The Clarendon Marathon was well marshalled, nicely organised and planned beautifully. The course is from Salisbury to Winchester via Broughton and covers some fantastic, if hilly terrain. I would highly recommend it to anyone that wants to see a nice bit of southern England with a manageably small number of runners.
For me, however, the day was one of pain, misery, and humiliation. I noted a number of lessons learned after the Snowdonia Marathon and I am ready to add one more topic:
Equipment: For a lot of distance runners this might include a GPS or wicking fabrics or a heart monitor. For me it boils down to shoes…I usually wear other clothing (well, sometimes I wear other clothing) but always the shoes. Typically, other runners retire their boots after some set number of miles–500 or 600 for the really stringent practitioners. I usually just stick with them until they start to hurt my feet. They become good friends and trusted allies, as did the pair I was taking out for one last run on this race. They and the pair that I bought at the same time have seen me through a total of 3600 miles of logged runs and races as well as 18 months of daily wear and dozens of hashes. So, it should come as no surprise that…
Less than one mile into the race the sole of the left shoe separated from the rear half of the upper leaving me to negotiate already treacherous paths with this unstable platform that continually filled with large clumps of mud. Beautiful.
The race directors advertised the race as 85% off-road but neglected to note that 1/2 of the off-road part would be under water in the event of rain. And, rain it did, pissing down buckets with the added meteorological bonus of 25-35 mph winds (usually cross winds, but often enough directly in your face). Bracing is what you are supposed to call it, but it was damned annoying as it turned the paths into a slimy and dangerous rut punctuated every 5-10 steps by huge and sometimes knee-deep puddles. The last time I did a trek this long in this kind of weather was in 1983 at Fort Leonard Wood in basic training.
The first serious muscle spasm happened at about mile 18 (or just before mile marker 8, since the markers count down after you pass the Half Marathon starting line). I reached down to clear a clump of compacted mud from my semi-shoe and my left hamstring tightened violently throwing me over into the blackberry briars along the fence line. I tried stretching a bit and managed to find several other complaining groups of muscles before finally uprighting myself and getting on with the work at hand. I stopped trying to run up hills at that point and, as well, decided to walk at least until the 7 mile marker (19.2 miles into race) before attempting to run anymore. Yikes.
I actually managed to run another 1/2 mile before I noticed that the warm feeling I had been enjoying (like someone freezing to death, I was later told) had shifted to shivering discomfort and unbearable cold. However, the final relay transition was just ahead and I was able to straggle into it and had a banana, about eight cups of orange squash, and a lie down in some mud and dog shit. I was helped to my feet and led to a warm van where I was given a blanket and my body temperature was measured as 35.5 degrees C (a half degree low for me, 1.5 low for most people, and alarming regardless). The muscle cramps were intense and shifted around to new places as I tried to find a comfy spot for all of them. After a half hour, they called in my number and said my race was over.
A ride to the finish was arranged and I was given a cup of tea (in Britain, they give you a cup of tea if a lion rips your arm off so this wasn’t too surprising). However, though still in pain I was able to make the last walk of ignominy to the baggage collection point whilst avoiding the finish line since I was listed as dropping out. The showers were ice-cold and everyone else was complaining bitterly about that fact; for me it was therapeutic to blast these frigid streams across the muscles in my legs and lower back.
So there it is. I want to say thanks again to the organisers and volunteers, praise the first aid folk that got me warm again, and congratulate the folks that finished unassisted. Next year will be better.