Tag Archives: marathons

Milton Keynes marathon race review

Milton Keynes marathon was my big goal race of the year, a PB attempt and an attempt to crack 3.20 for the first time. The theory being that training for the Quadzilla gave me a great base to work from in the 10 weeks leading up to the race. All was going well until 5 weeks before the race when we went on holiday to Cornwall, a great week with the kids and some nice running on the coastal path but I lost my focus and momentum and quite honestly never got it back. The final few weeks of training were ok but I missed a few sessions for various reasons and then a week before the race got ill. Somehow the stresses of life and work often seem to peak close to a race, Murphy’s law I guess, but it quickly derails your running.

Ultimately this meant a change in goal for the race from a PB attempt to just being happy to be well enough to be on the start line.  And what a start line it is, lining up outside the beautiful Stadium MK (which I know sounds a bit odd but it really is a great stadium inside and out) and to top it all the clouds cleared and the sun put his hat on. While it may have been a nice start line it was most definitely not an organised one, in fact I’d go as far as to say it was chaos. The kids superhero run lining up at the front didn’t help things but there was also close to zero control of people entering the pens and the signage was crap.

There also appeared to be a confusion amongst the pacers who seemed to be standing in quite random spots, not helped by having both marathon and half marathon starters and pacers in the pens. I’d love to know whose bright idea it was to stick balloons to the pacers backs with their time goal written in felt tip on them also. Maybe the budget wouldn’t stretch to the normal flags that pacers wear? The strings were getting tangled up and then when actually running the balloons kept hitting people in the face.

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Taking on the Quadzilla

Any race with a name like THE QUADZILLA (said in the style of the xfactor announcer) is clearly not going to be a walk in the park, although technically it is in a park, and in this case it involves 4 marathons in 4 days. If you say that quickly it doesn’t sound too bad, at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself. I’ve been trying to not to think about running a marathon with the DOMS from 3 marathons in my legs. I remember after my first marathon being able to barely walk down the stairs the next day let alone think about going out and running another one.

But what I love about running is that these challenges exist, that if you so desire you don’t have to ‘just’ run a marathon. You can do one off road, on an island, in the jungle, in the desert, multiple in one day, multiple days in a row the list goes on. At the moment I can’t see myself settling down and doing the same time of races each year, I need the variety to keep me mentally challenged as much as anything. I also like to get out of my comfort zone, the same reason I did a triathlon last year, challenge myself in a different way.

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Not another year in review post

This isn’t another of those year in review posts or a post about new years resolutions, no, it’s both! Clearly I’m at the cutting edge of blogging with this idea and most definitely not too busy to write 2 separate blog posts. 2015 was always intended to be back end loaded, I knew having a baby that didn’t sleep meant that planning any significant races in the first half of the year just didn’t make sense so aside from one local 5 miler I did no racing at all. Instead the focus was on getting fit again after a light winter of training and also figuring out how to swim and ride a bike again.

Yorkshire marathon medal 2015

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Plusnet Yorkshire marathon 2015 review

The short story of this race is that I went with 3.20 as  goal and in classic marathon style was on track until 30km and then my legs went and I ended up with 3.27. I’ll be honest I was quite disappointed for a while, you put so much energy and commitment into attempting a fast marathon time that failing hurts. A lot. There are many bucket list races I want to run and target times but close to the top is a 3.05 marathon and to do that I need to keep progressing. Not sure running a minute slower than last year is progress?

But if I’m a little less hard on myself 3.27 is probably actually a good result when taken in context. I had 5 weeks of training to transition from triathlon to marathon which was always going to be a challenge even without the added complication of having small children who don’t sleep. One of my long runs in that period was a 28km slog after having 3 hours sleep the night before, not ideal. I did also run 3.27 despite having 3 short walking breaks and stopping at a water station to tip a bottle of water on my head. I have the pacing worked out, my 10km splits were within 40 seconds of each other for the first 30km and felt controlled. Put that all together and I guess I’m 75% of the way towards a decent marathon time?

Race gear ready

Keeping that positivity in mind I need to make sure to build from here, have a solid winter and then have another crack at a marathon time in the spring. I do at least have a good number of races coming up to keep me focused and training, not least a trail marathon in 4 weeks time!

But what about the race itself? This was my second year in a row at the Yorkshire marathon, I had no hesitation signing up after enjoying the race so much last year. I think it’s the perfect balance between a big city race with closed roads and good crowds, but small enough not to need detailed logistical planning just to get to the start line. It’s also easy for spectators to find a spot without fighting their way through crowds or pitching up 3 hours early to secure a view point.

We made a weekend of it driving up on Saturday morning after leaving the 2 older children at their aunties. Almost a relaxing time if you ignore the 3.5 hour drive and the 11 month old baby in the back. We also had to leave immediately after the race to get back and put them to bed so I enjoyed a travelling picnic stuffing my face with food and drink all the way home once the post race nausea had worn off.

Yorkshire marathon medal 2015

I’m a little torn with my views on the course though, it always feels a shame that the first few miles are so incredible running past the minster as the bells ring and the crowds cheer but the race of the race is fairly quiet as you run around country roads. There are pockets of amazing support in each village you run through (including the fab high fiving vicar again!) but a lot of the time it’s just you and the tarmac. There are 2 killer parts of the course; first the long hill from mile 18 up to mile 20, such a tough part of a marathon anyway but to be doing it uphill is horrendous. The second is the hill in the last km as you climb up to the finish, everything is burning and you just want to be done yet you have to climb this bloody hill before (in my case at least) careering down the other side like a rock gathering momentum towards the finish.

I almost took a couple of people out at the finish too, I was pounding away trying to sneak under 3.28 and these 2 girls doing the relay suddenly veered over to the side for some high fives. Side stepping at that point in a marathon is not what my legs wanted to do!

Despite York being a great city and having had 2 fun weekends there now I don’t think I’m going to be back. It was nice doing the race again and knowing what was coming up, but twice is enough I think. It’s not as though we’re limited on race choices is it? Next year I think will be a different Autumn marathon, now just to decide which one, answers on a postcard please.

Your race is you

The gun goes bang. The crowd surges forward. Adrenaline surges around your body as the crowd’s cheers spur you forward. You feel like you are going backwards, everyone is flying past you. Shit. Is my pace wrong? Should I push on with them or stay strong? They were in my pen for target time so why are they going so much faster? Shit. No GPS watch to check the pacing, knew I should have bought one.

This is the make or break moment, the moment where you can derail your race within the first mile. I think of myself as a confident, strong person yet this is exactly the thought process that was going through my head at the start of the marathon at the weekend. All that work and planning yet a few people running past me and I was immediately questioning my plans. How crazy is that?

Yet unless you’re expecting to be pushing for the podium your race really is you. You’re the one that matters and you are your competition. In fact I might well get that tattooed on my arm to look at whenever I do a race to just remind me. It’d also make a great slogan for a running clothing company, perhaps I should trademark it?

I wonder what percent of runners in each marathon throw their race plans out within those first 100 metres simply because they give in to peer pressure? I bet it’s huge especially for first time marathoner’s who are already nervous. Marathon running is definitely a mental challenge and none more so than at the start.

I’m very happy that I managed to stay cool and stick with my pacing plan even on the second lap when I tagged onto the back of a group only to realise that they were going 20 seconds a mile or so too fast for me. I backed off and stuck with my plan even though it meant running on my own. With my attention now turning to my first ultra that mental strength is going to be much needed I think.