Thursday, 2 January 2014

First lady or how to feel like a first class Pratt!

December can be a funny month running wise for me. I usually have a lot of travelling to do with work, admittedly mostly to end of year Christmas parties, the weather is invariably not conducive to running and after a hard year’s training and racing the spectre of fatigue raises its ugly and unwelcome head.
Last December I signed up for the Marcothon, a challenge where you have to run every day in December for at least 3 miles or 25 minutes, “anywhere your feet can touch the ground” as the website says. It’s probably the only time of my (running) life where I can honestly say I hated my running, a measly 3 miles felt like the longest of long runs, Oh and the weather was cold to boot. We’d booked a family skiing holiday over Christmas and when I scoped out the hotel gym on arrival, I admit I was relieved to find the treadmill was kaput, so after 21 consecutive days running I was out. My rationale for signing up had been to offset the calories and overindulgence of aforementioned Christmas parties, but my heart probably just wasn't in it.
The only enjoyable element was the unofficial “battle of the poets” that I indulged in with fellow Dumfries Harrier Ian Gray, where we posted increasingly corny and contrived poems recording our daily efforts on Facebook.
I then spent most of this year telling anyone who would care to listen, all the good reasons why I’d rather walk over hot coals than sign up for the Marcothon again. As December drew closer and all my fellow Harriers concurred that running for 31 days in December was just bonkers, played no part in any training schedule and liable to stuff my already fatigued legs, my resolve hardened.

Marcothon wasn’t going to happen!

By mid-November, my packed social schedule of Christmas parties was steadily mounting… Two Lunches in London, running club party in Dumfries, Christmas lunch in Liverpool, office party in Glasgow and works night out in Dumfries, I could feel the calories mounting and the pounds piling on, but I hadn’t enjoyed Marcothon so there was no way I was signing up for it.

The 2013 Marcothon Facebook page went live, and amid much social media buzz, I didn’t accept the invite, my resolve was strong!
I mentioned to a running buddy that I was giving Marcothon a miss this year, because for a seasoned runner like me (cough cough) it’s of no benefit (are you starting to hear the sound of petards being hoisted yet?). Her response was “you have to do it, we all loved your poems”, but no I’m a firm, determined individual, I resisted her womanly charms.

I actually made it all the way to November 30th before my feeble willpower crumbled, six Christmas parties, hundreds of miles of travelling, I can see what’ll happen. Without the discipline of a challenge or the pressure of an imminent big race, I’ll end up not running much, drinking far too much and developing a figure like Humpty Dumpty, so I signed up, I’m a 2013 Marcothoner!
Bizarrely having hated just about every moment of it last year, I actually quite enjoyed it this year. The biggest challenge was been planning how to actually going to fit runs into my schedule. I started off with a head torch run round Mabie Forest; I’ve resorted to hotel treadmills a couple of times. I set of for a 3 miler from my London Hotel and ended up doing 9 miles taking photos of the central 
Albert Hall, all lit up
London landmarks at night. I’ve had a couple of my regular Weekend long trail runs. I delivered our local Xmas cards on one run; I’ve had a few hangover/post party “runs”. I’ve worked out a couple of circular roads runs from my offices in Larbert and Lockerbie and squeezed in 4 miles at lunchtime, although neither me or my works colleagues are a fan of my post run toilet sink wash-downs. I’ve run in the dark, in a gale wearing full Gore-Tex waterproof tops and bottoms and I’ve run up and down a 300m stretch of pavement in a deluge just to get in 4 miles.

So when Andy suggested a change in our weekend routine, I jumped at it. Let’s try the Carlisle ParkRun on the Saturday before Christmas, after all its only 3 miles and then we can do our usual long trail run on the Sunday, ideal.
The other attraction was that the course record for the venue’s 5km run is 18 minutes and change; surely with our athletic pedigree we’d be pushing for highly placed finishes?

Having registered post Thursday’s Glasgow Xmas party, pay attention now! This will be relevant later; I printed off my barcode and arranged to meet Andy at Chances Park Carlisle, giving ourselves ample time for a proper warm-up.
Sadly the weather gods contrived to mess up our well intentioned warm-up plan and Saturday dawned chilly and very windy, we managed a half-hearted jog of around 500m then joined the 80 or so souls who’d turned out. Our minimal recce has also suggested that the course was “undulating”, runner-speak for hilly!

A quick welcome brief and we were off, a really nice mix of runners; joggers; kids and adults; people with dogs and prams (one or the other I hasten to add), serious Lycra clad and seasonal fancy dress.
Andy shot off like the proverbial racing snake, I think we were both taken by surprise by the informality of the start (no count down, just GO!), I dodged dogs, runners and small humans until I found a comfortable pace, 200 metres in and it was obvious that the wind was not going to play nicely today.

The route is three times round a rough figure of 8, probably 60% on tarmac paths and 40% on grass and is not, I suspect one of the faster ParkRun courses. The grass was saturated, heavy and lumpy so my choice of road shoes was less than optimal, as I skidded round the first corner, narrowly avoiding an ignominious face plant. Even the transitions from grass to tarmac were tricky with the tarmac rapidly acquiring a nice lubricating coat of mud. Around half way round, you turn onto a longish straight uphill tarmac path, unfortunately with the wind dead against us, for the first time in a race I actually thought was going to come to a stop!
With each lap I was closing the gap on Andy, and by 2.5 miles I thought I was in with a whisker of being able to catch him, I knew I was slowing (7:14; 7:19 & 7:28 my eventual splits), but I guessed we both were. One last turn and about 50m to the finish, I unleashed the world famous Ainslie sprint finish.

For those unfamiliar with this athletic phenomenon, it’s not so much Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire and lithe gazelle, more charging Zulu horde; puffing Billy steam train, face contorted like Ivana Trump, charging elephant style. If you cannot hear me coming you must be deaf or dead!
I nudged past Andy just before the line, clocking 22:31 and 14th and 15th position respectively, not fast but not bad considering the weather and underfoot conditions. After a recuperative cup of tea and a bacon buttie I headed home, driving through a deluge of rain of biblical proportions and thankful that but for the decision to ParkRun we’d have been long running through it, or trying anyway. Finishing of my Christmas shopping and eagerly awaiting my email from ParkRun HQ confirming my time, this duly pinged into my inbox just before teatime….

“Congratulations on completing your 1st ParkRun and your 1st at Carlisle today. You finished in 14th place and were the 1st lady out of a field of 88 parkrunners and you came 1st in your age category VW50-54…”
Yup you’ve guessed it, in my post party hangover haze I’d registered myself as a lady, I felt like a complete Pratt, mostly for denying the actual and rightful first lady due credit.

As far as Marcothon, well yes I did complete it this year, logging 203 miles for the month, penning some half decent poems and some pretty execrable ones too.
Did I enjoy it? yes I suppose I did. Would I do it again? Not sure. Is there any training benefit? On the face of it I’d have said “no”, but on my shorter runs, I was consistently running faster paces than last year (Okay, not on the post party runs) and I finished on the 31st with my fastest ever time round the 18 miles of the purple trail route at Mabie Forest.

I did toy briefly with the idea of doing a review of 2013, until I saw George Reid’s review of his 2013. George organises the fabulous D33Ultra in Aberdeen (which I’ll be doing for the 3rd year, this year) and I’m unashamedly going to copy George’s review.
2013 I did some epic shit!

All the best for 2014


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