Photo credits: plodding hippo (2011 race)
Last Saturday I ran my first marathon…..and I loved it!
The White Peaks Marathon is organised by Matlock Athletics Club and run in parallel with the half marathon. The full route uses a dis-used railway from Thorpe to Cromford Meadows following first the Tissington Trail to Parsley Hay, then the High Peak Trail to Cromford.
A small event with around 200 runners for each race lends a friendly, local feel. Very different to the city races I have completed.
The reviews I had read mentioned road shoes were suitable for the compacted limestone and cinder tracks, so I was confident my vibram bikila’s would cope. I hoped my feet would too, after smashing my left foot into a mooring ring at the end of my final long run, a week before the race!
After a 30 minute coach ride from registration to the trail start, we had half an hour wait before the 11am start. I fueled up with a banana and flapjack (I would be running though lunchtime!) and chatted to a few local runners about the vibrams. The general theme was they had thought about trying them, but were yet to take the plunge. Hopefully I showed enough enthusiasm for at least one runner to try them out!
After a long announcement, which I couldn’t hear at all, we were off!
I trained with a ‘complete not compete’ attitude, aiming for a sub 4 hour time. My last couple of long training runs felt too slow at this pace though, and I decided in the final week to run the first half at around sub 3:50 pace and see how I felt for the second half.
The first 7 miles were up a steady but gradual incline, and into a constant head wind that kept my 8:40 mins / mile pace in check. The trail then levelled out for a few miles but unfortunately the wind remained. The next 9 miles seemed to pass quickly though, engaged in banter with a fellow runner. Space was tight running in twos, due to the narrow trail and a few large puddles from about 8 hours rain overnight. This meant we had to use the uneven grass verges now and again, and not the racing line! As we reached halfway we stepped up the pace slightly to 8:30 mins / mile, hoping for a negative split, and helped by a partial tailwind.
At mile 16 I was running solo again (fellow runner / call of nature!) but I kept my pacing, and a few more inclines meant I overtook 12 or so runners
I knew this race included three steep descents during the last 5 miles – but I wasn’t expecting anything on this scale! I believe trains were lifted up the slopes by winding stations. The first was 0.5 miles long, the second was 0.75 miles and the third was 1 mile long totalling about 260 metres of vertical descent. The last drop ended in a tunnel and then onto a canal path for a 0.75 mile final effort and another two overtakes before the finish line.
My first marathon was a great experience – my pacing went to plan ‘A’, my final position was 65th and I beat my ‘ideal world’ time by 1 minute with a 2 minute negative split.
The marshals were the most friendly and encouraging I have run past, especially considering the remoteness of the trail, and the cold and windy weather on the day. It took about two miles of running for my feet to lose the numbness from standing around at the start!
I’m not sure when I will attempt my next marathon (or maybe 50k) as I plan to up my barefoot mileage over the next few months, training for a barefoot half. I know I can run faster over this distance though, as this wasn’t an easy route. The wind, long uphills, steep downhills, a couple of closed gates, stop-start turn around, and puddles all added time. But I wouldn’t have changed a single one of them!