Salomon Kielder Marathon 2013
Gun Time: 04:57:34
Chip Time: 04:56:04
Age category (Male Senior): 233rd/274
Halfway split: 02:19:14
Medal – oh yes. Plus a t-shirt, a pair of socks, water, banana, cereal & protein bars, and ALL OF THE CAKE.
So, one day, having been inspired by a certain ultrarunner & her ultra friends, and somewhat on a whim (after all, these people run 50, 100+ miles at a time, how hard could a tiddly 26.2 miles be?) – I decided that I would enter a marathon. Following a heap of discussions about running, and a bit of practice over the summer of last year and the early part of this year, I decided that I actually quite like this trail-running malarkey. It’s certainly more aesthetically appealing than bashing out mile after mile on tarmac. Small problem – compared to road races there’s not that many trail marathons about. Big road races – generally big costs, and big numbers of people. Small road races – cheaper, but frequently full of machine-like individuals & racing snakes. While I don’t mind that I’m not at the front, I didn’t really fancy being right at the back either.
So, a bit of google-fu and oh, what’s this? A trail marathon you say? Around Kielder Water you say? Well, why the devil not…and before my brain could stop me, I had committed myself to taking part in the 2013 Salomon Kielder Marathon. Naturally, one cannot reasonably expect to complete such an undertaking without doing some substantial training, so with the assistance of RWR, a slightly modified version of Hal Higdon’s “Novice 1” training plan was embarked upon.
Before I really knew it, October had arrived, and RWR & I were on a train to Newcastle with a suitcase full of running kit. Then it was race day.Alarm at 0550, breakfast at 0600 (good work by the hotel staff), start fighting the pre-race nerves. Kit was donned :
Stonehaven Running Club t-shirt
2XU calf guards
Nike Dri-fit cap
Mizuno Waverider 16 shoes
Number on, chip on, outer layers on & it was off to get the bus to the race. I was a bit nervous about the bus journey, knowing RWR’s issues with travel sickness, but fortunately we managed to wangle our way into the “pilot’s seat” – i.e. front row, top deck & I think that may have helped. The earache/tinnitus/deafness induced by the impromptu “Livestock Identification 101” class conducted by the person behind us has been covered elsewhere, so let us proceed.
We got to the start/finish area at about 0900, and then set about the sensible actions of finding a loo, and then working out where our bags went, having a look around for anyone else we knew, greeting the inevitable blog-readers saying hello to RWR, and getting into the right headspace for the race. We huddled together trying not to think about the bitingly cold breeze or the drizzle that kept threatening to settle in above us…
At this point, I was actually becoming a little nervous – “you f*&$ing idiot, you’re about to run a marathon, WTF were you thinking?” – however I naturally maintained a stoic & unflappable exterior, deployed my usual self-deprecating humour, and worked on banishing thoughts of DNFing from my mind. Soon enough – off to the starting scrum, with the usual panic when one’s Garmin (other GPS devices are available) resolutely refuses to find a signal…fortunately a few choice oaths & it opted to behave. Assorted wisecracks with fellow runners (either masking my mounting terror, or being the equivalent of having a flashing neon sign above my head saying “I’m bricking it!” – you decide), then the hooter went & we were off, sticking to our plan of a) not going off like lunatics & b) finishing in 4h 30m. Nice & easy does it lad, and try not to get put off by the three people running beside you with sloshing CamelBaks full of air…
Around the tarmac loop, past the finish line (to much cheering from the spectators), and then off onto the trails…game on. I can definitely say that the billing of this as being Britain’s most beautiful marathon is pretty accurate, and although by this point the drizzle was definitely with us for the long haul, the views were still quite lovely.
I confess, I don’t have a superbly detailed memory of much of the race, but one thing that sticks in my mind is that if you like flat races – don’t do this one. “Undulating” is one way to describe the terrain, and another is “up & down like a harlot’s undergarments“. The only horizontal section was after about 17.5 miles, when we ran across the top of Kielder Dam. More on that in a minute though. As we were passing mile 10-ish, we passed two notable landmarks – the Janus Chairs (three large, rotating seats that offer shelter & views across Kielder Water), and the unmistakeable (and highly apposite) features of the former England & British Lions rugby player Roger Uttley who was marshaling, and shouting encouragement to the runners. An excellent player in his time, even if he did play for the wrong team. 😉
As we approached halfway, the rain got a little heavier, but it was fortunately doing a better job of keeping us cool than of making the race unpleasant. The windier sections were definitely in the latter category though, and we deployed some unconventional running styles inspired by the sounds of some recently-popular K-pop floating across the water from the finish area.
Earlier, I mentioned that there would be drinks stations – these were provided something like every 3-4 miles around the course, and they provided us with water & ‘Isoconiq’ sports drinks. I can honestly say that those were absolutely lush, and I was always happy to get hold of one.
At some point between halfway & the dam (blessed flat running!), the various pains started to make themselves felt; one along the top of my left foot (1st metatarsal area), my hamstring on the same leg was tightening up which was making my piriformis and my knee hurt, and my right ITB was tightening up & giving me some pain in that knee as well. Crossing the dam helped a bit as it gave us a rest from the previously-incessant uphill/downhill running, but it was also dreadfully exposed to the wind.
When we turned slightly right after crossing the dam, that brought us into the teeth of the wind and being completely honest, that was where my mindset started to go a bit downhill. I’d realised that this lunacy was going to be uncomfortable. I’d realised that it would hurt – I’d done (I thought) the best I could at preparing myself, by breaking through 20 miles twice in training. I’d made sure that all my kit was broken in, I wasn’t wearing anything that I hadn’t done a long run in, and yet… The next 8 miles are a bit of a haze; every step hurt (no exaggeration), my left knee felt like someone was stabbing me through the back of it, my right like someone was jamming a knitting needle through it from right to left; my previously trustworthy Twinskins had raised blisters on both big toes, one of them felt like it had burst. I was cold, and wet through. I knew it was going to hurt, but I’d had no idea that it was going to hurt this much. We walked up every significant hill. I cried, more than once – mostly this was masked by the rain.
Fortunately, by this point RWR had realised that I was not in a good place, and also knew that how I would probably deal with this was by getting angry, and then by getting angry at myself, using the anger to drive myself on & refusing to be beaten by my own body. A side effect of this is that I may become just a teensy bit snappy with anyone within a ten-foot radius, so RWR ran slightly ahead of me & let me follow her footsteps along the course, whilst quietly raging at myself.
From mile 20 to mile 23, I wanted nothing more than to just stop, walk, crawl into the closest bank of shrubbery; give up. That’s not a particularly comfortable or pleasant thing to write (even now I can feel the heat of shame spread across my face), and it’s a downright nasty thing to have to deal with when you are out on a hard marathon course, miles from anything or anywhere. I just kept my eyes focused on RWR’s feet, and concentrated on deploying the simplest instruction about running – start at the start line, put one foot in front of the other, and keep doing that until you get to the finish.
Slowly, very slowly, the distance markers ticked past until finally I saw the signs counting down to the finish, and supporters started to appear, encouraging us on. As has been covered in RWR’s report, I accepted all of this encouragement with good grace & a charming smile…er…hang on. Sorry guys – poor show. :-/
We found ourselves back on some tarmac, up one last incline, round a corner, and finally – the finishing line was in sight. At this point I finally managed to ignore the pain in the lower half of my body and, to borrow a phrase from a rugby friend of mine, “open my legs & show them my class” – deploying a final mystifying burst of speed to cross the line side-by-side with RWR. Just like that – it was over.
I wasn’t really in the mood for celebrating – I was in too much pain for that, and although I *was* glad that the race was over (bloody hell – I did it!), my immediate focus was on the pain, which most definitely was NOT over. I clearly didn’t leave the best impression of myself at the finish line, so to the ladies working there – I apologise. I can’t remember if I made any apology at the time. :-/ I was *very* glad of the foil space blanket/victory cape, and we then moved at my maximum hirpling speed to the finish tent, where some brave soul hung a medal around my neck. Then I was given a goody bag containing some most excellent race swag; tech tee, bananas, energy/protein bars, water, coconut water, and a pair of socks (never seen that happen before). I hobbled into the baggage tent to get changed out of as much of my decidedly soggy race kit as possible, and then I was hell-bent on getting a post-race massage. I don’t know how, but I trundled up & got the next slot – which was in 10 minutes. I collapsed onto a chair in shock & waited my turn, while RWR took my bag & went to check that none of the cakes were poisoned. 😉
The massage did enough to take the edge off the assorted muscular & ligament-y pains that I had collected, and then it was time for tea & cake, and to wait for our bus back to Newcastle. Which conveniently decided to blow up, leaving us stuck on the A69 for two hours. Fortunately the grass bank beside the lay-by was dry, sheltered, and quite comfortable, so I made myself comfortable & engaged in some banter & witty repartee with our fellow stranded passengers (fortunately my sense of humour had come back by this point).
We eventually made it back to Newcastle, where we proceeded directly to the nearest Wetherspoons, I inhaled the largest burger they could provide me with in 5 minutes flat (much to RWR’s amazement – I am usually a slow eater), and we dropped our excess kit at the hotel & went straight to Brewdog for a couple of beers.Some final thoughts: It took me a few days, but I am finally proud to have managed to complete a marathon. OK I walked in places, but I still made it. Not as fast as I would have liked to have finished it, but then I suppose, with my missing hamstring to even be able to run that far in any time is an achievement. (Ed. note: – Kynon badly tore his left hamstring in a rugby accident in 2003 which took him nearly a year to fully recover from. As a result the hamstring tendons are severely shorter on his left side).
Since the marathon I’ve run a 10km trail race on RWR’s birthday, a 4-mile tempo run, and 6 miles along the cinder path that runs alongside the Cleveland Way between Robin Hood’s Bay & Whitby , so at least my legs still work – but as for what they will be doing next… well, that remains to be seen.