Well that’s the first one out of the way and I managed to do it in 3:54:50 so I achieved the sub-4:00 time I was hoping for. The race overall was good, quite well organised and we certainly had good weather for most of it aside from about half an hour when a bank of fog rolled in out of nowhere dropping the temperature considerably. The rules were very strictly imposed too as the local police had demanded this was a “no iPod” event for safety reasons and this was quite evident when one guy in front of me who’d decided to ignore the ruling did not hear the police van slowly driving behind him for a while which subsequently overtook, parked up and then pulled him over and issued a threat of disqualification!! Aside from that there were no more incidents that I was aware of but the police were making regular runs on the route, as were St John’s Ambulance (on bikes) so it felt like everything had been well thought out. I later heard from someone that a runner had died on the route last year so that probably explained it.
As for the route, it began with a 4-mile figure-of-8 around the local roads of Quedgeley before branching off onto a large loop for three laps. Lap counting was by means of coloured wristbands that you handed over on each lap and then when you had no more you branched off again for the last mile to the finish. For the Garmin Forerunner data for the race click this link to see the route as I did it and on there you may well notice that the distance is showing up as 26.49 miles. I noticed on each lap that my Forerunner was bleeping out the miles earlier and earlier before the roadside markers, which was unusual because it was spot on during my last half-marathon and generally within a few yards of Google maps when I plot a route beforehand. I asked several of the other runners at the end with a mixture of Garmins & Polars whether they’d noticed the same and we all agreed that give or take a few yards we’d all recorded a longer distance! I’m not that bothered however as if it was too long then it makes the time I crossed the line seem even better 🙂
As for my experience of the race, it all seemed to fall into place with the training. I probably went off a little too quick at the start but soon settled into an 8:30~ish pace that I maintained for quite a while before starting to slow down about half way on the second lap. As the third lap began my mental arithmetic still showed me on-course for a sub-4:00 time so I picked it up a little bit just to make sure. As I passed 22 miles I necked the last of my SiS Go-Gels as the fatigue was making it’s presence felt and then at 23 miles I wished I’d packed more of them as I hit the wall. Suddenly putting one foot in front of the other became immensely hard and I almost dropped to a walk when something inside said “in your dreams pal!” and I pushed on towards a red letterbox at the next corner I’d set as my next goal. When I passed that I was feeling a bit lighter on my feet and within about another mile I was through the barrier and feeling more energised, which was boosted when I saw the 25 mile mark and the turn off towards the finish. The last mile did feel longer than a mile I have to say but as I saw the end in the distance and looked at my watch I knew I was going to come in under 4 hours and that was the final urge to the finish.
Instead of medals the race mementos were those little glass blocks with the 3-D images (of runners) inside so more of a trophy to put on display than a medal you shove in a drawer so I was quite pleased with that.
Overall, it was an enjoyable race but not one I would really recommend as a first marathon purely because there isn’t the crowd atmosphere of one of the big races to urge you on through the difficult bits. As a club run or a race for the seasoned marathoner looking for something to do in Jan (well there’s not a lot) I couldn’t really find fault and it’s one I would certainly consider doing again.
Anyway, that’s it, only 11 more to do now… I’ll do another post with the official results and photos (if any) when they are published. I really appreciated all the messages of support I got via text, Facebook, email etc before the race and the congratulations afterwards, it makes it all the more worthwhile so thanks again.