For some reason I had in my head that this was a road marathon. Not sure why as the race info made no such suggestion. I guess I still had Luton on my mind which is never a great thing to happen. Luton (that I have entered 5 times and not even started yet) was cancelled for the second time in 3 years due to ice. Now I hear they are moving it 3 weeks forward into November so that this is less likely to happen. Trouble is that November has some quite cool events like the Druids Challenge, Pembroke Challenge, Cornwall Marathon and so forth and so it's unlikely I'll ever do Luton again if there is something more glamorous on that weekend. And on the subject of glamorous, Portsmouth.
Has I have known that this was mostly off road I would not have queued for the toilets so much. There were about 300 people shivering around the startline. I caught up with a few friends beforehand though I barely recognised Drew Sheffield is his slinky little purple dress. I later discovered that it was the running vest of the Wootton Runners. Whilst chatting to Jany and the Paynes at the start we seemed to miss the starting gun (or whistle or shout or bong or whatever it was). We saw the mass of people shift forward and figured that we should start running too.
I stuck with Ian and Nick for the first few miles which were on the promenade and then into some mud. There was not too much of it and the weather had been kind again over the previous few days to not make it too muddy. We have been really lucky with dry races so far this winter, I can only imagine that this will change when the ultra races start proper again in Jan. I saw Cleo Oliver for the first time in well over a year and she welcomed me to her "local" marathon. I said she should come and run my local marathon in Leicester. I never tire of telling the story about how my Leicester marathon nearly ended after just 2 miles after slipping over on a kebab. It wasn't mine by the way.
I managed to keep up with Nick and Ian and Claire for most of the first half. Ian and Lucy had to be done quick so that they could get back to watch a Bournemouth football game. I remember Lucy's exact words last week when she said "I'm not f****g about, 4 hours then we are out of there". Claire, Gus, Jany and I also had to get a move on as it was our running club's Xmas party that night. Everyone was in such a rush that we forgot to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Portsmouth.
Ian informed me that we passed the 6 mile marker in exactly 45 minutes which according to my calculation was an average of 7.30 minute miles. Now, I make a general rule in reading race reports or listening to people that I stop reading/listening on the third mention of the phrase "minute mile", however I may break that horribly here as for the first time in ages I felt like I was in some sort of race. I had no phone for facebook, no camera, there were no sausage rolls or any other excuse to hang around at checkpoints and it was bloody freezing and I was in just shorts and a vest. Had no choice really.
It was quite a straighforward course with no real difficulty in direction. About 3 miles of promenade, a few miles of coastal path and a little shingle and then a long stretch to 13 miles of hard trail where you could see the runners coming back in the other direction. On the approach to half way I saw the leader and the 2nd placed guy quite a way ahead of third. Dave Ross was the first person I recognised on the way up to half way and I later discovered that he and his wife Mel have both just got places for the Western States 100. It would be great to see them next year as they plan on being in Vegas around the same time as I will for the LANY race.
I made the turn at halfway at about 1.38, still feeling like I could keep that pace up even though I have not run that fast for a year. I high-fived everyone as I ran back the other way, scoring 8 out of 8 perfectly I think. I decided not to do Claire as I was worried she would fall over. I started to wonder when to have an energy gel and then I started to wonder even more about when I last even wondered about when to have an energy gel. I used to panic about such things, do I take it after 15.7 miles or 16.2? How many should I have? 3? 5? This time I just had 2 in my pockets and took the first after about 16 when a water station arrived. Only 6 months out of date. F**k this is boring.
I didn't see the rest of the guys again. I think Claire stopped off for a date with Elliott Loohire. Is that even a real name? I can imagine young Elliott trying to find his way in life. The tanning salon didn't work out, the Fish & Chip shop probably didn't work out too. Just as he was about to give up on running hs own business he had an inspirational idea, perhaps people could hire things from me? But what?
Anyhoo, I assumed Claire would spring past me with a smile on her face as she so likes to do in these things, Drew did say at the end he tried to give her a chocolate flavoured Gu gel that he knows makes her sick. Ian I think was in need of several dates with Elliott and Nick had fallen back as he had not run too far recently. We joked at the start about the usual question "How far is a marathon?" I think he forgot.
My body behaved itself mostly and the runners knee came and went throughout but I managed to ignore it towards the end as I was distracted by my own heavy fat breathing. I was overtaking people pretty constantly over the second half and don't recall getting overtaken apart from a woman and her dog near the end. I was pleased as this meant that I was probably keeping a fairly constant pace or perhaps even running faster. I did feel a little wobbly during miles 18-24 which apparently is normal in a marathon. I'd normally respond to this by slowing down and having a sandwich but it did not feel right here so I just leaned forward a bit and made sure that if I did wobble then at least I'd go forwards.
It's a great marathon for a speedy finish. The last 2 miles being on the promenade again and allowing you to put your foot down. I did and ran through the finish funnel and was presented with a voucher for a free burger, awesome. I had no idea at that stage what time I had done and to be honest didn't really care. However since then I have thought about it a bit. It was not super fast, around 3.20 but that was the fastest I have sustained 26.2 miles for a long time and given that I am a bit out of shape (85.2kg is quite fat even for me) I was pleased. I grabbed the burger and wandered over to watch the others finish while sporting my foil blanket (feeling like a proper marathon runner).
Claire bounced in. I yelled at Drew and the guy he was running with that there was only 1 burger left which caused a sprint finish. It was strange watching all these people finish as usually they are the ones waiting for me. It was not much harder than a flat road marathon overall.
This was a great first showing of the Portsmouth Marathon and I imagine I'll be back next year to do it. I'd be lying if I said it was the prettiest of them all but it was well organised, lots of water stops and a burger van at the end. The weather was kind and I am told that the norm is for heavy wind and rain/mud. That would make it a lot harder.
Anyhoo, since then I am getting a load of sarcastic comments about being fast (yes the "s" is supposed to be in there). Hardly deserved really with 3.20 or whatever. I am actually quite curious as to what my exact time was to see whether it was less than 7.30 minute miles and
Oh shit. Boring. I just broke my own rule. You can stop reading now.