Last weekend I ran the Richmond Park Marathon, a trail marathon in one of London’s most beautiful parks. I’d entered for fun, which I can appreciate is a bizarre concept for some, and was just looking at it as a long run in a special setting.
In three weeks I’ll be embarking on the Cotswold 100, and knew it was necessary to get a few long runs in before the challenge. The Richmond Park Marathon provided the perfect setting as it’s essentially a hilly trail race, much like the terrain I’ll be covering in the Cotswolds.
After signing up months ago I didn’t think much more about it until a few days before. It’s strange preparing for a marathon without the usual stress that goes with it. I wasn’t worrying about pacing strategies or my psychological knee pain. I only remembered carb loading was a thing the day before and made myself an obligatory plate of spaghetti. This unusually relaxed attitude was refreshing and I headed to the start feeling unprepared but excited about the race ahead.
The nature of trail races was noticeable as soon as I got on the train and started chatting to other runners. Everyone was friendly, rather than laser focused on what was about to happen, and I chatted to a runner who had done this event 5 times before! I met Bex and her boyfriend Mark at the station and we headed to the start chatting to other runners along the way. We were greeted by a few gazebos and a swarm of people at the Sheen Gate entrance to Richmond Park, and I felt excited to be part of what already seemed to be a lovely event.
I’d been sent my bib and timing chip in the post, so all I had to do was drop my bag off which took less than a second (rather different to the Paris Marathon) go to the loo and get some obligatory pre- race photos. Everyone was so chilled it was hard to feel stressed about the race, and I headed to the start line with a few minutes to spare.
I’d noticed on Twitter that a few other bloggers were running and was lucky to bump into Lauren at the start. She was also using it as a training run for Run to the Stones, so we crossed the start line together and started chatting.
The route consisted of three loops, the first loop was the longest at 12 miles, and the second and third loop were 7 miles long (the same loop repeated.) The miles flew by as we chatted and took in the beautiful scenery around us, watched on by wild deer. The route was definitely undulating with a few steep hills thrown in, but it wasn’t as bad as I’d been expecting.
We ran together on and off until about 10 miles when we bumped into Adam who told us he’s running 15 marathons in 2015 to raise money for Macmillan- what a challenge! I say I bumped into him, but considering he was wearing a sombrero and had music pumping out of his backpack, he was quite hard to miss! The music definitely perked us up and we stuck with him until about 12 miles.
I knew at this point my brother would be waiting to join me; I’d coerced him into running with with me a few days earlier, and sure enough there he was waiting. I honestly felt so happy and chilled by this point, I’d never enjoyed running a race so much. I knew I’d finish, and really couldn’t care how long it took me. I just wanted to concentrate on enjoying the event as much as possible, which really wasn’t difficult.
The trails weren’t closed to the public, so we were surrounded by dog walkers, cyclists and other people out for a Sunday run. Everyone was really encouraging (apart from the bikes that were a little annoying at times…) and would cheer us on when they realised we were part of a race. I’m not sure many of them realised it was a marathon, as I heard lots of mutterings about us doing a 10K. I wanted to shout out that it was actually a marathon but held myself back! The race was made all the better by the marshalls who did a fantastic job stopping the traffic so we could cross the roads, handing out water and telling me I looked fresh when I clearly didn’t.
My brother was only planning to run 7 miles with me. I’d warned him that sometimes the last 6 miles can be a dark place, and it may be better to run them alone, rather than being irritable and snappy with him and then feeling guilty. However, with my new laid back approach I decided that having a companion till the end wasn’t a bad thing and he kindly agreed to stick with me. He’d never actually run 7 miles before, let alone 14, but fortunately I was going slowly and he’s a natural runner, so all was good!
Since he’d joined me I’d been complaining that my lower back was aching as it usually does when I run long distances. At 21 miles, after stopping for a drink and a chat with the marshals it went into spasm. Sudden, horrid back pain that went into my buttock and leg. It was like my physio was cursing me for never going to that follow-up appointment (or doing my exercises.) At first I could hardly walk and just hobbled along, leaning on my brother. I was pretty p*ssed off to be fair, mainly because it takes a lot longer to walk 5 miles than run it, and by this point I was ready to get to the end. Nonetheless, there wasn’t much we could do about it so we walked for a mile or two until I tried a slow jog at mile 23. It seemed to ease up as I jogged, so I decided I wasn’t stopping until the end. It was good to get going again, and the walking interlude probably gave me the energy I needed to carry on without hitting the wall. At about mile 24 Lauren caught up with us and we ran together until the end, both agreeing it was darn good race.
Bex and Mark were there to cheer us over the finish line, and before I knew it I’d finished my 5th marathon!
I can honestly say it was a complete pleasure to run this race and it’s completely changed my attitude not only to marathon running, but running in general. The scenery was stunning; the marshals were fantastic; and the friendliness of the other runners was second to none. I couldn’t encourage you enough to do this event next year, it’s really one of the best, and really good value too.
So, a massive thank you to the race organisers and marshals and an even bigger thank you to my amazing support crew!
PS: if you’re wondering, I finished in 4.32 🙂