The Island Race Review

‘ogee ogee ogee’ The race announcer shouted down the mic. The day had already turned out to be positive as I stood limbering up basking in the spring sun. The day was turning out to be nice. The right temperature and just the right amount of breeze. I knew this race was going to be good as I was in Wales standing on the other side of the Menai Bridge which I would soon be running over and shortly after will be taking in the views of the Victorian pier of Bangor, the impressive Norman Castle built by Edward and the stunning mountains of Snowdonia. Every run in Wales is always good. Some thing to tell the grandkids about. The weather also does not disappoint.

“Ogee Ogee Ogee” the announcer repeated after the crowd of 800 chanted back “Oi, Oi, Oi” and soon the countdown began. ‘Fifty seconds, forty Nine, forty eight’ As he counted he interspersed with messages of good luck, and look out for one another. I knew from that moment that this will be a good race and then the gun went and we all clapped before realising that this was a race and we darted across to cross the line.

The race had begun. Forget Marathon pace I was on one and as I looked down to see me moving a slow pace as the bottle neck plodded over the iconic road bridge I un-clipped my headphones and politely asked the more pedestrian runners to ‘Move’. Now I should have taken this as a sign. Last year on my Half marathon before the full 26.2 mile event I made the same mistake and shot out from the start line like a bullet and this year I promised myself i would do marathon pace, test when I needed to pop a gel and all that stuff the mags tell you but then the little devil woke and whispered ‘You could do this in a sub 1:35’ That was all it took.

The minute I had left the bridge I was running like never before. The tunes pumping which I was glad off as crowd support was thin on the ground. But who needed the people cheering you on when you had views of Bangor across the water, a 800 year old castle, a course which was car free and while not flat was not excessively hilly for Wales but still gave your lungs and heart a good work out on the uphill sections without really loosing that much pace.

The course was an out and back with the added bonus that while you ran away from the mountains of Snowdonia, the return trip would have them in full panoramic Technicolor laid in front of you. This was a race for seasonal runners as the amount of people I passed on the return loop still plodding to the half way point were few and far the majority crossed the line before the 2 hour mark. Off course not that it is not a beginner friendly course. The start and the end had a very warm ‘were doing this together’ mentally.

I loved this race. At the end there was your slate engraved medal, cups of water, fruit, chocolate, biscuits and then outside the finishers enclosure an array of burger fans and ice cream sellers along with activities for the family and friends who cam to support. The Marshals were friendly and efficient, the course information and pre race details spot on. A map of the area for those who were not familiar with Anglesey would have been a bonus. Car parking was free and there was plenty off it if you got there in time. The only down side was the goody bag that contained a poncho and leaflets from the Welsh Tourist board and some energy/protein powder thing.

All in all, this was a good race. It’s in its second year and I can see it growing bigger and while the course could handle it, the start line may have to be moved away from the iconic bridge but it has plenty more gems to make up for that loss. the other flaw is like all races on this scale is you can’t control who goes to the front and those who have a slow pace or can’t keep the fast pace up seem to be at the start causing a lot of pushing and shoving from the faster more competitive runners behind them. The course for the first mile is also on narrow streets which also adds to this very small issue that did not spoil the event.

Oh and I got my new PB. A sub 1:35 by 8 seconds.

My 26.2 Mile Story

I’ve done. I am now a Marathon runner. Well half runner, maybe 90% as I’m not going to lie I did walk some of it. My time was 4hrs 25 minutes a little off from the sub 4 I was hoping for but with the elements trying to kill me the result is something that I am happy with, that and I’m the first one of my friends and family to run a marathon.

Greatest respect goes to those who put themselves through this ten times, in the case of the 10 by 10 in the Lake district. Ten Marathons over ten days and those people who run ultra’s. There were times when I wanted to break down and cry, my run became a trot, the thoughts turned to a warm cosy bed, I wanted out of the race I wanted to be finished. I could have pulled over and seek medical assistance, pulled out got a lift back to the start but my mind was forcing me to finish ‘You are not a quitter’

So the day begins at 5.30, I woke to my usual breakfast and a couple more green tes’s and energy drinks. Travelled to the park which was wet and cold. visited the loo I don’t know how many times and then headed to the start. The gun went and we were off. I was going a little fast 8.45 miles which I had to slow down, by mile 3 I had settled into a steady 8.59 – 9.09 pace and was enjoying it. My body warmed up and the sea of colour that laid in front of me once again amazed me. Us runners are a hardy bunch with the temperatures below 5 degrees and a wind chill factor and rain, here we all were jogging and loving every minute of it.

The race was going well, apart from the several loo breaks into hedges my bladder insisted on taking. By mile 4 I had taken my first gel, coming into sale I took on an energy drink and waved to my friend. This was going well, I felt good. Timperly was the next village and the atmosphere was electric, I heard a member of the crowd shout ‘It should be you runners clapping us for coming out supporting you in this weather’ and she has a point, the conditions were not ideal for long distance running but they were even more horrendous for the crowd as they stood there in the pouring rain and wind bellowing shouts of encouragement. Manchester stood up and came out to support the return after a decade of a marathon with huge support. Crowds cheering, calling out names, giving out jelly babies along the route helping to tie shoe laces in the latter stages when it was too painful for people to bend, offering warm drinks and some respite from the cold. to sum up the crowd made it, and this is where it wet wrong for me.

In the run up to the event it said no headphones, now I had been training with music and podcasts but like a good boy I took notice of this and left my iPod at home, others didn’t, this was to be my undoing as you’ll soon find out.

After Timperly came Altrincham where my mum and dad were posted who I failed to see, the race moved on into the open country and down what can only be described as a dirt track. Narrow and wet. How wet? Very wet. It was like a river in parts and as the pack slowed up, to avoid running in the ankle-deep puddles that covered the lane people soon realised they had no choice. With sodden trainers and very wet socks we moved on to Dunham Massey or Muddy Massey has it will be known to many a runner from now on. Another track, this one made from cobbles, wet cobbles, covered in mud, and more puddles that were hiding pot holes. Not a safe or fun environment. I don’t think you need to be a runner to appreciate how the morale dropped. Also now in the open country the wind had picked up, the rain had started to fall heavier and colder, it was like ice and I was a drowned rat, cold and wet I was no longer finding this fun my hands numb I could open my zip to get my jelly beans or gels and for the next 4 miles there were no crowds to cheer us through and I hit the wall at mile 16.

That was when I waved my sub 4 goodbye. The next ten miles to the finish were only achieved by the crowds shouting words of encouragement. By the time I crossed the line, I was a shivering nervous wreck with a phone that had got water-logged and wouldn’t work. I eventually managed to find my friends and family in the park that had now been turned into a giant mud pit. I was exhausted, I wanted to break down and cry. I had just carried out a feat of human endurance all in the name of fun.

I’m glad I did and will do it again, but no training can prepare you for your first. I know what to expect now and know I need to do a lot more running and a lot more training. My legs to-day are on strike, I can’t move one inch. the pain in the final 4 miles was so hard to describe, but the joy and emotion of crossing that line and getting that medal to say “I’ve done a Marathon’ and not any old marathon one in my back yard. I started running in November 2010 and Manchester saw my first race with the 10K, a year on from that race Manchester has seen me do a marathon and I am so happy that I did it. “At mile 20, I thought I was dead. At mile 22, I wished I was dead. At mile 24, I knew I was dead. At mile 26.2 I knew I was too tough to kill”  Anon

Addicted

It would be a fair comment to say I am addicted to running. But is it an accurate description of the portrayal. Yes I run, and sometime I run a lot, other times I like to stay in bed. This does not seem like an addiction to me, more a social pass time, a hobby that requires a little more attention and care than lets say ‘Stamp Collecting’ or ‘reading’.

My blog started life as a way to moan and let off steam about the world and the way it angers my very being but soon grew into a training diary of some one becoming a runner with that person being me. Me  who had never really ran more than the distance to catch the number 42 to the city centre before it pulled away from the bus stop. I wanted to blog to show people that a non runner could in fact learn how to run and the following blog is testament to that.

So am I addicted to the running, did I at some point while training for my first 10K race catch the so called ‘Running Bug’ it appears so as even when I was injured all I wanted to do was run and no sooner had I kissed my medal and sat back in relief that I had achieved an activity that for many is out of their reach and comfort zone had found myself entering ‘The Great North’ and then ‘Conwy’ followed by another 10K that was soon to be followed by yet another run.

It is only now that mystery seems to be unravelled. I am not so much addicted to the joy running, although science has shown that running can become addictive with the chemicals that your brain produces during exercise and I can hold my hand up and clearly say after a run I feel happy, delighted I may even go as far to say I feel ecstatic and for those who know me seeing me wear a smile is an odd occasion and I can even back the science up as when I am unable to run like the time I was injured I become miserable. Running makes you feel good. So am I addicted? I think the answer is a no, what I have now found or believed I have found is that while addicted to the benefits of running I am more addicted to the races.

As I write this entry I have just had to turned down a chance to race in the ‘Two Castles Race’ in Warwickshire an event that would be right up my street, running from a castle to another castle with the bonus of staying with friends who live down that way. The reason for this upsetting decision is because when I first tried to enter the organisers said it was full and placed me on a stand by list, wanting to race in June I quickly hunted for another race and found the ‘Mersey 10K Tunnel’ in Liverpool that falls on the same date only to get an email a couple of days later informing me that a place had come available.

In fact while I continue to write I have just entered yet another 10K race, which makes it my third race I’d be participating in during May, and only a couple of weeks after my Marathon (So much for resting). So while catching the ‘Running Bug’ may be a hazard to many who suddenly find themselves waking at 6am and knocking off work early to get home just to enable them to squeeze a quick 5K jaunt around the park I feel that I have gone beyond that and have now moved into the rather dangerous and costly addiction of race entries chasing the next medal, PB or distance. My diary is slowly booking up more with race dates than work ones, and being that I am freelance, that should be a worrying statistic but I am finding I am organising work to fit around races, not races to fit round work a couple of months ago I turned down a job as it meant I would miss an opportunity to run.

What is the reason for this addiction? I’m not too sure! is it the medal or T-shirt, the joy to run with others and run next to people who share the same passion and enjoyment. Is it just down to wanting to bag as many races like walkers wanting to bag monroes. Maybe its a consistent battle whereby you’re running after PB’s as all my races to date have seen me record a new PB and while I’m new to running the room for improvement will I’m sure die away and the PB’s will become harder to achieve so maybe the addiction will also fade or maybe I will just find something new to run after. Maybe it will to get ‘The best in age’ category or addiction to for the goody bags.

What ever happens, I know one thing for sure my love of running and the passion that burns inside for this simple past time will always stay lit and be it that the addiction is too competing, medal hoarding or just placing your trainers on at 6am and running on the desolate streets watching the world slowly wake and the sun rising as the human rat race begins another day the addiction will always be there in one form or another.