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Underpass, Overpass: Milton Keynes Marathon 2014 Race Report

6 May 2014


Behold! Warrior woman, striding it home in 3hours 41 minutes at yesterday’s Milton Keynes Marathon, with a grazed knee but a big smile. How strong I look! How fresh!

I love this picture, taken by my sister who so brilliantly came to see me at the end of the race. I love it even though it is a massive lie.

The thing about a stadium finish, I discovered, is that it forces you to (MK) don your gameface and power home like Paula. This is a good thing, but the scene in the Arena, behind the stadium, was the true face of marathon running. Everywhere runners were prostrate in exhaustion and pain. The St John’s Ambulance medics were running out of chairs. There was a distinct whiff of vomit.

My sister and her boyfriend found me on one of the chairs having a piece of metal prised out of my knee. The St John’s medic was keen to know if it hurt. “Hurt?” I said, “compared to the race, no, it does not hurt. At all.”

I fell over at some point in the last six miles of the race. Where, I could not say. It was a bit embarrassing, spinning onto my back whilst cornering one of Milton Keynes’ 96,000 roundabouts, but my main feeling was one of relief not to be running for 10 seconds. That and appreciation for the blood now dripping down my leg. A war wound!

This race is an odd one. A city marathon that starts on empty dual carriageways, as if the zombie apocalypse had left only an army of runners on the streets, it then has a long succession of cycle paths with one child and his gran waving you on, before heading towards IKEA and ending up in a proper stadium. It has many out and backs – oh, so many out and backs – where you are cruelly faced with other runners who look better and faster and, most importantly, nearer the finish than you. In a mean piece of planning, most of the out and back sections are down and up the same hill.

This section destroyed my pacing. I wasn’t wearing headphones, so couldn’t hear the Strava lady giving splits and had to rely on my poor maths to work out mile times. I thought I was doing ok on 3:35 pace (and in fact I was) until I got overtaken by the 3:45 pacer group at 7 miles. This really threw me. I put in a couple of sub-8 minute miles over an uphill section. I shook off the 3:45 pacer but sweat was now stinging my eyes – it was too warm for heroics, and I would pay for them.

I enjoyed the race after the half-marathoners disappeared at 11 miles, but I knew pain was on the way. At 19 miles everything started to hurt: stomach, knees, quads, neck (neck?!). I promised myself to slow down but never never walk. Even on sharp underpass inclines (of which there were about 937) I ran the slowest I possibly could without walking. At one point I felt like the only person who wasn’t, it was really surprising, and I think the weather and course must have been to blame. I didn’t do it to prove anything to anyone, but because once I started walking I wouldn’t be able to start running again.

So, I went from 8:15 miles to 9:30 miles, but I made it home before that bloody 8:45 pacer.



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