Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Colin's report: Milton Keynes Marathon – 6 May 2013

I am following on from my last blog post about the London Marathon. I said it might be time to find a new marathon. I did not have to wait long to find one. But maybe I ought to have waited a bit longer than I actually did.

The Milton Keynes marathon this year was exactly two weeks and a day after the London Marathon. It was also exactly fifty-two years after I was born. What better way to celebrate pre-senile decay than to spend a morning running round a town several years younger than I am?

The good news: even though the MK marathon was two weeks and a day after the London Marathon, I did not have to get out of bed for MK until two weeks, one day and two hours later than I got out of bed for the London Marathon; i.e. 7am instead of 5am. Very good news.

The bad news: gone are the days where I can run two marathons with a gap of two weeks in between and get away with it! But I had to find that out the hard way. 

Birthdays nowadays can make me look back at what I have not achieved in life rather than celebrating the achievements. So I decided to annihilate such nostalgic regrets with strenuous activity to take my mind off the non-achievements. 

It was a risky decision. If I were not careful, I could end up with another non-achievement to look back on in future years. So really I would have no option but to complete the marathon.

Originally I had entered the MK marathon as a backup plan in case my London Marathon finishing time was not good enough. To be honest, I was reasonably pleased with my 3:11 at London, even if it had been a bit of a struggle (it always is). As a result I would not need to do another marathon for the next two years under 3:20 to get a ‘Good For Age’ time.

So I can say that it was probably just vanity, fear of growing old or an insane belief that I might magic a good finishing time out of thin air that made me do Milton Keynes. Well, I had paid for the place, hadn’t I? And I was not expecting great things. Just to get round really. It might take about three and a half hours, on the other hand I might inexplicably get an undeservedly good time for no reason, a sort of unexpected birthday present. That had to be worth the risk. I had even given myself the option of turning over in bed and going back to sleep on the day if I did not feel like doing it. 

Race day morning arrived, happy birthday to me. It took next to no time to roll out of bed and get to Milton Keynes. There was a bit of an anxious moment, when I discovered they had closed some of the roads near the start. For a few confused minutes I drove in circles around a block of flats. But once out of that little dead-end, I miraculously found the industrial estate with free parking close to the football stadium that was the start and finish of the race. 

A few minutes later I was walking towards the stadium past a 24-hour McDonalds. It had to be worth dropping in there for a pre-race lavatory stop. Miraculously again there was no queue. I need not have worried. Inside the football stadium there were lavatories a-plenty with no real queues to speak of. Likewise the baggage drop had no real queue. So with half an hour still to go till the start of the race I was pretty well ready to go. There were several other Striders there too! 

So there was time for some quick sunbathing while waiting for the start. It was going to be quite a warm day. But there is only so much water you can take on board before the start so I just tried to relax and enjoy the sunshine. 

The race start was in zones with faster runners at the front. It all seemed pretty-well organised really. Before long we were on our way. The first few miles were along dual-carriageways that had been closed to traffic. These took us through the centre of MK before doubling back towards the start, then on a huge loop round the town. After a while the roads gave way to cycle paths but by then the field had thinned out so there was no real congestion on the route. There were plenty of drinks, energy drinks and gels on offer round the course, so even though the weather was hot, there was never a shortage of refreshments. 

After 11 miles I had the feeling of slowing down, that I normally get around 18 miles. Thoughts of dropping out or walking went through my head. I could feel myself slowing down, but in the end I decided it was probably better to slow down and get a finish time than to drop out completely.

After a while I could not take any more water on board, and it was just a case of digging in and getting round the course. There were some annoying bits: arched footbridges over the canal felt an effort to negotiate; a couple of hills after 20 miles needed some will-power to get over. But the stadium finish made up for this, although I could not muster the same sprint finish that some of my fellow runners conjoured up. En route there was some great support from several Striders and local residents, including former Striders’ Chairman Andy Wasdell. 

My 3:30 was somewhat slower than London, but it was a warm day and my legs did not feel fresh. I would definitely consider this as an ‘A’ race next year and maybe do London in fancy dress, depending on how the winter’s training and weather go. I think MK is going to be on the May Day Bank Holiday again in 2014 so, you never know, I may be there again! I can recommend it.

Colin Braybrook

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