Luton marathon

AM. Run 42km, inc. Luton Marathon.

26.2miles/3:10:41 (7:16 min/mi). 45th overall, 6th in age group
½marathon splits = 1:30:27 (6:54 min/mi) and 1:40:13 (7:39 min/mi)

It was chucking it down outside as we got up, had breakfast and headed off to Luton for today’s marathon. Not promising, but the forecast was for it to stop raining by 9am, so we had out fingers crossed. I didn’t fancy +3 hours in the rain (me running or Jules spectating), but today was all about finishing the distance, come what may, to give me some confidence for next July’s ironman.

As we arrived at the race HQ the clouds parted and some clear patches of sky appeared – we were going to have a dry race after all. Queuing for the loo I spotted a TriTalk top and introduced myself. It was Slacko, one of the regular posters on that forum. There were quite a few triathletes entered for this race, all with a similar idea to mine – a confidence boost for next year.

A few more sips of water and a chat to an older Irish guy next to me – he was over from Dublin hoping to complete his only marathon of the year – and then it was time to strip off and head for the start. I exchanged a few nervous comments with those lining up around me and then we were off. No warm-up needed here, just a nice steady increase in pace over the first half-mile. It was difficult to decide whether I was going too hard or not in those opening miles – racing at just faster than 7 minute miles seemed quite easy. I was just trying to find a steady group to follow but some seemed too slow, others too fast.

After a few miles the field thinned out, and on the first time up the A6 I found some good feet to follow. A triathlete cruised past me here, obviously also training for a big event. Gels in his waist belt (quite a few runners had these), compression socks and Newton running shoes. Turning off the A6 we headed up an incline into Streatley village, past a water station where I took  a sip of water and then turned into the wind for the first time. On this lap there was a bit of shelter from other runners although on laps 2 and 3 I found myself battling the wind alone. 5 miles passed in 33:40. The course undulated here and the lanes were tough on your feet but by the 6-mile point we were heading back into Luton and on to some smoother pavements for the completion of the first lap. I was aware that I was up on my 3:08 schedule, so I tried to take it steadier but the temptation to run just a little bit faster was too much.

Through the start/finish for the first time, I took some more water (I walked through all the water stations to make sure I got enough to drink) waved to Jules and then set off up the hill out of the back of the housing estate on to lap 2. On the way out of Luton I passed 10 miles in 1:07:43. The wind was definitely stronger on the exposed sections on this lap and my quads were getting cold and tight. I passed half way in 1:30 – much too quick – and backed off a bit, not wanting to do my legs any more damage than was absolutely necessary. Famous last words. Coming back through the start/finish I got a big cheer from Colin Taylor, of the Watford Joggers (my mum’s old running club). Looking through the results I can see he was waiting to run the last leg of the relay for their team. He must’ve recognised me from years back.

Another sip of water and a wave to Jules and then it was off into the last lap. I was starting to feel a bit tired now and my feet were getting sore. This was going to be a test but I was determined to get to the finish. I got to 20 miles in 2:21:35. Shortly after Streatley, 4 miles into the lap, I passed the triathlete in the Newton shoes I’d seen earlier. His pace had dropped dramatically. I was myself being passed by runners who’d saved more for the final miles, but I was still managing 7:40-7:50 pace most of the time. Just after that I passed the old Irish guy I’d been chatting to at the HQ. He was still on his 2nd lap and as I went by I gave him a shout and a wave. He didn’t look as though he was going fast enough to beat the cutoff for starting the last lap – 3:20 (the race has a 5-hour time limit). Once more I felt tested by the wind here, and dropping back into Luton some faster relay runners passed me, striding along easily. My running had dropped onto my heels – not my usual style – and my legs were feeling really tight. I didn’t stop to drink at the last water station – if I walked I knew I’d never get going again.

It was great to pass the 25 mile point and know I was going to finish. I was going slowly but the time wasn’t too important to me at this point and I was still reeling in some (even) slower runners. I didn’t manage to raise much of a sprint for the finish, and then sunk to my knees across the finish line. Very happy, 3:10 was plenty good enough for me, just outside my target 3:08, but well inside a London Marathon 3:15 “good for age” time. Suddenly my legs and feet were agony and Jules helped me toddle back to the race HQ. I was very close to getting cramp in my feet and quads for about half an hour afterwards, but eventually the feeling subsided and I was able to get changed and get into the car so Jules could drive us home.

Didn’t do much for the rest of the day. I could barely move. It’s amazing how 30 seconds after crossing the finish line I was crippled and remained that way for the rest of the day! Much thanks to Jules for coming out to cheer me on and get me home in one piece.

Pictures HERE. Results HERE.