I don't know about anyone else but sometimes my blog planning is a bit like a military campaign. This week was supposed to be a "State Of The Nation" address following on from my spring marathon season running and spectating experiences. Instead I find myself reporting on another marathon experience!
I had wanted to take part in the North Dorset Village Marathon. Surely a totally different experience from the big city marathon. And one that was nominated to be part of the Egdon Heath Harriers club championship. But to attempt this just three weeks after Paris? Sheer folly surely! But my friend Sue from EHH, who ran her first marathon in Brighton the same day as Paris, had other ideas, reasoning that, having got "marathon fit", it would be a shame to waste it by not running another straight away. And so she entered. And it followed that, forever receptive to the powers of suggestion (note to self – never go to a hypnotist show), so did I. I had a vague idea that it would be interesting to see just how capable I would be. Time would not be an issue. So I could run easier. But if I did that would I actually feel stronger towards the end?
The weather was far from promising as I set off oooop north (of Dorchester) to Sturminster Newton early on Sunday. Eventually emerged from the cloud but it was still raining when I arrived. But I picked up my numbers and as we went to the start it was looking good for running, with the rain having stopped, cool and overcast. I lined up alongside my swimming pal, Michael (closing in on membership of the 100 marathon club second time around!). And as we waited another "hello Keith". Just like Paris so nice to be recognised by someone out of the blue (or should that be red?). It was realbuzz blogger "Red" David Howarth. I was delighted to meet him because he was one of the people who helped me so much get around Paris sharing his experiences from last year. As we set off I was running alongside Michael. David set off faster and I thought I glimpsed Sue heading off at quite a rate.
We chatted for the first few miles. Just about everyone who overtook us seemed to know Michael. I guess when you've already completed 180 or so marathons you become a bit known, and he is fairly distinctive running in a Southampton football shirt, sporting the name of his hero "Le Tissier". But when we came to the first significant hill I felt the need to push on whilst Michael ("fresh" from running London seven days earlier) walked it. So then I was running alone but with a number of other runners keeping me company. It was all going rather well. I was running a comfortable 6 mins per km, which I only had to stick with to beat last year's London time. Simples!!
Still OK as we reached half way. Clearly one of the differences with a run like this is that your supporters can drive out and meet you en-route and ply you with goodies and sustenance. And so I came across Ian, husband of Barbara (self styled OldBatOnABike) and Sue's husband Charlie. Charlie asked if I'd seen Sue. I was surprised as I'd mentally placed her as being in front of me. Maybe she was behind me after all. And just after I passed Barbara and pushed on.
Then suddenly, somewhere around mile 15, the wall came tumbling down. That same horned beast was on my shoulder again. This time he didn't need to say anything. The mere power of suggestion was enough. I was walking. I don't know if this was "the wall" but it sure as hell was "a wall" and I'd sure as hell hit it (hard). But not to panic. The aim of this exercise was surely to get the end. As Garmin ticked off each km, I'd walk for 200m then try and run until Garmin beeped me again. And of course had to walk the hills still. But there was a problem. As I stopped running my right ankle was really hurting. So it hurt to walk. So I started running. The ankle was fine. Just the rest of me hurting like hell. I started to visualise – Keith PULLEN – DNF! Then around 22 miles I stopped at the drinks stop to take on my final gel.
At which point Barbara caught me up and (very nearly literally) picked me up by the scruff of the neck. "Keith – we're going to finish this together – it's the only way I'm going to get there" was the gist of her proposal. I think my words to her were "I'm spent". But we pushed on together. "Start running when we get to that tree". "Have a rest when Garmin buzzes". Eventually we turn right and are off road for the first time and onto the disused railway line back to town and the finish. It's supposed to be about 2.5km to the finish. I'm still all for run walking. But Barbara is surprised to hear that we are actually going to be close to 4hrs 30. She sensed we were nearer to 5hrs. So we run it – all the way – all along the never ending railbed – right to the end. As the surface changes, was I glad to see that white line drawn across?, and we cross the line together. Thanks Barbara – couldn't have done it without you :-)
For the record we are placed 194 and 195 out of 274 in 4:30:46. For Barbara this is a mere 46 seconds outside a London Marathon GFA. She announces herself well satisfied with a perfect result proving on one hand that she's still got it, whilst on the other hand avoiding the temptation to "do" London 2016 :-) And Sue is there at the finish too looking as fresh as a daisy! She has only gone and improved on her Brighton time, finishing in 4:7:54 alongside London finisher Mike who has paced her around and (lovely coincidence) Red David! Seeing the state I am in she is feeling bad for me – which I really appreciated :-).
But the truth is Sue, however, tough this may have been, the good very soon kicked in. For me this is still a huge learning curve, and the great paradox that, to date, I reckon the slower my marathon time, the more I learn from it. Those last couple of miles ... when you think you've got nothing left to give ... and then again you start to think if only you'd dug that deep back in the Bois-de-Boulogne! You wuss!!! Back to base to tuck into hog roast and cider.
Then just one more task. Red David's little contributions were such a help with the Paris project. And he could do with a lift back to Salisbury. What goes around comes around ...
... And Another Thing ...
Just before running London last year, watched the documentary "Kris : Dying To Live" about Kris Hallenga, founder of the charity Coppafeel. It is an emotional rollercoaster following this amazing (terminally ill) lady living her life to the full. This last weekend the spotlight was on her (late) friend Alright Tit blogger Lisa Lynch, whose story was featured in the drama "The C Word" starring the brilliant, and surely national treasure in waiting Sheridan Smith. Floods of tears moment when they recreated the "day in the sun" in Brighton that these ladies were sadly denied in real life, and featuring a cameo appearance from @KrisPoB playing herself. Feel fully justified in saying Kris – whatever you do don't give up the day job :-)
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