Sunday, 6 November 2011

Rutland Water Marathon - Fun in the November Sun

I entered the Rutland Water Marathon with a bit of trepidation after reading some negative reviews about the 2010 event. In 2011 the organisation was sound although the entry fee is a whopping £33 affiliated and £35 unaffiliated which would put me off entering again.  I made a decision some time ago to find a faster marathon in November to assist with keeping fit ahead of the Christmas excesses. In addition to the Worksop Half last week, the Rutland Marathon this week, I am intending to run the Six Dales Circuit next week and at least another race before Christmas.  
The Rutland Water Marathon loosely follows the circumference of Rutland Water, described as "the central tourist attraction in England's smallest County." The Reservoir is impressive, one of Europe's largest man made reservoirs and classed as an area of special scientific interest. The reservoir looks as if its been there forever yet it's only as old as me (30 something!). The route runs along road and tracks adjacent to the water. The race starts at Normanton on the South Shore and runners immediately traverse the magnificent dam before heading Westerly for six miles towards the Hambleton peninsula. Two laps of the six mile peninsula follow before heading out at Mile 18 towards the well talked about hill at mile 21. Runners reach Manton at mile 22 before turning East for the final few miles to the finish at the sailing club just South of where we started.

Bomb Man

Some 390 runners entered the race. I was surprised to line up next to a man donning a heavy bomb disposal outfit complete with helmet. The sun was shining brightly but it was crisp and cold. I wondered as I shivered on the start line If a bomb outfit might have been the preferable choice of race wear. The start was delayed by a couple of minutes as the organisers had difficulty unlocking the first gate and then at 9:03am we were we set loose on the 26.2 mile course round the water anti clockwise. I wasn't sure of my fitness after labouring round the Worksop half the previous week and so decided on a strategy of running well within myself for the first half before increasing the speed gradually. The first six miles were uneventful much of the route runs along the roadside adjacent to the water but for large parts the water is not visible. I had begun to wonder if the route might be a bit featureless and boring. I shouldn't have worried as on entering the peninsula the route passed along tracks through inspiring autumnal woods.

The colours were made more brilliant by the continuing unseasonal sunshine. The track was very undulating which is a feature of this race. Most of the ascents are not troubling in a cardio sense but they do break the rhythm continually and the various turns make it more difficult. The water stations were just that, water stations, no juice and no energy drink and so I was pleased to see a table full of gels at mile 9 which I knew I would see again on the second peninsula lap at mile 15. I'm not a big fan of gels but given the lack of variety with drink I thought I had better indulge. The gels were made by 'High Five' and were quite light and pleasant. I often use 'High Five' energy powders in ultra races, the market for energy products has become saturated but 'High Five's' products have been around for ages and I rate them. By the time I reached the energy table for the second time I was becoming tired and the tiredness in my legs worsened over the next 3 miles until the departure from the peninsula at mile 18. I picked up a bit after that, probably due to the positive psychology of knowing I wasn't far off the last stretch of the race. The hill at mile 21 didn't pose a difficulty, I was grateful for the change in gradient. I pushed hard after Manton, feeling good I began to rein people in. I had been in 42nd position on the first lap of the peninsula and 40th position as I left the second lap but now people were coming back to me. My race plan had worked I was running strong with good pace and kick in my legs and I knew many of the runners that I passed had overcooked it. My enthusiasm gained, the sun was still out,
Feeling good!
I was on the last stretch of the race passing competitor after competitor. I generally felt as if I was in the final stage of a 10K, great! Mile markers at Rutland are situated every three miles and although I was feeling good I did notice that I hadn't passed the 24 mile mark. I took my foot off the gas a little, a bit worried that my enthusiastic pace might compromise my efforts in the final two miles. The 24 mile mark seemed to take ages to come in and by the time I reached it my pace had slowed and mentally I was suffering with concern that those folks behind might come back past me. I later learned from a runner with a Garmin that the 24 mile mark was a little over 24 and a half miles which explained my situation. The flip side was that that the final two miles were only a mile and a half and it went more quickly. Shortly after leaving 24 miles I could hear the music from the finish line in the distance and I managed to straggle on until the finish line was in sight. I was pleased to see lots of crowd support at the finish and was mighty relieved to have finished in a time of 3 hours 19 minutes in 26th position. Results here 

Rutland Water

I met a runner from Manchester at the finish. He had driven from Leigh after waking at 5am. It was even more impressive as his completion at Rutland was his 28th marathon this year, phew. I sat on the grass for a bit and supported some other finishers before retiring to the local boozer for  a well deserved pint. The pub was at Manton on the race route at about mile 22. I wandered down to talk to the volunteers on the water station. I asked how long they expected to be there. "Till the last person comes through", they replied " shouldn't be too long now". I didn't tell them about the man in the heavy duty bomb suit.....


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