Yesterdays Portsmouth Coastal Marathon proved once again what a great city we live in, and what an absolutely awesome and supportive community of runners we have here. On that point, I’d like to start my blog post by congratulating and saying a huge thanks to Rob Piggott and the team who put on yesterdays Portsmouth Coastal Marathon. Those who live locally or who visit regularly through the year for the running will know of all the different themed events that are put on. The runs and races here keep growing in popularity and demand and bring together a great community of like minded people to enjoy the outdoor fun. How Rob always manages to stay so calm and collected on the days leading to the event is hard to grasp but a very well done to you for making participants lives to so easy. The runs are very good value for money.
So, the marathon itself. What is there to say? Probably a fair bit actually, so here goes. The event organisation was second to none. Communication was done mostly via email and was always clear and concise. The usual Facebook event page made it easy to ask questions when people were not sure. That format seems standard now for events and races around the globe. Race number collection was easy and local and it’s nice having two options so that you can either pick up your number earlier that week, or wait until the morning. I always like getting mine before hand, although I’m not sure why really? Peace of mind maybe. I like to touch and feel my race number…. mmmm. No, not in a freaky way – just nice to have it!
Morning of the race my good friend and I took a walk to the start. That gave us exactly one mile of chit chat and pre race nerve discussions. Comparing breakfasts and mainly discussing race plans and how fast to pace the first mile. Quite normal for us runners. Arriving at the Pyramids centre an hour or so before the race was perfect timing. Boy was it busy inside. Hundreds of runners just preparing final bits and pieces, getting photos and having last minute discussions. Loved the atmosphere though. I bumped into quite a few people I knew and wished everyone all the best. I also had a quick chat with the team from Runr who were at the stall with their wonderful hoodies and various running kit. Runr is a brand you see and hear a lot about in the area now. Definitely head over to chat with those guys when you are next at an event as they are experienced runners and very friendly. Their brand is now on the Portsmouth Coastal finishers shirt too! Once I knew I had everyone I needed on me I checked my bag into the holding area and headed over to the start. What a delight to hear the wonderful sound of the bagpipes, being superbly played by a fellow pipe band member, Andrea. A few years ago I was the bagpiper for the coastal marathon and I remember walking the runners down to the start. This time around I was in the crowds and wormed my way right to the front in order to get a good listen to the piping (….and try and sneak a fast start in too). There was a short pause at the start line and before long we had a ten second countdown and then we were off! Loads and loads of beeping as our bibs went over the sensors….
Surprisingly, there was a huge amount of fast starters yesterday. When I ran the 50k last year there were only a couple of us at the front but here there were about fifty runners all steaming off at about 6:30 minutes per mile. A very fast group indeed. I soon slowed into my desired pace and then by the time we made it onto the muddy beach and back onto the paving I was steady and settled. At about mile three I was greeted by a runner I recognised from last years 50k ultra (see my post here). Gavin and I had run together a year before and I recall we had chatted that day for quite some time. What a coincidence it was as we again found ourselves in a similar spot and running more or less at the same pace! We ended up running together for about 18 miles for this marathon which was just fantastic. Really good company and great running chat. We both encouraged and were encouraged by runners passing by. Just another great thing about running generally. Plenty of high fives were dished out and it was great seeing all the fancy dress. The terrain on the course was so much better than last year. The work that has been done to flatten and make good on the trails really made a difference. There were still muddy sections, especially on the way back once the grass had all been trodden in, but it was still very easy under foot compared to last year.
At mile 21, Gavin who I’d been running with had a bit more pace in the legs than I could manage and so he headed off ahead of me. I then had a short running battle with a dog on a lead, who seemed to be pulling him along like some kind of sled-like arrangement. I chatted to him briefly and asked if the dog was good for the distance, which he seemed to be perfectly fine with. I had been trying to overtake them, but as we reached the top of the Eastern road on the return leg, I got around the corner ahead of them and then managed to gain some pace back in the legs. By this time I was hurting a lot. I knew I hadn’t drunk enough out of the two small bottles of squash that I had because it was all still there! I’d had three gels only and didn’t think it was worth it at this point for a fourth one. I knew there was only a few miles to go now so it was just a case of putting my head down and going for it. At mile twenty two my friend Richard met up with me and he ran the final few miles back to the finish line, helping to keep my mind off of the pain and assuring me I was going to get a PB. The muddy beach had been properly softened and was a bit harder to navigate coming back. On the seafront portion I managed to overtake about six runners from the Eastney pool to the finish line. I must admit that I don’t enjoy over taking runners near to the finish. It doesn’t feel good, but I do always try and encourage other runners to keep going, even if it is just an out of breath shout out. I was trying to also not give away that my calves were both cramping with every step.
At the finish line I had a group of friends and family waiting for me. My kids and friends kids all joined me through the finish line which was just amazing. I loved every second of that. The lovely team on the otherside of the finish line offered me some booze which made my stomach do knots and so I opted to take a bottled version of the beer home with me. Now, the medal was handed to me and I was shocked at how large it was! It’s certainly been the topic of many conversations since the run. I gave it to my daughter to wear around her neck and she handed it back to me ten minutes later saying her neck was sore! Haha! Good job there Rob, although next year I may do some gym workouts to ensure I can actually carry it home 😉 No really, it’s a fantastic medal.
Things I liked most about this run apart from the obvious and already mentioned things were the people. Both the organisers and the participants. The supporters too. All incredible people. I think the running community here in Portsmouth is a real special one. We all share the pain, the ups and downs. No matter how often you run, where you run, we are all runners. We share that special connection and I think that’s what makes it so invaluable. Running is an activity open to everyone. Anyone who wants to do it can. It is healthy. It is hard. It’s challenging and yet so rewarding. Our play grounds are all outside of the front door and that playground connects us all together. I am so pleased I found running and I look forward to sharing many more memories out on the roads and trails.
Oh, before I sign off and end this, here are a few post event photos and a few shout outs to those I encountered during the day. Right, first off, these two gents and good friends, Colin and Jason. For those who have read previous blogs of mine will remember that Jason and I ran our first 100k together this year (blog is here). Colin is tackling his first 55 miler early next year and we hope to be joining him in some training runs soon.
The next bunch are really special and without them we would not even be able to run. The good wives and children and friends and family. Some are missing from the photo, but they are there in spirit! You are all wonderfully supportive in what can be a very selfish sport. I need to mention that you are all fantastic in the support you provide behind the scene. I know my wife always does the early morning wake ups with the kids on Sunday when I am usually out pounding the miles on Portsdown Hill. I love you guys a lot. Mum, sister and brother in law – you guys are great coming down to support and look out for me at the end. It really is encouraging having you there at the end! x
To everyone else I saw – there are too many to mention. Gavin, thanks for the support most of the way around dude. Amazing stuff. I hope we get to run some more in the future. Remember to stay away from those moody runners who don’t like talking 😉 To the guys I saw along the route, Ben, Del, Claire, Kiernan (great support man!). Haylew Newell, a huge congratulations on completing the marathon and coming back to face those demons. Grant, our fantastic Southsea parkrun Event Director, it was great to see you and well done on completing your qualifier for next years Comrades marathon – wishing you well and if you ever fancy a long run let me know. Richard for the support running back along the Eastern road – thanks! You’ve been a good source of running knowledge with your easy and logical approach to racing. Mark and Sally, great to see you down there and Mark I hope to see you at next years event perhaps (that’s a challenge by the way)! Well done Simon B on your marathon run. I’ve been watching your training runs and you’ve put in a huge amount of effort over the months. Simon decided to recover and run home too! I know I’ve missed loads, but my fingers are done now. I have a half drunk Guiness Porter calling out to me.
See you all on route! x