Got to admit, I was pretty nervous about this one. Two reasons. First, if you’ve read about my first marathon, you’ll understand my fears about it all happening again (in my first marathon I had bad leg cramps from mile 12 until the finish). And second, I haven’t done any long runs over ten miles in almost two months (since my first marathon, in fact), and I was worried that my fitness levels might let me down.
Turns out I had nothing to worry about in either case.
I drove up to the Lake District on the Saturday and stayed in
Fawlty Towers … whoops, I mean the Sun Hotel in Coniston. It was a busy place with a bustling bar (lots of lovely ales on … and I didn’t even have one. How good am I?), and I had to check in to my room at the bar. That took a while. And not a single smile from the young woman checking me in. I asked about whether an early breakfast was possible. Nope. She said they’d give me some cereal and milk to take to my room, but I’d have to ask later. Still not a smile. I felt as if I was inconveniencing her, so I buggered off somewhere else for a nice pasta meal and a glass of wine.
Back to the hotel, ask for cereal for the morning, no, come back later. Long story short … what a miserable bunch. I didn’t have a single smile from any member of staff for my whole time there, and I felt like I was putting them out any time I spoke to any of them. I’m pretty sure it said ‘hotel’ on the sign. Maybe I just haven’t got a face people want to smile at. Ho hum.
Anyway … this is a race report. So get to the damn race, Lebbon! I chose the marathon race instead of the marathon challenge because of the more civilised start time (9am instead of 7am for the Challenge). Cut-off times at various feed stations were tighter, but it was still over five hours to finish. I felt quietly confident.
Let’s get this out of the way now. The Lakeland Trails’ description of the marathon course from the website stating that ‘Most of the course is on hard packed gravel or stony bridleways’ is … wrong. There are some paths like that, true, but there’s also an awful lot of hard off-road climbing and technical descents, rocky slopes, and some areas where there’s no apparent path at all. Luckily I love this type of running, so it didn’t really both me. But it did mean that this was a much, much harder run than I was anticipating.
I ran the first half at a pretty slow pace, conscious of what happened last time, and aware of the adage, ‘If you don’t think you’re running the first half of a marathon too slow, then you’re running too fast’. I’d hydrated well for the previous few days, and I was now using Saltstick tabs to try to ward off any cramps. And they worked! I was so pleased when I saw the halfway marker that I sped up a little, and I actually ran the last 13 miles at the same pace as the first 13. Not bad!
The best time for me was between miles 12 to 18, when I came as close as I ever have to experiencing the mythical ‘runner’s high’. I was bounding up and down rocky, very muddy slopes, revelling in the experience, loving the weather (it pissed down for about half of the run), and generally feeling pretty bloody good. What a time! Splendid views, beautiful countryside, great running, what’s not to like?
Answer: the last six miles. They Just Weren’t Funny. Fitness-wise I was still feeling pretty good, but my legs were very tired and heavy, and the terrain became very boggy and almost impossible to run. I was up to my shins in mud a lot of the time, and it was very difficult crossing this terrain at any speed. Then the final 3 miles along the lakeside consisted of paths criss-crossed with exposed tree roots, nicely polished to a slippery hell by everyone passing before. Not easy … but psychologically I was was feeling bloody good by now, knowing that the finish was close.
I ran the last 2 mile at about 10 minute mile pace, and crossed the line in 4hours 50 minutes. Ecstatic. And just a tiny bit emotional. This was one of the very hardest things I’ve ever done, but I’m very happy with how I performed, the effort I put in, and how I dealt with the very difficult psychological side of running such a marathon. Bloody hell …. it’s 26.2 miles over terrain that some people would find difficult to walk! And an average of about an 11 minute mile is pretty bloody good.
I picked up a pretty standard medal and a nice tech tee shirt, and then had the nicest cup of coffee and burger I can remember. The coffee was provided by Bob, and very bloody decent it was too. And the beef and black pepper burger with stilton and mushrooms was divine.
Great organisation, very enthusiastic marshals, a good event that I’d really recommend.
Shower, then home. It took almost 7 hours to drive home. Not ideal after such a hard marathon. And then an ice cold bath and a couple of beers. Injury assessment––no blisters, a bit of chafing here and ‘there’ (don’t ask). And now, the morning after, I have to come downstairs on my arse.
Marathon number 2: done!