Milton Keynes Marathon 2012 Race Report.
"I am made of Belief not Barriers."
Official Time: 04:12:24
3:53am. - Woke up seven minutes before my alarm went off and got out of bed. Showered, dressed up and finished packing my bag, checking to make sure I had not forgotten anything.
4:45am. – Had breakfast – Cereal (Oats) and 2 slices of toast with a cup of coffee.
5:15am. – Got out my door. It’s raining – it’s pouring is a better description. That rain would dog my steps all the way to Milton Keynes. There were no problems with public transportation. I took the bus to London Euston station.
6:53am. - I got on the train to Milton Keynes. I was glad the trains were running. With National Rail you can’t be too sure. I did have a backup plan just in case there were any problems with the trains.
On the train I passed the time reading Rudyard Kipling’s poem – “If” and excerpts from Chrissie Wellington’s book “A Life Without Limits”.
8:20am. – The train rolled into Bletchley station and I got off. It was better to get off here rather go on to Milton Keynes Central Station. From Bletchley Station it was a 15-minute walk to the MK Dons stadium where the marathon was taking place. I pulled my hood up, popped the umbrella and walked down. The umbrella wasn't very helpful because of the wind. By the time I get to the stadium I am a bit wet.
8:40am. – The stadium is like a marketplace – busy and bustling with 4000 runners with friends and family. I quickly find a quiet spot and change into my running gear. Then I dropped up off my bag at the baggage truck and settled down to wait. I prefer to be quiet, go through my game plan and mull over the inspirational stuff I’ve read. The goal is to finish in 4 hours or under and to run the entire distance – no walk breaks! I consider all that could possibly go wrong and my responses to each of them.
I like this part too for the opportunity to watch other people do their pre-race routines, from the very serious to the very funny (nobody is laughing though) but you notice each runner means business.
9;45am. – All the runners head for the start line. The rain is pouring down heavily, the wind is blowing hard and temperature has dropped – it is cold. Within a couple of minutes my fingers are frozen. I can’t operate my iphone so I can’t use the Runmeter app.
10:00am. – The gun goes off and 4000 runners are away. I get my stopwatch going and I am off too. I hold back and hold back – stick to the plan I tell myself – Miles 1-5 slow. As hundreds of runners stream past me I am sorely tempted to join them but I hold back. I hit the first mile in 9:58. Good! Good! I tell myself. I’m relaxed.
The rain continues and the wind howls and I’m doing my thing. This marathon is taking place on the footpaths that criss-cross the whole of Milton Keynes. There are huge puddles on the path and folks are running on the grass to avoid them. Within minutes the grass has turned to mud. At first I avoid the puddles but I notice the mud is slowing me down so I just hit the puddle causing a splash and all. No-one is complaining. We are all drenched anyway and you wouldn’t be able to tell what colour of shoes we were wearing.
I hit the fifth mile marker in 46:37, a bit faster than I planned but it’s ok because by now I’m cruising. I’m going steady but most importantly I am calm. I start drinking; I break out the first gel at 60 minutes. By now I notice a small group of runners with me. I remember thinking – this is just fine – these folks will keep me on target pace. A couple of minutes later after a short conservation I find out I’m not running with them – they are running with me. I’m their pacer. What?? How did that happen?
Mile 6 flashes by, so does 7, 8,…..I hit the halfway mark by 2hrs 7 minutes. I’ve picked up the pace and left my little group behind. I do a quick systems check – everything is fine. I’m feeling strong. I’m drinking steadily and having a gel every thirty minutes. There is this quotation replaying itself over and over in my head. I read it from Corey Q.’s entries, – “Run the mile You’re in”.
Mile 15 is coming up and I am thinking this is where it all started falling apart in my last marathon. I shake the thought and keep going. Words of Chrissie Wellington are jumping in my head – “trust in your preparation…. Focus on that fact….” At mile 16 I feel like jumping in the air with a whoop! It’s all going according to plan.
I have got to hand it to the crowd – they were amazing. That they were out there in that weather was amazing in itself. They would not just stop cheering – that wall of sound followed us round the course. The marshals did a great job too. I will not forget the marshal at mile 17 – she was one excited girl, dancing, jumping up and down and screaming at the top of her voice. Wow!
I got to Mile 20 at 3hrs 7 minutes. Sub 4hrs is looking very possible. I do another body check and except for a twinge in my left knee I’m still feeling strong – there is no wall. So I pick up the pace. I go through this underpass at mile 21: when I emerge in the open again there is this crowd cheering loudly. This gentleman in the crowd says to me “you’re enjoying yourself”. Without thinking I ask, “am 1?” The gentleman answers, “you’ve got a smile on your face”. So I did, I was enjoying myself.
Problems started at mile 22. My body began to betray me. After the 22nd mile marker there was this short incline. I just went for it but when I got to the top I got hit with severe cramps just above my knees on both legs. It was so sudden I was completely thrown. I came to a stop, willing myself to calm down – “remember the plan, deal with this” -. Once I got my thoughts together I did some stretches, walked a bit and started running again. The cramps did not go away completely but I didn’t stop again. But I had to really slow down to keep going and from here till mile 25 it was all uphill.
I found it difficult to keep it together at this stage; my thoughts were all over the place. With hindsight I realise all I needed to do was dig deep, keep my mind on the things that inspire me and focus. This is where I needed to force myself to think right and manage the pain.
At Mile 25 I’m holding on. By mile 26 I’m picking up the pace again. I’m inside the stadium and the cheering of the crowd keeps me going. I see the finish chute. I pass one or two runners. Then I’m over the finish line.
Time: 4:12:24. I am not disappointed. In fact I am so excited. If you had seen me then no-one would blame you for thinking I had won the race! I did not make the time I wanted but I had just shaved 18 minutes off my marathon time. I had run the whole marathon from beginning to the end except for the cramps stop. The hydration strategy went like a dream and there was no wall. I even helped some runners along the way. The whole race went according to plan.
And for my next marathon I know I need a mind as honed and as powerful as my legs. I’ve got train my mind to manage pain better. I have learnt that in this marathon business pain is always there and things will go wrong. The earlier I train myself to deal with it the easier it will be to get the PB.
For this race the best part is that I enjoyed myself – I ran with a smile!