Tuesday 21 August 2012

Northumberland Coast Trail Marathon

Hopefully the grin on my face says it all. A big thank you to North East Marathon club for supporting marathon running in the North East of England and for hosting such a fabulous trail marathon in a very beautiful part of England.

After running my first ever marathon at Kielder in October of last year and laughably now thinking that a couple of runs a week would see me right on the day. I turned up to my third marathon with a lot more miles under my legs and after running a sub 3 hour marathon at Sunderland I even privately harboured hopes of finishing in the top three positions and possibly winning my age group.

We started the race in a very sunny Alnmouth and it was beginning to look like it was going to be a warm day. Once underway I decided to hang back front the front a little given the warm conditions and try and keep the leaders in my sights until the half way point. Two runners from Porter Valley Plodders disappeared into the distance within the first couple of miles though and it would towards the half way mark that I would see them again.

I must also speak about the route a little. I have lived in the North East for the last 15 years and have visited some sections of the Northumberland Coastal route before. I had never been to Alnmouth before though and will definitely be returning to not only take our dogs for a walk on the lovely trails there but also spend some time on the great beaches. I also was really glad that this was a trail marathon as I much prefer running on trails to tarmac. The route itself was a great combination of hard packed trails to very soft sand. I found those small sections of soft sand very tough! The lack of mile markers was also great as pacing effort was going more by how I felt rather than letting the mile markers remind me of any pacing strategy that I might have been trying to follow.

As we moved off the beach and onto the trails it became less obvious how far in front or behind I was in relation to other runners. I was slowly passing people though and was in third position by the second drinks station. It was also beginning to really warm up now and the drink stations were a very welcome sight. Thanks to all the volunteers at the drinks stations (I look forward to joining you next year at one the NEMC events as a volunteer myself). The views of Dunstanburgh castle seemed to help the miles ease by on this section of the course. On reaching the beach at Embleton (Been here before and it is a fabulous beach) I got my first proper glimpse of Portal Valley runner(Martyn) who was in second position at the time and with the long view across the sand I could tell I was making ground on him. I think that by the time we left the sands at Embleton I had passed him and I got my first view since the start of the Porter Valley runner that was in the lead (Simon). He was at least a minute in front though and moving well.

On turning at the half way point I could now see Simon, but on hitting the sand at Beadnell Bay he seemed to start accelerating away. I decided that I was going to hang in there and also picked up my pace to keep him in sight. By Embleton beach I could tell I was starting to make some ground back. Simon must have also started to develop some issues as he had to walk and stretch a little. So by the time we left the beach I had passed him for the first time. The fact that I was in the lead in a race was also a very strange feeling. Having the castle to look at kept my mind of these things though and I pushed on trying to hold a good pace. The drinks stations were also becoming even more precious, although it was starting to get a little cooler the very warm start to the race was starting to take effect. The undulations of the trail were also starting to seem more pronounced then on the way out :) Being in front with no one to track and chase was a strange feeling for me. So I tried to blank out times and distances and just run without looking backwards. The final drinks station was a very welcome site indeed. Then it was onto the beach at Alnmouth for the run in. I started to head for what I thought was a large yellow flag and the finish point. As I got closer the flag it became a tent and a family enjoying the great weather. My mind then started to play tricks with me as I could not see the Start/End point and I began to think it was in the next bay along that looked as least a mile away! After running for another couple of hundred metres I noticed some yellow flags at the river mouth round the corner and very helpful member of the Porter Valley Plodders support team shouting this way! My spirits lifted again and I headed for the finish line. I can not really explain how I feel about winning the race. I refer back to the photograph for the answer to that one.

Post race issues were not the normal tired legs and muscles but major sun burn!

Also thanks to Jo(for putting up with all my training!), everyone at Sunderland Strollers (my main running club, I choose to represent NEMC when running their events though) , Porter Valley Plodders who added greatly to the atmosphere of the event and my running buddies Phill and Alistair.

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