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Sunday, 15 September 2013

Race Report - Farnham Pilgrim Marathon

I arrived at Farnham this morning in high spirits. After a quick drive down through traffic-free London on a Sunday morning, I walked from the car park to the start and Paul Ali of Ultra Tales magazine hailed me. It took me about 20 seconds to work out that it was him as my brain was still not yet awake. At the start, after the usual 'race admin' I bumped into Peter Bowles, Helen Smith and Dave Ross for a bit of light banter before the start..........and then we were off. Helen and I ran together for ages and we caught up on the usual races and in-between race stuff. Helen, as I have found out today, has an extraordinary memory for random things and asked me some questions about stuff I probably say when I'm tired and sugar-low so it is always good fun for her to recall my ramblings.

We set off at a good clip, 8.30s on the hills and 7.50s on the flats and maybe a bit quicker on the downs. Farnham is a lovely course and extremely well signposted and even better marshaled. In fact, the number of water stations was advertised as 9. I think that the world and his wife had come to man a few unofficial water stations and save for a section where it clearly stated 'no water for 2.4 miles' Were every 2 miles or so. I ran with just a bottle and a couple of the Second Surge double espresso gels from Keith Godden's which was the first time I had tried them out and Keith, I'm going to give a 'thumbs-up' as they are palatable, easy to carry, easy to open, although does need a swig of something afterwards to wash the gloop down.

So the first few miles was quick and I felt good. I spied George Fairbrother and was mid-way through a catch-up and he stopped for a piss-break so our conversation ended abruptly. George....a man of few words! We approached St Martha's Hill and my high hamstring started playing up. This took me by surprise as I had put some miles in last week and not a sniff of a problem. I did a quick calculation in my head; walk home back to the start, or finish the race. No question of what I was going to do. However, the pace had to drop. I told Helen that i was going to walk the hill and I saw her keep looking around to check if I was behind, which I was for about 2 miles to the halfway point. Paul Ali trotted past looking in awesome shape for Spartathlon in 2 weeks time. I then decided that damage limitation was the only solution. I was going to finish this but knew that a competitive time was now out of the question. To describe a high hamstring tendinopathy (HHT) is like describing a pain in the arse, as that is exactly what it is. As a biologist I am acutely aware of injury and recovery, however as a runner I'll always push myself beyond that. The uphills require the hamstring in particular, and so it was that to conserve my body for the Downslink 38 in 3 weeks, I walked the hills and ran the flats and downs, albeit tentatively. Fueling was fine, hydration was fine, I just felt a lot like Robert Krubica who I had watched on the WRC Rally of Poland on Saturday night before bed, coming in to the finish, nursing a lost wheel for the last 12k of a 25k rally stage, trying not to cause too much more damage, whilst leaving himself ready for the next stage.

The best bit of the course, a little lap around the ruins on St Catherine's Hill. Hilarious! So damage limitation needs to have positive outcomes and I strived to achieve these to keep my PMA on the positive side. Normally I am a back of the front runners or a front of the middle runners, call it what you wish. The damage limitation meant a new group of runners were there to chat to. A few were very chatty and I gravitated towards these, but here, in the back of the middle were quite a few moody fuckers. None more so that the utter arsehole that shouted and abused the awesome marshals for going the wrong way. Now with signs, marshals and orange spray and tape it is pretty impossible to go wrong. I took great offence to this idiot who unnecessarily shouted abuse and profanity at the lovely marshals because he couldn't follow some simple signs. He then ran off in anger, fueled by some adrenalin and vented spleen at about 7s......overtook about 10 runners and then (happily for the rest of us) burned out and then walked the last few miles. It was only when I was happily tucking into my pint of cider at the Barley mow, that I saw him limp past. Tosser. Hooligan. Gives us lovely runners a bad name.

So I trundled over the line in a pretty piss-poor 4.23. Second half was about reducing any longer term issues with the HHT and then there was the finish. Not a moment too soon. Medal, T-shirt, mug and goody bag and then off to the pub for Stowford's finest cider. Great to catch up with Pete, Helen and finally have a good chat with the legend Dave Ross, who came in 4th today, not so good as his 2nd last year. Nursing injury and forking out for treatment is the key to the next week. Marathon 42 is in the bag though.

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