A marathon…. 26.2 miles completed first by Pheidippides Circa 490 BC in the sun in Ancient Greece and resulting in him dropping dead at the end. Fast forward a long time and I am stood at the start of my first marathon in Rivington, Lancashire on a gray windy autumn day so only the distance is the same (We’ll gloss over the fact that it isn’t 26.2 miles from Marathon to Athens) yes I realise that spoils the ending but how else could I have written this? So this is the tale of my First Marathon which I think I technically should have done before I went on to “race” ultras but hey why be conventional?
An early start was slightly softened by the clocks going back but only just. A quick cuppa, throw the kit in the car and off to collect running mate for the day Gary and we’re off south….. Always feels weird heading south to go north. But it’s a speedy journey down to the A50 and on to the M6’s variously the 6, 62 & 61. Before a “pleasant”
de tour round various bits of Bolton’s Suburbs and we arrive at Rivington and Blackrod School for the start of the race in plenty of time for Registration/Kit Check/Race briefing, which turn out to be; rapid/Non existent /very brief respectively. In stark contrast to the last Laithwaite run event where they were; a bit of a queue/Thorough/ Very detailed, a little bit frightening and Humours respectively.
So there was plenty of time to examine the Goody bags and Event T-shirt and get kit sorted out, fit timing chips, oops zip ties don’t come undone on once you have done them up, clip on race number and drink coffee and eat the chia charge flap jacks. As two borderline coffee snobs we were most impressed that there was half decent coffee on offer. In the chilly conditions we opted not to join the chap doing laps of the school cricket field and retreated to the car for an alternative warm up involving the cars heater until time for the race. We start to gather in the funnel for the briefing which was er brief, but with the benefit of PA could be heard as the delights of what was to come were explained, keep following the arrows and there is a lot of mud out there, watch out for the metal plate at the end of the drive its slippery.
At 9:41 were off, we cross the line to the theme from Rocky reach the slippery metal plate they neglected to mention it’s an anti tank device with 6 inch spikes sticking out but its safely negotiated by all and we are away and up a long pull on to the moors accompanied by some pretty fabulous views. The first part of the course goes up over Rivington Pike passing a couple of follies on the way. Pigeon tower is followed by Rivington tower on the first summit shortly before descending towards wilder wood and the first event photographer (suck in the tummy and say cheese), and start climbing back towards the TV masts on winter hill we started just about last but we have been slowly picking people off up to here there is another event photographer hiding in a dip (Run! suck in the tummy and say cheese) as we hit the road to the TV station we start to play leap frog with some runners on the road up as we discuss the finer points of the white lining on the 2 meter wide road one of us knows his roads like Nick Ham knows his lights. We’re making decent time as we manage 5 mostly upwards miles in the first hour and having cracked a fair amount of ascent. The road to the TV station which is quite atmospheric on the lonely wind sweep moor with cables clanking and whistling in the wind we arrive at Scotsman’s Stump a memorial to a murdered travelling sales man, wonderfully flowery Victorian language recounts the Barbarous Murder of George Henderson on Rivington Moor at noonday November 9th 1838 in the 20th year of his age. Start on a good long decent from another memorial to the 35 victims of a 1958 plane crash. A cheerful place is Winter Hill. We fly down and cross the A675 down to the river and up through the first bog of the day to check point 1 near Delph Reservoir.
Duly refuelled with Tiffin and flapjack, and water re filled and were off again. If I’d been paying attention to a map here there is a nifty short cut but I wasn’t so we head on 3 km loop round Delph Reservoir and pass back within 500 meters of the check point before heading out on to a long open stretch along the Wilton Weavers Way as we head for Darwen Moor and some proper Mud. The first pool of which is the sort you look at and think, what’s the best route round this? On working out it would be to balance along the top of the Dry stone wall, you just plough though it as quickly as possible. We are battered by the wind for a few KM but the sun also starts to make an appearance we reach a gate blocked by another lake of mud and cow shit complete with in-situ cows and we wade down the side of the herd to the gate trying not to think of the composition of the gloop we’re wading through. There are some signs out on the course for motivation (Disappointed that there were no accompanying photos of kittens being rescued!) and as we turn to ascend Darwen moor we’re informed “Crazy Got You Here. Grit Will Get You Back”. Now….. time for the Bog of Eternal Stench as we head off piste across the very boggy moor and I sink shin deep in places as big rafts of reeds sink quite alarmingly under foot the route here was weaving through little orange flags Gary suggests they mark those that sank…... Once safely negotiated we hit a pleseant section round the Edge of the Darwen hill plateau and try to identify the hills to the east. I have a good go at justifying that there the bottom end of the Yorkshire dales, Gary doesn’t sound convinced and rightly so. We had a good stretch of running across Darwen Moor feeling strong and running at a good pace up the gentle incline and now as we approach Darwen tower Foley number 3. It be comes apparent why I felt so strong, as now we come back in to the wind and I am blown bodily sideways. There are some walkers at the tower who shout encouragement over the wind, I briefly tap the trig point as is my superstition and we turn in to the wind and it stops us dead! Just as we stop running and event photographer appears and a jog for the camera is rewarded with a good team photo. Running is resumed as we drop down off the tops past another event photograph and down towards check point 2 at Tockholes. Coke, Crisps, Flap Jack and Tiffin all follow.
There is a slight moment of concern on the way out as the Marshall cheerily announces well done that’s Half way. Um were 16 miles in I hope this isn’t half way!
We cross the road past the Pub and try to descend towards the first of the string of reservoirs that will lead us home stuffing food in to my mouth and pockets. This section is the flatter part of the course, my standard running plan of walk the ups jog the downs and do what seems appropriate on the flats has worked well so far, but this next section could test that as there is on paper quite a bit of flat. Gary takes the lead and I try to hang on following the winding path to the first of the Reservoirs this leg is a Dam designers dream as we pass what feels like 50 Reservoirs there are straight dams, curved dames, chevron shaped dams and even reservoirs with 2 dams. The 3 Roddlesworth reservoirs come first and we catch up with the Two chaps who we parked next to at the school and we chat as we approach a pub and the road crossing at Abbey village and we pull away on the road stretch to Brinscall and a “nice” steep slippery tarmac climb before dropping back to a leat which we follow in the company of 2 runners who we leap frog with. I am feeling good and running well but Gary is starting to struggle a bit with Cramp and digestion issues he later commenting that at the Sign that Said “Don’t Stop Running unless you Puke, Faint or Die” he was contemplating at least 2 of those. I feel a little frustrated as my competitive instincts kick in and the 2 runners pull away as we walk along.
Running as a group was discussed over a post group run breakfast a week or so before this run/race. As you’ll all naturally run at different paces some one is always going to be slowed or towed along There are also positives as well there are moral benefits and it can help get more out of the slower runner or help pace the quicker ones over a long distance etc. So it is swings and roundabouts. But running as a team we decide should be done for mainly social enjoyment. We’d agreed we’re doing the social today. Nice day out and enjoy the course and thus far we had, and we had also been fairly similar paced or at least I don’t think I had held Gary back too much. Now. I don’t consider my self particularly competitive and I will tell you that I am only racing the clock but I am starting to get quite narked about being over taken in races and seeing some one jog off who I feel I am running better than causes some competitive twinges. So I think I might have found that this is not strictly true. But this is a team run you accept the ups and downs or the fasts and slows perhaps so those thoughts are shelved as we walk/slow jog for abit as we drop down to the final check point Ahhhh Noooo Jaffa Cakes! I think I may still be suffering form Jaffa cake poisoning form the High Peak 40. But fortunately other snacks are to be had.
A final refuelling and refilling at the beginning of Anglezark Res, Gary also points out I have been bleeding and there is a large red smudge on my chest, odd I think It usually hurts before it gets to that stage. Declining the offer to tape up as nothing hurts and were over taken by a large group as I faff with my platypus grrr bottles next time! See it’s that competitive streak that I don’t have again. We head off winding thought the woods and I feel the first twinges of cramp in my calves. As we cross some open fields we are treated to a fly past by some Army Helicopters. We arrive at a neat little res where both ends have of the gap behind a knoll have been dammed Gary calls a time out for a comfort break and kindly tells me to carry on as he is struggling and I am going well. I am very grateful for this and head off at a jog down to the shore of the main reservoir chasing that competitive streak I might have to accept I have. I catch and pass the first of the runners that we had earlier played leap frog with! The route climbs away from Anglezark res and up to cross the smaller of the 2 dams that form Yarrow Res and I jog along and pass the second leap frog runner I am happily jogging down the long descent under the giant Chevron shaped dam at the other end to arrive in Rivington at the Anglezark Dam ah the end must be close! But how close? Up the hill Right past the little School and in to the county park where Go Apers startle me as they swing shouting through the trees and I start to have to dodge round the Sunday strollers, the down side of wearing your number on your bag is no one you approach realises your racing. Going for the number on the leg look next time I think. It feels quite a long drag through the country park. The final Folly of the Day is passed a scale replica of Liverpool castle which confused me at the time odd place to build a castle. There is a long avenue to negotiate it’s just down hill and then up so I muster a Run with cramp nibbling at my calves. There is a family about halfway down I think I can run till I am pasted them and then walk as I reach them I spy a marshal ah must keep on. He marks the road and a short down hill to the school! The final “sprint” down the hill, marshals clap and wave me through the Gate mind the Tank trap again and in beep goes the timing mat! There is a ripple of applause from the assembled few and I am handed water and a Toffee Apple and a Medal and there is concern over my blood stained shirt. The Stain has now migrated and expanded some way south. But I assure them I am fine and a medal is placed round my neck and the chip clipped from my shoe. That’s it done 101st in 5:17:56 another PB 58 minutes off my previous best for 26.2 which was part of the High Peak 40. One of these days I will do one of these and it won’t be a PB it may be quite a shock!
Gary finished 110th about 12 minutes behind me 5:29 he struggled through the last bit feeling quite ill so top effort for battling on.
After changing and post race refuelling with bread and soup we start to the drive back which isn’t quite as traffic free as the early morning drive up. I have really sore legs which are really aching stuck in the driving seat and get the better of me just when there are no services! Finally at Uttoxeter mercy a little chef, well as we stopped in their car park for a stretch so it would be rude not to pop in now wouldn’t it? Olympic Breakfast you say oh go on then.
All in all a good day out.