Brrrr Marathon cont.

 Beautiful Hell

 The Second Loop

 The Dreaded Shingle

 Portland Bill

My European Marathon (at last)

Ok, now back to the running...What Running?

At this stage of a marathon training program I should be tapering, but I have nothing to taper from as I have not run more than 14 km in the one go since I have been here. I have made a pathetic effort, so my theory is now, just don't bother! Whatever I do now will have little bearing on what happens in the marathon, at least that's what I'm telling myself. I tried to go for an hour run in the village of Morzine, but it's just too dangerous, there are no shoulders on the roads, the ice on the roads is an accident waiting to happen and the alternative is to run on snow paths, which is like running on the beach, but 30 degrees colder.

My approach now is to eat, drink and worry about it on the advice from a running coach!

I fly to Bournemouth in two hours to run my European marathon tommorrow. Now I am nervous, can you run a marathon on no training?, and a tough marathon at that. The marathon website is full of warnings about the terrain and weather, we have to carry a back pack with everything but the kitchen sink in it, I've never carried anything in a marathon. The course looks stunning but tough and it sounds like the weather is going to be cold and blustery.

I have made a list of tips that I've decided should be followed if you want to run a marathon overseas:

-Run the marathon at the start of your trip, not the end...because all I've done for the past  weeks is worry about the looming marathon..this way you can have all your training done before you leave and it doesn't have to interfere with your holiday

-Don't learn a new sport two weeks before a marathon- Skiing for instance, it is great fun, but after a couple of weeks of skiing every muscle in your body is either tight or sore or just plain tired

-Don't stay in a country two weeks before a marathon that has the best wine and cheese in the world, as the temptation is too great

-When running in Winter be prepared with your gear, although I don't think anything could of kept me warm running in these sub zero temperatures

-Research your marathon before you enroll..don't pick one and then look at the website two weeks before the race to discover that it is considered to be extremely tough, with the average marathon time taking 4 hours 38 minutes!

- Find out what you need for the race before hand, in this instance I have to carry a waterproof jacket, my own drinks and snacks, a thermal blanket, mobile phone etc in a back's mandatory so I have to go shopping when I get to Bournemouth to try and buy these things

Ok guys this is it, Next time I write I will have run my 6th marathon...I hope

Never, ever, never, ever do a trail Marathon....if you never listen to any of my tips ever, just listen to this one! It was a nightmare, a 6 hour nightmare!!

Trail running is great for a 10 km, or even a half is hard but can be done, but not a marathon, not on the Portland Bill course anyway.

There were certain indicators from the start that should of tipped me off that I wasn't up to this sort of running...when I arrived  95 percent of the 130 marathon group were young, fit strong men, who were decked out in all the top trail running gear..I looked like the eldest there (or at least I felt like the eldest) and there were only about 20 women if that..the warnings by the organisers were very strong, and harsh and it sounded as if you didn't plunge down a cliff to your death, you would certainly fall and drown in a mud puddle!...and 200 metres into the run we had a grass (mainly mud) hill in front of us to tackle and I could see that the front runners where going up on their hands and was then that I thought "Oh my God, what have I done"

The course was two loops of Portland Bill, a small island joined to the township of Weymouth in the South of England. It is the most picturesque place, very rural England with the amazing, rugged, sea landscapes from all sides. Some of the most beautiful I have seen and that's saying something from someone who grew up on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.

However, the course had everything you could ever encounter on a run, it was up grass hills, that were quickly turning to mud from the runners, down stone cliffs and back up again, mud paths that were perilously close to the cliff edge, that one little slip could of sent you into the cold, cold soup below, but all that was easy compared to the nightmare they call The Shingle. A surface I had never run on and hope to never encounter again in my life..

the Shingle is a stone or pebbled beach, and in this case (which the locals tell me is a Englands most talked about shingled beach) it was a hill of stones and we had to run on the top of the hill, it goes for 18 kms however, we were lucky, or unlucky enough to have only two kilometeres, over two loops that's 4km. It took half an hour to do the 2km shingle, so really I spent one hour of my run on it!

I discovered there are three ways to attack the Shingle-
1. Try to run it, but you quickly realise that your feet are just digging into the stones and the more you run, you don't go forward you just dig yourself a big stone hole
2. Try to do a Basil Fawlty like walk on it, by taking crazy big steps, that way you can move faster than running but it is still very strenous and slippery
3. Sit down on the Shingle and cry until someone comes to rescue you
On the first lap, I hovered between 1 and the second lap I hovered between 2 and 3

The worst thing about coming to the end of the first lap, was knowing that I had to go around again. The first loop which was supposed to be 21km took me 2 hours forty minutes, now I usually do a half marathon in 1 hour forty five I nearly freaked when I saw my time..I knew then that things were not going to be good.

I have used a lot of mental strength over the years in my running in fact on some occasions that is all I have had left..but I have never used it the way I had to, to get myself to run another lap of this nightmare course..I just wanted to throw the towel in  at the half way mark..but of course I talked myself through it..I had a lot to lose if I didn't finish, I would have to come back to Europe and do another one.."Come on your half way there, one more loop"..but in my head it wasn't the loop, it was really the two kilometre shingle that had me shaking in my boots!

The seond lap was harder, because I was buggered and the course was really churned up, because of all the runners, and the half marathoners had joined in as well, so some of the paths were mud, and I found I couldn't run throught the mud, it was too slippery and dangerous.

To reach the Shingle which was at the 35km mark, you had to come down off the top of some very high cliffs through a grass was very steep and second time round very slippery, I just came down on my bum, and all I could see below me was the dreaded stone beach. At this point I was over it, so I just tried to get across it as best I could, once back on the road, I had a couple of Kilometres to go before my hell was over.

When I ran over the finish line, there was no fanfare or greetings, I had to stick my own chip in the counter which showed I took 5 hours and 56 minutes, that was shock enough, then I realised that they had run out of all drinks and food! We were given a meal ticket with our entry fee and I handed mine in because after 6 hours of running hell I needed something, only to be told the food had run out.

I asked if I was the last one home and they said "no there is a lot more runners out there". Then after walking around dazed for a few moments with nothing to drink, I thought I had better leave..not before chatting to a few runners though who told me that they were wearing GP Systems, and by their watches they had clocked up over 52km!! I knew it was more than a marathon distance, another couple told me that they had run it last year and the course had been changed this year, this year it took them and hour that doesn't seem right...and to add insult to injury they told me the Shingle was in it last year but only for 500metres!!

Then more insult to injury, they had run out of my sized shirts, so I got a huge down to my knees one..I didn't have the energy to complain, in my disgust I called my local taxi driver to come and pick me. I was on good terms with my elderly, large, english taxi lady, she had been driving me around the island for a couple of days, she even stopped at the supermarket and waited while I went in and loaded up on gatorades and snacks and then drove me back to my B and B near the lighthouse on the hill.

On parting she said, " Well look on the bright side love, at least you didn't have to run on the Shingle, like I saw some silly buggers doing this morning", I didn't have the heart to tell her that I am the silliest bugger in the world, I just thanked her and hobbled into my little haven.

The owners of the B and B  had taken me under their wings and treated me like family from the day I arrived. Salt of the earth  English country people, they had even made me porridge and toast that morning and drove me to the marathon start, so they were very interested to hear how I went. Heather was aghast at my story, she said she is going to write to the local paper complaining, and as for running on the Shingle, they couldn't believe it!

Anyway..the highlight of the day was climbing the stairs to my little attic room, with it's views of the wild sea, having a hot, hot shower and climbing into bed with my gatorades and lollies and staying there for hours contemplating the race. Amazingingly I felt pretty good, the relief that is was over and knowing that I have run the toughest race of my life was immense...and of course I'm over half way through my running goal now..four continents down, three to go..bring on the Americas!!

The next day I was amazed at how well I felt. I didn't think I would be able to get out of bed, but I jumped out with minimal muscle soreness, which certainly didn't correspond witht he 6 hour marathon I had completed the day before. I had a very sore left foot, in fact it felt like it could of been a stress fracture( I'm blaming the Shingle of course) so I was hobbling but other than that I felt great. Heather made me a huge slap up, proper English breakfast, that went down a treat. I caught a bus back to Bournemouth where I was staying for one night before flying back to France the next day. Unfortunately I couldn't explore around Bournemouth as much as I wanted due to my foot and the wet and cold weather.

I was happy to arrive back in France and thrilled to see that the weather was still good and there was plenty of snow as I couldn't wait to get back into skiing. The sore foot lasted a few days, but amazingly didn't affect the skiing as your feet are locked so tightly in the boots that you feel nothing below the knee.

Tommorrow I start my long journey home on what has been a wonderful experience for myself and my family.



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