Well, that didn’t exactly go to plan…
Coming into the weekend of 1st and 2nd October I was in a bit of a mixed bag as to how I felt about this, my autumn target race. As I mentioned in my previous post, training had been a bit up and down, but I felt I may have just been able to squeeze out a decent performance come race day.
We headed to Bournemouth with a little optimism on Saturday morning, so we could take in Bournemouth parkun. This doubled up a bit of parkrun tourism with a recce of the Race HQ.
The weather was a bit rubbish, but the rain just about held off as we completed 2 big and 1 small laps between Kings Park Athletics Stadium and AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium. The course itself is a mix of tarmac, trail path and a bit of grass. There is a room at the stadium you can change/shelter in with toilets on hand there too. Naturally with it being marathon weekend, there were plenty of tourists about and there was an excitable vibe to the event.
Though we were taking it easy, it wasn’t as flat as advertised in my opinion – I wouldn’t go there on a PB hunt – but the marshals and volunteers were excellent. Thank you!
We had to hurry off to check into our AirBnB so couldn’t stick around, but there is a cafe onsite for post-parkrun cake, coffee and gossip!
After getting to our digs we headed into town to check out the finish area where most of the activity was going to be over the course of the festival. It was already bustling. I had to pick up a replacement number as mine never arrived. This was a painless process except it was a generic unbranded number which was a little disappointing, as they are souvenirs to me. never mind!
After a bit of shopping, a trip to Starbucks, some playing the amusements and even a cheeky pint, we decided to watch the races. There were a couple of kids fun runs first and then the 10k in the late afternoon. The course for these was fast and flat as it was all along the beachfront, and I was amazed at the size of the field! Saw plenty of folks I knew running and cheered everyone in both directions as good neutral supporters should!
Then we headed back to the AirBnB. In all we did 20,000 steps on Saturday which may be a little high for the day before a Marathon! But never mind eh.
Dinner was pasta from a local JustEat vendor. Good food and the same stuff I had pre-Manchester. We got a reasonably early night as Jodie was off in the Half at 8am which meant a VERY early start!
Getting up at 6am wasn’t a great deal of fun, but as we went to sleep early it didn’t feel like too bad a hardship. I feasted on my usual 3 porridge pots and armed myself up with a couple of bananas for before the race and we took the short walk to race HQ. The weather was perfect! Clear skies and no wind at a cool temperature. You couldn’t have picked better marathon weather.
As we were pinning Jodie’s number on for the half, we noticed the foam had gone from her embedded timing chip. We checked at the helpdesk to make sure the chip was fine, but they weren’t sure – so issued her a new number. Which was the same unbranded type as me! So at least we both had crap bibs!
One thing became clear as the morning went on, and that was that the half seemed significantly better attended than the Marathon.
Jodie was a little nervous about her race at it was her first half since our daughter Ivy was born. I dropped her off in the start pen and headed a bit further on from the start and took this Facebook Live video of the start of the race. Logistics meant I couldn’t see her anywhere else on the course so all I had left to do was wait nervously for the start.
I headed back to the cafe to have a cup of tea and it was a little chilly! I had checked my bag in with Jodie’s number, as she’d need it at the finish first, but was wearing a “disposable” hoody – just my race hear other than that! As the 2 hour wait went on, more and more people arrived, though it was still notably a much smaller affair than the half. I got a bit bored but before long it was time to head to the start.
I was assigned a pen right near the front due to my estimated (ha!) finish time. So I had plenty of loos to use and warmed up at the side of the course. I saw Ben of Marathon 401 fame who was starting the race on the warm up too, but didn’t introduce myself – he seemed busy. Then before long I was in the pen. It was nearly time to go!
My race plan was to go out at 3.10 pace, so that was around 7.14 a mile. I figured if I could get to 20 miles at that pace I’d try and cling on for the rest of it.
For the first few miles I ticked along quite nicely. A little fast, but it was downhill. There was some good support along here. I felt comfortable at the pace I was running, and when it levelled off a few miles later I slowed a little naturally to bring me back into target range.
One of the challenges with this course was the number of “out and backs” you have to contend with. By mile 7 I was already on my way back of the second of these alone – the “out” here was gradually uphill, but I managed to stay on pace before we dropped back down to the seafront for a few more miles, heading towards Boscombe Pier.
Now, I like the seaside, and I like the view of the sea. But that was all there was to see. I found myself getting a little bit bored of trudging along promenade for mile after mile with nothing but beach huts and the english channel to look at.
By mile 12 there was the first of 2 not-insignificant hills. 30 metres of climbing in 400 metres which is 8% incline! And believe me, by the time I got to the top, I knew about it. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have eased off a bit here to save the legs, but my stupidity/pride meant I tried to stay at target pace – which did work…
Once we reached the top it was a mile through to the half marathon split, by which point local parkrunner Miles Caswell caught up with me. This lad is super speedy round Yeovil Montacute parkrun and he was running his first marathon with a similar goal to me. We chatted for a bit but by this point I was starting to flag.
Thankfully, this was when we dropped back down into the finish area (for the first time). The crowds were MAGNIFICENT. I, being the crowd pleasing tart that I am, was pumping my arms in the air to get them going – and it worked. Miles and I appreciated the roar of support echoing around us like a mexican wave. I bet not every runner got that!
Shortly after this I saw Jodie for the first time. She had managed to get a marshal to cheer for me too which was lovely, but then I looked ahead to Boscombe Pier, which we’d already seen once… and yet more promenade running my head started sinking.
By the time I got to Boscombe I had eased back to my target marathon pace. Running with Miles and the support at half way meant I had increased effort and I was starting to suffer. I encouraged Miles to push on without me. Running the pier and then back toward the finish area (For the 2nd time) I saw Jodie and told her things were not good. I ran Bournemouth pier and got a high 5 from King Danny and then ran THROUGH the finish (3rd time!) before looping around onto some road then running past the finish for a 4th time.
Realisation had struck by this point that this pace was not only unsustainable, but utterly ludicrous – my legs were shot to bits. Ahead of me lay the biggest and longest hill of the course, at which point, my race plan was abandoned. I walked the hill. All of it. At the top of it was a toilet – I stopped in there too at which point I think the bluetooth/internet connection on my phone went, so the LiveTrack i had set up on my phone stopped. This meant Jodie and others thought I’d stopped, or switched it off in a huff. I didn’t! It just stopped working, promise!
The next few miles were around some park, some closed roads and were a bit lonely. It was a tough part of the course for me and it was a bit undulating too. I had decided by now that I was run walking for the rest of the race.
We eventually dropped back onto the promenade (for a change) and the last 6 miles were out and back along the beach. I was losing my sense of humour. It felt incredibly patronising for all these beach hut owners to tell me I was doing really well, even though I really wasn’t. I smiled politely and said thank you though. It wasn’t their fault I was having a bad race, and again, with hindsight I can say the support was excellent throughout.
With slightly more running than walking I eventually got back to Bournemouth Pier to see the finish line for the 5th and final time. I crossed the line, a bit emotional, and headed to the funnel to see Jodie. I had a bit of a “moment” with her and I was obviously disappointed but a 3.33 marathon is a time many would be proud of, and a marathon is a marathon.
Jodie had also had a tough day coming in a little slower than she would have liked, but still faster than her lowest target.
It was a very well organised event, with great support. However we both really bloody hated the course. We also weren’t too impressed that everyone got the same tee shirt. All the 5k and 10k runners got the same T shirt as the half and marathon runners! Either way unfortunately we won’t be back for the half or the marathon, but I do quite fancy the 10k for a speedy time.
In the cold light of day, and thanks to Strava, I can see where my race really went wrong.
Not only was I too fast in terms of pace, in effort terms I was far too fast over the first half. In GAP I was running a GAP average of 7.04 a mile (3.05 pace) and if I then extend that to mile 16 it was 7.00 a mile (3.03 pace)! So its hardly any wonder I blew up.
I barely felt like I was in 3.10 pace so to find I was actually running faster than that means that I wasn’t actually far off form wise (I don’t think) but not understanding/using my effort as a gauge is what really cost me.
My spring marathon is much flat, so with this in mind, a strong block of training having gotten through the bulk of life upheaval the last few months, I’m still encouraged that Mission GFA is on.
Strava Activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/731955875/overview