Monday 6th May was the second running of the Milton Keynes Marathon. In the scheme of things there aren’t masses of marathons around and to have one in my home town was too good an opportunity to miss. Despite only running the London Marathon 14 days previously I felt good about this one and had my eye on sub 4 – preferably sub 3:50. I felt I did get held up in London quite significantly in places and ignoring my meltdown at mile 23 – mental, not physical – deep down I know there’s a decent marathon in there dying to get out. Where better to do this than the local marathon on a route I’ve trained on for the last two years with loads of local support, plus with so many club mates from DLRR running there was bound to be someone to run with.
Little did we know that Monday would prove to be one of the hottest days of the year so far. In real terms it wasn’t excessively hot, but when you’ve trained around zero degrees for nearly four months, high teens centigrade feels a bit furnace like!
I met my other team mates outside a well known burger chain at StadiumMK and there was a really relaxed atmosphere, lots of picture taking and group shots for the local paper and radio station. Most of us had trained together since the start of the year, mainly on the long Sunday runs and in a way it was just like another long Sunday run, just a bit more popular than usual!
I made my way to the start not really sure where abouts we were supposed to be. There were two waves, red and green – I assumed green was the slower wave as I was in it but there did seem to be a real mix of people in there including most of the official pacers. I started the race with a fellow DLRR team mate who runs a similar pace as me and we agreed to go for 8:50-9 min miles and see how things panned out. Both of us were keen to beat the 4 hour barrier with pbs just outside and I suppose the safe option would have been to run with the sub 4 pacer, but deep down I think we both wanted a bit more than just under fours so felt the 8:50 option was better.
The first 7 miles were on roads and included some loops of the city centre. This was a really nice way to start as there were lots of points when we past runners coming the other direction so there was plenty of opportunities to cheer fellow team mates on both ahead of us and behind – a really nice atmosphere abounded. It was hard to spot everyone as not all of us were in green. Many, including myself were running for local charities so plenty of concentration was needed in that section to spot people. It really made the first 7 miles or so fly. On leaving the city centre there was a good few miles downhill as we headed towards Simpson and Walton Park. The mile times had been a bit quick, partly with excitement (a hometown marathon gets the blood pumping) and partly because there were a fair few downhill sections. I was a bit concerned I’d gone off too fast, but in reality it was probably only 5 second a mile quicker overall so not really an issue. I tried to reign it in a bit between 7 and 10 miles and those splits were just about bang on.
There were so many people out watching and it was great to see loads of people I knew as well. People had come out in their droves with deckchairs on the sides of roads, picnics in the parks and just generally giving the whole day a real carnival atmosphere.
By mile 10 it was about 11:30 am and the sun was beating down pretty hard by then. My team mate asked me how I was feeling and although I answered ok, deep down I wasn’t actually feeling too good at all. My legs felt fine but inside I could just feel myself burning up and getting hotter and hotter. Similar feeling that you get when you know you’re about to go down with a bad cold/flu. I stuck with it for a few more miles but at about 12 I started to put the brakes on a bit. I let my team mate go on her way and thought a few slower miles might make me feel a bit better. I reached halfway in a respectable 1:55 which was bang on pace but I knew that my race for a pb was probably over. Shortly after that I pretty much threw in the towel and resigned myself to getting round as comfortably as possible. By this point I had already passed other team mates who I would have expected to be ahead of me and loads of other runners were walking.
It never crossed my mind to quit the race itself. I don’t drop out of races, in fact I’m not sure I can remember ever having a DNF. I’ll drag my sorry arse around to the end every time. This particular marathon was as important to finish as London was. I was running for Henry and it’s time like this when you remember the bigger picture and forget your own unimportant issues and just get on with the job in hand. He’s depending on people like me to raise money for his appeal and I was going to flipping finish this marathon one way or another! Although when you have your first walk at 14 miles with another 12 to go I had to dig deep…
Miles 9-17 were marshalled by DLRR and it didn’t half keep me going. I was dying to walk but with someone you know every 100m or so it was pretty hard – although I managed it ;-). My best bud and her family popped up at mile 18 and I was pretty broken by then. I actually stopped and had a hug from her, I can’t even remember what we said to each other but it got me going again for a bit.
I knew once we came off the canal at Great Linford it was the turn back to the finish with just six miles left. It was a long slog with a climb up to Campbell Park. I set myself a target of 5 mins run to 1 min walk and it seemed to work ok. My running must have still been near normal pace as even with walking I was keeping the times under 10:50 min per mile.
Once I reached Campbell Park I knew I was on the way home. It’s a reasonably nice run down towards the hospital although by this point there was more walking and less running going on. Casualties were increasing the nearer we got to the finish and the paramedics and marshals on duty that day were amazing. People were just running out of steam in the heat and each water station was like a little reward for getting that bit further. With two miles to go there is a nasty climb behind the hospital. Within the running community in MK it is a well known hill training spot and the last thing you need at 24 miles in a marathon. But, head down and up it I went. I managed to run most of it and wasn’t put off by the sight of yet another casualty getting loaded onto a trolley by paramedics – to be fair it was probably the best spot to go down – A&E was literally 100m’s from that bit of the route!
The last two miles I got a bit of a second wind and felt like I ran most of it. Coming out of the final underpass and up the hill towards the stadium was great. There was a bit of a loop of the car park before entering StadiumMK itself but the whole route was lined with people which was fantastic. Through the tunnel and round the perimeter of the pitch I got a bit of a spurt on and passed quite a few people before I finally crossed over the line. 4:16 dead. Nearly quarter of an hour slower than London but I made it in one piece!
So two marathons in 15 days off the back of around 8 weeks nearly full training. I think my work here is done – for a bit anyway!
The Henry Allen Appeal