Loch Rannoch Marathon : Race Report

loch-rannoch-autumn

If you like your marathons to be scenic then this is the marathon for you. With a loop at either end you basically just run round the loch. If you want your marathon to be flat – then this is not the marathon for you. I heard the route called “undulating” but that is a fairly mild description I would suggest. In fact there is an elevation gain of 631 feet!

But let’s cut to the chase. If it’s possible to be disappointed with a 9 minute personal best then that is how I feel about the race. I went into the race more confident than I have ever been for a run. My training had gone superbly; my fitness and strength felt good; I had a clear plan and objective which would see me complete the run under 3 hours 30 minutes.

rannoch

I set off quickly and happily. My plan was to run the first 13 miles at an average pace of 7 minutes 45 seconds a mile. But my competitiveness took over and I tried to keep up with the folk round about me rather than run to my plan. The first two miles were 7:14 and 7:07. I knew I was too fast but reasoned that I could slow down. But it didn’t happen. Mile 3:7:22; 4 :7:10; 5:7:27: 6:7:39: 7:7:24; 8:7:23 and so on. Because I felt strong and confident my heart was telling me : “You’re strong – you can keep this up and slow down on the second half.” My head was telling me that I was too quick and I was going to suffer in the second half. Stupidly I let my heart take control.

My other issue was that the three gels which I had put in the pocket of my shorts had fallen out in the first mile and I had nothing to sustain me other than jelly babies. This was another reason to slow down but again I was stupid.

I completed the half marathon in 1 hour 38 minutes – ridiculously fast. Even at that point I knew I was in trouble. The loop to the half-way point took us uphill and my legs started objecting. After we turned there was another sustained hill which was a real struggle. Mile 14 took 7:52; mile 15 : 8:16. There was a slight recovery in miles 16 and 17 where in a flattish part I recorded 8:03 and 8:02. But I knew even then with 9 miles to go that I was in deep trouble. My right calf was making it’s presence felt; my cadence had dropped; my breathing was laboured; the promised water stations weren’t there and I was getting sick of the jelly babies. I tried every positive strategy I could think of but nothing was working. From there to the finishing line was, to be honest with you, pretty hellish.

To be out of energy with 8 or 9 miles still to go is a horrible feeling. A voice in my head kept saying : “Stop! Give up! You’ve had it!” But I kept putting one foot in front of the other. More than anything I was annoyed with myself for bringing this situation on. Giving up is never a serious option for me. I determined that one way or another I would get across the finishing line. Mile 18 : 8:20; 19: 8:35. After mile 19 I tried to take stock. Physically I was ready to stop. Due to my fast start a decent time was still possible. But my sub 3:30 minutes dream died at that point. I realised how spent I was. I reassessed possibilities. For the first time in my running career I acknowledged that I would allow myself to walk the uphills. I mentally adjusted my target time to sub 3:35. Just then a water station appeared. I stopped and to celebrate downed an entire bottle in seconds. Next mile 9:05. From then on I walked the hills. I now knew what people mean by the expression “hitting the wall”. In great pain and exhaustion I kept going as best I could. Mile 21:8:49; 22:9:05; 23:10.03!; 24:9:37. In the midst of the darkness there were shafts of light. The runners who were passing me gave amazing support and encouragement. Some asked if I was okay; most shouted encouragement  and support. It was fantastic and although I was too exhausted to thank them at the time I unreservedly do so here for helping me keep going. Mile 25:10:12 and mile 26:9:52. Here I am near the end – literally and metaphorically.

rannoch-tired

Even the last 400 metres seemed to take forever. I was keeping to the time required for a sub 3:35 finish – but only just. As I turned for the final finish I turned left too soon. Someone shouted to me to alert me. I tried to change direction but my legs went from me and I fell flat on my face. Somehow I got to my feet and staggered over the finish line. For around 10 minutes I felt a bit ropey but several mugs of tea revived me and I gradually recovered. My time was 3 hours 34 minutes and 39 seconds. But it was a badly run race and I only have myself to blame!

Decision making

Is there anything other than suffering which is more difficult for humans than decision making? No wonder lots of different ways of doing it have been invented.  You can toss a coin. You can draw straws. You can ask a friend. You can draw up a list of pros and cons. You can imagine potential outcomes of a certain decision. You can even take a guess. You can do what inwardly you think you want to.

Perhaps the worst thing you can do is postpone a decision indefinitely.

Personally I like the pros and cons method even though if it doesn’t work out the way I want I sometimes follow my heart.

So here are the pros and cons for attempting another marathon :

Pro :

Gives a definite target to aim for

Gets me fit, healthy and positive

Gives me the chance to get a personal best in an event where I think I can

Wonderful sense of achievement if I succeed

 

Con :

As I get older there are some health risks both in training and the event itself

Training will eat up a lot of time and impact other aspects of life

It’s selfish to do and I need to consider other people in my life

 

The pros are leading 4-3 and I think that’s the way I’m tending.