I did check the weather forecast. It said cloudy with sunny spells. It lied. It was cloudy with rain. Persistent rain from mile 6 to the end. At which point I tried to use the zapper to open my car door and found that my hands were incapable of pressing the buttons. Or in fact, functioning at all. But I have skipped ahead.
It started well. Overcast with early morning chill, but nothing that gloves and a headband didn’t take care of. Terrain was rolling, but nothing too vicious, and I soon warmed up and lost the headband. There were mile markers every three miles, neatly dividing the run up into parkrun-sized chunks and handily flagging all the gel points. Fairweatherrunner (who ran with me for much of the 24-miler) was also running, and between us we managed to maintain a nice even 10 min/mile pace. It started to rain at mile 6, and at first it was pleasant and cooling. At 12 miles we were still on pace, and I even turned to Fairweather and said that despite the rain it was quite fun.
Unfortunately, the rain persisted, and I started getting colder. After a slump between miles 13 and 15 (net uphill and the second time around on the most exposed section of the course), we did manage to pick the pace back up to 10:10 min/miles for miles 16 to 20.
But by mile 21, the puddles had grown to the size where they were no longer circumnavigable, and I found that as cold as damp feet are, they are as nothing compared to feet that are fully submerged in icy cold puddles for paces at a time. And then in mile 22 came “The Hill”. And some power hiking.
After which it was just a case of head down and carry on until the end. I lost Fairweather during mile 24 (less than a parkrun to go!) and although my pace for the last four miles was an unremarkable 10:40 min/mile, I did manage to reel in quite a few of the people in front of me who were obviously suffering more than me. Including someone who had either sat down in a puddle or had a rather unfortunate bowel malfunction. God I hope it was the former! Either way, it made me realise that despite the cold, I was really in remarkably good shape.
Did I enjoy it? Definitely more than Lochaber. Granted, I power hiked up one hill, but I didn’t reach a point where I just couldn’t bring myself to run. The scenery was lovely, and it was fun up to the point when my brain got too cold to think. After which I have no idea what it was, because it’s all a bit of a blur.
Given the terrain and the weather, I’m chuffed with my time (4 hrs 34 mins). I feel that I have laid the ghost of my first marathon to rest, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I’m capable of on a flat road marathon.
I would like to say some thank yous to the people who helped me to knock 34 mins off my marathon time.
To James and Ian, my coaches, who devised a training plan with sessions that were varied enough to make the journey interesting, and which were challenging without being outfacing.
To Giselle, my sports massage therapist, who’s tender loving care (ahem) has helped to keep me injury free
To Gary Vallance, who tweeted over to me a wonderfully concise yet comprehensive packing strategy, which lowered my stress levels and made sure that I turned up with everything I needed.
To Giselle’s children, who after yesterday’s parkrun gave me a hug to get me through mile 19 and a hug to get me through mile 26.
To Jovial Gnome, who appeared unannounced in the car park this morning saying that he was in the area and there to support and take photos. Which he did at several points around the course, providing a one-man cheering squad to keep our spirits up.
To Fairweatherrunner, who ran with me for most of the course, lending me her pacing and getting me through the low points (12 miles, not even halfway; 13 miles, got to do that again; and 19 miles, soooooooo cold to name but three)
To my Andy, who welcomed me home with a cup of tea and Mid-Terrace Pie (think Cottage Pie, but for vegetarians who live in a mid-terrace), my all time favourite comfort food.