Festival of Running

Marathon Race Report

I intend to run my first ultra marathon at the beginning of June this year, a 35 miler.
I only ran my first marathon last year, but it pretty much went to plan, allowing me to finish strong and really enjoy it. I thought about running a 50k soon after but the long training runs had eaten into my family time enough already,
so decided to postpone the idea…

…until this year!
I couldn’t get my head around training for 35 miles, so planned a couple of ‘training run’ marathons leading up to the A race; this being the first.
The Northampton Running Festival stages a 10K, half and full marathon distances over a multi-lap off road course on the grounds of Delapre Abbey. It was organised by GoBeyond, who also hold the ultra in June.

On this fosty morning the 10k runners set off first for their 3 laps, the halfers followed 5 minutes later for 6 laps and lastly the marathoners. This starting format worked fairly well as the faster runners were well ahead by the time we conservative pacers started.

The course was modified in the final week due to flooding caused by the earlier nationwide snow storms. The original route circumnavigated the lake for a large portion of each loop, which would have meant a flatter, more consistant course. The modified route was more compact and twisty with four inclines, a couple of drops and a much more varied terrain, all multiplied by 12. Not that I’m complaining; dozens of races were cancelled the weekend before and so I was just happy this one went ahead at all! I ran in my vivobarefoot breathos (2.mm sole and 4.5mm lugs) and they were the definitely the right shoe for me on the day.

As the first few laps went by, I noticed my mile splits forming a pattern: alternating roughly between 8:35 and 8:45 mins / mile. This was due to the lay of the course for a similar level of effort. I had intended to run at 8:45 for first half and then try to pick up the pace depending on how I felt, so timing would sort itself out if I continued with these alternating splits.

However, during the 12th mile I started to feel my energy levels drop. The now thawed and soft ground was absorbing a lot of the spring effect efficiency I have noticed with minimalist / barefoot running. The varied terrain also meant there was no chance to get into a rhythm and cruise for a few miles. I had also planned on eating fig rolls rather than fuelling on gels, as this had worked well on training runs. Waiting until mile 9 was a mistake as I couldn’t seem to replenish what I had already used. The 4th fig roll at mile 18 took 10 minutes to eat as it felt too dry. I hung on until mile 20 before using a couple of gels to get me to the finish. I also carried my own electrolyte water (nuun) using an ultraspire 600ml hydration belt, although water was provided once every lap, as was a lap counter (a hair scrunchie which my daughters were happy with – their ‘reward’ for supporting me for the final three laps!)

My final time was 3:47:34 placing me 35th out of 92 finishers, which was a pleasant surprise. The multi-lap, muti-distance event made it difficult judging positions and getting motivated to overtake people, although I have to say everyone was considerate on the narrow trails. The marshalls were also friendly and encouraging, no doubt helped by the charity background of GoBeyond (Teach Africa)

As a long training run I didn’t have any real expections for a finishing time, which took any pressure off when my pace began to slow. Compared to my first marathon last year this one didn’t go to plan, and was a timely reminder that running long distances isn’t easy and not to get complacent. I had visions of running a extra lap at one point! Speaking of which, I passed one finisher (100 marathon club member) running in the opposite direction after finishing. He might have been joining a friend, or possibly making up the full 26.2 distance – I had read a blog where last year’s course was short, and intended to run the extra myself. But after crossing the finish line I didn’t have the energy or willpower to run the extra 0.75 miles my garmin indicated. Inspecting the downloaded garmin data, I think a lot of this was due to the 24 turns over 12 laps and the general GPS accuracy, so I’m not going to beat my self up over it!

Lessons learnt:

Start fueling sooner.
Try dried apricots (as recommended by a running club member)
Adjust pace for terrain type and conditions.
Feel confident I slog out 13 miles after fueling badly (Hopefully I won’t need to though!)

I have also been impressed by my recovery, with no aches or stiffness, just one foot cramping up the day after. I ran 4 miles (club interval session) two days after the marathon, 6 miles midweek and a decent 15 miler seven days later. The next marathon is 4 weeks after this one, then only five weeks to the Big One!

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