It’s too late to worry about it now… by James P Smith

IT’S TOO LATE TO WORRY ABOUT IT NOW…

According to legend, in 490 BC, Pheidipiddes ran the 40km from Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over Persia – with the word “nikomen” – “we win!”; at which point he was given a silver blanket, a blingy medal, a banana, and a flyer for the upcoming Corinth 10k - 2 Tetradrachms off for affiliated Atheneans. (Sub-editor: hang on – did he not drop down dead?). To this day, we celebrate his epic achievement by running through deserted industrial estates and complaining about our sore hamstrings!

I know I bang on about it endlessly, but I haven’t ever done a marathon (I’ve eaten a few though ho ho! Hang on this doesn’t work as a joke at all, as I don’t like milk chocolate very much, so why would I eat a Snickers! And they’ve not been called a Marathon for 29 years – I KNOW! So please let’s all forget I said that!).

Anyway, what I mean is this is very much uncharted territory for me – but since my last update I’ve finally gone further than my previous longest run of 15.5 miles. The great Bruce Tulloh claimed that you could do yourself justice in a marathon if your 5 longest runs added up to 100 miles – really? - good luck with that! To be fair – he ran barefoot – yes… Barefoot… As in “NO TRAINERS”! He doesn’t sound like my kind of go-to-guy at all! On a completely unrelated “Bruce” running theme – I’ve always felt a bit for Bruce Fordyce – who won the Comrades Marathon a record nine times (and London to Brighton 3 years in a row) – after all that amazing running, I’ll still bet that whenever anyone in this country hears the name Bruce Fordyce - the first thing they think is “nice to see you, to see you nice! “ – poor Bruce Fordyce; still he was very good on Play Your Cards Right!

So… I had a go at running 16 miles down the canal (there may be a theme emerging here), and it was fine, more than fine, I ran faster than I was planning to run MK – which completely screwed up my pace planning – but we’ll come to that later. So, feeling strong off the back of the 16, and as I’d forgotten to enter the Oakley 20 until it was full, I last minute entered the MK Festival of Running 20.
And it was (mostly – Campbell Park I’m talking about you) a joyous experience, robots galore, not too busy, and a chance to test out trainer, sock, arm-warmer combinations – useful arm-warmer fact – you can get 2 gels in the top of each arm-warmer if your shorts are too short to have pockets – even with my HUGE GUNS! I broke it down into half hour sections until 16 miles - hitting 16 miles in 1:59:58 – a massive 2 seconds ahead of my dream schedule! I’d done 16 miles before so I knew how that would feel, so each mile was a new experience, although 17 felt fine and 18 too; but at 19 I perceptibly slowed – I didn’t feel that I’d hit any wall, just a bit slower, and mile 20 involves running to the very top of the Campbell Park mound so I’d expected to slow down there anyway. But when I came into the finish the clock said 2:30 – a good 10 minutes faster than I’d planned.

At this point I felt relaxed, and happy that if I could run 20 miles, I could maybe run another 10km – even if I was getting slower; and then I got the email…

“Here are your entry instructions for the Oakley 20” – bum! I’d already entered a year ago, forgotten, and deleted the email – drink “may” have been involved. Could I do another 20 mile race a week later? I know that you should do your long runs at a gentle pace, and these are a bit more racey – and as Johanna Sharples had told me at the MK Festival 20 - “you can’t jog in a vest”; but I’m not all that competitive – I’m really not – truly – I’m a lazy, lazy runner, if I can’t chat/ get on the nerves of my fellow runners I’m not playing. I’m genuinely in awe of runners like Tom, Elle or Paul Little who absolutely empty the tank – I wish I could do that, I just haven’t got it in me. Plus, I wanted a hoody – especially as the word on the street is that it would be “salmon” (genuinely) one of my favourite colours – as it goes so well with aqua (like most of us, I have a lot of aqua) – I am ALL about the complementary palettes…

And Oakley was better (and faster) than the MK Festival 20 – a beautiful course, well marshalled, great weather (which helped). Loads of LFR there to chat to; and although it was hilly, I still managed to run sub 2:30 – a time I could not have comprehended 18 months ago (it was 10 seconds a mile faster than my first club run – for 4 times the distance) – and the hoody was SAPPHIRE – let joy be unconfined!

And so, I have a quandary… assuming I only do one marathon (even I don’t believe this now) – and I have since run another couple of 17 milers down the canal (I know it’s boring, but I can’t get lost or run over), and over 500 miles for the year – twice what I had run by this time last year; how fast do I run at MK? People talk about a marathon being a race of two halves – a 20 mile and a 6 mile race; and that you should start really easy, then wind it up – but let’s be honest – that is NOT going to happen; I am absolutely going to get swept up in the excitement and try to hang on – and maybe that’ll work – I’ve got the miles on my legs after all; I’ll let you know how well that turns out…

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