Milton Keynes Marathon Race Report

My first marathon!

Maybe my first of one, but we’ll get into that later on!

Well, the forecast had been for it to rain, and for once, I’m afraid to say, John Kettley and co got it right.  It had been raining all week, and keeping a constant eye on the weather forecast for this weekend, it wasn’t looking likely to change.

Despite being in the middle of a drought, it’s been the wettest April for a very long time, and Milton Keynes had its fair share of the rain today.  And cold.  And windy.

Training had gone pretty well for this race – everything up until now had pretty much been training for my first marathon – I’ve had it in mind that this is the main event of the 12 races in 2012.  Like I said in my previous blog, I’ve ran 560 miles since entering the marathon on 30th September last year, which is some distance.  Undoubtedly, far fewer miles than a lot of people, but for a plodder like me, fairly respectable.

In my last few runs during my taper I had struggled with controlling my pace, and I was worried that speed discipline was going to be an issue.

I had set a target time of 5 hours for the race, but more importantly, my real goals were just running most of it, and not getting injured in the process would do me.  The pace control was a worry – I know I’m not very quick, and I did fear that over pacing myself early on would lead to an epic fail for me.

So, as usual on race day, we were up early, and I had my normal breakfast of porridge, with a generous spoonful of Nutella and a good squeeze of golden syrup.

Off we went in the car, leaving home promptly at 8am.  We’d booked parking, and had an email on Friday that we’d been upgraded to premium parking at the stadiummk, which would save us sodding about with a shuttle bus transfer.  We arrived at the stadium and queued for the car park.  They didn’t give a monkies who had paid for parking, and who had just turned up, so they just let everyone in at the stadium.  I think I’ll save myself a fiver next time!

I sat in the car, and as it was chucking it down and cold, decided to leave it as late as possible to leave the car, go for a little wee, deposit my bag, and queue up at the start.

Purely by chance, while putting the bag in, I bumped into Running Forum‘s own Leg-End, Taff Tanner.  Taff is a real running hero of mine – his training is epic  – clocking up over 5,000 miles last year.  He said today’s race was just a little training run, a stepping stone onto an ultra marathon that he has in mind later on in the year.  He did give me a great bit of advice though, one that I recalled a couple of times during the race.  It was along the lines of “distance is all in your mind, if you’re struggling, just think back to a training run that you’ve really enjoyed, and smile”.  That really struck a chord with me.

I lined up in the yellow wave, and the klaxon sounded at 10:00 on the dot.

Here’s the first piccy – you can tell from the inside out umbrella in the background how windy it was!

And they're off!

And they're off!

We were soon off, and thankfully I managed to find some space to run at my speed, and run as I felt.  The first few miles passed pretty quickly – I had in mind that I’d aim for 11 minutes per mile, to get the distance.  The first 8 miles were sub 10!  I did try to slow down a bit, but being cold and wet, the speed actually felt OK.

The course was wet.  Very wet!  Flooded in places, with some massive puddles.  People were teetering around the puddles, trying to avoid getting wet.  I hear a couple of people say “you can only get so wet” and “you only get wet once”, so I thought sod it, I’m going to run in a straight line, and if I get wet feet, then so be it!  I did get wet feet to be fair, I sploshed through some pretty impressive puddles – at one point I was pegging it through 8″ of puddle!

I managed to control my pace after the first 8 miles – I caught up to the 4:30 pacer, and thought I better slow down, or I’m going to struggle in the back half of the marathon.  This next piccy was taken at mile 17, and I think I still look pretty fresh:

17 miles

17 miles

One of the latter water stationed was being manned by RNLI volunteers.  I thought it was quite ironic really – I was tempted to ask if they had brought a lifeboat with them!  I didn’t really want to slow down for a chat though!

Lap 18 had us running along the Grand Union Canal.  If there was any more water in the canal, I’m convinced that the boats would have floated off!

I sploshed my way through 20 miles without stopping once to walk, which is a distance personal best for me.  The first 20 miles flew by in 3:23 – 12 minutes faster than my 20 mile race.  I then started to feel the cold – I always do when I’m tiring, so decided on tactically walking the hills.  Although a flat course on cycle paths, there are quite a few bridges and underpasses to contend with.  This tactic paid dividends, and didn’t really cost me too much time.

I did stop for a short while to offer support to a NSPCC runner that was suffering  – he had pinged a hamstring, but he was determined he’d crack on, and didn’t want to slow me down.  I hope he was OK.  Fingers cross dear old St John got him to the finishing line.

My slowest mile was mile 25 which took me 11:53.  All in all not too bad really.

In retrospect, run/walking the last few miles was a good move – it got me through those tough last miles.  I am determined to run a full marathon one day without walking.

The finish line was in stadiummk, and it was soon upon us.  Via the Asda car park we entered the stadium.  I didn’t really have a sprint finish left in me, but I did run the finishing straight.  My fastest pace the the last bit of the race was 4:06 minutes per mile – God only knows when that was, because if certainly didn’t feel like I was running that quickly!

Home straight!

Home straight!

I crossed the line a good bit under my 5 hour goal – my official chip time was 4:39:21!  20 minutes under target.  I think if I hadn’t been quite so conservative, I could have completed my debut marathon in 4:30, but I’m very happy with 4:39!

According to the magic buttons on my wrist, I even ran over the distance: 26.7 miles – it’ll be interesting to see if it was just me that ran over 26.2 if my Garmin just needs calibrating somehow, or the ghastly weather cocked things up:

Garmin time!

Garmin time!

After the race, there were hugs all around, then off we went, homeward bound.

Here’s the race bling:



The evening has been spent faffing over the stats, eating a shed load of Chinese takeaway, and drinking far too much lovely cold lager.

So would I run another marathon?  Without a doubt!  Now I’ve done the distance, I know I can do it, and would like to get quicker.  I’ll definitely be entering the London marathon ballot that opens tomorrow, and if I don’t get in, then I may well run the second Milton Keynes marathon next year.  I (currently) have no aspirations to run an ultra, or get into competing in triathlons or any such silliness.  Things change though 🙂

Here’s the Garmin data from the race for anyone interested in the numbers or the spilts:

Next race – The Greenway Challenge next weekend – a half marathon around Letchworth – hillier than Milton Keynes, but half the distance, so it should be a  piece of cake!


A weekend of “brownterflies”

This lunchtime saw my last training run before my first marathon on Sunday.  On Sunday I’ll be running the first Milton Keynes marathon!

Brownterflies  – yes I did just invent a word – think nervous butterflies, but more smelly.

Being the first for MK, I’m hoping it’ll be super well organised and well thought out.  Hopefully they will have brought in enough toilets, and sorted out the parking.  Fingers crossed anyway!

Today’s last training run was wet, very wet!  I’ve been quite lucky with my training really –  training over the winter I was bound to experience my fair share of bad weather.  Indeed, since entering the marathon on 30th September, I have been out in the rain, sleet, snow, freezing fog, hail, wind, and sub-zero weather.  I even got sunburnt once back in March, but I have been out pretty much whatever the weather!

This was today’s run:

It was meant to be 3 miles at marathon pace.  It ended up being my default pace, which is a bit of a worry – pace control and discipline will be my friend for 26.2 miles on Sunday.  If I ran like I did today, I’m going to blow up early on.

Here are some numbers for you stat fans out there:

Since entering the marathon on 30th September 2011 I have:

Ran 90 times
Ran 560.32 miles
Ran for 89 hours 34 minutes and 50 seconds
Ran 12,133 feet of hills
Burnt 93,673 calories
Lost 8lbs in weight

The 8lbs in weight is a disappointment.  I do like eating though!

From now until Sunday, I’ll be in race prep mode – doing not a lot, feeding and keeping hydrated, although if the weather’s anything like it’s forecast to be, I’ll be able to stay hydrated on Sunday just by running along with my mouth open!

Wish me luck, and if everything goes to plan, my next blog will be my marathon race report!

Flitwick 10k Race Report

Running a 10k race a fortnight before my first marathon probably wasn’t very clever planning.  I ran a 10k this weekend last year, and for some reason I thought I needed to race.

No specific 10k training had been done – just long easy miles with the marathon in mind – I had to bin the idea of speed training a while ago – upping distance and intensity was breaking my poor little body, so speed hasn’t been on the cards for months.

At least with marathon training a little 10k wouldn’t be a problem distance wise.  That’s what I thought before Thursdays little outing.  It’s amazing how one bad run can completely ruin any confidence you have.

So today was about getting some mojo back.

I started the day earlier than anticipated – I was keen to be well hydrated yesterday, so my bladder alarm clock woke me up  at 6:53.  I went back to bed, and lay there until 8am, waiting for the alarm clock to go off.

Quickly jumped out of bed, downed a pint of water, and made a cuppa.  I decided to eat as late as possible, as I was being picked up by Tom at 9am for a 10.30 start in Flitwick, so I actually had time for a shower, which is unusual for race day.  Bowl of porridge later, and it’s soon time to leave.

This is Tom by the way:



I did promise that I wouldn’t include the photo’s of Tom stretching (read as rolling about on the floor!)  So I won’t.  For now.  Unless he beats me.  Again……… (can you see where this is going?)

Here’s a couple of snaps that Tom took of me – the “trying to push over a tree” shot, and the “pretending to stretch” snap.

Pushing over a tree

Pushing over a tree

 Pretending to stretch

Pretending to stretch

Time soon got around to be approaching 10:30, so we headed over to the start line, and took our place towards the back of the pack.  As said before, the back of the pack’s where the cool kids hang out.  The starting klaxon soon sounded, and off we went!  Racing again!

The course was described as undulating, which I suppose was about right – starting uphill, there were uppy bits and downy bits.

The first mile was a pacey 8:39, and the two hills were as downhill as it was uphill.  Miles 2 and 3 we eased off a bit, 8:52 and 9:02 respectively.  After running the first 5k of the race in pretty much bang on 27:30, we decided we’d go for it – try and get close to 55minutes.

Looking at the elevation profile on my Garmin data, the elevation had peaked by the halfway point, so we’d done the hard work.

We motored it for the rest of the race – miles 4, 5 and 6 were 8:31, 8:32 and 8:32.

If I’m not mistaken, that puts me in the negative split brigade!  I completed the race in 54:32 – almost a minute off my 10k race PB.  Happy days!

At the end of the race, we were given a Asics goodie bag, which included a banana, a (single?) sweatband, a glucose tablet, a tiny pot of Asics Vaseline, and a running shoe mini trophy.

Here’s an photo of my excited brother, Camp Gruff, at the end of the race:

Camp Gruff

Camp Gruff

And here’s a close up of the memento:

Shoe Trophy

Shoe Trophy

Keeping an eye on the marathon training, I decided a 10k race wasn’t enough today, so got Tom to drop me off half way home, and run another 10k home.  I ran exactly the same distance, at a more leisurely pace, and ran the 6:29 miles from this morning in 1:02:

Tom did end up beating me again, so here’s Tom’s professional stretching, or flailing about on the floor as I like to call it:

Flailing about

Flailing about


Oh s&*%!

It’d been going swimmingly well, I had completed some decent length training runs, had a fantastic day out at the Oakley 20 mile road race, and on Tuesday night, even carved a nice little chunk off of my 10 mile personal best.

Roll on to last night, and I had a shocker. It was meant to be another 10 miler after work – get in, quick tea, chill out for a bit, 5 miles on my tod, then 5 miles with my running buddy Tom.

It was more like a comedy of errors – ate too much, didn’t drink anything ,decided to paint the bathroom rather than chill out, ended up taking far too long on the decorating, so had to pelt it up the road to knock for Tom, and gave myself a stitch.

10 miles turned into 4, and it almost didn’t get past 2. What a complete and utter shambles. The only consolation, I guess, is that I know why it went bad.

Down to earth with a bump!

Then when I got home from work today, this was waiting for me:

MK Marathon Race Number

MK Marathon Race Number

Oakley 20 Mile Road Race Report

Ah, Oakley.  The race that never was.

I had this race in mind for a long time, I was even gifted the race entry fee by my lovely sister, Nicola, for my birthday back in February.  Unfortunately, but the time I got my finger out to enter the race, it was full.

I was gutted, but being a resourceful sort of chap, found the race organisers forum, and put myself on the transfer list.  I managed to get a transfer on from a lovely lady called Davina Willson, who has had to pull out of the race.  She’s running the London marathon in a couple of weeks for the Rhino Ark charity.  Her fundraising page is here if you’d like a look at this great cause:

As I’m in marathon training myself, this was always going to be a training run.  A lot of people that I spoke to at Oakley today were running either London or the Milton Keynes marathon, so there were many people in the same boat as me.

Training has gone pretty well for this race.  It’s a couple of miles further than I’ve ever ran before, but I have been upping my distance steadily.

I got up, bright and early, had porridge, and a pint of water, and soon headed off.  It was quite cold compared to the warm weather we had been enjoying, so I donned my tights and compression top, and opted to be self sufficient water wise, and carry my CamelBak water carrier, with 1.5l of Stotfold’s finest tap water on board.

I arrived in Oakley early enough to get a decent parking spot, and headed into the school that was hosting race HQ, and sorted out the administration for the transfer.  I was downgraded from 837 to 1067.

The race HQ was buzzing, with loads of people around.  Most of the runners were club runners, but I’m used to this at the smaller races.  I must get around to joining my local club.  They all seem to be having a great time together.

Here’s a sneaky self portrait of me before the race.  If it looks like I’m nervous, there’s a good reason for that!


Time soon rolled on, and before long, we were assembling at the start.  Having had a sneaky peak at last years race, I had in mind that I’d finish in front of about 50 people, so I put myself pretty much at the back of the field.  There’s great camaraderie on race day, and we were joking and larking about at the back.  I’m sure it’s a bit more serious further up the field, but I’ll leave that to them.

We were soon off.  The course was to laps – the first 12 miles, and the second 8.  I must say that I’m really not a fan of lapped races, but at least they had the common decency to make the second lap a good bit shorter.

On the first lap, I got talking to some great people.  I met this guy David for the second time – he’s 63 and from Cambridge.  He’s running the London Marathon in a couple of weeks – his first marathon.  I met the first time at the Bedford Half and chatted to him then, he remembered me as “bin-liner man”, which is nice to be remembered.

I was also honoured to run for a while and talk to Jim.  Jim is 76, and has ran each of the Oakley 20 races, and has also ran the last 20 London Marathons.  He’s retiring from marathon running after this years London race, and has just started training for his first triathlon.  He couldn’t swim up until 18 months ago.  What an absolute legend!  A really nice bloke and easy to talk to.  I feel really privileged to have talked to him.

The first lap was pretty uneventful, I was cruising along at a pretty relaxed pace.  I wanted to try to average under 11 minutes per mile for the race, which I managed for the first 12 mile lap.  I powered up the hills, floated down, and running on the flat was a breeze.

Just before we completed the first lap, we were actually lapped by the front runners.  There were some really fast people out today.  That was quite demotivating, but I carried on.

Running past the start of the race was pretty tough, and I actually caught a glimpse of my car, which I found difficult.  I decided on the second lap to walk some of the hills, and use this opportunity to take on water.  I did take a couple of energy gels, and they seemed to sit OK, and also did seem to give me a bit of a boost.

Looking at the splits from my Garmin data, the walking up the hill strategy didn’t really cost me much time – the mile splits for the second half weren’t massively slower than the first half.

I did run the last couple of miles without slowing, and I actually managed to speed up a bit.  The end of the race was quite annoying.  Again, running straight past the start with over half a mile to go, the race ended snaking through a housing estate through alley ways, and around the school field at the end.

I crossed the line in 3:35:53, placing me 802nd out of 866 finishers.

It’s quite fitting that, as usual, I ran over the distance, completing 20.12 miles!



Bedford Harriers don’t give out medals at their races, they’re more practical than that, so I was furnished with a fab hoodie.  It’s the orangest thing I’ve ever seen, so probably won’t wear it out of the house, but it is snuggly and warm:



And here’s my reward from I was met with after the race, yum yum yum!



All in all, it was a fantastic day out.  I’d recommend it to anyone who’s up to the distance.  It’s a very friendly race, well supported, fantastically marshalled, and apart from the minor annoyances of being 2 laps, and the end bit, a great experience.