Running a marathon in December is either commendable or foolhardy to the extreme! I usually take a 3-4 week break over December and travel to warmer climes. Last year it was Mexico and Belize.
This year after a break between jobs in the summer, I had not enough holiday to take a long break so faced the prospect that many office workers know about, and that’s the assault on the body (i.e. liver!) that the festive season brings. My running to work routine was hampered by all this and I approached the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon feeling jaded and partied out. I figured George Best made a career out of it and Serge Blanco, the legendary French rugby star, didn’t do too badly for his 40 a day Gitanes habit!
Anyway, I knew this would happen staying in London over the Yule period so I figured I’d need something to kick my backside at Christmas. So I had entered the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon as a detox and to teach myself a lesson as much as anything else.
Sunday the 23rd was like much of the rest of December: wet and wild and windy. Grey, overcast and not too cold. I prefer settled and bright and cold, some sunshine to bring the best out of the vistas on a winter run. But it wasn’t to be.
I found myself on the start line with a serious bunch of runners. I figured if anyone wants to run a marathon 2 days before Christmas in an intimate field like this, it must be more than casual marathon and more like a hobby. Well, running is a hobby of mine, but I figured much of the rest of the field hadn’t had the lead up to the race that I had.
So I set off at a steady pace; I knew I wasn’t going to beat my last marathon of 3:34 and didn’t want to injure myself in advance of the 2013 Marathon des Sables which I’m training for. Setting off at a 4:00 hr marathon felt nice and gentle and I soon got into my stride running along the seafront with the wind buffering us along. But by mile 9 I was getting a bit bored. My body always takes a while to get loosened up, generally about 30 minutes into a run and I feel ok. So I pushed on. Getting to the half way point in 1 hr 50 I was 5 minutes behind the turn when I ran my 3:34 time. But happy. The interesting thing about this race, and other ‘out and back’ races, is the way the front runners go back past you with some distance to go to the turn. Quite dispiriting!
All was fine and dandy until about mile 16 when I felt my legs tighten up. I’ve suffered from cramp before and know the signs. At about mile 19 which involved a
run on the actual sea shore, the right hamstring cramped up and I was over like a shot buffalo. 2-3 minutes of hard rubbing and stretching saw it good again and I was able to set off again.
The next 7 miles were pretty much a gentle plod. The party season had taken its toll and I knew my body was dehydrated. Usually cramp gets me on the calves and I’m able to run it off after a few moments. But the warning signs off the hamstrings twitching kept coming and I was being forced to slow down and stretch out against a lamp post every few moments.
I crossed the line in 3 hrs 49 mins, hobbling wooden legged like one of the Thunderbirds puppets and crashed onto the floor of the leisure centre in not some inconsiderable pain. But hey ho, I’d dumped much of the rubbish from my system that I’d consumed the few weeks before and made room for the rest of Christmas.
I wouldn’t advocate the office party season as a time to train, as much as George Best might have done. But I was pleased with a good year, pleased that I could put forward a half respectable time with little proper training, and pleased to have kick started my Marathon des Sables training. Bring it on :O)