As part of my training for the Milton Keynes Marathon in May, I decided that maybe I needed to add a few races into my calendar, and an e-mail about the Oulton Park Half Marathon popped into my inbox the other week, offering me a reduced price entry as I am doing another race with that company soon. It’s not far from home, easy to get to and the weather forecast for the day was deemed to be great for running (yes, I did check before I entered!) so off I went, armed with jelly babies, warm clothing and my #1 supporter (Her Ladyship).
The Oulton Park racetrack is a lovely place to run if I am honest. I am not a fan of laps at all, preferring either 1 big lap, or point to point races. However, my training has not been going particularly well and I figured that this would be a way of jump-starting me into action. I’d either sink or swim, but at the end of it I would know more about where I was in terms of fitness.
This was a 6 lap race, and the weather did not disappoint – gloriously sunny, with a slight wind that added to the coolness of the 4°C temperature that saw me starting off with gloves, hat and long sleeved shirt.
Each lap was 2.18 miles, with the finishing straight down in the pit lane, and a water station just after the lap counter. It was challenging in terms of three different inclines – one long and slow, one short and very steep, and one baby hill just as you came to the end of the lap. The race started bang on time (a nice late start of 12:30pm as this event also has a 10km race earlier in the morning – another plus as I didn’t need to be up at the crack of dawn!) and my race strategy was to run how I felt, the main aim being to target 12 minute miles.
I haven’t run a half-marathon by myself since I got married as Her Ladyship quite likes a Half, so we have tended to do them together, and I run to her pace, so I was interested to see what I could do. The first lap went by remarkably quickly (literally, as it was quicker than planned), but suddenly 4°C felt like 20! I was roasting hot, so off came the gloves and hat and I tried to stuff them in my pockets. I have a tendency to walk up hills and run the downs and the flats, so that was what I was doing, and it was helping manage my heart rate quite well.
At the second hill (the short, sharp shock) I could see Her Ladyship waiting by the trackside, so I stopped, gave her the gloves and hat, handed her the free gels I’d been given that I decided I didn’t want (will try later, so Thank You to the organisers) and took off the long sleeve shirt (I had a t-shirt on over the top) and promised the ladies standing by that there would be no stripping on the next lap!
Suddenly I realise that I am through 5 miles in 53:38. Hmmm… that’s not 12 minute miling…. At 8 miles I stopped at one of the only 2 portaloos on course – and had to wait a couple of mins, so I had a quick stretch whilst waiting. Funnily enough, the chap waiting as I left the portaloo had on the same t-shirt as I did – the Cool Cow Milton Keynes Marathon shirt! How cool!
Got back on track (literally and figuratively!), stopped for some jelly babies and Coca-Cola from #1 supporter (who by this point was on her own as they’d removed everyone from trackside to behind the fencing) – and the next thing I know I’m through 10 miles! (1:57:08 – also not 12 minute miles….)
And that my friends, is where the wheels fell off the bus.
My total mileage for the race was 13.23 miles – and the last 3.23 took nearly as long as it took me to do the first 5 miles! Mentally I think I started to wonder how I was going to keep up the previous pace, and although I was eating and drinking regularly, just after 10.3 miles I started to feel really sick and faint. I know nutrition is an area I need to work on, and I am trying as many different strategies as possible, but most involve liquids as my stomach doesn’t really like food once I have started running. Still, you live and learn…..
Then my tummy decided it wasn’t happy either. “Tough,” I mentally told it – “we’re sticking this out.” And we did. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and it kept telling me to do it slowly or it would throw up some obstacles. Or throw them out – I wasn’t sure. I didn’t want to test it too much just in case.
The thing with lapped events is that you get company for the vast majority of the race. At the start of the final lap I felt very much alone – and I was. There were two people I could see in front of me, with a threesome further along. When I got further around the course there were also 2 people behind me, so it was a case of grinding it out – each footstep bringing me home. My knee started aching too with about a mile to go – and not the knee I have spent 2 years rehabbing either! (I do the rehab exercises on both knees to ensure that one does not get stronger than the other too.) However, I did manage to run down the finishing straight and into the pits to get my medal, so that was OK!
I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed that race. It was an extremely well-organised and well-run event (Thank You to the organisers and the Cadets that manned the water station!), but there had been something that was bothering me about it that I just couldn’t put my finger on until this morning. Initially I thought it was the small number of participants, but until the last lap that wasn’t particularly an issue (and I am used to being in the latter part of the field anyway).
It was the silence.
No sound hardly around the course. Very few people chatting to other runners – many had headphones in, which was allowed, due to it being a closed circuit – but very little in the way of spectators too. There would be two or three people in various corners of the race track, but no cheering or noise that you would expect with nearly 1000 runners. I guess each to their own, but if I do go back, I’ll take music!
I’m happy enough with completing the race – that’s usually my only aim. I am a bit disappointed that I didn’t meet my 12 min/mile target in the end, but these things happen (and I am glad that vomity things didn’t!)
Next race is at the end of March at the Bedford 20.
There are still places for the various races at the Milton Keynes Marathon Weekend if you want to join in – and anyone who wishes to volunteer for marshalling would also be gratefully appreciated! Check out http://www.mkmarathon.com to find out more!
Have a great day!