Sometimes you have those moments in life where everything slots into place and for a short while it feels like the puzzle is complete. The last 7 days have been precisely one of those moments and I’m going to keep surfing the wave for as long as a I can so make no apologies if this post is very happy and positive!
Broadway marathon 2016 goal achieved
Last week was my last week working for a company I’d worked for since graduating 11 years ago. I’ve taken voluntary redundancy and been job searching for the past month which I can confirm is exhausting when you have a family and a day job to keep going too. But last Tuesday I was offered a new job that is just perfect, no commute and a really good role that will challenge me. Already a great week hen on Sunday I took on the Broadway marathon 2016, a final goal race for the year and one where I’d racked up more miles than ever training for. My goal was sub 4 hours and a top 10 finish and I smashed it finishing in 3:53:49 for 5th place. I’ve never been in the top 20 of a race before let alone the top 5, so bloody happy.
The race morning
Despite the forecast earlier in the week the weather turned out really good. A little drizzle but almost no wind and actually a very pleasant running temperature once you were moving and given the first 2 miles are essentially up a massive hill (230m of ascent) the cold feet and hands at the start aren’t cold long! I imagine a lot of people soon realised this given the amount of layers and thick winter jackets they were sporting on the start line.
I headed off the start line pretty quickly which isn’t normally a good idea for a marathon but within 300m there is a kissing gate to go through and it’s a real bottle neck which I didn’t want to get stuck in. I’ve never been in the running for a top 10 finish before and honestly it was exciting to be racing an event for once. Through the first couple of gates and then the climb started and I found myself in around 8th position with a few people close by. I ran most of the hill interspersed with some power walking on the steeper bits to try and save my legs a little, the top 3 had disappeared into the mist hanging around the peak but I found myself in 5th and felt good.
Settling into the race
I ran the next few miles with another runner exchanging the usual chat about the route, the weather and other races we’d done. Nice to have a little company but I could tell he wanted to push on a bit which he did at the 2nd big hill. This first section has some cracking single track trail, particularly the descents through the woods, I might have got a bit caught up in the moment and worked my quads more than was advisable but honestly who can resist running free on trails like that?
The mid section of the route is probably the least interesting, some longish road sections and footpaths along the side of fields. But it’s all building towards the final big climb out of Winchcombe which is a long one and for me at least mainly consisted of power hiking. Amazing views across to Teweksbury from here even on a cloudy day like we had which give some distraction from the burning legs. Once at the top there is a long road section and a chance to let the legs turnover, I tried to push a bit here and managed to make ground on the guy in front of me and subsequently caught him a few miles later.
I knew if I could get to this point and still have energy in my legs then I’d be home dry and barring a major bonk would finish in a good time. The route is roughly a figure of eight and this point in the race is the return from the far end of the top loop, there is a long descent through grassy fields (which featured some scary looking cows with big horns) which you try to just let gravity take you but every step your quads are screaming to stop. Not far now though and seeing the crossover point in the route is certainly a boost for moral.
The finish line in sight
The final 7km from the last checkpoint seem to go on forever, on the route profile they look relatively flat but the reality is constantly rolling hills and a nice helping of energy sapping mud. The one saving grace here was that I started to catch some of the half marathoners who set off an hour after the marathon and do the bottom half of the figure of eight only. Mentally this really helped to not only have some interaction with people but also be able to target people to catch up with. I chatted with most of the people I passed and they were all so positive and cheering me on despite battling their own challenge.
Finally though you exit from some woods and see the final descent across a field and then the road that leads to the finish. I was pretty sure there was a decent gap back to 6th place but didn’t want to risk it and looking back couldn’t tell if everyone was in the half marathon or not so I used the small amount of energy I had left to keep a sub 4.30 min/km pace along the road to the finish.
Such a relief to cross the finish line, to have far exceeded my goal going into the race and also that mentally I’d stayed strong to keep pushing those last few miles and get through my first experience of actually racing. I truly believe following the Hanson method was the key, it gave me real strength to push through the wall and clearly has built up a great level of endurance. Definitely a fully fledged convert now!
I also can’t recommend this race enough, Cotswold Running put on some great races every year. Good value for money, well organised, stunning locations, nice size of fields and simply good honest races. Do take a look if you’re interested in racing in the Cotswolds although I warn you the races always sell out well in advance.
Finally a quick mention for some of the kit I used:
- Shoes – Salomon Speedtrak. I’ve switched from Salomon Fellraisers this year as this shoe replaced them and for running on muddy British trails I don’t think there is anything better. I heard of plenty of people who fell over but I never once felt at risk of slipping and clearly had better traction that those around me. Will post a full review of them soon.
- Shorts – Inov8 Race Elite Ultra short. Comfy, nice length and combined with some Rundawear no chaffing. Job done.
- Nutrition – High5 gels and Jersey Pocket fridge bar. I have used this gels for a few years now and never have stomach issues, also like that they are quite runny so helps when taking them. I also took a small bite of the bar every 40 mins just to have something solid in my stomach. I find I need that if running longer than 3 hours or so, just gels isn’t enough.