Sundown Marathon 2017


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This morning I ran the Sundown Marathon. It didn’t go quite the way I was hoping, but I think I did better than expected, in that I did at least finish. And I got the highest score I’ve ever had in a marathon – never got over 4 hours before!

Ahem. I guess personal bests don’t quite work like that.

After failing to prepare for the last month, I didn’t do a great job of preparing today either. I slept in until 8am, which was wise, but I didn’t spend the day eating lots of nutritious food. I took Destroyer to the library and read unmemorable books to her until she fell asleep, and then I wheeled her home, put her in her bed and let her sleep for another two and a half hours. In the afternoon I ate chocolate cake (again, not up there on the list of Great Foods For Marathons) and then slept again when I put Destroyer down to bed tonight. Only then, about 9:30, did I have time to start panicking about things like where to fix my race number, which socks to wear, whether my watch and my phone were adequately charged, and so on. Then I tooled down to the race start.

After the week’s debacle of race pack pick-up, it was quite nice that entry to the race itself was fairly well organised. Because I’d said in my application (way back in July of last year) that I expected to run under 4 hours, I was put in one pen, while everyone else was put in slower areas. That meant that it was very easy for me to squeeze my way right to the front at the start line. A bit presumptuous, because I wouldn’t be leading the race, but I wouldn’t be stuck at the start behind hundreds of people trying to figure out how to run forwards.

The MC spent a lot of time yelling. The marathon was meant to start at a minute past midnight, but it got delayed for no apparent reason until quarter past, and then we rushed off. I was trying to use the power on my Stryd to regulate my pace, not going too fast, but I was aiming at a power number that I set when I was well-trained, so that was probably irrelevant. It should have been clear after the first km (4:25) that I was going rather quicker than I had intended. I tried to take my foot off the gas, but the second km was a 4:33 – bear in mind that I was hoping to average 5:30s today, so that was going to overcook things pretty quickly.

At two kilometres in, the course took a sharp left turn. Which the first ten runners didn’t notice and ran straight past, which amusingly meant I was passed by the race leader after 15 or 20 minutes. That was about the only time things were amusing.

I did the first 10k at a good pace, averaging under 5:30. The second 10k wasn’t as quick – I took exactly an hour. And after that, the wheels began to fall off. It wasn’t my heart or lungs, and it wasn’t my legs at that point, but perhaps it was just my mind, not strong enough to force my body to keep running. I found the only way to keep proceeding forwards was to walk for a minute, then run the rest of the kilometre, then walk for another minute. That did me well for a while, and then after the half marathon point things got worse, and I ended up walking for a good 30 minutes. People kept streaming past me – because I’d had such a lightning start, I was well ahead of all the people I should have been running with, but by the time they caught up, they all passed me because now I was quite knackered.

Every ten kilometres was worse than the one before. The course loops back on itself a lot and whenever it did that, it was a knife to my heart – I’d see runners coming towards me, and feel instinctively that the turn around point should be right up ahead – and then of course it was 3 kilometres further way, and my ankles were beginning to protest, and my calves weren’t happy and my heels hurt with every step. The four-and-a-half hour pacers went past me. I jogged after them and kept up for maybe 3 minutes, then was left by the wayside again.

At long last, the marathon and half marathon courses melded together, so everyone could ascend one of the flyovers into town. That was … horrible. Walking up is hard, and then running down is hell on your joints. By now I was running for one song on my phone, then walking, then running again. This was about all I could force myself to do, terrified I’d clock over 5 hours. My mind began to wander. I found myself aggravated by the shape of my shadow, one tuft of hair on the top of my head sticking up too high and making it look like I had some sort of devil horn I was hiding under there.

When we got to the last 2 kilometres, I started jogging and didn’t let myself stop until I got to the end. I finished just under 4:34, and by then my hips were in agony. I searched the race village for a seat to sit upon, but there were none, and I knew that if I lay down on the floor I would never get up.

Previous Sundown Marathons have had a massage area where they rub some life back into your legs. No such thing today. You just got given your tshirt for finishing and your medal (handed to you in a plastic wrapper, rather than draped around your neck, which doesn’t really feel like the ceremony you deserve after running 26 miles (or running and walking and hobbling 26 miles) and then I walked, very gingerly, back to my office, a mile from the race village, where I could shower and rehydrate and mentally prepare myself for going home. Do I hide out here until the kids have gone out to play? Decisions, decisions… Can sleep wait?


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