After running 10 marathons I have found some leave sharper traces on my memory than others. There was the first one at Beachy Head, a totally new experience, a revelation about just how hard it could be. The second, Pheonix Thames path where it rained for 5 hours. Then there was Brighton, my first ‘big’ marathon. These are like the highlight reels of my marathon running career, and though every bit of bling will bring back memories some will stand out as favourites. The Bacchus will stay with me forever, but to understand why I must take you back to April and a short time after Brighton Marathon.
In training for Brighton we had collected a little posse together, admittedly one of our number was running Paris on the same day, and another just enjoyed the training, but we were quite definitely a little gang. On race day I stuck with one of the gang mile after mile until there came a moment I’m ashamed of. Even though I was told it was quite okay and I am sure I have been forgiven, I left my running bud and scooted off sniffing at a target time. To make matters worse I didn’t even manage that. Still the race finished, we all met up, and started to think about another event. At this moment The Bacchus came up as an option, there was wine tasting en route, was not too far from where we all lived, involved wine, fancy dress, was a trail run so no expectations of PB’s, and did I mention the wine? Of course the other thing was that it could be run as a half if doing one lap and a marathon if you did two.
Not everybody shares my enthusiasm for marathons, and if you want a big group of runners to go on what is essentially a mobile party across the downs, then a half marathon is a good bet. It was not long before there was a whole gang of people from my running club committed to wearing silly costumes and drinking wine while trudging around Denbies Vinyard for 13.1 miles. I also signed up, but due to my own personal insanity I signed for the Full marathon thinking I would just sprint round ￼and catch everybody up. Have I mentioned that I am not always very good at thinking things through?
Time went on and I got fitter, I reached the target I had missed at Brighton. But… If you read about the Thames Meander you will know that 2 weeks ago aiming for a sub 4 I cramped up at mile 18 and spent 8 miles running, cramping, walking. So I rested up foam rolled and still had one night when my leg cramped up in the week before Bacchus. By the time of Parkrun the day before I was not in a good place. The original plan where I caught up with my friends doing the half, was going to be impossible. I was probably looking at about 5:15 to get round, and as they were setting off an hour later they would need to take 3 or so hours to run 6 miles if I was going to meet up at mile 18. Not very likely even with wine involved. Of course the 5:15 would only really happen if I had no issues with cramp or anything else. I was convinced that by the time I had finished not only would everybody else be back at the start, they would have been there for long enough to be thinking of going home. I was going to miss my friends, the party, and to crown it all, I was sure I was going to have multiple problems running yet another bloody marathon. I really didn’t want to run this one, but like the bloody minded fool I am I knew I would, and the best I could do for myself was to just go out and see what happened.
As I went to the start of the marathon I was met by my best training buddy who had come specially to give me some much needed support. Even though I was missing the fun it was enough to have seen her and the fancy dressed posse of superhero club runners. At least I would get to say hello before they went home after they finished. I set out at a very comfortable pace, slightly quicker than I would run with the HR monitor and everything felt fine. I walked hills, and there were some epic ones, spent most of the race chatting with a lady I met called Julie, and didn’t really bother with the wine stations. All in all I felt quite good, in fact whoever designed the course was quite cunning because around mile 18-19 there was a nice hill which just had to be walked, allowing me to take it easy when things got their toughest.
As Julie and I started the second loop we worked out that if we could stay at about the same pace a sub 5 time would be very possible, and that made everything seem more positive. I had surprised myself by having a pretty good time so far and even though my legs were beginning to feel heavy, and somebody had definitely been round to make the hills steeper I was still hanging in there comfortably. Again I walked hills and didn’t bother with ‘water’ stops. What came as a complete surprise though was that by the time we hit the second station we were told that the tail end of the half marathon was only half a mile ahead. By the time we reached stop number 3 we had already passed some straggling Mexicans and from then on it got steadily more bizarre. There were golfers, people covered in balloons, butterflies, and at each stop there was a party going on.
Julie started to pull away up the hills and once again I was left alone, and I started to do some calculating. If my friends had stopped to indulge at all of these stations then I may reach the end within 20 minutes of them, especially as it looked like I was going to get quite a good sub 5 time. Although it was not quite the same as crossing the line together at least we would meet while everyone was still buzzed about finishing. I climbed the last two hills, plodded through the penultimate station and started to look forward to the final two mile descent back to Denbies and meeting up with the superhero garbed posse at the finish. Then as I came in toward the final drinks station a miracle occurred.
I heard a shriek and my name being called, and there bearing down toward me from the station a hundred yards further on was She Rah, Princess of Power. I was swept up into a crowd of familiar faces, greeted like a conquering hero, wine thrust into my hand, and all was right with the world. Of course any hope of a sub 5 was gone as I did the round of photos and celebrations taking delight that an impossible plan had worked, thanks to my own brand of bloody mindedness and my friends love of wine.
Bacchus 2015 will always stay with me, it has all the right ingredients for a perfect memory. Before it started I was not happy, unsure if I would finish and not looking forward to the crash. I had the prospect of being apart from my friends, an outsider on the fringe of the group. I was there because of my own inner demons which I could not let go, putting a needless pressure on my self which was not necessarily healthy. As I started I took the pressure off leaving all plans and expectations aside apart from one, just to finish and help make up my marathon numbers. As the race continued I started to regain my confidence and believe in myself again, I knew I could finish and even do it in a reasonable time for a hilly trail run. And when I came across my friends I felt like a celebrity, I doubt I will ever feel that special again in my life, and as we all crossed the finishing line together I was well and truly back on track. In 26 miles I had gone from low to stupendously high, and that will stay with me forever.