I did it, my 9th marathon (and my 3rd in 13 days!) which has meant that on joining the Marathon Maniacs I snuck in at the Silver level of maniacedness. The Boyf went in at Gold due to his recent flurry of long runs which included his 77 miles at Spitfire Scramble. I have a feeling I can go up a level if October goes to plan though.
Number 9 took place in Thetford, Norfolk on 13th September. At a mere hour’s drive away I think this could be classed as local and that, along with the fact that it was being put on my our friend Mel, was what drew us to it. This was to be Mel’s first marathon as race director, and I was keen to see what she could put together as someone who ran their 100th marathon at the first SVN event we did back in February. I am totally in awe of Mel as she’s pulled off some amazing achievements including running the Barrow 10 in 10 twice in a 12 month period…that’s 10 marathons in 10 days! Craziness!
We bumped into another parkrun/SVN friend, Ulen, in the pub at the start and once the race got underway we headed off into the distance roughly together. The race was being run on an out and back course from Thetford to Euston (not the London one) and back again. It was also to be the first navigational even that the Boyf and I had done so we opted to run together (2 heads being better than 1), he had the printed instructions and I have the GPS trace on my Garmin Fenix 3. Down through the town and the underpass we were soon on familiar ground as we covered part of the Thetford parkrun course, it wasn’t long before we were suffering our first navigational query and had to call back a couple of runners who went straight on instead of turning left. I think it may have been at this point that Ulen decided running with us might be a good idea as at least there’d be 3 of us lost together and we stuck together for the rest of the race.
The course covers a mix of terrain, from tarmac to sand with grass and uneven track in between. It definitely felt more uneven and rutted on the way back as well! There was also the giant puddle…we had been warned in advance not to try wading through it as it was deeper and stickier than it looked, but we managed to find a clean dry route round it without issue. The weather was not as cool as it was supposed to have been, I think in part it was due to the fact that Helen was running on the same day and she has mythical weather powers drawing hot weather from places unknown even when coolness is predicted. Luckily she was only running a 10km race, so shortly after we reached the halfway turnaround point the sun went in and things cooled a tiny bit.
We were putting in a mix of running and walking. The Boyf was taking the lead from me and Ulen seemed relatively happy easing off a bit from his normal pace as well. I was probably less chatty than they were but then I was running at a pretty fast pace for me so had less spare oxygen for nattering. I was pretty pleased with how things were going and on the way back I was still managing to keep a pretty good pace. I was feeling much better than in my last 2 marathons and was determined just to keep pushing forward, walking when I needed to but maintaining as much running as I could. Things went well on the return and we eased past quite a few other runners, my slowish start paying off. There was one sticky moment when I was picking up speed going downhill and missed a turning, luckily Ulen spotted the “yellow dog” warning sign and hauled me back before I was too far off course. A quick back track and we were soon at the final checkpoint for a final water top up before heading back over the common towards the town.
Typically everything looked different in reverse and we did have a couple of moments in the last 3km where we weren’t entirely sure that we were heading the right way. We were thank goodness, but it was during this grumpy and tired phase that we reached the far point of the parkrun course to see Mel cheering us on. A quick grump and comment that I hoped my goody bag really did have beer in it and we pushed onwards. Coming to the underpass again we called back the runner ahead of us as she missed the turn and we started on the “hill” back up to the finish. I had a plan, that plan was to put in a sprint finish and as we climbed through the town I kicked things up a notch, over-taking the runner we had redirected and pushed hard to complete the race in 5:37:27! I think Ulen was taken by surprise, the Boyf of course knows me well enough that no matter how knackered I am there’s always enough in my legs for a bit of a sprint at the end.
Mel had done a blinding job of choosing a local pub as the start and finish point, so Ulen, the Boyf and I headed in for a well-deserved beer and a sit down. I was suitably stoked to have completed my 3rd marathon in 13 days just over 20 minutes quicker than the first! Even better there was the promised “Norfolk Champion” beer in my goody bag which I enjoyed when we got home.
Well done Mel, the first Marafun Events race was great fun and I wish you every success as you grow the brand and bring more runners to the Norfolk area! The medal was lovely and very fitting having local Queen, Boadicea, on it and the goody bag containing locally brewed ale was a great touch too.