I’ll try to spare readers my usual epic race report as this week the fabulous eforts of Kevin Edwards and Mark Glynn over the full marathon course deserve more attention than my own trip around half of that route!
Any regrets I had about tipping up for the shorter distance disappeared after a brief weather check. A brittle wind had blown in overnight and brought with it some sharp temperatures and a few buckets of Lancashire drizzle. It was nippy enough to delay shedding pre-race layers for the warm up drills until the last moment. The super efficient baggage drop-off facilitated a very late change into race kit which included gloves, hat and a thermal layer below my Harriers vest. This was not a day to “man-up” as rain and wind hounded us around the whole route. As Mark Glynn remarked later on, it was a headwind that somehow never became a tailwind no matter which direction we ran!
I had been of the impression that other than a couple of short uphill sections, this was to be a generally level route and an ideally suited to a PB attempt. I headed for Preston with the ambition to break the time I set in Wrexham earlier this year, (1:43:20) and possibly sneak under 1h 40m for the first time. The first mile and a half was generally downhill and fast with it. Recent experience has confirmed the truism that the price for a prolonged stretch of downhill running usually comes in the form of a prolonged stretch of uphill running! Sure enough, we were soon crossing a rain lashed river Ribble before grinding out the next mile uphill along the dual carriageway.
It was proving tricky to maintain a consistent pace with the constant changes in elevation, but by the halfway point I was well on target for that sub 1:40, passing through 6.2 miles in just a minute over 10k PB time. Whilst I wasn’t struggling yet, I was certainly aware of the pace and knew that the second half of the race would take its toll. The final turnaround was about mile 9, and as I headed up the road the leaders flashed past on the other side on their way back into Preston. I seemed to hit a real dip at this point, recording my slowest mile of the race and begining to doubt my ability to keep up the pace. I took a gel and gave myself a bit of a talking too and was up to speed again on the way to mile 10.
There had been a bit of a discrepancy between my Garmin and the course markers for a couple of miles, but the 10 mile marker was considerably further down the road than my watch said it should be. A quick bit of mental arithmetic suggested that although I was on target to beat 1:40 on Garmin time, if the course markers were accurate it would be touch and go. Any burgeoning self pity in the filthy conditions were swept away as we passed the 23 mile marker swaying in the wind. I shivered on behalf of those poor souls tackling the full distance!
By mile 11 I was entering my own world of pain. The lactic threshold had been passed as quads turned to wood and it took increasing will power to keep the pace. I knew that digging deep here would decide the outcome of my race, but all the signals coming in from my body were saying “stop”! It was a real boost to see Julie Platt with a mile and a half to go, and it forced me into straightening my crumbling form and finding some pace as I passed her.
At mile 12 I summoned up what was left in an attempt to push for the finish but nothing happened. The brain said “pick it up” but the body didn’t respond! My legs were managing to maintain a metronomic pace, but there was no last boost of energy to be had.
It was a black hearted course setter that decided to litter the last mile of the route with 90 degree bends, short steep little hills and even a hellish drop and climb beneath a flyover. I kept expecting to see the finish around every corner only to be presented with another climb or twist. I seriously began to wonder if my legs would hold out for the line even this near to the end. I did manage a minor increase in speed to hold off a challenge for the line, but it was a weak imitation of my usual bersek srping finish. There wasn’t even enough gusto left for a “celebrate like you won it” pose for the cameras! I have never been so happy to cross a finish line.
My official time was 1:40:48, taking nearly 2 and half minutes below my previous PB. It would be churlish to mention that due to some sort of foul up at the turnaround, the course was declared 200 metres long… so I wont. I also won’t begin to calculate if those 200 metres cost me the 49 seconds needed to break 1:40!
I was compensated somewhat to learn I was 218th overall and 33rd M40 from a field of 2800 though. The overall organisation was fabulous and the marshalls and baggage staff did a brilliant job. I’l definitely give this race another try the next time its held… as long as its once in a Preston Guild!