Iron-men (and women)

Posted on: 23 Jun 2017

I’ll never grumble about running in the heat again.  Bring on the sweat and sunshine, because what I saw last week on my brief visit to the Staffordshire Ironman made me appreciate what battling against the elements really means.

To clarify, I had two friends competing in the event, which is a 70-miler made up of an open water swim, 50+ mile bike ride and a half marathon.  They had been training for well over six months and invested goodness knows how much money in all the kit and paraphernalia required, never mind the hefty entrance fee.

I know from bitter experience what it’s like to train hard for something, only then to fall short due to unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances.  Extreme heat definitely falls into that category and I heard that many who started the Staffs event didn’t finish because of it.

Both were very nervous, both were praying for a rain shower that never came and both desperately wanted to finish.  And you know what, they did.

With it being Father’s Day on Sunday, I had plans of my own so knew I wasn’t going to be able to spectate at the finish at Shugborough Hall.  So instead I set an early alarm and planned my Sunday morning long run to incorporate the local reservoir where the swim part of the triathlon was taking place. 

The guys were in the water for 7.30am and I had nine miles to cover on my marathon training plan.  So I did six to get me to Chasewater, stopped for an hour to watch the swimmers (and catch the start of the bike ride) and then ran three more miles home.

It was inspirational stuff, hundreds of competitors lined up on a pontoon like a scene from the old computer game Lemmings, descending into the water one by one and splashing their way around the one mile course.

Much as the hot, still weather was torturous for the ride and run elements of the event (it topped 30 degrees by 1pm), for the swim it helped by creating very calm conditions in the water.  I know my friends were relieved as open water swimming was new to both of them and they had really struggled when things got choppy during some of their training sessions.

They swam well and hit the bikes in good time with smooth transitions.  And that’s where I left them, following the cycle route for a mile or so as I ran for home.  Both admitted to finding the run incredibly difficult and there was many a shattered dream of PBs amongst their fellow competitors, with the blame firmly laid at the door of the weather gods.

But I do think this was one of those days where just finishing at all becomes an achievement worth shouting about and I take my proverbial hat off to each and every competitor that managed to do so.  For the record, the boys clocked overall times of 6hrs 49m and 7hrs 45m respectively.  Fantastic stuff.

I enjoyed being a spectator on Sunday (I have absolutely no designs on being a future competitor mind you!), but I also had a job of my own to do and get that Sunday long run done.  Pleased to say I had a good one, well-paced and the heat didn’t bother me. 

There was an unexpected treat as well when I discovered the local road closures for the event covered two of the last three miles on my running route.  I was plodding along picturesque, traffic-free roads, with the sun beating down and not a cloud in the sky.  If only every training run could be like this!

This is now week eight of my training programme for the inaugural Birmingham International Marathon.  It’s just been announced that the event has sold-out, which means there will be around 9,000 of us on the starting line come Sunday, 15 October.  At some point, we’ll then merge with the 15-or so thousand that usually run the Great Birmingham half marathon.

I had my reservations initially and am only competing because of Manchester going rather pear shaped back in April.  But fate is a funny old thing and now the prospect of taking part in my home city’s first marathon for over 20 years actually makes me feel really proud.  The anticipation is building nicely and the prep, so far at least, going well. 


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