I finished off November by taking part in The Dymchuch Marathon, the final marathon in a series of 5 consecutive events organised by the fabulous team at Saxon Shore. Dubbed “Grimchurch”, I found myself gathering by the sea wall with Cassie, Rachel, Louise, Kat and Jools, pondering why, at 8.30am on a Sunday morning, I was about to attempt several grey laps of a very grey place in blustering winds.
It’s a bit meh. Having caught up with the others, I did my normal thing of needing the loo, going to the loo and then deciding just as we were to start, that I needed the loo again. Why does this always happen in marathons? Anyway, there was just time for a quick selfie before the pre-race briefing…
Briefing complete (basic advice, run like the clappers before it gets so windy you can’t move and don’t run beyond the wall as you’ll get shot and do it a million times), it was time to begin.
Quick confession time. Although I knew I had this marathon to do and did start off following a plan, it dwindled. I was really good up to the point of the Royal Parks Half Marathon…and then I got lazy and didn’t really do my long runs. I did a bunch of mid distance runs and got a bit quicker over short distances, but I hadn’t done enough mileage. I’m not suggesting this is a good idea, it’s a pretty bad one. But I just wanted to finish the marathon and enjoy it and not worry about a time. I felt fit enough to take it on and finish it with some enjoyment and that’s all I wanted to do. That and put my London Marathon demons to bed.
I am going to go for my sub 5 at some point, but I know I will have to work hard and not make excuses like I did this time. Anyway, I decided 5:30 was a reasonable finish time estimate – 30 minutes for the first short loop, and then 60 minutes for each of the 5 loops. Unfortunately, I hadn’t banked on the weather.
I started out running with Cassie and Kat enjoying some chatter, before Kat dropped back. Cassie and I had an enjoyable first half marathon together, she bravely putting up with my inane chatter during her first ever marathon. I felt comfortable, we did it in a pretty good pace and I felt it was easy to maintain. Coming up to the 14 mile mark, she started to edge ahead, looking fantastic. I glanced at my watch at 15 miles, struggling as the strong head wind started to pick up, but knew I was still nicely on course for 5:30. Unfortunately, I struggled against the winds and although I tried to run, I walked much of the back stretch as running into it was making me exhausted and I wasn’t moving much faster than walking pace through it! Back at base camp, I grabbed some water and crammed a chocolate peanut delicious thing in my mouth. I had a quick chat with Kat who had unfortunately had to pull out and she reassured me that powerwalking into the winds was a sensible call! I waved at Rich who was just seeing Cassie off again and I set off again half a minute behind her. Rachel came storming by, looking absolutely incredible and I clapped as she zoomed by, before trying to resume focus.
Despite being flat, after 17 miles, I was really starting to feel every little ridge and bump in the concrete which wasn’t completely smooth. Although I was running out at a reasonable pace (10:50), I was starting to tire and not looking forward to the turn around point and going back into the wind. However, every time I felt walking, the magic wind would boost me from behind, making me feel almost like a computer game character, super hero boost!
I waved at Cassie as she turned around and made my own turn around a minute later and BLAM, I was hit in the face with the headwinds. I could see Cassie bravely running on into it and edging away, but try as I might, I couldn’t. Feeling exhausted at this point, I gave myself a talking to, telling myself to power walk into it and jog every time the winds died down a little – I needed to conserve energy to take advantage of the final outward stretch. Just when I was feeling really miserable, I saw two figures waving at me. It took me a minute, but I finally realised it was Cathy and Shaun and managed to find enough energy to run the entire 20m towards her for a hug. She was the marathon angel and really cheered me up when I was feeling cross and pissed off with the wind. Stupid wind. A bit of walking, a quick chat and off I went in a pitiful slow jog/walk to base. Cassie was coming out again as I was approaching and I gave her a big wave and told her she was amazing. She looked so strong all the way.
I ploughed into Jimmy for a hug and some orange and started getting irrationally snappy. Some lovely man offered me some drugs, but I wasn’t in pain, just grumpy. I glanced at my watch and was gutted to realised that although I had just over an hour to cover the final 4.69 miles to reach my target, I wasn’t going to do it as the wind was just too strong. Nevertheless, slightly refreshed, I went out to give it a go.
I was tired, but wanted to save as much time on the out stretch as I could and managed to sustain 11:20/11:30 most of the time, mixed with the odd short walk break. In a sad twist of fate, the magic wind boosting powers had vanished. As I hit the wall to turn around for the final time, I realised that I’d covered the out stretch in under half an hour (good) but wasn’t going to manage the back in half an hour (sad) as those evil winds which seemed to have died down on the outward stretch suddenly picked up with renewed energy and force. I’d completely lost Cassie at this point, she was but a mere dot in the distance and I was pleased that she was doing so well. I gritted my teeth and power walked on, feeling like I was being blown backward at times.
I’m not exaggerating the scale of these winds. These were gale force winds and almost everyone was walking into them at some point and certainly the 5+ hour runners really bore the brunt in those final stretches. Walking was exhausting, let alone running. Finally, I saw the finish, but it never seemed to come closer. Then Louise came out towards me. I desperately wanted to run to the finish and said to her once I reached the bin (about 150m out) I was going for the sprint finish. She stuck with me, encouraging me along and then I finally pushed for the sprint finish, screaming at the wind “EFF OFF AND DON’T DEPRIVE ME OF A STRONG FINISH!”
Third marathon completed in 5:43. Maybe it’s not amazing, but I’m satisfied. Yes it was flat, yes it was tarmac, but those winds made it easily the hardest of the 3 marathons I’ve done. I think I did exactly what I was capable of on the day. Had it not been for the winds, I think I would have made my 5:30, but who knows? For the most part I enjoyed it and I’m happy.
Cassie did an incredible job in her first marathon, smiling all the way in tough conditions. Louise ran a great time. Rachel blew the field away, being the first female home. Jools was wonderful with his constant encouragement as we ran past each other, also running a decent time the day after running a huge PB. All in all, a great day at the office.
Would I change the winds? Yes. But would I do it again? Yes. I ran a marathon and was lucky enough to do it in the company of some awesome people. It doesn’t get better than that, does it?
I got a HUGE pink medal and a fabulous goodie bag full of chocolate. Even better than that, when I asked I could swap my cider for a can of lager instead, the lovely organisers gave me two for the road.
This was my second event with Saxons, Vikings & Normans and I’m already eagerly awaiting the next one. Friendly events, organised by friendly people with the best race bling in the country and suitably unhealthy goodie bags, with supportive runners on route. What more do you want?
Note for next time – did you know toes can chafe? I finished with not one, but two bloody toes, discovered when I took my socks off. One cut by a toenail. The other chafed. Yuck! I’ll spare you all the manky feet picture…