This was a very different experience to my first marathon. I had actually upgraded my entry to ultra marathon, which involved an additional eight mile loop. I have to concede I didn’t manage to complete the ultra distance and had to settle for the marathon. My training and amount of it had been going well in comparison to the first. I had felt good in the week or two leading up to race day and was excited to see how the race would unfold. In Anglesey I was just looking to make it round the course and hoped to enjoy it, whereas for marathon no.2 I hoped to run competitively even taking into account the additional distance.
With race day being a Saturday again, I travelled up north to Northumberland on the Friday. I was taking part in the Endurance Life – Coastal Trail Series just like the first marathon. Registration and the finish were situated in the historic Bamburgh Castle. Upon arriving in the quaint village of Bamburgh, I took a leisurely afternoon walk up to the castle and then through sand dunes to the beach where I had to place my hand in the North Sea just to check it was as cold as it looked (which it was!)
Saturday morning alarm at 05:30 is the way it is when you go long distance, in order to eat with sufficient time before the start. Registration and then on the bus at 07:20 to the start. After a fair journey where I was in a mix of emotions where I was enjoying the views but also thinking wow I’ve got to run all the way back! We arrived at a farm gate along a country road and that was it, the start. As we made our way into the field, we saw a castle which I learnt was Alnwick castle and Harry Potter was filmed there. As the briefing came to a close I got my GoPro ready to film and regrettably must’ve left it on after charging it the day before and therefore was unable to record any footage from this beautiful marathon course.
08:20 and its START!!! As we made our way through a field in the first mile or so, I was quite surprised to see the early pace being relatively fast. I wasn’t feeling great personally, but I know it takes me 20-30 minutes to fully warm up and feel good so just focused on my own race. I actually ended up right at the back of the field when after a couple miles I was already over heating and needed to take my running jacket off. I caught a few runners as the miles unfolded and had some supportive chats, for one runner it was her first ultra. Despite the #15in15 challenge I would still call myself an inexperienced marathon runner at this stage, I had only done three before this year and they were back in 2012. I will certainly know a lot more about the marathon by the end of the year. Another runner talked to me about his experience running the midsummer marathon in Norway which I will be doing in June, he definitely sold it to me well. When I look at my calendar that is for sure one of my highlights. He had also completed three Ironman’s and had wonderful experiences to pass on as I look ahead to my event in September. Talking certainly helped me feel lighter on my feet and I felt like I had found my groove.
After around 10K we had made it out to the coast and were given our first of four runs on the beach. Living in London, running on the beach is simply something I can’t do. I’ll run barefoot on the beach when I’m away, which still only equates to about five beach runs a year. I head for the beach when it’s lovely and warm, Saturday was lovely but certainly not warm! Having felt good for a while, the fierce coastal wind combined with beach running began to bring me down again. I was taken back to my only other Ultra (50K) and the highs and lows which inevitably accompany such a distance. I had set myself a target of getting to the start of the half marathon before they started and when I didn’t make it I knew the day was just about making it to the finish. Shortly after, I ran past Dunstanburgh castle and then through a golf course. This is where I was soon realising I had made a huge mistake to compound a race which wasn’t going particularly well. In my Camelbak I had a few berry flavoured hydration tablets and both types of gels I was using were berry flavoured. Berry certainly isn’t my favourite flavour and I had actually got to the point where I hated the taste in my mouth and couldn’t even sip my Camelbak. I was cursing myself as I had taken a wide variety of flavours with me up north but had packed for the race without checking which I actually had.
It helped a huge amount when I settled into a similar pace with a few runners out on the course. As we came to a checkpoint at mile 19 I whipped my Camelbak off and emptied the bladder, filling and then drinking fresh water was great, water had never tasted so good! I was able to keep pace with my latest running buddies for another couple of miles but as my legs where increasingly burning, I had to ease off and wish them luck for the rest of their race. This is the point it got really difficult for me, no one to pace me or talk to. I was really digging deep and trying to keep positive thoughts at the fore front of my mind. The photo to the right is the face of pain and tiredness. The last hour of the run was to put it mildly a struggle. I was regretting upgrading to the ultra distance. As mentioned I only completed the marathon, in the last hour of the run I must’ve asked myself about fifty times should I struggle even more and do the ultra? I weighed up my condition and these are the factors I took into account when deciding to go for the marathon; my #15in15 challenge is about marathons, not ultras, it hasn’t been my day and in a fatigued state I could do myself an injury, I have a marathon in two weeks. I had managed to forget as a trail race, distances aren’t exact and the marathon distance was actually 27.5miles and it didn’t help mentally I was counting down to 26.2! Even once I had more or less made my mind up to forget the ultra, the remainder was a struggle, the biting wind meant I couldn’t feel my fingers and I had to stop every five minutes or so for a minutes recovery walk.
As I eventually made my way up the hill into Bamburgh castle and over the finish line, I stumped down to the ground. It took me a few minutes to be able to get back up and pick up a medal. My finish time exactly five hours, just four minutes longer than my first but I couldn’t have felt more different. To also put it into perspective, Endurance Life rated Anglesey strenuous whereas Northumberland was only moderate. I have accepted that I can’t have 15 good days and I just have to take each race day as it comes. I didn’t want to finish 15 easy marathon’s and this was certainly a difficult one!
Date: Saturday 28th February
Location: Bamburgh, Northumberland, North East England
Distance: Marathon (27.5miles)
Weather: 6-8°C, partly cloudy start, overcast mid to finish
Terrain: 50% beach, 40% trails, 10% road
Time: 5 hours
Nationalities I observed (other than UK): French, German
What’s next for #15in15? Barcelona Marathon – Sunday 15th March
What’s next for Adventure Adam? Volunteering duties for Macmillan at the Milton Keynes Festival of Running – Sunday 8th March