It would be really easy to start a posting with a set of negative experiences as to why everything was not perfect on the day. I'll try to avoid the pain of that for you but there was a significant spanner in the works, of which UK Team Ultra runner Stuart Mills would refer to as "Race Focus Energy" and I would add the suffix to this phrase as "Oh fucking hell!"
Off to a conservative but exploratory pace (it is my first road marathon in 3 years), marathon 27 quickly settled into a metronomic pace of 7.37s, despite the early undulations and squally winds, as well as a 100km week with a 20 hour taper. Stopping at mile 3, to tie a loose lace, I was pleasantly surprised to meet up with Master JS, as we had not agreed any race strategy and he had gone off quickly. At this point I must give praise for the hypo-corpuscular gent that I think has lost about 3 stone since the Gatliff?! (only he will know! - Men, as you know, do not inquire about such trivialities, although I do hope his suits have been adjusted accordingly for my wedding!)
Lace tied, I laid down 12 miles of 7.37s but returned to aforementioned stash on to find.....nothing. I hunted about, believe me! Like an urban mange-inflicted fox searching for carrion.........but nothing. Either the tree that I was sure I hid my quarry in was so nondescript or some bar steward had claimed the tasty sugary treats for themselves.......
So, to return to Race Focus Energy.....mine went for an utter Burton as with only one Jerry Can of industrial orange juice for the whole course at mile 23 and no bottles....my reliance on water for the second lap was now a reality dawning in my grey matter. Going out a good pace, although luckily suicidal, I had to revert to DLF (Damage Limitation Focus) to prevent a DNF. I dropped my pace right down to 8.10s for a couple of miles and then at mile 19, had to revert to the strategy known as "Oh shit, I might not finish".......so quickly scanned any checkpoint for anything other than water...to no avail. Switching to a slower pace, I was able to keep going at a sedentary pace but was entering the land of being dizzy. The furthest I have run with no fuel whatsoever is 17 miles. I was at mile 20, a usual cheeky 10k to go and time to turn on the afterburners and hit 7.30s for the last few.........but there was nothing in the tank. My thoughts quickly turned to the half bottle of Lucozade in the grass verge, the almost empty gel packets on the floor around checkpoints.....NO! I must carry on under my own steam. Who knows what manner of micro-organism one could ingest! So to mile 24 and a shout of "C'mon fat bastard" or something equally derogatory pierced my ears and woke me from a hypoglycemic slumber. Jezza motored past with his notorious ultra shuffle.....beaming from ear to ear (unbeknown to me that he was heading for a PB!). I knew if I could get to the checkpoint 500m from the finish where the only supply of juice on the course lay, then I could at least finish the race. And then the hail began!
I trotted over the line thinking of the fella that I had overtaken early on in the race with 8-10 gels in a belt around his waist with intense jealousy and had I been able to access such sugary gems, I would have felt a whole load better. Save to say, a 3.43 was a crumb of comfort, snatched from the jaws of defeat at the Black Dog. I immediately summoned a Cheshire Cat, aka Jerry to get the bags, as I had a can of Coke in there. Luckily an old lady gave me a can of Sprite at the finish...which was so very needed as I was very very dizzy. Medal around neck, sunburnt of face, Sprite and a banana later, it was time to pick up a gargantuan Darrel Burger (?!) (mushroom, beef, onions and bacon.......incidentally named in honour of the last man to eat it and not have a coronary bypass. Once Jezza had changed his free water bottle.........Sponsored by Norfolk and Suffolk Water.......it had a leak (!), it was off back to the car for much frivolity and japery and once I had quaffed 2 more sugary cans of soft drink, a recount of tales from the belated JS and a recount of the race, it was time to turn our energies towards taking the piss out of the world again.
Gutted not to get a PB? I was for about 5 mins. Then, just pleased to have not ended up in hospital like so many of my friends who have marathon DNF'd. As it goes.....it is the fastest marathon since braking my leg....not bad after a total week of 140km running?