Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Bentham marathon

I've always intended to limit myself to one marathon a year, as I reckon that's quite enough time and effort to be devoted to serious running. But a couple of years ago I did the 3 peaks race when it was scheduled 4 weeks after Manchester marathon and that worked out ok, so when local road club Bentham Beagles announced they were putting on a marathon 6 weeks after Manchester, it felt like it would be a bit rude to not turn up.

The event was being arranged by a couple there who wanted to mark their 100th marathon with a local event (yes, there really are people who do 100 marathons as some sort of hobby/challenge). The route promised to be extremely hilly, heading first due south over the fells and down to a section of footpath around Stocks Reservoir, before returning over Bowland Knotts - both main climbs reaching altitudes of well over 400m, with plenty of smaller bumps to negotiate and numerous "arrowed" sections where the gradient exceeds 14% and in one place 20%. In fact the total climb of around 1000m comfortably exceeds that of the famous Snowdonia marathon (which goes round Snowdon, not up it). Not quite what Manchester training had prepared me for but I did manage a couple of runs over parts of the course in preparation so had some idea what I was letting myself in for. 

Post-Manchester resting was going ok and the blisters had healed, but then the three weeks leading up to the Bentham race were spent travelling first to Stockholm and then London, finally returning home around 10pm Friday night with the race starting at 9am on Saturday. Not quite ideal pre-race preparation, but never mind. I was determined to make it a fun run rather than going flat out, as it was never going to be a fast time. The on-line registration system provided a list of entries, and with a limit of 100 runners it wasn't too hard to do some stalking and work out that there quite probably wasn't going to be anyone properly fast (which means faster than me, of course). 

I guessed that a few of them might well set off a bit ambitiously at the start, however. Therefore a plan was hatched to try to go as easily as possible while keeping in touch with the leaders for the first half, before potentially pushing on a bit harder in the second half. Sure enough, a few people did charge off ahead but not ridiculously so, stretching out to a lead of up to a minute as we started up the first main climb. I think I was about 6th at one point, but soon enough a couple of the early leaders started to fall back and shortly afterwards I found myself running alongside one other guy who seemed quite experienced (he informed me that he had been pretty good in decades past with a ~28 min 10k to his name). We slowly reeled in the leaders, eventually forming a group of three for the last steep descent to the half-way mark.

The long-time leader stopped for a break at the reservoir (turned out to have foot problems) but Mr 28min was still going well and I didn't want to leave it to the last 10k in case he still had a turn of speed! (For context, my 10k PB is outside 37 mins, anything under 29 mins would be one of the leading times nationally.) So as we hit the second big hill I put a bit of effort in and was pleased to find he didn't respond. 3 miles later I had a quick snack at the top of Bowland Knotts and he was nowhere to be seen. I had time for a couple of pics on the way down...

jules had cycled out to meet me around the 20 mile mark and told me I had a decent gap so I just kept going at a sensible pace hoping my legs wouldn't fall off. I haven't done such a long or hilly run since the three peaks in 2017 so wasn't sure how the last few miles would go. Turned out just about ok and I finished in a time of 3:24, almost 9 mins clear of second.

The allocation of number was purely alphabetical!
Pic: Andrew Swales

Almost always road races are really just a time trial for me with the aim being to go as fast as possible over the distance so it was fun to be able to actually "race" for once without worrying about the time. And the event was very well organised with plenty of well-stocked refreshment stops. Obviously running 99 marathons previously meant the organisers knew what needed to be done!

Here's the strava log:


David B. Benson said...

I didn't follow that. You were first by 9 minutes?

James Annan said...

Yes - I didn't actually see the second person come in as I was having my lunch by then.

There were 80 people spread over several hours. It wasn't the most competitive event I've ever entered :-)