Dusk ’til Dawn marathon

My intention for the Dusk ’til Dawn event this year was to have another crack at the ultra distance (50 miles). I’ve been on the start line for this event three times already. First in 2013 when I won a place through Operation Ultra in Women’s Running Magazine. Next in 2014 when I returned with friends Kev, Tracey and Tom. Finally in 2015 when Tom and I returned to attempt the distance (with friends also running ahead). The 2016 event fell a few weeks after I first came home from hospital after having Oscar, then the event didn’t take place last year and here we are, already in 2018…

Although I knew that a half marathon and marathon event were now also on offer alongside the ultra distance, I really wanted to prove that I was able to complete the 50 mile ultra event within the time allowance.  The race is called ‘Dusk ’til Dawn’ due to it’s start time coinciding with nightfall on the Saturday night and the cut-off for the event at the point the sun rises the following morning.  As Richard, the Race Director’s Father had sadly passed away this year, the race began one hour before dusk, to be known as ‘Eddie’s hour’.  The extra hour was another reason I felt like I was meant to enter the ultra distance this year.

However, when I first entered the event months ago, Tom had also signed up for the ultra and we had planned to run it together.  I had fully intended on completing my 100 mile ultra journey at the South Downs Way 100 in June earlier in the year.  I hadn’t planned on stopping at mile 78 of the SDW, continuing to train and then eventually completing my 100 mile event three months later in the middle of September, just six weeks before the 50 mile Dusk ’til Dawn ultramarathon.

My feet hadn’t fully recovered from the 100 by the time the week of Dusk ’til Dawn arrived, and Tom also informed me that he would be pulling from the event due to injury/lack of training/a house move.  With five other runners from my club running the marathon event I decided to make the switch down to the marathon distance and knew that this was the sensible choice, although one day I will be back to prove myself at the 50 miles!

I hadn’t had the best week leading up to the marathon.  That Wednesday afternoon Oscar had been incredibly grouchy and tearful when we returned from the baby group in town.  He refused most of his tea, asked for a glass of warm milk and disappeared to bed very early in the evening.  I put it down to being overtired, but he was back up and crying for me by 9pm with bright red cheeks and a very high fever.  He wanted to do nothing but lay on my chest and cuddle.  He had a hacking cough which developed further over the next few days and despite maximum doses of Calpol that evening his temperature never stayed down for long.  Needless to say, the next few days were spent with Oscar laying across me feeling rather sorry for himself on the sofa downstairs.  By Friday afternoon I was still relying on Calpol to get his temperature down.  The bottle states that a child shouldn’t be taking maximum doses of Calpol for more than 3 days in a row, and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to get a doctor appointment for him over the weekend if his temperature remained high by the following day.  So I booked him a last minute appointment at the doctors in town for Friday afternoon.  Once seen by our doctor, he was referred straight to Kettering hospital with suspected pneumonia.  A quick google on my way to hospital revealed some alarming pneumonia facts, but also cleared up for me that he had most likely caught it from another child, rather than just gotten cold because I had let him run around in the garden without his coat on.  Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been and after being observed in hospital Oscar was sent home with a course of antibiotics to take which cleared things up really quickly.  It was rather worrying when we were first referred though.

Dan was home all day on the Saturday so could take over from me as head rest and medicine-giver for Oscar.  I needed to get out of the house after spending the last two and a half days cooped up on the sofa.  Packing for the race was done last minute and I was rather blase about the whole thing.  Meh, it’s just a marathon, right?…Turns out I ended up missing the printed instructions from the list of race essential equipment, so had to borrow a set from a friend when we arrived.

The weather was pretty rubbish the whole journey over.  The windscreen wipers were on most of the time and we knew it was due to be pretty cold that night.  Lots of layers were absolutely necessary!

The race is known for the ‘Grim Sweeper’ who runs at the back of the pack, picking off runners who don’t make the cut-offs in time.  I’ve met the sweeper once before, back in 2013 when I ran with Charlie Sharpe, the sweeper for that race, having won the event the year before.  Rather fitting that the sweeper head was covering the defibrillator as we lined up for our race briefing before setting off!

Dusk 'til Dawn Grim Sweeper head

I was in two minds whether to run alone or as part of the group, but in the end the six of us from Wellingborough ran together and I realised how much I missed being out there running long distances with friends!  Having not run the marathon course before (or read the directions for the marathon distance beforehand, initially thinking that I would be running the ultra) it was probably for the best that I stayed part of the group anyway to be honest!

Dusk 'til Dawn starting photo

We nearly missed the start, leaving it to the last possible minute to sneak back to our cars to change out of jeans, boots and oversized hoodies and into our running gear for the night.  The six of us were casually waltzing over to the start line, my phone in hand – getting ready for a pre-race club photo when we realised that the countdown to the start had already begun!  As everybody crossed the line for the start of the race I was still busy trying to zip away my phone and pull the headtorch from my bag for the run!

Even then, we had gone more than half a mile when Gary turned back, declaring that he thought he had probably left his headtorch in the boot of his car as he had just realised it wasn’t on his head!  What an organised bunch we were!

The first few miles of the course were the same as the start of the ultra route and I recognised long sections of the trail.  There are some tough, technical climbs (and descents) on the course.  I am fairly confident at picking my way up steep, rocky ascents.  I don’t have quite so much confidence with my downhill running but I have definitely improved since the first year I headed over to the Peak District for the race.

Because we had the extra hour this year, it meant we were running in daylight for the first few climbs and got a chance to appreciate our view.  As I waited for others in our little group to navigate to the top of the climbs I pulled out my camera for a few photos.

Dusk 'til Dawn hills

Dusk 'til Dawn hills

Dusk 'til Dawn hillsYou can see the extent of the climbs we were making.  The above photo is the majority of the way up the first big hill.  You can see the drop in the distance to the left of the photo.

IMG_20181027_172632Some sections were more technical than others.  This first climb wasn’t too bad, but later climbs involved more careful placing of feet on the rocks that were jutting out.  I worried that the rocks would be slippy from the rain we’d had earlier in the day but they ended up not being too bad.

Dusk 'til Dawn hillsThe sunset was a really pretty one from so high up.

Dusk 'til Dawn sunsetAfter that we just trotted around the remaining miles.  Strava tells me I ran 26.56 miles in total, so fairly accurate for a trail marathon distance!

I recognised the point where my parents and Dan had sat on the side of the road in a car at the first checkpoint (now several miles into the course) back in 2013.  I had been the last person to come into that checkpoint then, but not the last to leave and I started picking other runners off from that point back then.  It felt like so long ago!

Navigation was fairly straight forward this year.  Gary had run some of the ultra course in 2015 and Kev had run some of the ultra course back in 2014, so between us we barely needed to check directions for which way to go, although took along paper instructions with us just in case.  Gary had run the marathon course with Tom back at the 2016 event, which was held just a few weeks after I had Oscar, so Gary was fairly confident in how to navigate the marathon course once we turned off for the shorter distance.

I didn’t enjoy the race as much from the point we split off from the ultra route.  The majority of the marathon route was run along roads, whereas the ultra had been almost entirely on the trails.  The roads on the marathon course were fairly flat and long and runnable and not what I had expected having run the majority of the ultra route before. I like the challenge of technical terrain!

There was a really eerie section along an old railway line where we ran through a couple of large tunnels.  I ran in the middle of the pack here, with some runners from our group speeding off ahead and some falling behind.  Everybody’s voices were echoing all around the tunnel as we ran and it made it really hard to locate whether someone was ahead of you or behind.  I was glad to be running with the others as we ran through this section, and I was very glad when we turned off and began our next climb!

There was another really eerie section where we ran alongside a field of sheep…or the field of red eyes, as the sheep all clustered into the corner nearest to the path.  As our headtorches reflected on their eyes they glowed red like demons.

I didn’t really eat much out on the course, choosing just to pick at a couple of bits on offer at the checkpoints.  We weren’t moving particularly fast and I didn’t feel like my body needed any more to keep it going so I kept my snacks in my bag for the race.

The last mile or so was run all on road.  Gary ran ahead to beat us to the finish, but the rest of us all trotted over the line together and headed into the hall for hot drinks and pasties.  That cheese and onion pasty and hot tea at the finish were the best things I’ve been handed at a finish line for a long while!  It had been super cold out there on the hills, and at any point we had stopped we all really began to feel the chill.  We were all ready for something warm at the end!

I changed back into my boots, jeans and a hoodie fairly quickly afterwards, babywiping as much mud from my legs as I could spot in the toilets!  The medal is a nice one.

Dusk 'til Dawn marathon medal

Official time: 7h 18m 57s
Position: 13/20
Gender position: 4/7

I traveled back from the race with Gary, who has heated seats in his car.  I had those seats heated to the max for the whole journey home to warm up!

Have you run a race at night before?
What was the nicest food you received at the finish of a race?

 

The London Marathon ballot reveal

This week the ballot results for the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon (VMLM) have been announced.  Unlucky ballot entrants receive either a rejection magazine…

London Marathon rejection magazine 2018(Here’s mine from last year)

…or a rejection email.  (Becoming more and more likely with the higher numbers of hopeful people applying for a place each year.)

Personally, I received my eighth marathon rejection earlier today, which wasn’t too much of a shock.  Apparently 414,168 people applied for the ballot this year.  The race only has approximately 35,000ish finishers, and that includes elites, championship/GFA entries and those running for charity.  That’s a whole lot of people that are going to end up disappointed this week!

Whilst I know so, so many people will have been disappointed over the past couple of days when they received their rejection message, it is rather frustrating to see many turn to social media to complain about the ballot being an unfair system.

In fact, surely the opposite is true?

Everybody that enters for a place in the London Marathon through the public ballot has an equal shot at being selected for one of the places on offer.

Yeah it might be rather sucky that this is your ninth rejection (No more than nine rejections are possible!), but it’s also probably pretty sucky that you haven’t won the lottery in the past nine years either!

If you don’t win the lottery but are still desperate to become a millionaire, then there is the option to go out and work hard to make it happen.  The same applies when it comes to wanting to run the London Marathon.  If you are desperate to run the event, there are other ways to gain a place.

Applying for a charity place

London Marathon is known for the hoards of charity runners who line the street on race day.  In fact, the official VMLM website states that accounting for everything that was fundraised using their online Virgin Money Giving system for the 2018 race, £24,593,020.00 has been raised to date!
Often, charity places open for applications not long after the main ballot opens.  Some of the more well known charities will not be able to guarantee you a place though and will be asking questions such as how much money you are hoping to raise for them and reasons why you want to run for their charity.  If you are not too choosy about the charity you want to run for though, you will usually still be able to secure a charity marathon place a couple of months out from race day.
Charities tend to ask that you raise a minimum of £1500, with most asking for £2000 or more.  Although this can sound like a lot of money, the charity themselves has to fork out £300 for your entry and as long as you begin fundraising early on and don’t leave it all to the last minute raising the money is probably more of an achievable target than you initially thought.  In fact, if by now, you already know that you are running for a charity, you still have a good couple of months before the main bulk of marathon training needs to begin and you should be able to hopefully put most of your focus into fundraising, and then later on into the training, rather than having to try and juggle everything all at once in the weeks leading up to race day.

Good For Age (GFA)/Championship qualified

The Good For Age requirements have changed from the 2019 race, which you can read about in my blog post here.  If you have run a time deemed as ‘good’ for your age at a previous marathon event as listed by the team at VMLM then you will be offered a place in the race the following year.  Although this used to be a guaranteed way to gain entry to the marathon, this is no longer the case.  There are now a maximum of 3,000 female GFA spots and 3,000 male GFA spots available for the 2019 event.  If more than 6,000 runners applied for a GFA position, then ‘the qualifying time will be reduced evenly across the age group categories listed above until 3,000 runners of that gender are accepted’.  Meaning that you may have worked super hard to achieve a 3:44 qualifying marathon time as a senior female runner, only for the goalposts to be moved after you have submitted your entry, due to high numbers of other runners also applying for a place and you may not actually end up with a race place at all.
It’s too late to enter the 2019 event using this method as places needed to be applied for at the start of the Summer, but it could be something to work towards ready for the 2020 race.  For many people though, it may be necessary to put a lot more time, hard work and dedication into their training in order to achieve the stated times.

Club places

All England Athletic clubs offer a number of VMLM places to their members (dependent upon the size of the club.  The majority of clubs then host their own ballot to determine who runs to represent their club at the marathon the following April.  Clubs may have their own prerequisites when it comes to entering.  For example, to enter the VMLM club ballot for one of two places as held by my running club you have to provide your rejection email/magazine from the main ballot.  You can then gain further entries into the club ballot if you marshaled the club race that Summer or ran a certain number of club-targeted races throughout the year.  I have only run the London marathon once before, in 2014 and this was the way in which I gained my place.

Competitions

This option requires the least work but the most luck!  There are always lots of competitions offering marathon places in the weeks and months following the ballot results.  Keep an eye on the official London Marathon social media accounts and also any of their official sponsors, as they often post about last minute marathon places up for grabs!

VLM marathon number collection

It hasn’t been very nice to read some nasty comments today on social media about runners who ‘shouldn’t get a place’ as they’ve already run the race or ‘aren’t fast enough to be classed as a runner’.  I’ve seen lots of comments about people criticising current non-runners for entering the ballot and then gaining a place, even though once upon a time they themselves would have been non-runners and potentially in the same situation.  Everybody who enters the ballot knows how incredibly slim the chances of getting a place are.  Don’t make others scared to announce their good fortune because of your jealousy!

London Marathon is what it is.  It’s an incredibly iconic and well supported event, but it’s not a fast course due to the sheer volume of runners out there and it can actually be rather stressful feeling so boxed in along many areas of the course.  I’ve run the race before and I did really enjoy it, but there are so many fantastic other marathons to try out as well!

I wanted to raise money for Cancer Research this year following the death of my Mum , Aunts, Godmother and cousins of my Dad.  We’ve had a lot of cancer related death in our family since the end of last November and I want to help work towards preventing cancer in the future, albeit in a very small way through raising much needed funds.  I applied for a London Marathon place through Cancer Research several months ago now and after initially hearing that I hadn’t been successful, I received an email a fortnight ago offering me a place.

I’m really excited to say that I will be running at London in 2019 and more importantly, raising money for a cause that means a lot to me and my family right now.  I’m really looking forward to being part of the Cancer Research team on the day and in the build up to the day.  There are a couple of large events which I have in mind to hopefully make up the bulk of my fundraising.  (I’m hoping to raise a minimum of £3000) and I’ll share them on the blog when I have more details.

Good luck to all runners preparing for the 2019 event, first timers and 6-time-lucky-ballot-enterers alike!

Do you have a place for London 2019?  Did you enter the ballot this year?
Have you run the race before?
Any successful fundraising suggestions you can share with me?

Milton Keynes Marathon 2018 – finish lines not finish times

I had initially planned for Milton Keynes Marathon to be my target race for the 2018 Spring running season before I signed up to the South Downs Way 100.  When the weather forecasters predicted the hottest May Bank Holiday on record though, I was glad that this marathon wasn’t my sole goal for the Spring and I changed my plans for the race.

Milton Keynes Marathon medal 2018

I say I changed my plans, but I really wasn’t sure what to change them to!
I’d had a great run a week before race day.  I’d set out to run eight miles at tempo pace with a mile warm up and a mile cool down.  I found the run easy and could have quite happily turned this run into 10 or 12 miles at tempo pace, had I not needed to come home and get ready for work that evening.8 mile tempo runIt gave me a real confidence boost going into marathon week, although Oscar then became ill at the start of the week and very clingy.  He passed whatever it was onto me and we both ended up feeling rather rubbish for the rest of the week, resulting in Oscar missing two of the groups he usually attends and me missing a large batch of my training runs.

Added onto this I would be working nightshifts the weekend of the marathon.  I had decided that I am best off saving my holiday allowance for target long distance races over the year, and as Milton Keynes Marathon was no longer a target race and wasn’t one of the longer events planned for this year I ended up not booking the weekend off.  As luck would have it though, my manager messed up my shifts the previous weekend, calling me in on a day when I was not needed, so I managed to convince him to let me have the Sunday night before the marathon off in exchange.

It did mean though that I worked through the night until 7am on Friday (with no pre-work nap as Oscar was poorly) and then through the night again on Saturday with a two hour nap in the morning before traveling over to Norfolk for a friend’s baby’s Christening.

Oscar and I at Oliver's Christening

Back home by 6pm to pack my bag and get an early night, only Oscar (who was still feeling poorly, teething and was definitely feeling the heat from the day) had other ideas.  I might as well have gone to work and earnt some money for all the sleep I got that night!

Despite poor sleep and having felt poorly that week, I did still manage to get an amazing night-before-the-race pizza in.

Pre-race pizza

So, no sleep, on the back of being poorly and on a day which turned out to be 28 degree heat…very glad I’d struck Milton Keynes Marathon as my goal race!  I was sweating before I even got into my car that morning!

Heading out to Milton Keynes Marathon

As an ambassador for this year’s marathon I was given a priority parking pass and invite to the VIP room where there was cake, drinks and nibbles laid on.  Best of all though, – no queues for the toilet as we had our own(!)  I nervously stood by a table in the room having only met one of the other ambassadors before the weekend.  I needn’t have worried though and I was soon busy chatting away to the other runners about training, race plans and shoe choices.

MK Marathon VIP area

A little after 9am we headed downstairs along with the pacers for the race to have our photograph taken on the pitch.

MK Marathon ambassadors

(I’m in the bottom left of the shot.  Picture by Tim Bullard)

Milton Keynes Marathon ambassadors and pacers

(I’m third from the right, wearing sunglasses.  Picture by Walker McCabe Photography)

It probably wasn’t the best idea to have the pacers knelt down in front of everyone as their balloons kept bobbing up everywhere!

Milton Keynes Marathon ambassadors and pacers

(I’m third from the right.  Picture by Walker McCabe Photography)

When we returned back to the VIP suite ‘good lucks’ were said as we all dispersed to find friends and family before the race and to carry out any pre-race rituals.  I made my way back over to the spot by the entrance where WDAC runners always seem to congregate before the start of the MK event each year.  There were several of our runners there and I happily chatted away sizing up who was running which distance and who would be in my start pen for the event.

I nipped back to add some more vaseline to my arms before the start.  I knew that I would be pouring a lot of water over my head in order to keep cool and didn’t want the top of my arms to rub as a result.  Luckily, we were allowed to leave our bags in the VIP area during the day, which meant that I didn’t have to worry about the bag drop and could check my phone/make changes to my kit until the last minute.

The start was just outside.  Slightly different to previous years when I have run it, – this time the snake of runners waiting to start curved back onto themselves.  I was in the blue start, the one before the last pen and so found where I needed to go and located the 4:45 pacer I had decided to start alongside.

Although I didn’t enter the pen until 9:50am (with a 10am start time) it took a fair while before we crossed the line.  I began to feel a little queasy and ‘penned in’ despite not really being packed into the pens and so located a van parked to the side which several runners had already made a bee-line for and were leaning against in the shade.  I felt much better after a few minutes of time out in the cool and then made my way back to the starting pen where I bumped into Kev from my club.  He had been out crewing another club member at the Thames Path 100 that weekend and is coming down to crew a different member when I run the SDW100 next month, so we spent 20 minutes catching up and talking tactics before we crossed the startline ourselves.  It was nice to take my mind off how hot things were and how poorly I had felt whilst stood still in the heat that morning.

I ran with Kev for the first couple of miles before he disappeared behind a bush.  Kev never wears a watch but had planned to run somewhere around 5 hours that day (5h 00m 19s!) as it was his longest run in quite a while following injury.  Just before two miles he asked me what pacer had the balloon bobbing away just in front of us.  I told him that it was the 4:45 pacer, but that I thought he was probably going a bit quickly.  (My first two miles were 10:20 and 10:30 and the 4:45 pacer was a fair way ahead of us, despite crossing the start line alongside me.)  Someone turned around to say that he was just catching up with the runners he was pacing as she had just seen him nip into the hedge, but even so, he was going too quickly.  I had heard him mention that he intended on running the flatter bits faster so that the group may slow down on the uphills.  It’s a tactic used by lots, but I personally prefer to run fairly evenly if possible.

I made the decision to run my own race, without pacer and aim for 10:30mm – up hills, along the flat and also on the downhills (were there any of those?!) keeping an eye on my heart rate as I went.  I have really enjoyed my tempo runs lately working towards a set pace for each mile and find that it gives me a mini focus all the way through a session, breaking a run up into manageable chunks.  Dan was planning to bring Oscar out to come and watch the race and would be at mile 12.5 and mile 15.5, both shaded areas and fairly close together so that Oscar wouldn’t be out for too long in the heat.  The plan was to hold onto 10:30mm pace for as long as I was able, but to reassess at mile 11, just before seeing Dan and Oscar.

It felt easy.  Really easy.  I had to keep slowing myself down.

As a race ambassador (and also due to not wanting to rub in the heat!) I had decided not to wear my club vest for the race, but instead wore my MK t-shirt and found it super comfy and cooling with it’s light colour.  One of my favourite things about the switch backs at the start of the MK marathon/half route is that you can easily see other club vests coming back in the other direction and cheer other runners from our club.  I knew that I wouldn’t be spotted by any club runners this year though without my club vest on and almost felt a little like I was secretly spying on them all running by!

Miles 1-6: 10:20, 10:30, 10:30, 10:24, 10:22, 10:21.

I had been told that a group from WDAC were biking over to the six mile point to cheer the runners on so kept a good look out for them from the 6 mile marker but saw no signs of anyone.  There was a lot going on at this section as we ran through a little park, passed the section for the first relay runners to handover to their teammates and crossed the first block of timing mats, so there were lots of people around and I hoped I hadn’t missed our cyclists.

Heading towards mile 7 though I remembered there was a pub on the side of the road and knew they would be fairly close.  Sure enough I spotted them cheering directly opposite and madly waved to get their attention, almost running into them before they spotted me out of club uniform!

It had started to heat up now.  I’d been passing occasional walkers from about 3 miles in, but now many had adopted a run-walk technique, especially up the small ‘hills’ that cropped up.  I was still feeling good, my heart rate was still fine (160ish) but I was feeling rather hot.

Miles 7-11:  10:23, 10:29, 10:26, 10:27, 11:01.

I dropped my gel at the start of the 11th mile and loudly swore twice as it had interrupted my stride whilst running an uphill which I then decided to walk.  I shouldn’t have walked as the sweat then poured out of me and I could feel myself heat up further.  It was at this point, looking around me and seeing not another single person running up that hill that I decided to just enjoy the rest of the race and make the most of the day.  SDW100 is my main aim for this season, not MK Marathon and I wanted to be able to continue running the rest of the week, not have to take a week off after running a hard road race where I might shave a few minutes from my time.  There would be time for that later in the year instead.

So, from that point I did not care about my time at all and thoroughly enjoyed the race experience in a way I feel you only can if time does not remain a factor.

I sat down with Oscar on the floor for a minute at 12.5 miles who was busy munching on his picnic and excitedly shouting at me “Law Law – run, run, run!” as he had just seen Laura run past.  Dan told me that Laura was only a little way ahead of me, despite initially aiming for a sub 4 marathon that day.  She had unfortunately fallen early into the race and had ripped open her knee.  Dan had loaded her with wet wipes to try and help stop the bleeding when he saw her, but her run had changed to walk now as her knee began to stiffen.

I ran on.  The people of Milton Keynes were AMAZING on Monday.  They came out in their hoards to support the runners.  I ran under more sprinklers than I could count.  Dipped my hat in at least four buckets of water to cool my head down, enjoyed jelly babies, orange segments, watermelon and a couple of slices of frozen melon.  <<  This was the best thing ever.  I’m already putting a request in for frozen melon on the SDW100!  There were so many kids (and adults!) out with water guns on the course and it was so refreshing even when the squirts came to the face!  I took water from every water station, high fived hundreds of kids, thanked all the volunteers and even had a little dance to the band on route.  I passed local residents kindly letting runners sit down on their garden chairs and one even nip in for the loo!  I always thought London Marathon had a great atmosphere, but London was NOTHING on the buzz that was Milton Keynes on Monday.

I plucked up the courage to start a conversation with a runner wearing a Run Mummy Run top, chatted to several runners about how we had been training in ice and snow for a marathon in 28 degree heat and let one woman know that her belt had ridden up her back, potentially causing nasty sores for her later on.

One of my favourite photos from the race is one which Dan took as I was running towards Oscar at mile 15.5.

Milton Keynes Marathon - spotting OscarI stopped for a little while here to reapply some suncream, hand back the nakd bar I knew I wouldn’t eat and collect some ‘Free hugs’ from Oscar.

Milton Keynes Marathon - stopping with Oscar at mile 15Milton Keynes Marathon - stopping with Oscar at mile 15Dan said that Oscar had been enjoying cheering runners on that morning and had been busy clapping away and shouting “Run, run, run!” at everyone that passed.  (He’ll make a great coach!)

I bumped into Laura just after 18 miles and walked with her for the following mile before jogging off so that my legs didn’t stiffen up.  We saw a couple of members from our club here where I nabbed some watermelon slices and another bottle of water. Mile 19 of the Milton Keynes Marathon with LauraI was a little confused that I hadn’t seen any other pacers pass me, but it turns out many had struggled on the day, despite running times often an hour slower than their own PB and pulled from pacing duties.  I have never seen so many people walk during a marathon before and there were a couple of miles where I could probably have counted on my hands how many runners I saw!

I had taken a bottle of nuun water from Dan when I had seen him at mile 12.5 but to be honest my body was telling me that I had probably drunk too much water and not enough electrolytes/other stuff.  I was struggling a little with my right ear, which sounds ridiculous, but it’s usually the first telltale sign for me that I need to slow down on the water intake. I walked a little way with two other ladies for a couple of miles from mile 22, deciding to lay down on the verge to cheer some runners past by mile 25 for a little while.  I had salted up a fair bit by this point and felt like I was beginning to get heat stroke, so decided to take it fairly easy and took maybe five minutes to myself in the shade on the side of the path before continuing on.

Salted up post marathonI obviously had to run the finish though.  Milton Keynes Marathon has a fabulous finish – running down into the stadium and then 3/4s of a lap round the pitch before heading under the finish gantry.  I looked up to hear cheers from other runners in my club shouting me round, and then also saw a runner in a giant rhino costume not far behind. MK Marathon finish in the stadium with a giant rhino costume (Picture by Tim Bullard)

Erm wow.  Just take a moment to think about how incredibly impressive that woman was.  She ran a Rhino PB that day – a little under 5h 30m in that insane heat whilst wearing a ridiculously hot costume.  Legend! MK Marathon finish in the stadium with a giant rhino costume (Picture by Tim Bullard)

I crossed the finish line and immediately turned to congratulate her.

My slowest road marathon by far…

Official time: 5:32:01
Position:
1625/2028
Gender position:
375/557
Category position: 100/150

…but for the first time I genuinely didn’t care.  I had thoroughly enjoyed myself that day.

The layout following the finish was slightly different this year.  Normally runners head back out through the underpass and down into the underground section to collect medals and goody bags.  This year though, runners had to walk up the steps inside the stadium collecting their medals and goodies as they went.  I heard a few people moaning about this, but one of the benefits to taking the race easy was that I could jog up the steps at the finish and by Tuesday my legs even seemed to have forgotten that they had covered 26.2 miles the day before!

Milton Keynes Marathon collection of medalsAnother benefit was that my official photographs look great!  This almost never happens to me in a race.  I’m usually the beetroot-red, top-ridden-up runner with her eyes closed!

Milton Keynes Marathon official photosI’m very tempted to buy them, despite the result of the race being so poor.

A post-race family trip to the pub for dinner was definitely in order on Monday night!

Dan, Oscar and I heading to the pub

I’m just waiting for the date for a Decathlon brand trip in September before booking an Autumn marathon to target this year, but after the 100 I’m looking forward to running a few marathon distances again, so will be booking up more soon!

Did you run out in the heat on Monday?
Do you suffer from running in the heat?
Have you run a marathon ‘just for fun’ before?
Photos: to buy or not to buy?

Summer has finally arrived and changes to my race plans

The hundred miler I entered last year is now seven weeks away…Seven weeks!

But first, how absolutely lovely is it to finally have full on sunshine after so many weeks of doom and gloom and all that heavy snow in March?!

Oscar and I had a day out planned at a sand and water outdoor area a few miles away today but my car wouldn’t start this morning so I had to check it in at the garage – crushing our plans for the morning.  Although we couldn’t make it to the water park we did still make time to get outside in the garden this morning where Oscar happily held my hand for a good twenty minutes whilst stirring various sticks through the weed in our garden pond!

Oscar by the pondOscar by the pondWe have big plans for our garden this year.  When we bought our house three years ago we didn’t have a child, but our garden is definitely not one I would describe as child friendly at the moment.  (See picture below.)

New house garden(Picture taken just before we moved in to the house – long before the garden became overgrown with weeds and the bushes grew out of control!)

Our pond definitely needs a cover on it now that Oscar is toddling around and we hope to remove the monkey puzzle tree which has grown out of control at the back of the garden, putting everything to the right of the path to grass for Oscar to play on.  Wish me luck.  It’s going to be a big job over the next few months whilst trying to keep a very active toddler busy!

Bella joined us outside earlier and rolled around in the sunny patches on the brickwork most of the morning!

Bella in the garden

I can’t wait to get some sunshine trail miles in and Dan has promised that when he gets home from work this evening the three of us can head out on a family run with Oscar in the running buggy.

Dan, Oscar and I on a buggy run togetherDan said that he would like to get some more running in the other week and now that the nights are lighter again as long as we head straight out as soon as he returns home from work (6:20pm-ish) we can fit 5-6 miles in before getting Oscar ready for bed.  We went for our first family evening run together the week before I ran SDW50 and it was so nice to spend time together as a family whilst I was getting some miles in my legs.  Oscar loves being out in the buggy with both of us and you can hear him constantly singing away and pointing things out that he can see along his ride!

I did have my alarm set for another 5am wakeup call this morning, but a late night last night and backlog of lack of sleep over the past six months meant that my miles this morning needed to be replaced by an extra hour of sleep, so snoozed my alarm and rolled over for another hour instead.

I have arranged to meet up with a few other ladies from the Run Mummy Run Facebook group for some early morning runs over the coming weeks and I’m hoping this will help to encourage me to get out for some of my miles first thing in the day.  I much prefer running in the mornings and feel so much better for it for the rest of the day then.  The poor weather and dark nights has meant that my early morning runs have been mainly on the treadmill this Winter, and there’s nothing more depressing than a solo treadmill run in a silent, dark house when you’re feeling tired!  I’m looking forward to being able to chat running once more!

Dan has also promised that he will ask at work if he can adjust his hours for a Thursday – meaning that he will start and finish earlier, giving him time to get home and take over Oscar from me, allowing me to get out on a club run in time.  I’ve really missed running with other club runners since Dan has been at this job and I would love to be able to get back out there again.

So, back at the end of last year when I sat down with my race calendar for 2018, achieving a marathon PB and completing a 100 mile ultra were the two big goals right at the very top of my list.

Fast forward a few months and I am now less than three weeks away from running the Milton Keynes Marathon and less than eight weeks away from the South Downs Way 100.

Following my performance at the SDW50 a fortnight ago I feel fully prepared for the 100.  It was a real confidence boost that I achieved a time I hadn’t thought I was capable of, even though I didn’t actually ‘race’ the 50 event, slowing in places as I was concerned my calf injury might reappear.  Touch wood, all being well, I am feeling fairly confident of completing the 100 at the start of June, provided no outsider issues ruin the day – heat, nutritional, etc.  I’ve been talking tactics and times with some of the guys from my club who have finished the SDW100 in the past and every time it’s mentioned I can feel my excitement about the event continue to grow!

The marathon is a different ball game though.
Ultramarathons are all about tactics – getting your nutrition right and keeping moving, knowing which sections to walk and where to pick up the pace.  Road marathons are a more pressured environment and can be time-driven.  My continuous runs haven’t been very continuous and I haven’t completed as many longer runs as I would have liked throughout this training cycle.  The plan I roughly put together for this training cycle was based very loosely on the Hanson’s Marathon Method and I am certain that this is a plan I would do well using when training solely for a marathon, – I just haven’t had the full opportunity to do so yet!  Last year I ended up traveling back to Norfolk to visit my Mum several times during each week and this time round the plan could never have my full focus as the bigger goal has always been about running 100 miles.

I want a sub 4h 30m marathon this year, but I don’t think I will achieve that at Milton Keynes next month, and I don’t want to break myself by trying.  I no longer plan on tapering for the marathon and instead plan to treat it as a long training run (with other people, and a shiny new medal!).  I have been running strongly on my runs, and so, (with a current marathon PB I am aware doesn’t do my running justice) know that a new PB is perhaps possible even if I don’t ‘race’ the event as such.  But if not, that’s OK too.  My new target for the sub 4h 30m marathon is going to be a marathon at the end of September/start of October (still to decide which one) meaning I will be able to focus on solid training purely for the marathon over the Summer months when I won’t be persuaded to run other races (as it will be out of race season) and when I will be able to run outside rather than on the treadmill for the majority of my runs as it is already light by 6am in the mornings.

Have you changed your goal races for the season before?
Do you prefer Summer or Winter running?
How is your garden currently looking after such a rough Winter?