Race Report: North Dorset Village Marathon
I ran the North Dorset Village Marathon in 3 hours, 28 minutes and 15 seconds! It was a GOOD DAY. I don’t often write long posts but I can feel one coming on now. If you would like a summary, just read this and look at the pictures: 10 miles of joy, 9 miles of doubt, 4 miles of arrogance, 3 miles of pain, 0.2 miles of relief.
10 Miles of Joy
What a lovely race. 400 people and their friends warming up in a school hall, with bacon butties for the supporters, enough portaloos, and a handbell for a starting gun. No chip timing, no queueing, no crowds.
As soon as we started running the sun peeked out from behind the clouds for the first time in a month. Everyone was smiling. I tried not to worry about sunblock. The next 9 miles were perfect – good pacing (just under 8 minute miles) and good conversation with two people who had just run the London marathon. There was a sharp hill at 8 miles, but it was much shorter than the hills of Crouch End and I conquered it with ease.
At 10 miles some friends were going to be waiting, and I was really looking forward to seeing them. I waved like a mad woman and felt really excited. It was going so well!
9 Miles of Doubt
Running away from my friends, I felt like a switch had been flicked. Not in my body – that felt fine – but in my brain. I didn’t know if I was going to see anyone again until the end, which was still 16 miles away. I had pulled away from the London marathoners and was pretty much on my own now. The lanes were quiet and flat. There were cows, horses, pigs and lambs for company, but they weren’t doing much for my motivation. I spied a buzzard soaring overhead. Maybe I could stop and go for a nice Sunday walk in the sunshine?
I was getting distracted from the matter in hand. My times were creeping up. I went through 13 miles in 1 hour 43 minutes, 2 minutes faster than planned, and I was gaining 15 seconds a mile. I was restless. I needed to take control, so I decided on two things – to start listening to music to calm me down, and to split the race up into sections from here on out.
I decided to run three races; a 5 miler to 18 miles, trying to slow my pace down; a four miler from 18-22, taking it easy over the hills I knew were coming then; and a final four miler from 22- 26, hopefully a bit faster if I was feeling fresh.
4 Miles of Arrogance
It worked. I had got to 18 miles feeling good, better than on my long training runs. There was a lovely flat mile from 18-19 and I was thinking that the penultimate four mile section would be a doddle. Then came the hills. I knew they were coming, they weren’t that high or long, they were just there. I attacked them, probably a bit too hard, but I was feeling so good. It was great to pass people on the way up and I got a bit addicted to doing it.
At this point, someone told me I was “fourth lady”. I ignored the use of the word “lady”, and started dreaming of glory. I could totally catch that third woman! On a rare straight section, I caught sight of her. It was on.
3 Miles of Pain
I had been thinking that the final section would be one of the easiest. It looked flat on the course profile, what could possibly go wrong? I forgot that this was a marathon. Marathons hurt. Bodies are not supposed to run 26.2 miles as if it were a walk in the park. They are hard.
Once I passed the 23 mile marker, another switch was flicked. This time it was in my legs, and I couldn’t do anything to control it. Throughout the race I’d been conscious of my hamstrings and calves. At 23 miles they hurt, but they were a mere twinge compared to the pain party going on in my quads. The lactic acid was squeezing through them like lemons in a juicer.
It wasn’t like any pain I’ve experienced before in running. It made me feel sick, like I might faint. I grimaced. I shouted to myself. I turned up the power ballads really really loud. I kept running. I crept up slowly on the third place woman, and edged past her apologetically. It wasn’t the triumph I had hoped it would be. We were fellow sufferers.
The feeling came and went in waves. I hoped that if I ran through a terrible patch, a good patch would replace it. The last mile was a whole bad patch, however, and I have never been so grateful to see the number “26″ in my life.
0.2 Miles of Relief
Supporters lined the track for the last 0.2 miles. I’m really glad they did or I’m not sure I could have kept running. I knew I was going to to make it home in under 3 hours 30 and the temptation to walk was really, really strong.
I didn’t walk. I half ran, half stumbled over the finish line and bumbled incoherently to Mr N about how hard it had been. He was gleeful, and it was infectious. The memory of the last 3 miles was fading. I know that by this time next week I’ll have forgotten about it completely.
This is the joy of marathon running – the pain is part of the joy. What would be the point of running 26.2 miles if it didn’t hurt a bit? Who would be impressed by that, and what would we be proving?
Another joy of marathon running is below. Nothing tastes sweeter than a post-race pint.