This was my first big city road race since Liverpool in May, a rare thing for me, and there are a few things I really hate about doing them, as opposed to the smaller trail races I’m more used to.
The car park was about two miles away from the start which was ok on the way there, but a real drag on the way back. The race started on a field with a pretty full-on race village thing going on. Tents, changing rooms, VIP area, all kinds of people selling crap, and a million portaloos. Obviously a million wasn’t enough, so with half an hour to go people were peeing up against or behind pretty much anything. In a small trail race going in the bushes is pretty standard, but I think there’s something not quite right about thousands of people pissing all over a park that kids are playing in, just because they can’t be arsed queuing.
Anyway, after a bit of a wander about we were off to the start, in coloured waves which was pretty well organised. The marathon and half-marathon were starting together so it was pretty packed, but we were off without too much ado.
I worked my way in front of the 3:30 pacer so as to avoid the crowd behind him, and settled into a 4:45/km pace which felt ok to start off with. The route wasn’t too bad, the sun was shining which always helps, but there seemed to be a minimum of Industrial Estate, and we took in some nice stretches of surrounding countryside without ever getting too far away from the city.
The half-marathon runners split off at about 11 miles which was weird, and made the second half feel a bit longer, but I had a chat with a few guys along the way to pass the time and got a high-five from Mike Wells who was marshalling around mile 15 which was cool.
At around 20 miles I really started to struggle. It was getting really warm and my legs were toast. They were giving the water out in the same little pouch things they used at Manchester and I’m not sure I was drinking enough from them early on – it was really hard to tell how much of it was going in, as opposed to up my nose or all over the runners behind me. I was slowing down a lot too, and started looking over my shoulder for the 3:30 pacer. I wasn’t too bothered about my time so long as it was around 3:30, but I didn’t want to spend the last few miles in a huge crowd of people.
We did a big loop of a reservoir/water park thing with a few miles to go and I could see that the 3:30 pacer was nowhere in the mile and a half behind me so I figured I was safe, and just trundled on. The last 3km were tough, I was pretty much out on my feet – not the comfortable coast I was hoping for, but then I had a few miles in my legs from the previous weeks’ races I guess, and it was pretty warm by that point too.
As I hit the turn back into the park I noticed I was just over 3:30, so god knows what happened to the pacer, and I eventually bumbled over the line in 3:31:04.
Overall the race was pretty good, and I’d like to have a go at it on fresh legs. Matt Tonks hit his sub3 goal there the same day and it’s definitely a nice quick course. One of the coolest things was that everywhere on the route, all I saw were people doing sport. It was like there wasn’t a park or a patch of grass what didn’t have a football or hockey match on it, there were other runners and cyclists all over the place - even all the water we passed had rowers on it. I was happy enough with my time, although I’d have liked it to be a little more comfortable. For all the piss-taking and messing about that goes with running ultras, it’s never “only” a marathon, and I definitely earned this one.
I’ll be happy to have a few weeks running around the local trails now in prep for marathon/ultra number 50 at Snowdonia in four weeks. One easy week should be enough to recharge the legs, then a couple of speedier ones to get ready for those hills!