Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Milton Keynes Marathon

It's 2 days since I ran MK Marathon so I've had a bit of time to reflect on the race. I've been training for this since I PB'd at the Stevenage half marathon in November, 2013.

Prepared, sort of
Got all my stuff ready the night before, so I wouldn't be panicking on Monday for safety pins and my running belt. I woke up at 6am and made myself porridge and had a glass of water. I wasn't really sure what else to eat, normally I don't eat much more than that before a race, but I knew I'd need a bit more sustenance. Opted for a homemade banana and chocolate milkshake, which was a successful breakfast choice the morning I ran the Baldock Beast half marathon.

Got dressed, packed my bag (with some lunch, water, Clif bars, vaseline, spare clothes), and jogged up to the High St for 7:30am to meet Barry, Lewis, and Simon and his wife, who were driving us to MK. Made the trip to MK in super-fast time, and we were in the MK Dons stadium for 8:30am.

MK Dons stadium, finish line

Had a lot of hanging around to do before we had to make our way to the start for 9:30am. Ate a Clif bar to stop any possibly energy deficit, after being reminded about hydration and energy needs by a Pete Luxford text! Was good to relax and have a chat too. Met my friends Jay and Kayleigh in the baggage area just as we were walking to the start, Jay was running the marathon and Kayleigh the half.

Barry, Simon, and me, trying not to look nervous
I was looking out for the sub 4:00 pacer, who was carrying a helium balloon. As soon as I spotted him I said bye to everyone else (who would be running much faster than me) and stuck close. The start area was so crowded, 5000 runners in total, I've never run in such a big race.

When the race started we walked to the start line so that we'd have a nice gap in front of us. Couldn't believe that there were people starting at the front who were running really slowly, or walking. Made the first mile or two quite irritating having to weave in and out. We managed to keep to the intended pace though (9 min/mile). At mile 3 we passed the first water station and I immediately decided I needed a wee. Had to ignore it because if I stopped I knew I'd be in trouble.

I spotted my friend Duncan from running club and his family; I shouted loudly to get his attention! So exciting to see people I knew. The first 6 miles twisted around Center MK, and it was good to spot Simon and Barry running together on the opposite side of the road (although about half a mile in front of me). I stopped to yell at them! As I headed back towards MK Dons stadium I saw some runners in a group carrying a boat, raising money for their rowing club. Crazy!

At mile 8 I suddenly spotted my children and husband at the side of the road. I couldn't believe it, because they'd told me they weren't coming to support (apparently they were at the start but I missed them). I tried not to cry as I ran to them for hugs and kisses, but gave in to the emotion as I set off again down the road.

My stomach gave me the first hint of trouble at this point. I was taking on water regularly, both internally and externally. Also eating Clif shot bloks every few miles. Gatorade when it was available (I'm not a fan of energy drinks though, although Gatorade is the only one I can stomach). But I carried no gels (because of previous stomach woe on long training runs).

At mile 10 the half marathoners split off and headed back to the stadium, whereas we turned off into a housing estate and onto the Redway. I had a chat with a fellow sub 4:00 runner at this point, and admitted that my leg was hurting a lot (my right hamstring had been aching from mile 3 but I'd hoped it would just ache and not get worse). I was full of doubt that I could carry on to be honest, but managed to maintain the sub 4:00 pace for another 8 miles.

Missed the gel station at mile 12 (not worried though because I still had some Clif shot bloks and hadn't planned on taking a gel). We ran around the east side of Willen Lake, and here I was a bit sad to see many runners laid on the grass receiving medical attention. The heat was quite intense at this point because it was very open aspect; luckily I'd been taking on plenty of fluid so wasn't feeling affected by the heat.

At mile 18 we hit a steep hill at the top of Willen Lake and my hamstring finally stiffened in my hips so much that I could hardly move my legs. I decided to stride up the hill to try to loosen everything. The 4 hour pacer was in the distance at this point, but I knew from my pace band that I still had a few minutes in hand, plus he was aiming at 3:56 and I was aiming at 3:59:50. However, as I started to run again I realised my legs had stiffened too much and I was going to be in a lot of pain for the next 8 miles. I made a tearful phone call to my husband to tell him "I might be a bit longer than 4 hours". He offered to come and pick me up but I was determined to carry on and aim at 4:10.

The slower pace was a bit easier, but I still had to walk every so often. Saw Scott and Julie from running club at mile 21, what a fab surprise! I nearly cried on them both too. Scott cheerfully informed me I "only had to run to the roundabouts and back"! I managed to push myself onward by run-walking, before I started to feel my knee seizing up at mile 23. It was the familiar ITB problem I had last time I trained for a marathon. I panicked! At this point the 4:15 pacer passed me and I felt defeated. Texted my husband to tell him where I was (I couldn't bear to ring him), and he said they were all at mile 25 waiting for me. I set my Garmin to a run-walk strategy for some bleepy reassurance and just pushed on.

The marshals were screaming at us to run, use our "energy", "don't walk", "come on you can do it", "this is the last hill" (LIARS!). I walked on the hills; there were a lot of underpasses at this point in the race, steep hills up and down that were painful to run on, even going down. At mile 25 I saw my children and tried not to walk anymore for them. Managed a slow shuffle along the road, then spotted Simon and his wife, and Lewis, at the side of the road. And KFC! Yay, nearly there. Kept on running even though I really wanted to walk for a bit.

Entered the stadium to a massive cheer, and I could hear people calling my name, which was a bit weird! As I crossed the chip mat the announcer said my name and that I'd be the next person to cross the line (at this point an unsporting woman passed me and said "oh no you won't", BITCH!) Heard people cheering for me, and spotted Jess, Ann, and Lynn from running club at the finish line! It was them making all the noise! Brilliant. Crossed the line (4:22:01 chip time, a 37 minute PB) and immediately sobbed all over them, sorry ladies. Barry was there too with his wife, he looked a bit shell-shocked! Collected my medal from an adorable little boy who put it round my neck and said "You've done really well".

Reflecting on what went wrong for me in the race. I paced it fine I think, the problem was my hamstring and knee. Possibly not enough strength work. Possibly I overtrained (peaked too soon and then was tired); I'd been feeling rubbish and unfit throughout April. The Florida holiday perhaps contributed (nothing I could do about that). Perhaps I just overestimated my ability, and should've aimed at 4:15 this time. Maybe I'm just not cut out for the marathon distance, full stop.

Whatever the reason, I know I don't want to run another marathon until I'm much fitter and stronger, until I've finally figured out my diet and got my weight at a steady level. The plan is to get quicker over half marathon distance (which is my favourite distance), and try to PB at 10K distance later this year.

What's up next? Stotfold 5K on May 18th, Marston 5K on June 20th (possibly only as a spectator), then Herts Hobble off-road marathon on June 29th. D'oh! (LOL) I'm taking that one easy, 5:30 at least, and lots of tea and cake en route.

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed your report Sarah. I was hoping for about 4 hours too, but didn't make it. Struggled with my belly a bit in the middle section, think I'd had too much Gatorade! More undulating than I was expecting too. Wishing you well with your next marathon x