I hadn't really done the training I should have- I was thinking that 3 long runs of just over 15 miles wouldn't quite cut it in the latter stages of the 26.2 miles I was about to undertake. She who makes a lovely cup of tea was kind of pleased. No more darting about trying to support and finding out that the helpful course map is never to scale, and that what looks like a short walk on the map actually turns out to be a marathon too!
We made our way to the Gunn Inn at Ridsdale on Saturday, which turns out to be in the depths of Northumberland in the middle of nowhere! Our overnight stay there was very pleasant. We found out a lot about giant leeks and onions which were about to be judged on Sunday and for a moment I was tempted to abandon the whole running idea for a tense day of judging and measuring of giant alliaceae. After a couple of games of pool (I have finally found someone I can occasionally beat....) it was early to bed to make sure I was rested for the big event.
I slept ok and wasn't feeling too nervous the next day. Surprising really, I knew I hadn't done the required training and was about to undertake something I knew was going to hurt. Perhaps at my age my brain is already getting a bit addled? We made our way through the beautiful Northumbrian countryside to Kielder Water. I you haven't been. Go! It is a pretty special place and I was about to find just how special it was......... This is a small marathon of about 650 folk. There is a half setting off somewhere else on the same day so all in all plenty of people around with a slightly chaotic feel to the transport arrangements. The bus from the car park did get us to the start in time (just) and I had figured that my warm up would be the first 10k.
Now my plan had been to set off at an easy pace (yes Neill really)and had said to Joanna I expected my time to be anywhere between 4 and 4.5 hours. If she made it to the 10k point I reckon I'd be there in about 55 minutes to an hour and if she made it to half way I'd be there in around 2 hours. So as some of you know I am not renowned for pace judgement (where is Martin Caldwell when you need him!). So Joanna did see me at the 10k mark - just I managed to get there in about 48 minutes. Luckily she didn't make it to the half way mark. Just as well I made that in about 1 hour 45 minutes. My plan had changed pretty early on in the race anyway as I was feeling sprightly. I had decided to go for the crash and burn approach. Go out at a faster pace and see how long I could hold on. All in all about 18 miles I discovered......
As some of you know the last 8 miles of a marathon are special. It is mind over matter time. The mid starts playing tricks on you as your energey reserves disappear......can I keep going? That bench there is looking tempting! When is the next water stop? Perhaps if I don't look at the mile markers the number 26 will magically appear at any moment....... The last 8 miles are tough, even if you have trained properly. As I hadn't I made my last marathon experience a special one, that and the fact that in my somewhat tired state I had misread my watch and though that I was only just on for a sub 4 hour marathon, whereas I actually had bags of time to spare...... I pushed myself through the last 8 miles which did involve a lot of walking up inclines and stumbling down the declines. But at some point that magic number 26 did come and then it was all over. My number 10 done and my marathon days behind me.
The CAAC club record now stands at 3.48.13 (I don't think anyone else has done Kielder) and I would thoroughly recommend this very scenic and somewhat undulating trail marathon. It is definitely in my top 3! Go do it and see if I care as another one of my club records disappears down the annals of history - that is if it was ever mine to claim in the first place (Bob?)!