Despite all my moaning about the city of Leicester in the day before this race they sure can organise and support a great marathon. This was an incredibly successful event that is getting bigger each year and deservedly so. The organiser was hoping for 3000 to do this, I think the figure was nearer 2000 but I sincerely hope that he gets there next year, races with this level of organisation and support deserve to get oversubscribed.
The actual course though was really tough. I've raced in much hillier races but not so much on road and although I would not describe this as "hilly" it was constantly undulating. I can't recall a flat bit of running in the whole lot which makes it hard to pace.
Due to the lack of public transport before 10 I ran from my Mum's house near Blaby to the start of the race and so had a nice 4 mile warm-up before I started. I don't usually get taxis on principle and was not too worried about conserving energy, I do have 3 to run next week. It was a trip down memory lane as I jogged the route I used to walk each day to school. I was amazed that I got there in half an hour, it always felt like I lived miles away from town.
I arrived in plenty of time but my usual faffing with bags and toilets meant that I started the race near the back. This wasn't a problem though as it opened up quite nicely within the first mile. We ran out of Victoria park and downhill towards the high street and then turned onto an old Roman road that leads straight north out of the city. We avoided the road where I nearly ended my race last year by slipping over a kebab on mile 2.
The route was completely different to the one last year and I was hoping it would retain some of the character from before. I really enjoyed the canal towpaths, Abbey Park and running past my Mum's house last time. However I could apprieciate that this race was becoming a mass event and bigger roads were needed. The roads were all closed which was great, not something to take for granted in city marathons.
I didn't really have expectations for this race and was still both ill and injured but I thought I'd run at a pace that felt comfortable but hard. This pace had me pass the halfway point at 1.30 and though I doubted I'd keep that up I thought I'd break 3.07 and celebrate my 50th with a new pb.
I've run enough marathons now to not worry too much when the bad times come. I often feel a bit down just after halfway if the miles don't appear to be coming off and then again between 16-20. These feelings are always fleeting and the way to overcome them is to realise they are temporary and often psychological and wait for them to pass. I did just that this time after I passed half way but the black dog just wouldn't shift.
No matter how hard I felt like I ran I just seemed to be getting slower. I couldn't really explain it. The route was no more hilly than the first half and I didn't actually feel that bad. A few runners were overtaking me but not many. The wind picked up in the second half and made it hard going but not enough to slow me down by over 1 minute per mile.
I reached 20 in 2.23 and gave myself some congratulation as a year before I was unable to do 20 alone at that pace. I struggled on, stopping at the water stops to take on as much fluid as I could. The route was much quieter in the last 6 miles, running past the Space Centre and through Abbey Park. I can't remember the last time I wanted a race to be over so much but I was feeling that now.
Entering the city centre again was amazing. There were a series of underpasses we had to wind through and there were marshals at every turn. They were so loud and enthusiastic it was hard to not run a bit faster, it felt rude. One of them was cheering so much he was practically rapping.
It then ran through the town centre and I saw lots of new shopping buildings that were not there last time I was here. We than went through the main shopping streets and on to the last mile which was a lovely pedestrianised path, all uphill. It was hard work but I just wanted this one to be over, which is unusual as I normally feel like more at the end of a race.
The finish line couldn't come too soon and I crossed it and seized up almost instantly. This happened to me in this race last year and is very race. Must me something about the Leicester roads. I saw a man in the changing rooms who looked like he was about to pass out with cramp. He was screaming and only responded to me when he declined my offer to go and get a medic. I thought he could have a heart attack or something.
My Mum and I walked into town via the last mile of the route and cheered on those who were still finishing. It's hard to know what to say to people in a race when you already have the t-shirt and medal for finishing it. I try not to appear smug when I assure them that there really is only a little way to go. I did see a man running with a sack of sand on his back. I asked him what he was doing and he replied "I have no idea". I hope he had some reason.
This was my 50th Marathon and a cause for some celebration, if only in my own head. I arrived at home in London to find m housemates had bought me a card with "Happy 50th" on it and scribbled out the word birthday and put "Marathon" instead. That was really sweet.
So in summary this was a fantastically organised race that I didn't really enjoy much because I turned into a sack of shit after halfway. I'm not going to read much into it though. There will be other times when I can have a go at a road race again. The day I start picking apart my race after what is essentially only a minor underperformance is the day I stop liking running. That isn't going to happen any time soon.
I don't intend to look at this kind of stuff too often as that would make me the results based obsessed meat head that I don't want to be. However I thought it was quite interesting looking at the graph of how I fell apart in the Leicester Marathon.
The second half my pace was up and down all over the place in comparison to the first. It did not appear to be hillier but it may well have been. I think everyone struggled on the second half anyway.