact injuries from the fall. My shoulder and thigh are pretty badly bruised, but I'm hopefully they'll be ok for the OMG Ultra in a few days.