MK Marathon Weekend 2017 Part 2 – The Marathon

Two races. Two days. On the Sunday for this bank holiday weekend I did the Rocket 5K in Milton Keynes as part of their Marathon Weekend event. It didn’t quite go according to plan as I’d hoped to achieve one of my running goals through it, but missed completely. Then, the day after this was the Milton Keynes marathon – my second marathon for 2017, and my ninth in the past three years (okay so it’s only two and half years since I did my first – but this is a rounder number).

For this marathon I didn’t go down the same route as Manchester – I didn’t have gold, silver, and bronze goals. In fact, I had no goals, and didn’t even have a plan. From a certain point of view I’d not really trained to do another marathon so soon as I’d not been running much this month due to my time in what was essentially a desert in the US.

My hope was that I’d take my time on tired legs, have a bit of fun, and hopefully complete the marathon in order to kick off the training for my biggest runs of the year during the summer. The Achilles tendon on my right foot was feeling a little tight after the efforts of the previous day, so there were no certainties here. I’d predicted beforehand though, and mentioned to @treb91, that I’d complete the race in between 3:30 and 3:45 – it was about right for what I’d do in training so made sense.

Although the race start was an hour later than the previous day I had to set off at the same time in the hope of finding somewhere to park. For this event there was no parking at the venue other than a small number of spaces that sold out before I had chance to book. They also hadn’t suggested where it would be possible to park – they only indicated where we shouldn’t. This alone was putting me off repeating this event in future, even though it’s likely I’d do the Rocket 5K again.

On the morning of the event I drove through what started off as heavy rain, but by the time I parked up in Bletchley the rain had stopped. There was some home that I might get to stay dry. From where I parked it was about twenty minutes to the stadium, and once there I hung around until the race start. I also met up with @runningozzy who was doing the half and stood around talking until it was time to drop of my backpack and make my way to the starting pens.

In the time I’d been inside it’d warmed up outside considerably, with the sun breaking through the clouds. As the start time got closer they moved the red pen into position, and then the one I was in – this would be the first wave of the staggered start. I decided as I had no interest in pushing hard for this race that I’d start at the very back of the wave.

Within 50 metres of the race starting I found I’d already got a stitch, despite running far slower than I normally would. I decided if I kept running through it, at an even slower pace, that it’d eventually go. Sure enough, by the time I reached the end of the first mile it did the same as the local support – it vanished. I then ran as I normally would and somehow overtook the 3:30 and the 3:15 pacers before the second mile marker, and it was some time before I saw either of them again.

For the first three miles it was mostly the same route as the Rocket 5K, but in reverse. This mean that although bits of this was down hill, there was a considerable amount of up hill to run and also a few “there and back again” bits. I found these made me feel slower, though whether I was actually going slower I didn’t check.

After mile 4 the route then headed back in the direction of the MK Dons stadium. So far the route hadn’t been that scenic and was a little boring, but at least the sun was still shining. It was actually warm enough already that I tried to keep to the shadows whenever possible, thinking it might keep me a little cooler. Before reaching the stadium it then veered off to the left and from there it was new territory, and the scattered support from the locals returned.

Somewhere around mile 7, we also left behind the half marathon runners as they went off on their own course for the remainder. Over the next few miles we went through small villages and parks and at last it was a scenic route, even though it had clouded over and occasionally rained. I even found myself thinking that it wasn’t that bad and perhaps I’d consider this marathon in future. These miles were also the first of a few times we had to move aside for passing cars on sections of road that weren’t closed – unless the drivers didn’t realise they were supposed to be. This reminded me of my cool down jog from the day before when I saw a blue Audi mount the curb to get passed the cones blocking the road the runners were still on. It had then shot passed them, and I’d hoped nobody was injured.

My mind wandered back to the present day, and I was soon passing the half way mark. I’d covered the first half in around 95 minutes – possibly slightly too fast for a training run, even if this actually was a race. I cut back on the pace a little, and as I got close to mile 15 I heard people talking behind me. One commented that they were 90 seconds ahead of 3:15 pace and that was pleasing – I didn’t really expect to get. I knew eventually I’d walk – I never had any doubt of that, and that would eventually put me somewhere behind that time. Probably by 10 – 20 minutes depending on how soon I started.

Shortly after I found it was the 3:15 pace group that I’d heard, and they soon came storming through as I crossed mile 15. For most of the next half mile I hung with them, but then I started to walk through Great Linford Park. Part of me was disappointed that I hadn’t stayed running for longer. In Manchester I’d kept going for longer; though I’d more or less trained for that, I hadn’t had a two week break, and hadn’t run a 5K race the day before. I should have expected it really, but it didn’t matter – as long as I could complete the distance it would be ample training for Race to the King. In the ultra I would of course be walking – there’s no chance I’ll be able to run 53 miles without walking.

It’s crazy to think, but I took twenty-one walking breaks over the remaining distance. There were points I didn’t really feel like running, but I tried to keep running as much as possible knowing it’d be better to get the miles in the legs.  When I got to mile 16 I was just ahead of the 2 hour mark, and could still see the pace group but as time went on they disappeared further and further into the distance.

For mile 17 there was a tree lined path which reminded me a little of Leicester’s half and full marathon routes as they pass the space centre. No space centre here of course, but shortly after this I did spot @joannasbarlow sitting on the wall and said “hi” as I passed. Amazingly this was at one of the points when I was actually running. The route was getting closer and closer to the stadium but there were still miles left to cover. For the first few miles after taking walking breaks I’d tried to make sure that I stayed running for most of the mile, but when I got bored of jelly babies and stopped eating them I started to find this more difficult.

From about mile 19 we were too close to the city for there to be scenic parts, and the proximity to the major roads meant the underpasses were becoming frequent. I found these made it difficult to keep a constant pace and soon found myself walking up the hills more and more. Though during mile 25 it’s back onto the path alongside the dual carriageway with the stadium in sight.

I started to get back into a rhythm and a runner alongside me started talking to me. Usually this doesn’t happen to me during a run! Though the first comment was that I looked like I’d only just started the race and was still fresh. Sadly this was far from the truth. I walked some more during this mile, but once I reached the entrance to the stadiums carpark I didn’t walk again.

The sight of the stadium and the crowds kept me going and it felt like I was increasing my pace. The path the rounded the corner and headed towards the stadium entrance where it goes down a ramp. I was pretty sure that there was a sign there indicating just 200 metres left, however I think it was more like 0.2 miles that was left.

At the bottom of the ramp it met the concrete and astroturf surrounding the pitch of the MK Dons stadium. For this the route went along one side, then across the top of the field behind the goal, and then half way down the other side. Once I reached the corner I decided I may as well sprint to the finish and got up to 5:26min/mile pace. It seemed like a good idea, but then the entire width of the path was taken up by 5 or 6 of the local club runners holding hands so nobody could pass.

I decided to run into the rope so that went it stretched I could sprint passed them – it worked and I was able to weave at a sprint around those in front to cross the finish line. Once around the other corner they hand you a water bottle, and then the medal appropriate to the distance you’ve just run.

From there it’s a walk up the ramp and into the hall inside the stadium. They then hand you a banana and a goodie bag with a t-shirt of your specified size. In this bag there was also a brioche, a packet of crisps, a milkshake, and an energy gel.

As I’d completed the MK Marathon Weekend Challenge, after collecting my backpack I also had to collect the medal for having completed this. For the next hour I sat and ate what had been in the goodie bag and waited for a friend to finish his first marathon so I could congratulate him at the end. I then had the fun of walking back to Bletchley to collect my car, though for some of this I was talking to another runner who had randomly started talking to me.

So for this “training” run I finished with a time of 3:31:54 in position 296 of 2020 finishers (first 14.6%). Not my best result, but then it was never going to be – I’m happy that I’ve managed to start my RTTK training.