I don’t run road events anymore but Brathay Windermere Marathon was an exception because a year ago it was my first marathon and I wanted to come back and do it again for sentimental reasons. As far as road marathons go, I would say that this is one of the best, with plenty of inclines to keep it interesting. With only two weeks until my 105 mile run up in Scotland, I did not want to trash myself too much, but on the other hand I was getting a bit too over confident with my strategy and timings and wanted to remember how it feels when it all goes wrong during a run. My plan was simple, to run it too fast from the start and see what happens. I also ended up eating too little and getting dehydrated which was not part of the plan but it all helped to make this run go horrible wrong in the latter half.
I got up at 3.40am and set off at 4am so that I could get to the event when registration opened. The marathon did not start till 10.30am, but I wanted to relax and soak up the atmosphere. After a short briefing we all followed a group of drummers down to the start, which gave a really good starting atmosphere. I found myself very close to the front of the thousand or so runners and slowly made my way back a few rows. The starter gun went off and gave me a shock as I was still looking round the crowd, so I quickly turned and started running with the masses. Immediately I pulled a muscle in my back but found it only annoying and it was not affecting my pace. I set a pace of around 7 minute miles for the first mile then slowed a little on the hills so that I was averaging just under 8 minute miles. In my previous Windermere Marathon I set off at an average of 10 minute miles. With no other targets to aim for, I just ticked off the miles.
By mile 5 I had averaged 7.39 minute miles and was feeling good. It was slightly overcast and I was not overheating, but I could tell it was going to get warmer. I was carrying some water and rationed it to last about 10 miles with a couple of drinks from the aid stations along route. I also ate a small cereal bar of 100 calories, every 5 miles, along with a few chunks of Kendal mint cake from the aid stations. In next 5 miles I had averaged 7.50 minute miles, so I had slipped a little on pace but was still running steady. It was about 12.5 miles when I reached the bottom of the lake and left the quiet back roads for the busy A592 along the East side of the lake. I have to admit that I was not enjoying this part as much because of the heavy traffic just inches away but it was not as busy as last year and there were no problems, only encouragement from all the passing drivers. I pushed myself on and covered the next 5 miles in an average of 8.19 minute miles.
It was between mile 15 and 16 that I noticed that I was very hungry and thirsty, and my pace also started to slow. It was obvious that I was going to crash and burn really soon and had no food or water to stop it. I continued to push on but started finding the up-hills a struggle. I covered the next 5 miles in an average of 9.03 minute miles. The only food left was Kendal mint cake at the aid stations but I could not stomach it anymore, so I went without any more food. Not only was I tired, but I was starting to hurt now. The pulled muscle in my back was intensifying after a quiet period and I had a strong pain in my side, which at the time I thought was a stitch, but now I think it may have been my reoccurring pain in my abs. For the final 6 miles I lost the will to push the pace and decided to slow it down. I had achieved my goal of pushing myself to crash and burn and there was no point in causing too much damage for my 105 miler. I ran, plodded and walked my way for the next 6 miles, checking my watch every 10 sections to see if I was any closer to the end. I finally reached mile 25 and covered the last 5 miles in an average of 11.09 minute miles which is a good thing as I intend on starting out on my 105 miler at a similar pace and got a good idea how fast I should be going without the help of my Garmin watch telling me. The pain in my side was becoming unbearable and the only thing keeping me going was that I knew that walking was going to make it last longer. I covered the last mile in an average of 12.10 minute miles to finish in 3 hours 54 minutes 52 seconds, only 48 seconds off my best marathon time which was at the New Forest Marathon and 46 minutes better than my previous attempt at Windermere Marathon.
I recovered really quick after finishing and found that after getting changed and walking around for 10 minutes, all the lactic acid had gone from my legs and I felt fresh again. I spent the next 3 hours watching the remaining runners crossing the finish line only missing the last two as I had a long drive back. There were a number of runners who showed great emotion for overcoming their personal challenges and it reminded me of what this is all about.
So what have I learned for my 105 miler? Pacing is key, and I am going to have to go out slow from the start. If I had ran the first 15 miles at 9 minute miles I would have probably finished without crashing and would have finished in the same time but without the suffering. I also reminded myself that I have to keep eating and drinking all the time, starting at the start line. My upper body always seems to let me down recently, so I will need to strengthen that up a bit more. I will re-examine my game plan for my 105 miler and maybe slow my pace down a bit more, spending more time to enjoy my surrounding and less time looking at my feet. I will also make sure that I am going to fully stocked up with food and water so that I will never run out. For now I am going to protein and carb overload for the next two weeks to recover and be ready for the big one.