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Queen Elizabeth Spring Marathon. There is a Half option you know..! – John King reports from the full distance…

The day dawned early Sunday morning and, with the clocks changing that morning, my alarm clock went off even earlier..! After the usual preparations and last minute panicking, I was off in the car, running late as per usual, heading for the A3 towards Portsmouth and the Queen Elizabeth Country Park for the start of the marathon.

I managed to (uhum!) catch up some time on the A331 and maybe was just on the speed limit going through some fast areas, so managed to make it there AND get a parking spot, which was the main aim for getting there early.  £3.50 for all day parking.

Although it was bright and sunny and it was now 8am, the temperature felt as if it was still 7am, so pretty chilly which meant that a nice, gentle jog was on the cards to get to the assembly point to pick up my race number and perhaps checkout the local amenities.  This turned out to be a good thing as I could visit the loo for a ‘comfort break’ and jog back to the car to fasten number to race shirt (race?  Huh! ) and get back to the start for the obligatory ‘amble around chatting to whoever wants to listen and bathe in the early morning sunshine before being called to the start’ routine.  Whilst doing this I bumped into another SJer and Marathon Master, Leon Hicks.  He said that he was going to take it easy as he had another marathon the next weekend, on his quest for 52 marathons in 52 weeks!..  Very impressive.  I am going for 3 marathons this year, so thought I’d better be quiet and listen out for any tips he had.

After a short walk to the start-line, we were off. After a very short 100 meters around a field, we encountered the first of many climbs of the day which quickly strung out the field of approx. 150 runners. This climb was really quite brutal on a twisting and narrow track to get us to the top of the first ridge. I decided very early on to take it easy.  The old adage ‘it’s a marathon not a race’ really rings true with this marathon. 500 metres of elevation gain over the half marathon course and with two laps of this for the full marathon meant we’d have to do everything twice so 1K of climbing ahead of us. Plus we also faced what proved to be quite a scary kilometre of down-hill too. This proved to be a memorable and painful experience…

As the run progressed, we began to fall into distinct pockets of runners with people passing one another only to be passed again later on.  My little group proved to be quite chatty and a comradery soon developed between us as I was saving myself (honestly) on the uphills, only to ‘let it all go’ on the downhills which is where I was passing runner after runner. 

Amazingly I was getting some very fast mile splits, immediately followed by slow ones so, one minute I was hurtling down-hill in a flurry of legs and arms, trying not to go ‘a over t’, only to come to an abrupt halt on a quite severe up-hill where we all had to walk.  This is when I would be passed again by one particular runner which we both found quite amusing.  After a couple of these passes, we were both looking out for each other with a jovial ‘hello again’ as we passed each other over and over again.  I secretly knew this would not last and, by the end of the first half, I had hoped I had passed him for the final time until (now very annoyingly) he sprung up behind me, frightening the living day-lights out of me, fresh as a daisy with a ‘see you again soon then!’.  This just had to stop.  I was determined to catch him again and leave him for dead (figuratively speaking that is) so this spurred me on for a bit and now that we were covering familiar territory I knew what laid ahead.  More hills.

So before the end of the first lap, there was a stile that had to be negotiated upon exiting a farmers field.  Nice and wobbly, but was glad of a break at this point before the final mile through to the finish (for the half marathoners that set off 45 mins after us incidentally) or the start of lap number 2 for the rest of us.  The hope was that I would not be over-taken by the race leader of the half, the results are not out yet but I’m pretty sure I made it round the first loop in 2hrs 5mins or so which I was pretty happy about, aiming for a 5hrs finish time.  The second lap just got harder and harder and so my aim of trying to catch somebody (this is a bad idea by the way, ‘run your own race’ is the way to go) was getting less and less likely.  I was wearing a Camelbak (other hydration options are available) so didn’t bother with aid stations and after a couple of them I happened upon ‘Mr Uphill’ (as I named him) at an aid station as I flew (kinda) past, only to be met by a wall of a hill just around the corner so (yes you guessed it) I was soon passed yet again with a cheery ‘hello again’ and a ‘see you later’ as he sailed on by.  That was the last time I ever saw him… 

Much walking ensued followed by pain, more pain and a stop at the very next aid station for a cup of orange squash for a much needed energy boost and I was on my way again.  The rest is a bit of a blur, with cramping and trudging on… ever onwards to the finish line but what a race overall.  By the way, that stile that I mentioned early on near the end, proved to be such an obstacle the second time around, it took all my will power to get over it, only to hear a group of walkers behind me say ‘We thought you were going to fall over then!’.. chuckle, chuckle.  ‘Oh yes, very amusing’ I thought, staggering on wearily and stretching out cramping hamstrings for the remainder of the run. 

A very well sign posted and marshalled run, a massive medal at the end of it, plus a hot meal was provided (at a cost) but I really could not face it so opted to head off home before my legs went into full lock-down and would not be able to drive the car home.  Maybe the Half Marathon next time… perhaps…QE spring marathon medal

Great medal. Yes it is very sparkly and yes, that bunny looks EVIL!

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