Kent Road Runner Marathon

I dithered as usual about going for a PB on this one, and in the end decided to just set off without looking at the watch and see how it went. It’s 21 laps which sounds horrid, but on this event it really isn’t. Counting laps is though, so like most people I had 20 elastic bands on one wrist, dropping one into a tub at the end of each lap and doing the last lap without any. This will be important later!

It was grey and overcast, not very cold but certainly not hot. Perfect running conditions actually. I set off near the back. Started well – felt strong and was very soon wondering if I was going off too fast. No, mustn’t look at the Garmin, never mind, you’re doing this by feel. How do I feel? Ok – more than ok really. I’m running comfortably, breathing fine, nothing hurts. I’m pretty sure I forgot to discard a band at the end of the third lap as I was woolgathering. Did I, or didn’t I? Oh bugger, perhaps I can look it up on the screen at the lap point. There’s Gavin, chatted for a few moments then he pulled ahead, not by much but enough to make it unwise to try to catch up. For a while I occupied myself with calculating how far ahead he was, and if the distance was increasing or decreasing.

A check of the current pace and average pace was slightly worrying – current was 9:55 going downhill but overall was 10:30ish. That *is* too fast. Never mind, there’s a hill coming.

Before I knew it I was 5+ miles in and reined back a bit, aware that such reckless behaviour has in the past come to bite me on the arse later in a race.

Heading on for 9 miles or so. Check average pace. 10:24 Still comfortable, still ok. I was still thinking “Erk, too fast!” but carried on anyway. Hell, I’m 10 miles in already and it’s flown by. I was happy to see that I went through 10 miles well off my 10-mile PB time as I had been slightly worried that I was going to run close to it which is Not A Good Thing during a marathon.

Halfway in 2:15 or so by the Garmin. I counted halfway as 13.5 which was 2:17ish. I have only run about 2 halves faster than that in my life but I’m *still* ok. Average pace has fallen again, this time to 10:19. In fact, I’m on track for a 4:30something time and it is actually doable.

Wossgoinon?

I saw Gavin again but he was now limping. I told him to be careful and carried on. I’m getting through these elastic bands now. Another little keep-the-mind-busy game was putting the bands on the opposite wrist until every fifth band when I would discard the ‘spent’ ones. During each five laps I had to have at least 2 Shot Bloks and three cups of water. Colin on the mic called “11” when I paused to try checking the screen showing names and laps done. A bit of counting later, and it seems that I do have the correct number of wristbands left so my belief that I’d forgotten to transfer one earlier was false. Oh well. It was hacking it down with rain, which was really nice to run in.

Check average pace. 10:18. How the blue *&%$ has that got faster AGAIN? Not complaining mind, just surprised.

I was calculating and figured out that 4:43ish was doable at 10:30 pace and about sixteen miles I tempted fate by working out 10:20 pace (4:25 maybe?). I imagined being able to say ‘sub-4:30’ and it was awesome. But still, 4:3x:xx would also be awesome and fantabulous. Keep up legs.

Round about 20 miles I was tired and not enjoying it so much, and starting to wonder if I did have the lap count right or not. I had 6 bands (I think) left so 7 laps but how far did the race info say the laps were? 1:25? 1:45? Damn, can’t remember. But if it’s 1:25 or 1:30 then I’ll be way over distance. Won’t I? Or will I?
(it was 1:29 per lap)

Colin called “4 laps left” to me, which was definitely an error as I still had either five or six to do. I shouted back “No way, lots more” and carried on.
Pace was still good, slower on the hills but pushing on the downs and taking the racing line where possible and the average pace slowed to 10:20 but – and I could hardly believe it, but did believe it, and was seriously happy about it – I was on track for 4:3x.xx. The race calculators all seem to agree that my mara PB ought to be 4:30 or thereabouts, I had rested properly in the week or so leading up to it, I felt strong and that I was running well. That’s why I believed it.

The next time Colin called out six and sorry – wasn’t a problem as I knew 4 had been wrong. Mr Carp appeared on the footbridge above the course cheering me on.

I had started getting rid of bands at each lap rather than saving four so when I had two bands left (three laps left) I calculated that I’d have done 26.2 at the end of TWO laps and now I’m confused again. Two more laps completed. So hard. So painful. Walked on Tourette’s Hill. 26.2 miles and 4:31 time on the Garmin.

Colin calls ‘One more to go!’ and I ask him “Really?” and he nods.

I almost cried. I sniffled, carried on plodding, and held the tears in. I’d regained some equilibrium by the time I passed the loos but was bitterly disappointed even though I had known for several laps that my time wouldn’t be fantastic – I had been harbouring a secret and forlorn hope that it was an error their end with counting my laps, not an error of mine in believing what my watch was telling me.

That last lap was utterly horrible. The last several had been hard, hot and sunny, such a contrast to the perfect conditions earlier. I wanted sub-4:45; that had been the original goal until I started getting ideas above my station. As I came up to the finish I could only see the seconds on the official clock, the rest of it being hidden by the blow-up gantry. …..22… 23… 24… and race over. Totally knackered. Garmin says 27.56 miles. The Garmin can go &%$£ itself. Also said 4:45. It doesn’t show seconds after 1 hour. I’d have to wait for the official results to see if I had, by some miracle, come away with my original goal intact.
I eagerly awaited the official results, hoping that maybe it was chip-to-chip (and knowing that it wasn’t ) and those extra few seconds meant that my time was 4:44.59.

Nope. 4:45:25. Gah.

It is still a PB, and I ought to be ecstatic with that (was previously 4:47:12 at this event last year) but I’m still grumpy that I felt so good and ran so well and for so long genuinely thought I was going to beat 4:40 and get a great big PB. It is disappointing, but I’ll get over it. I’d better enter for next year and I won’t make the same mistake again. Next year will be a simple stopwatch and a lap-based pace band instead of a GPS tracker.

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