26.2 miles is a cruel mistress! Having stayed over with family in Lancashire the night before, it was a quick 45 minutes down the motorway and then a painstaking 45 minutes crawling into Chester, a city with seemingly one entrance and one exit, and no discernible plan to direct drivers to suitable parking places. I abandoned trying to get into the city and parked a good mile away, choosing to walk in, instead.
I did this marathon a couple of years ago and was very much looking forward to the re-run. The Aim of entering had been to put myself on a programming of regaining running fitness, and it had gone really well so there was no real pressure to perform, the race was just the icing on the cake! I had a clear plan, an aim for a PB! Not a personal best, more a psychological best; i had no intention of going out hard, instead to aim for very steady 8 minute miles, slower than much of my training pace, and really enjoy the occasion and hopeful sustain this until the end. There was a mighty gathering at the start and at just after 9, the Mayor of Chester sent us on our way, for a couple of miles around the Chester racecourse and through the historic walled city.
Keeping true to my intentions, i nestled into a burgeoning group of runners following the 3.30 pacer, as we headed into the countryside. All was going well, and it really is a very picturesque route. The comeraderie of running with a pace group was excellent, I’ve never tried it before, and took a turn at 11 miles holding the pace pole, as seemed to be the group etiquette! We then made our way into north Wales, and half way was absolutely bang on, 1.44 and feeling good, having put the brakes on a few times in staying with the group.
Marathons are so cruel though. Throughout the training I’ve never once experienced cramp, nor so during a race. At about 18 miles though, i felt some shooting pains through my left leg and pulled over. If it had been on the racecourse at the start they would have probably shot me, put we down as a lame horse! Anyway, it stopped me in my tracks, so i lost my group, took stock and soldiered on, but couldn’t shake the pains. I walked, with some purpose, for the next 4 or so miles, which blew even my conservative plans apart, and has visions of getting back after about 4.5 hours. Strangely, the pain dissipated at 22 miles, and after draining a couple of bottles of lucozade sport, managed to jog back in to Chester, and even managed to enjoy running the rails on the course over the last few metres, and managed a touch over 3.50.
Trying to rationalise it, I’m disappointed, particularly as i wasn’t going all out to nail a particularly good time. It was an unseasonably warm October day, which certainly didn’t help, but I guess experience dictates that its just one of those things. No excuses. That’s a round half dozen marathons now completed, and normally i look forward to planning for the next. I think I may hang up my marathon shoes for now though, maybe it’s just too far to run, and although I’ve really enjoyed the training, hopefully it’s given me an excellent base for the winter and some speedy spring halves.
Right, enough self pity, off to hobble to the fridge for a beer or three.