Saturday, 17 November 2012

Jack's Marathons - October and November 2012

My 298th marathon was on 30 September 2012 leaving me just Preston Marathon to complete on 28 October before heading out to the USA for marathon number 300. This left me an ideal opportunity to squeeze in some races at various different distances. A suitable challenge for October seemed to be to see if I could complete a 10k, a 10 mile race, a half marathon, a marathon and a cross country league race in a month. 

I started with the Standalone 10k on 7 October (40:58) and then ran the Oxford Half Marathon on the 14 pacing a friend round in 2:08:25. Next were the RAF Henlow 10 mile race on 17 October (1:22:30) and the Chiltern League 9k cross country race at Oxford on the 21 (where I was surprised to come 3rd out of 8 in the vet 60 group). 

Preston Guild Marathon: 28 October 2012: Every 20 years Preston holds its Guild Celebrations and for 2012 the city introduced a marathon to coincide with these. This was to be my 299th marathon and, as with most new marathons, I was slightly apprehensive about how well organised the event would be. It turned out that the only thing I should have been worried about was the Lancashire weather. 

Every aspect of the race had been carefully pre-planned with efficient and fast registration and baggage facilities, a warm and commodious race HQ building, ample toilet facilities with very short queues and tremendous drink stations with huge supplies of gels available just at the right locations. It was raining at the start and the downpour continued throughout the race. In addition there was a strong northerly wind and in one spot the leaves being blown from the trees hit us like bullets. Throughout all of this the marshals and drink station volunteers (who must have been frozen) remained cheerful and supportive and it was amazing that so many members of the public braved the weather to support runners along the course. 

The route was undulating, but mainly traffic free and once we left Preston we ran over the River Ribble and through some pretty countryside before returning to the finish outside Preston Guild Hall. I had a good run finishing 361st out of 1132 and 4th out of 20 in the 60-64 age group. I returned to St Albans to news that many flights to the USA were being cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy, which didn’t bode well for my scheduled flight out via Washington DC on the Thursday. 

300 up!
City of Oaks Marathon, Raleigh, North Carolina: 4 November 2012: Thankfully my flight out was not cancelled and Raleigh had not been affected at all by the hurricane. The race organisers had promised to let me have running bib number 300 to celebrate my 300th marathon and I had remembered to pack the convict outfit that I was intending to run in. I’d run this race two years previously and whilst the race director had advised that he had altered the route to cut out some of the worse hills local runners were telling me that there weren’t any flat stretches anywhere (which proved to be true). However, my main concern was that I had not done any practice runs in my outfit and that on the day the trousers seemed quite loose. I had visions of me ending up with them around my ankles. As it turned out the main problem I encountered was being too warm and by half way I found myself wishing that I’d not worn a t-shirt under my costume. 

Once we got going, my anxiety vanished and my attention was diverted early in the race to a model cow half way through the showroom window in the Wells Fargo offices in downtown Raleigh. I then started to notice spectators at regular intervals holding signs proclaiming ‘Run like you stole something’. I was indeed trying although one lady succeeded in apprehending me at around the 24 mile point so that I could be photographed with her kids beside their sign. She thanked me profusely as I assured her that this time she had convincingly apprehended her man. 

Over the weekend we’d had a policeman from NYPD staying with us and at a turnaround point close to the finish I noticed that he was catching me up quite quickly. Consequently we had a real ‘cops and robbers’ style finish to the race. My time was 4:06:52 and I won an award for being 3rd in the 60-64 age group. 

At the end we had a group photograph taken of me with three of my most eccentric friends. These were (1) Matt Jenkins, who runs all his marathons barefoot (2) Peter, the NYPD man who had almost caught me at the finish and (3) Rich Holmes, who had run his 200th marathon at the same marathon in Nashville where I had run mine. 

Jack and friends
I had a great time during the race and the encouragement I got from both spectators and fellow runners was unbelievable. However, the convict outfit is now safely packed away and I have no plans to race in it again.

Richmond Marathon, Virginia: 10 November 2012: After a week of sightseeing around Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown we made our way to Richmond. Richmond Marathon was a well organised, but busy race as they’d increased their permitted numbers by around 1500 to allow entrants from the cancelled New York Marathon to compete. The course was gently undulating, but it did start getting warm quite early on and I made the mistake of setting off with the 3.45 pace group. I stayed with them until 17.5 miles, but then had to let them go as the heat got to me. I struggled over the last few miles and finally crossed the line in 4:01:41. Curiously all 4 of us who were in the previous week’s group photo ran faster times at Richmond than at City of Oaks and Matt, Peter and I crossed the finish line within 2 minutes of each other. 

Jack Brooks

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