Monday, 23 February 2015

No Full Marathon Idiot

Okay, so I think we're needing an update on here...

On the February 7th I drove down to Kendal and after I got settled in my B&B (number of drive-bys before I found it: 4), I unpacked my stuff to take my place at the start of the Grizedale Trail 26 marathon in the Lake District, however things didn't quite go to plan.

The mandatory kit, incl. a torch (the race starts at 9.30am!) and some advice on a plaster that I'd later ignore.

 First of all, I didn't make it to the line in time for the start- I'd walked the 1/4 mile to the registration desk just as the pre-race briefing was happening when I realised I left my id in the car so I had to run back (sprinting by Marathon standards) to collect it and run back to the start again.

By this time the rest of the field had already set off, so I asked a race official what I missed in the briefing just as another late runner arrived, and the two of us set off together.  We started out discussing all the stuff runners talk about while running (our training, travel arrangements, future races- in case you wondered) and it transpired he is a registered nurse working for NHS Borders, and it also turns out he raised money for Learning Disability organization, Mencap by running the Marathon des Sables (if you don't know what that is, I'm not telling you- it makes my ultra aspirations look a bit puny).

The view from my B&B - sunrise over Kendal
The course climbed quite a bit (almost 200m) along forestry tracks in the first 4 miles before taking us through a gate and onto rocky moorland trail across the summit of the hill just as the main pack from the Half Marathon field caught up.  These guys were really going for it on the trail which was narrow, rocky and icy, and I saw a few runners just ahead take some pretty painful looking falls so I gingerly picked my way across the path, having enough to worry about with the distance and all the climbing in store.

After what felt like the longest 6 miles I can remember, I'd grown tired of seeing Half Marathon runners disappearing past me and I actually stopped to adjust my race number on my back to show I was attempting the full marathon distance - I admit this is a bit petty but I was starting to struggle  with a niggling leg injury I'd hoped wouldn't give me too much trouble, and facing the sharp end of a 20 mile run I needed any words of encouragement I could get from fellow runners.  

I got to the feed station and check point at 9 miles- had a couple drinks of juice, grabbed a handful of dry roasted nuts and mashed them into a bit of cake and scoffed the lot (surprisingly tasty!).  However I'd stopped for long enough for my leg to stiffen and when I resumed running what had been a dull but constant pain behind my left shin had sharpened and spread up my leg to my hip. I took a couple of ibuprofen, grit my teeth and started running again and it eased off slightly but these weren't good signs.

I'd had misgivings about taking part in the race from the outset but decided as I'd booked travel and accommodation I'd get to the start line and see how I got on, and while running I'd unable to make up my mind about what I was going to do until this point. 

Being passed by a Half Marathon runner.  If you can't beat them...
If I'd been training with the sole aim of finishing this race then I'd have kept going and ground it out, and it wouldn't have been pretty or fun but I might have stood a chance of going the distance but I realised that 'This isn't the goal' and I outed myself as a DNF (Did Not Finish) to one of my 'Race-Friends' (you get them), which made it official for me.

I tried to stay philosophical and see the it as being part of my development as a runner, being able to make the right decisions and stay focused on the long term goal.  However there was a psychological aspect I never thought I'd have to contend with- for the last 3 miles, along with the discomfort from my leg... I couldn't stop singing 'The Gambler' by Kenny Rogers.
You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
So after another long mile (the 14th one in what should have been a 13 mile race) I got to the finish and informed the marshal I wanted to drop out, I confirmed I didn't need any medical attention and she directed me (around the finish gantry where the Half Marathoners got to enjoy their success) to the official who was collecting timing chips.

There was relief that I could start the 110 mile journey home about 3 hours early and with almost none of the battle scars you get from running for 5 or 6 hours, but also a sense of disappointment as I'd been looking forward to some of the more technical parts in the second half, and also guilt- was my injury that bad?  Was I just being lazy and not really up for the challenge?

This all dissolved for a moment when I handed over my chip and a little girl that had been giving out medals to all the finishers came up and gave me a Half Marathon finishers medal - it was a lovely moment and I was genuinely touched.  Little things like that can make all the difference.

 In the wider context of raising funds for the trip to Malawi, what does all this mean?  It's not great, that's for sure - fearing the prospect of injury in the run up to the Highland Fling I'd planned to start collecting sponsorship for the D33, a race much flatter and 20 miles shorter (what am I thinking???) so if injury had kept me out of the 53 mile Fling, I'd still have achieved something.

However the D33 is in just under 3 weeks time and it's unlikely I'll be ready by then.  I've lost my safety net and it's a case of preparing as best I can in the hope that come 6am on the 25th April, I'll be in Milngavie with 1,000 other ambitious idiots ready for 'a nice days running'.

To get there I need to strengthen my legs without aggravating the injury any further and try to maintain my cardio fitness so that I can drop back into my training plan, striking a balance between effort and the effect it will have on my body.

I've got running friends who would say it's not possible to get the level of fitness needed in this time, I've got running friends that said I was mad when I signed up.  Both groups might be right, but I need to regroup and try something different to get there - I'll just have to give it my best shot and see how my body responds.

1 comment:

  1. So impressed by what you're doing Michael. I don't think you'd catch many people even attempting a half marathon, let alone considering finishing one as a 'failure', so you definitely need to be celebrating your achievements. And please don't damage yourself in the run up to Malawi (see what I did there?) - we need you fighting fit for the big adventure!