I've been trying to fit in some races this spring as there have been 2 x non-starters for me: Winter Tanners 30 cancelled and my massive bout of food poisoning for my DNS at St Peter's Way 45. What with weddings, visitations and other events, all of the big races I would have liked to have done were not on the cards. So, apart from the sultry Mrs UB, decided not to publicise this one at all. There was the option of doing 2 in a weekend but I wanted to see where my legs were at at this stage of the season with lots of long slow runs training with Mrs UB.
Dave Major and his wife have run between them, 820 marathons. Now they organise events too. This was fairly low-key, meeting at a Holiday in on the outskirts of Northampton with the temperature gauge on the car firmly fixed on 0 degrees and flurries of snow dancing over the windscreen. After a very quick Race Director brief, the winter clad runners were almost reluctant to get out of the huddle of the start line to be exposed to the raw Northamptonshire winds. I have never seen the point of a lap-based course but I thought I would give this a go. 6 laps of a country park and reservoir, hence the name. I thought I would be pulling my eyes out with a spoon with boredom but actually I quite enjoyed it!
The first part of the course was the only tarmac on the route, save a road crossing. About a mile of walkway which was directly into the wind with no forgiveness from shrub or tree cover. Then it was through a kissing gate, around a nice flooded wetland and through another kissing gate, yet another kissing gate, through the flooded part of the course.....which got treacherous after 6 laps of hundreds of feet, a muddy, grassy path through the wetland and onto the reservoir for yes, 2 further kissing gates onto a very muddy path of snow and rapidly thawing mud. After the reservoir, 2 further kissing gates, to the checkpoint switchback and back onto the path.
Lap one I felt good. The snow was coming down fairly rapidly and I had taken to running behind a couple of people. I wanted to not go off too fast but found with a lift of the jacket arm that I was nicely bimbling along at 8.10s. With the 7 x kissing gates on each lap, making 42 in all, this hampered progress on the first lap as there were queues for the gates. Nevertheless, the first lap saw me up at the front of the field in perhaps the top 20 or so. Lap 2 saw some of the early leaders rue their fast pace and I gently moved through the field. I knew I was not 100% with a cold and a recent 5 week chest infection so in between coughs, picked out runners and had a chat, overtook and repeated the process. Lap 2 came and went and I found myself in 8th. The wide vista over the reservoir and plethora of dayglo allowed me to count runners ahead. One runner was clearly ahead and the rest were in the main peleton ahead. Around the reservoir I moved from 8th up to 5th and by lap 3 (still not bored with the explansive vistas of wildfowl, snow and runners) I felt really on the money. I moved up into 2nd place!!! Even with the 7 gates on each loop, slippy mud (ow my muscles hurt now) wind and snow, I had put in a couple of 7.45s and was about 500m ahead of 3rd and 4th.
This position I held for some time, pausing momentarily to say hello to lapped runners. I felt really good from 9 miles all the way through to the last lap. Perhaps this is why? I don't like to make excuses as I had a brilliant run. Every lap I had been drinking Coke at the checkpoint. I thought the taste was a bit odd as it was supermarket own brand......on the last lap, I saw the bottle.......NOOOOOOOO!!!! SUGAR FREE COLA!
What power mind over matter is?! I hadn't perhaps been taking on board anything else as was "enjoying" the Coke.......now I knew it had no sugar in my mental capacity took over and perhaps with that the notion of 2nd place. The last lap was hard. Not only was I running on empty, a face level hail storm took over from the snow, biting and clawing at every last ounce of energy and bare flesh. I've made a couple of errors on feeding before but not like this. 3 miles to go and I could feel the sand slipping from between my fingers. The last 3 miles I lost 2 mins a mile....empty. The chaps who I have been keeping at about 500m behind for the last couple of laps seized their opportunity and probably went past me at 9 min miles! A high five on the way past and off they went and by the last mile, had put 200-300m into me. I had no response so a few nervous glances behind in the last few hundred metres and every last bit of willpower saw me over the line in 3 hours 40 minutes.
Happy? Yes! Fastest marathon in a little while. Behind on the training, a tough course and a lack of fuel......having said that I am very happy with my first ever 4th place and knowing that I can do so much better. Great experience and a well organised run on a lapped course that I enjoyed. Well done Dave Major....(apart from the COLA)