Banishing demons, downpour, new number, gobble gobble, some cheer & some silence, round we go again, shower, spasm, run-walk, cross-country and once around the track.
I had such grand plans for my second marathon of the year, which would be my third marathon in total. Unfortunately those plans did not translate into a proper training schedule, which was mostly curtailed by a long-standing leg injury, and they did not translate into writing the pre-race blog post that I had planned. My tale of banishing the marathon demons will have to wait until another race I am afraid.
There were a sizeable group of Eagles running so I drove a car load to Abingdon and we passed through a torrential downpour of rain on the way – conditions were not looking positive at this stage. Thankfully the rain clouds parted for our arrival and we joined the throng of runners making the walk from the car park to the race village.
My A goal for the race was to just enjoy the run and possibly set a new marathon PB but I knew that this would be tough so my B goal was just ‘get round and enjoy it’. The race started with a near complete loop of the running track before heading out onto the local roads. I quickly fell into a 6 min/km pace and chatted with a local runner as we passed a rafter of noisy turkeys who gobbled away from behind the protection of their fence. They’ll be sitting on a dinner table come Christmas.
The course continued on road and footpath until we reached the town centre where the first crowds cheered on all the runners. We passed the boats on the river until the first large loop began and the crowds dissipated until the cheers only came from the great marshals and drink stations. I am not a great fan of multiple laps but the countryside was scenic and the roads mostly empty (this was not a traffic free course). The section through the industrial estate was not very inspiring though.
I fell into pace with a fellow runner for the first lap and we exchanged a few friendly words as we naturally swapped places from time to time to help with the pacing. She had a few supporters following her round the course and it was handy as she shared some sports drink with me every time her support team appeared. We stuck to our 2 person peloton through the second lap and we started to overtake runners who were slowing down or indeed starting to take walking breaks. As we approached the 19 mile point I was suddenly hit with a back spasm so became one of the walking dead as my running partner carried on into the distance.
The remainder of my run consisted of running until the back pain got the better of me and taking longer and longer walking breaks. The marshals carried on with their cheerful encouragement, which kept a smile on my face, but I was just finding it too painful to carry on running so I walked-jogged-walked past all the finishers heading back to the car park and then through the seemingly never-ending cross-country style section. I put my game face on as I stepped onto the running track and enjoyed the encouragement of the Eagles cheer squad before crossing the finish line.
Sadly this does not go down on my list of ‘what a great race!’ thanks to the lower back pain and discomfort suffered through the final 6 miles. To be honest I was not in the best of shape for this one and the pain was probably due to an increase in weight and a lack of core strength. I am glad that I entered and I definitely felt the most comfortable for a marathon during the first 19 miles and on the positive side it was nice that this time my legs or general fitness did not let me down.
I know that I have a good sub 4 hour marathon in me and will be applying the lessons learned from the 3 marathons completed so far. The biggest lesson being don’t be a total tool and injure yourself during training by racing hard in cold weather without a good warm-up.
Abingdon marathon itself is extremely well organised, very friendly, very flat and conductive to a fast time. If you’re a fast marathon runner then you will easily find a suitable group to pace with and the countryside is very scenic. However, there isn’t a great amount of spectator led cheer and it’s not a traffic free course so you need to be mindful of cars on some of the country roads.
- Gun time: 4:36:28
- Chip time: 4:35:40
- Garmin time: 4:35:32
- Gun position: 632 / 704
- Chip position: 631 / 704
- Gender position: 505 / 543
- Class: M
- Class position: 184 / 193