This was one I entered after doing the Great South Run in Portsmouth a couple of months ago, it was one I’d had on my races to do list for a while, so it was good to tick this one off. However an 8:35am start made for a tough 5:45am alarm and even when I arrived at the start around 7:30am it was still dark, although the sun was just starting to peek over the horizon. Parking and registration was quick and easy (you don’t need any unnecessary stress before a marathon) and I had time to get some nice shots of the sun coming up over the Solent and the Isle of Wight.
Despite all the wet and gloomy weather of the last few days (a number of local parkruns in Kent fell victim to flooded courses) the sun came up and we had clear blue skies, although with a chilly early morning breeze. I had no particular time to aim for, but decided to head out 10 minute mile pace and see what happened. The course heads out east from Southsea along the coast and then after a brief section through a residential area we came out alongside Langstone Harbour. At that point you can pretty much see where you’re running to and how far it is, as the harbour is pretty big!
The next couple of miles were on a harbour side trail, with the mud and puddles a sign of things to come later. After you cross the bridge and leave Portsmouth you then follow a tarmac cycle path for a couple of miles alongside a busy road, but with fabulous views if you looked the other way. I’d settled into a steady pace clocking just below 10 minutes miles by this point. Despite a field of just under 900 and some narrow paths there was never any problems with crowding on the course and it was easy enough to settle into a steady rhythm.
The fun started once we came off the cycle path and headed onto the trails alongside the north east corner of the harbour. There was plenty of slippery mud to contend with as well as a stretch along a shingle beach. This section took us to the bridge across to Hayling Island, where we picked up the old railway line which would take us to the turnaround point at halfway. This section was basically a non-stop succession of deep puddles and more mud! Keeping my feet dry wasn’t really an option, but that’s all part of the fun of these type of races. As an aside passing me in the opposite direction I saw Mr Parkrun himself Paul Sinton-Hewitt who was en route to a qualifying time for the Comrades Marathon. Well done and good luck Paul!
Despite the course being almost completely flat the underfoot conditions were starting to tell on my legs as I headed back towards the bridge off the island and the pace was starting to slow to around 10:15-10:30 pace, and as we headed back to the east side of the harbour and the home stretch I was really finding it hard going. As another aside I had one of my better runs as far as my stomach was concerned. I used my hydration pack with water in the bladder and sports drink in the soft flasks. I took a couple of dark chocolate and nut Eat Natural bars and ate one and most of the other, and my stomach seemed fine for once. I think running in cooler conditions helped but it was nice not to finish a race feeling sick for once.
Back to the race and at around the 22/23 mile point I decided to go to a run-walk strategy, going with a 3 minute run/2 minute walk approach which was something I came up with during my first walking section. As it happens it was actually quite effective, and I didn’t slow too much as a result. I finally crossed the line in 4:39, so it was pleasing to just dip under 4:40 in the end. I was also pleased that it was only a few metres walk/hobble to the car!
The only downside of the day was having to drive home after running and I was feeling pretty tired so opted for a snooze at the services on the way back followed by a very delicious McDonald’s, and then a couple of beers to round the day off after I’d got home.
That’s it for this year as far as races go. There is a local end of year 10 miler just down the road on Sunday but I’ll just do a couple more parkruns (weather permitting) and that’ll do for 2019.
I’ll be back with an end of year review, but in the meantime I hope everyone has had a very Merry Christmas!