Whilst loading my van in slippered feet I trod on a stone I had not seen in the darkness with an almighty crunch and a searing pain through my left heel - a myriad of thoughts raced through my mind, including the urge to scream out with colourful language that would wake the neighbours, but I managed to not give in to that one, although I did need to go and have a look at my heel - fortunately it was not cut, but it hurt to the point I had to sit down for a while to let the pain subside, and hope that it was not something that would cause me to drop out of the run.
As the minutes ticked-by, the pain slowly subsided, and fortunately by the time an hour or so had elapsed and I had driven down to the event base of the Pyramid Centre in Southsea, the knack had been forgotten about so I was good to go.
The three of us were amongst the early arrivals and we eventually found our way inside of the Pyramid Centre, as they had closed the entrance we used previously, perhaps because of the extensive building work over the last year. Finding the hall that was the event base, it had been completely refurbished since last year’s run and looked really fresh and inviting inside. Soon it began to fill-up with all the assorted runners.
We parked ourself near to the massage area whilst we sorted out registrations ablutions and numbers, with Pini overhearing one of the masseurs talking to someone about her experiences running a legitimate massage operation… Apparently she no longer keeps her phone switched on in the evenings on Friday and Saturday as without fail she would always get at least a dozen drunken calls asking for an all over rub with a ‘happy finish’!
Faffing around before the start, I bumped into Carthorse, who had seemed to have disappeared off the marathon scene (and from the terraces at Farnborough) over recent months. He’d come down to the race to cheer us runners on as he knew a significant number who were due to go trot around the course, and having dealt with some serious shizzle in his personal life he is now back in training ready to continue his assault on the 100 marathon club - he’ll get there a long time before me (if I do manage it) having managed to rack-up 40 odd already in around the same amount of time running them as me.
All ready for the start we made our way to the promenade to try and avoid the rush last year when they started the race with most people still in the Pyramid centre!.. To shelter from the cold they had erected a large marquee for us to gather in and as I walked in there I saw the familiar faces of Barry and Kristin doing their first joint marathon.
The race this year started a little beyond last year’s as Southsea Pier has now begun to be re-built having been nearly destroyed in the storms of the previous spring, some 2 years after it was closed for being a safety risk through the poor state of repair it had been allowed to fall in to… Once all gathered the other side, we were counted down and let go.
I’d come in to this marathon with the express goal of just getting around it as quickly as I could manage - with no pressure at all on me for a specific time… The weather was pretty good for the time of year with the sky merely overcast with clouds and not too much of a wind, unlike last year’s torrential downpour just before the start and the first part of the race.
We headed along the promenade, with everyone weaving in and out of each other as they struggled to find their place within the pack appropriate to their pace - so it took a good mile and a half to stop nearly bumping in to people and continually looking over your shoulder for people passing you.
Turning off the promenade it was on to the pebbly beach with its slippery sea-weed. We had been warned in the briefing not to stray outside of the marked path as they could not guarantee the footing - for depth of wet sand and slipperiness of the weed.
Emerging the other side we were up on to the sea wall and the route past the boat houses and the university sports field as we made our way along the western side of Langstone Harbour. So far so good, I had managed a decent enough pace thus far, and getting to the first of the aid stations I put my nutrition plan in to effect.
The marathon organisers have a good sponsorship deal with High5 who provide copious amounts of their excellent gels, so I had decided this year that I would grab a couple of gels for every aid station to consume one every 2 miles or so and to not really worry about my own, although I did take some breakfast bars with me as these days I prefer to eat something over the course of the distance rather than just swill down gels.
Soon after the aid station there was upon us the dull trudge across the northern side of the harbour, the cycle path that we run along sandwiched between the chemically treated shoreline - to kill off the invasive Japanese Knotweed that has taken root there, and the lovely sight of the M27… Its not often you get to run along the side of a motorway as part of a marathon route, which just serves to remind you that Its not always going to be rolling mountains and cliff-top vistas!
|Its not always trotting around glamourous locations!|
Heading inland again to ford a stream, we traversed a slippery section of path that was so slick you struggled to remain upright even with trail shoes before filing one at a time through the bottle-neck of a kissing gate and into a residential street.
Here one of the local residents took offence to us runners and deliberately chose to drive at us on the wrong side of the road whilst honking their horn, which was met with a torrent of abuse from us all, and apologies from some of their neighbours who were out in their front gardens watching us all file past and cheer us on.
Through this residential section we picked-up the road again and the bridge to Hayling Island… Everything had gone so well thus far with the wind, only for us to find it here ripping across bridge and in to our faces, sucking the air from your lungs and holding us back as we attempted to run across.
Mercifully once over the bridge, sheltered from the wind once more we had the comfort of the aid station with some mulled wine thrown in for goos measure… Carthorse was waiting here to cheer us on, so I stopped for a few minutes to slurp down some gels and have a brief chat before heading down to the turnaround. This 3 mile stretch saw us passed by the leaders on the way back, so I kept a count of those going past so when Moose and Pini went by I was able to shout their position in the race to them so as to help with any strategy they may have for the second half of the run… and Barry Miller passed by as well sharing an high five with me.
Making the turn myself and heading back off the island I took solace in the number of people still to hit the turn, including a bunch of firemen in full kit complete with oxygen tanks!
I had made a decent pace so far, although I knew I was not troubling last year’s time, so I just carried on plodding around… That was until I got back to the industrial estate when I heard the text tone go on my phone - now this is my ‘friends & family’ phone, not my work one, so I knew it must be someone I knew… Then a few minutes later it went again, so I figured it might be important, and I slowed to a walk to get it out of my back-pack.
It was LSS, and she was in a bit of trouble!.. Whilst bending over to put her trainers on to go for a run, Spud - our border collie/ springer cross, had decided to run past her at the same time and jump up on to the couch to look at what was happening out on the street. As he jumped for the couch, LSS had bent down and with an almighty crunch and and explosion of blood, his bowling-ball of a head had connected with the bridge of her nose and broken it… She was going to take herself off to A&E to have it looked at, so could I hurry back!
Now I was 18 miles in to a marathon, and you only really can run these things at one speed: the one that’s going to get you to the finish in the quickest possible time… Which for me isn’t that quick! That said, getting a call for help is a great motivator to keep you going, but I was already at flat-out pace, and with 8 miles left I was still a good 80 minutes from the finish at best, plus another 30 minute drive home if I ignored the speed limits, so I did the only thing possible: I dug deep, gritted my teeth and tried to get back as soon as possible for her… Then the phone went again, with LSS saying that on reflection and having spent a good time looking at her nose in the rear view mirror whilst driving to A&E, she had been lucky that whilst broken her nose was straight and not crooked, so she decided to return home and tough it out with pain killers rather than have to wait for 5 hours to be seen by a doctor and be told there is nothing to be done for her but to go home and take some pain killers.
With this added impetus I redoubled my efforts over the last 8 miles and crossed the line 20 minutes slower than last year, hopefully minimising any further time loss by the motivation of knowing I had a battered and bleeding wife back home in urgent need of some tlc. Upon locating Moose I explained to him what had happened back at the homestead, so we jumped straight in the van and made our way back to Hook! - Pini had already disappeared off to his in-laws so didn’t need a lift back.
A bit of a bizarre end to the final marathon of the year, but hey, the important thing is that LSS is ok, if a little battered and bruised… Considering LSS took Spud to the vets to have his nuts removed a couple of days beforehand she suspects it was him exacting revenge upon her, so no Christmas photos of her with the 2 back eyes that will soon be following the busted nose.
My fitness seems to be on its way back at least with me now only being 20 minutes down on previous, an improvement already from the hour at the beginning of the month!.. Next up a week of Christmas/ New Year’s fun :)
Eat pies. Drink beer. Run far.