I’m writing this week’s blog while sipping a cup of coffee from my commemorative Stafford 20 mug. It’s a nice idea for a race memento, only sadly this is one event I don’t particularly want reminding of.
Let’s concentrate on the positives first. I have hit another target and completed my first 20 mile run. Psychologically that’s a major barrier overcome – a mere 10k to go and we’re at the magical marathon distance!
It was also the first chance I’ve had to get out there and represent my charity partner at a race. My shirt was fresh back from the printers with my sponsor logos on the back and I’d taken on board the advice from other marathon runners and had my name put on the front.
And it worked, even at an event as small as the Stafford 20! Shouts of “well done Beacon” and “keep going Nick” do you the power of good and I can only imagine the impact it will have at London in front of massive crowds and 30,000+ like-minded runners. It’s going to be amazing.
Unfortunately most of my other memories of Stafford will be gloomy ones. A bit like the weather – gloomy and unrelentingly wet. It began raining as we lined up to start. And it didn’t stop for the next four hours. At times it was really heavy and everyone was soaked to the skin.
The problem was exacerbated because Stafford is run on public roads which all remain open. Cars, trucks and buses were liberally splashing us every time they passed and water filled up the gutters in the roads pretty quickly so you had no choice but to run through large puddles. I’m relieved soggy feet didn’t translate into blisters, but that feeling when you’re wet through and simply cannot warm up no matter how hard you run…grim.
Through 13 miles I was actually going great guns. Stafford is a particularly hilly route and run over three laps. I’d completed just under two and reached half marathon distance in around 1hr 50.
Then, for whatever reason, my energy levels plummeted and I started to seize up in my right leg, right at the top around my hip. I had a gel with me but could feel my stomach churning a bit, so left that alone and fumbled around (freezing hands!) to grab some jelly babies out of my armband (ironically called a Y-Fumble..!).
I totally lost my stride, starting walking and really that’s when the rot set in. Miles 15 and 16 were pretty much write-offs. I got going again at 17 but boy was that leg stiff and painful.
I accepted any hopes of a decent time had gone by this point. I know, I know – training isn’t about the times! You just need to get the job done. But that said when you’ve been out only two weeks earlier and ran 19 miles pretty comfortably at a pretty respectable pace it’s inevitable you’re going to be disappointed to have a bad run in a similar length event.
Anyway, we made it – 3hrs 05 on the clock. A friend was also running Stafford (she had a much better day at the office than I did!) and very kindly waited for me at the finish line. I’ve never been so glad of a hug from a familiar face! I remember babbling about my “leg having gone” and quickly made a bee-line for the car to find some dry clothing. A few minutes to compose myself, a hot drink and a cake down my neck and I started to feel at bit more human.
The pain in my leg eased off too, although now the following day it’s back – stiff, sore and not ready for any running miles right now. I’m going to take some time off and try and get match fit again ready for another event, the Stafford Half Marathon, in a fortnight’s time.
Looking back on the experience I think I learned some important lessons at Stafford. Start easy – don’t overdo it in the first ten miles or so. Respect the weather – if it’s rough, remember it will slow you down so don’t over-exert yourself battling through it. Don’t be a slave to your training plan – I was still running hard in the build up to Stafford and probably suffered on the day because of it. And if you’re having a bad run, accept it – there will always be another opportunity.
A huge thank you to all the volunteers and marshals who kept smiling and cheering through hours of wet, dreary and downright depressing weather. Forget us runners, you are the real heroes at events like this!
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