It’s a little too fresh to be objective about it just yet, but that was the most difficult marathon to date.

The contributing factors?

  1. injury/illness plagued build up (see below!)
  2. The burny thing in the sky

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But more on that to come.

The weekend started with some good news.  I’d booked an open-return to Lancaster from Edinburgh, and another from there to Blackpool.  On reviewing my options for Lancaster, suddenly there were cheaper trains available for this leg of the journey!  Some quick research later, I’d booked the advance tickets and arranged to refund the open-return.  Quids in!

Why the stop in Lancaster?  Why, parkrun, of course!  This particular one takes place in Williamson Park, which as it turns out, is up a great big bloody hill.  And, inevitably, that meant the run itself was going to be as well!  ‘Undulating’ pretty much the whole way, this two-lap course would be a right good test of your form.  I learned that I wasn’t in any!  Clocked 22:31, and held back for cake and coffee at the café at the start/finish.

It was worth the stop:

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On arriving in Blackpool I was struck by how run down it looked in places, and the tackiness of most of the Prom.  Sorry locals, it just didn’t make a good impression.  I struggled to find somewhere ‘okay’ to have lunch, and the café I settled on ended up being a poor choice.  Lulled in by the seeming presence of customers (which may have been family members, in hindsight), the guy taking my order misspelled lasagne and the food I was served up came with a free puddle of water in the bottom of my plate, presumably from the revolting half-mushy peas.  Ugh.

By this point, I’d already picked up my race number, and was putting a brave face on things.

An afternoon at the football  (3-0 Blackpool, hurrah) followed by the highlight of the weekend, a lovely meal at The Eating Inn.  Small, nicely decorated interior with a very tasty chicken breast/baked potato combo later, I was off home for a night’s rest.

A rather poor night of sleep later, I made my way to the start line with a little trepidation, but the sun was shining and it was fairly calm, so no matter what happened at least there was that.  A quick toilet stop later (even when it’s the last thing you do before you leave your hotel room, you still need to go again before the race!), it was time for the off.

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South-facing, complete with obligatory tower view.

After a surprisingly congested start for the small field (around 500) I found my stride and was pleased that my original goal pace of ~ 4:15/km felt comfortable.  Our route saw us double-back on ourselves within a few hundred metres to help make up the distance on this two-lap course, and very quickly we were passing lots of half marathon runners, who, having set off in the opposite direction initially, were probably disconcerted to find themselves being passed by us lot so soon.

By mile 4 my pace was already dropping a little, but I decided to roll with it and let my body dictate what it felt it could sustain.  We’d passed the Tower and the Pleasure Beach by this time, looping round a couple of residential streets before returning South down the Prom.  This goes on for a good 6 miles, and boy did it drag!  Passing Pleasure Beach, Tower and then the finish line (which I couldn’t see, thank god, but knew it was below us) we continued along an undulating walk/cycle path until finally reaching the far-South of the course, and descending to the lower level of the Prom for the North-bound leg.

At this point I was trundling along at sub 8-minute/miles.  This suited me fine, but I was already aware of my existing glute issue and was considering my options.  Plug on in pain, or call it a day?

Of course I carried on.  Common sense is for losers! Rationale? I’ve started so I’m getting a bloody medal, and; I’m still on for sub-4, thus keeping my meaningless record of all marathons starting with a “3”.

It was really noticeable as we started the second lap that the half-marathoners had abandoned us.  It was really quiet.  I was slowing but rarely being passed.  It was sunny, and it was becoming oppressive.  It was unpleasant.  Everyone was suffering.  I considered a walk after passing the Pleasure Beach for the third of four times, but managed to keep putting it off until we finally made the turn…where I did stop.

This was at 17 miles, and I decided to adopt a minute’s walk per mile strategy from there.  Smaller goals along the way break up the race and focuses the mind, and oh my, doesn’t the mind need some focusing when times get tough!

I spoke to another guy at this stage who said he’d been sent the wrong way by a marshal at some point, but disgruntled as he was he was still quicker than me, and off he went.

I caught up with him around 22 miles.  He was struggling a fair bit himself by then, but we kept each other occupied with tales of training and past glories, future targets…and the general misery we were currently experiencing.  That lasted until my walk break at mile 23, but I’d passed him by mile 24 and didn’t see him again.

Nothing to do with me recovering, though.  Cramp was hitting my right (good!) leg and walk-breaks were becoming more frequent.  My pace while running was slowing from 8:10/mile to nearer 8:40/mile and I kept checking the numbers to see what sort of finish time I was on for.  Not disastrous, was the verdict.

A group of 4/5 runners came up behind me just after 26 miles during a walk-break (I know, but I really needed it!), so I cut it short and decided to batter on with them.  Up the last little hill to the mid-level Prom we went, and to my surprise I’d left all bar one of them well behind me.  I mustered together a bit of strength and pushed over the line at just under 3h 30.

Thank god that was over.

The lady handing out medals was day-dreaming when I strode up to her.  I excused her with an “We’re spaced out now so I don’t blame you!”, to which she replied “I’m bloody knackered mate”.  Aye, you don’t say!

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I recorded a quick vlog after the race to capture my immediate thoughts, and a couple of days on they still hold up.

While the course could be a quick one on the right day, I found it really demoralising on the second lap with so few fellow runners around, and the support was really poor along the whole course.  This can be easily explained by the small field, meaning few family/friends of us runners out there to cheer on their loved ones.  Considering this took place on the same day as London…oh, if only.

Some facts:  My quickest km was the 4th in 4:06.  My slowest a shocking 6:20 for 40k.  Nothing else was even close to that pace!

I wouldn’t rush back.  Organisation was fine but the event was underwhelming; perhaps I only say that as I had a tough day.  At the finish line I got water, a banana and a chocolate bar of my choice, along with the t-shirt and medal.  I like the orange shirt to match the football club, and the medal is massive, so kudos there!

This race broke a nice pattern; I’d PB’d in my 3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th marathons but #15 wasn’t even close.  It was still, having thought about it, my sixth quickest time but an experience I don’t want to repeat!

Time for recovery now, injuries to heal, and we’ll pick up and go again for the autumn.  Chicago here I come!