I wasn’t really supposed to be at the Milton Keynes Marathon. As some of you will know, I was meant to take part in Manchester in April, but succumbed to a nasty tummy bug the day before – the story of that nightmare is here. But after all my training I still wanted to do a spring marathon, and Milton Keynes seemed to fit the bill, being just four weeks after Manchester. I wasn’t really sure what to do to prepare in the month between the two events, but in the end settled for another two weeks of training followed by a two week taper.
The bank holiday weather forecast was glorious, which made me a little apprehensive as I’ve never run a marathon in warm conditions before. We gingers tend to perform better in the cold! I did my best to keep well hydrated in the few days leading up to the event and applied plenty of sunscreen. The start of the race was a pleasantly chilled affair – a relief not to have the usual manic mass-start warm-up where they attempt to get people with cold muscles to do static stretching. I found the four hour pace man, and my plan was to stick with him for as long as I could and see what happened.
The first few miles seemed quite fast for four hour pace, which should be 9:09. The pacer was a little ahead of me, but not getting any further away, yet the mile split times on my Garmin kept coming up at under nine minutes. I felt slightly uneasy when I remembered what had happened when I set off too fast at the Yorkshire Marathon (I got a stitch around mile 18), but felt OK so decided to stick with it. The sun was blazing down, but I didn’t feel overly hot and tried to drink as much as possible. We were certainly well provided for drinks-wise, with water every three miles and Gatorade Perform energy drink at three stations. There were also two High 5 gel stations at miles 12 and 18. I’d tested both of these in training and had also taken an SiS Go gel of my own at six miles.
I saw Steve at mile 8 and felt great. However, a couple of miles later my belly began to feel a bit odd – I’m not sure why. It’s something that’s never happened to me before and felt really uncomfortable. Perhaps it was the combination of all the different energy products! I started to slow down a bit and the four hour man began to recede from sight. I still thought he was going a bit fast though! “OK”, I thought, “I can only do my best now. Maybe I can still get a PB”. The next few miles were a bit tough, especially as the course was much more undulating than I’d expected; however, the scenery was lovely. Milton Keynes is a very green place, and the course took us through some beautiful parks and along off-road tracks and paths. Crowd support was fantastic in the second half, with people cheering us on and offering water, orange slices, jelly babies, flapjack and cooling hosepipes.
When the sun went in for a while I began to feel a bit better and rallied slightly from about mile 20 onwards. I had to stop once to stretch a bit of cramp out of my calves towards the end, but otherwise felt OK. The final part of the race in the MK Dons stadium was fantastic! Running in through the tunnel and around the track to the finish was brilliant, with people in the stands clapping and shouting encouragement. It was almost worth going just for that – I felt like a proper athlete! In the end I was a couple of minutes outside my PB at 4:09, but still really enjoyed the event.
I’d really recommend this marathon to anyone who isn’t a PB-chaser. For those who find road marathons boring, the course is more interesting than most, especially in the second half. Everything seemed really well organised, with efficient bag drop and changing facilities in the stadium – and plenty of toilets! Quite a nice bit of bling too, for those who like that sort of thing. My only very small gripe is that the four hour pacer finished in 3:55. Not that it mattered to me in the end, but it might have to some, especially on such a warm day. For anyone for whom time really matters I would say Manchester is the better course for a PB. But on the whole I had a great time – thank you Milton Keynes!
I’ll be taking things a bit easier running-wise and doing more cycling until mid-June, when I start training for the Berlin Marathon. Hopefully that one will be a bit cooler and flatter!