Taking the positives. So many positives

42.2 kilometers of largely solitary running. A little over 5 hours of what ranged from mild discomfort to rather difficult out and out pain. An achievement no-one can ever take away from me.

Jersey Marathon 2016 will be memorable for sure. It will always be my first marathon. It probably won’t be my only marathon now, but it will be the first of a very small number of them.

I was reasonably sure beforehand it would be my only one ever, but I didn’t think that through properly. My wife is doing the corresponding event next year and I’d be delighted to just support the way she did for me, but somehow that’s probably less likely than both of us running it. There’s also the small matter of a London Marathon ballot which I’m already entered into and will likely not stop entering into until I get in.

So it’s my first of two/three marathons then. (I reserve the right to change those numbers in the future)

I’ve been asked a few times since the race “how did you do?”. How I answer very much depends on who asked. A fellow first-time marathoner asked – it was “not so good. You know I hurt my foot last week. Well it wasn’t really any better but I got through”. Another runner asked and I replied –  “I did OK. It was tough but I set out to do something, decided early on I couldn’t do that, so adjusted my goal to enjoy the race more” but that runner completed London in a bit over 5 and a half hours so understood what it was about.

The guys I work with asked how it went and gave me a brief round of applause this morning. I’ve said it before but any of them could do what I’ve done but I’ve learned to just take the praise. “You’re an inspiration” I’ve had said to me a few times now. It amazes me. It truly does.

The truth is that all of the above is true. I did OK / relatively poor in terms of time – 80% of marathoners in the UK have run faster this year and I finished about an hour after where I planned to. But I did great because 99% of the population haven’t finished a marathon at all. I did and as I said right at the top here, no-one ever can take that away from me. I’m still not sure about being an inspiration, but I’m probably not the person to judge that.

So race day then. Before the race felt like pretty much every other race we’ve done and let’s be honest, there’s been a few of those during the past year and a bit. A bit more organised eating to fuel me for the race ahead but nothing out of the ordinary otherwise.

The start was slow and steady. As expected the width of the roads for the start couldn’t really hold the number of people wanting to run at similar speeds. I’ve done much of the run around town once before with my wife and it seemed to drag on forever. But yesterday it seemed to be over in no time at all. After a couple of miles I was even chatting to the four-hour pace runner and having a lovely time.

Except I kind of wasn’t. My head was strong but my body – specifically my right foot and ankle – were not. Just past the first relay change at about 5km I decided to drop from the four-hour group and run my own race. I ran reasonably steadily up Waterworks Valley but felt it necessary to walk a few times. Less so towards the top but I finished about 9 minutes down on schedule. Not too bad.

The third leg of the event started with a longer walk at which point a few friendly faces seemed to be around. Someone I used to work with and then someone else who seemed set for a similar speed to me. But my body wasn’t up to keeping up with them. I was just in too much pain although I’d imagine that a few extra kilometers of uninterrupted running can’t have been bad. The way I remember it now I saw a couple of friends along this bit of the route but as one of them was a relay runner who shouldn’t have been anywhere near there that now doesn’t really make sense.

I enjoyed a little banter with a marshal just before the third relay change. Well if you’re going to say to everyone around me that they’ve got four more minutes to run then I think it’s only fair I was given the same opportunity surely. At the third change I had the great pleasure of seeing my better half for a bit. It was good to talk through a few things that had gone before, but she rightly told me to get on with it too.

The run down to Corbiere and back was fairly uneventful but I think a visiting runner was unimpressed that I’d forgotten about the length of the climb back up towards Les Quennevais. I just don’t see it all as a climb but yes I suppose much of it is a little uphill. It was certainly tough for me though seeing me take another few walks and giving up another quarter of an hour against my plan.

The gravel sections of the race were particularly tough for me and sadly most of those happened to be downhill which are pretty much the two worst things for my foot and ankle. The run down from the fourth relay change to the coast was tough and actually mainly involved walking. And the effort along the coast mainly involved walking too – no less than 18 times according to Strava for a cost of not far short of a half hour.

You see my ankle just wasn’t right. I think ever since I hurt it a few weeks ago it wasn’t right. Hurting my foot at Parkrun last week just made the whole thing worse. During the race my ankle rolled out on pretty much every one of the 46,000 or so steps I took and by the time four hours had been completed my knee had got fed up with supporting the rest of me against that ankle. The pain was just too much for someone who plans to race many more times in the future. I wasn’t prepared to push my body harder than I did, given that adrenaline for me has masked a lot of pain in the past.

I speeded up a fraction over the last mile and eventually stopped the clock at 5 hours 9 minutes and 19 seconds. I had someone at the finish waiting to catch me if I fell over the finish line but I didn’t. I was quite fresh because of only really being able to put in, say, 70% effort because of pain taking over. It’s actually only today a day and a half later that the muscle soreness is starting to take effect. But as I finished I was OK.

I ran slower than my four-hour goal by a pretty big margin but I did run pretty well. I broke every single best for every distance I record at 15 miles or beyond. I ran my fastest ever half-marathon excluding those events that were a stand alone half marathon. I ran an hour and 10km longer than ever before. It was strong for all of us.

And that was pretty much that. The atmosphere around the finish area was excellent and we stuck around for an hour or so just enjoying it and enjoying a well earned drink too. I’ll have my complaints (the event photographer being more interested in arty shots rather than the serious business of taking photos of as many participants as you can) but it was a well run and very well supported event.

And yes I’ll probably be back next year to do it all again. Now if someone could arrange to do my training for me that would be lovely. Thanks.

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