Marathon 9 – Beerathon
The week prior had been stressful, lack of sleep and another scorching week all meant I’d not had a great prep week in the build up. So much so it was the last thing on my mind.
This wasn’t helped by discovering we were not doing the familiar 6 lap with the out and back to the mausoleum. By excluding this meant 7 laps. As first I was relieved but later in this became a mental challenge. My Ranscombe strategy was out the window, walking the 5th lap meant two more to go rather than one…
Being a Beerathon we were all given a special Saxon Shore bottle opener for our bottle of beer. Having driven and knowing what I’m like with alcohol I opted to save mine for later. The clock started as the bottles were downed which meant I was one of the first to head off, although obviously swiftly caught up and overtaken by the masses.
It was windy and overcast, but despite the rain we’d had the ground was fine. I ran small sections with various familiar faces all running their own races. This is why I love these events, you get to talk to others and understand their journeys be it injury, because their spouses are running, having travelled great distances or as a full 8 hour running challenge. And those faces you see again and again from one run to another. Such a fantastic community feel.
It was by lap 3 that I was starting to struggle, the lack of sleep was catching up with me fast, and knowing I wasn’t halfway through was not helping matters. I forced some of my energy bar down me, and made sure I had some peanuts at the aid station. I took a bottle as something different to have on the 4th lap, and amazingly had some left still for the 5th.
I was thinking at the end of lap 4, as I ran back through the woods with another runner who ended his run for the day, that as it was an 8 hour challenge I’ll walk the remaining 3. As quite rightly as he said to me ‘I have nothing to prove’, the vast majority of people don’t ever run 1 marathon and I’d completed 8 so far this year. I was getting a little teary but a few deep breathes and tight clenching of the fists I knuckled down.
I started to walk the 5th but after a good talking to myself I started to get the legs moving, after all any type of run is quicker than a walk. Granted my walking sections has elongated a few metres but I got on with it. I even thought about walking an 8th lap to recover, pick up some conkers along the way… then I thought let’s just get on with the task at hand first.
The 6th lap was even more of an effort but the handful of jelly babies gave me a little burst. I was back to my standard strategy, grateful to get the top of the last climb and onto the downhill stretch. I was monitoring sections know to time myself, trying to mentally calculate what time I could do. How long each lap was taking. I’d gone from 40mins to 56mins by this point.
It was my quickest pit stop yet before I headed out for the 7th, probably desperation to get it over with. But I’d worked out that if I equaled my 6th laps, doable, I should get a Ranscombe PB, granted on a slightly different course. I reverted back to my ‘you can walk this section’ strategy using my all too familiar markers. With each climb telling myself ‘this is the last time you need to do this section, keep it going’.
There were very few runners about on the course now so it was a lonely old last lap. But the focus of being the last lap really helped me push on at a pace. Ignore the niggling in the knees, stretching out the stride and lifting the knee higher seemed to ease the niggles.
Through the woods, and down to the familiar ruts by the railway line. Keeping the the right, then over to the left, over the little puddle, to the left again just by the bright colourful leaves, across the gravel, out to the open then precariously down the steps clinging onto to fence as I went, down the step sections whilst trying to maintain control over them, up the last few steps and clamber up the through the tree roots, one deep breathe to get the legs in motion again. I looked at my watch it was coming up to the 6 hour mark, I stretched it out again, over taking two male runner who thankfully let me through. Jumping up to the road I stepped it up a gear, 30 seconds to go, deep down I knew it was out of reach
It always makes me chuckle how I have these last bursts right at the end. Usually it comes with a certain time to hit. The 20 seconds are a tad annoying but I’d taken 23 mins off of my Ranscombe PB albeit on a slightly altered course. Having checked Strava afterwards it was a hillier route too, so no wonder I found it tough going!
A tough 9th marathon but also another PB for the list!
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Also published on Medium.