Don’t know why you’re so blue
The sun’s gonna shine on everything you do.
Ocean Drive – The Lighthouse Family 1996
The best of times, the worst of times. Well, it was neither of those. My 4:15 today places 4th in my all time top 6 (er, the only 6) marathon performances.
I ran a beautifully conservative and perfectly controlled first half this morning and held it more or less together right through 17, but somehow it still all fell rather to pieces coming down the stretch this Sunday.
I should be feeling like a vanquished US Masters hopeful, choking over my supper tonight, having just thrown it all away at Augusta inside the final 9.
But I feel nothing like that at all. I was running 26.2 miles on the eve of my 45th birthday, something which on my 35th birthday I never thought I’d manage even once, let alone half a dozen times now.
And it really was a perfect blue day, with many of the trees rising from green to yellow and then red like a million natural sets of traffic lights. There was only the lightest of breezes, rising just inside the third and final loop – and enough to keep this warmest of English autumn’s unseasonal October warmth in check.
I’ll remember this as the bluest of all my marathons.
More than this, Abingdon has a wonderfully scenic course beside Radley Lakes and the Thames, and passes through delightful Oxfordshire villages, thatched roofs and all.
And above everything, the race is brilliantly organised and superbly marshalled, taking the two decidedly tricky crossings of Abingdon town centre in its stride.
Before that, the event starts with a lap of the athletics track in Tilsley Park, and it finishes the same way, with the line set tight under the stands.
All around the race, Abingon Amblers, the host club, provided a very friendly atmosphere, and I found the same amongst all the other runners I spoke to on the road. Hats off in particular to the chap who finished in 4:25 with 20 kg of weights in two rucksacs on his back (his own and his struggling running partner’s) as they started their training for the Marathon des sables in North Africa next year.
I was already indebted to sponsors AkzoNobel for finding me a late entry (thanks very much, Philip and Treedy), and now, to top everything, the lovely girls from the company had decorated their feed station in Milton Park with banners and a placard especially in my honour. It seems that they had very kindly adopted me as their own runner on the course, as they had no other participants of their own in the event – the first time that has happened for quite a while. It really was a marvellous gesture to make me so welcome, and they cheered me through the 12-mile mark as wildly and enthusiastically as any world champion. You can be certain that I was grinning all the way after that (well, at least as far as 20 miles).
There are some things I will need to ponder from today. How, exactly, did I spend so long constantly reining myself back, exerting very easily and never once remotely hitting fast speed or firm effort, only to pass straight through the comfort zone and far out beyond it on the other side, all in the space of that single 18th mile ? Such are the mysteries of marathon running, perhaps, and no two you run are ever quite the same.
Leaving the pathetic details of the final stages of my race aside for now (which, for the sake of sparing unnecessarily masochistic torment I really feel we should), then yes, I really did enjoy myself enormously today. And so much the better if my final hour today transcended firmly into that excruciating kind of territory which I sincerely hope, and can fairly confidently predict, I’ll have forgotten all about within a couple of weeks.
So much for recklessness. It’s the only way to live, or at least, the only way to run marathons.
And as for the Abingdon Marathon, then: yes, I’d heartily recommend it to anyone – trust me, it’s a real gem.
Thanks, Amblers and Akzo Nobel. You painted a perfect blue day.
127. Altiora peto, and other Latin lovers
128. October is a summer month
57. Blackpool Marathon: Welcome to the Pleasuredome
97. Only scars carved into stone – a summer 20 miles
51. London Calling