[UPDATED November 7th, 2018 at 05:05 pm]
This report has a plethora of ‘P’s (and pees). If the reader finds this problematic then please proceed to the penultimate paragraph where the positions will be posted.
Six Harriers, accompanied by two supporters, pootled off by plane to Porto, Portugal’s second city for the annual Autumn marathon tour. Preparations were partial at best and possibly minimal for some, with one Harrier in particular purporting to have only practiced two runs in the past four weeks. Prizes and personal bests were put out of mind and were out of sight.
The day came and we placed ourselves in the queues for a portaloo, for a pre-race pee. The promised precipitation, forecasts were high percentage chance of rain all day, held off for now. Deckchairs were donned and bags dumped. One last pee for each of us at the perimeter of the park, including Carol courtesy of a plastic poncho to provide some privacy (but certain no dignity). We pushed our way though the press of people to get into our respective pens.
Not a second past nine we were off. Having picked Portugal as a sunny alternative to last year’s pouring Florence marathon, it proceeded to piss down two minutes into the race. There were reasonable pauses in the rain throughout but the last few miles was a repeat of the previous year’s downpour! Geoff, Steve and I paced it very evenly for the first 19 miles, with Geoff more often than not reporting the last mile’s pace at ‘7:53’. As the course had several out and back lollipops, we had a chance to see Neil keeping a reasonal place just behind the 3:30 pacers. Mark positioned himself just ahead of the 4 hour pacer, while Carol practised her run/walk strategy just behind the 4:15 pacers. The only deviation at the pointy end of the Harriers ‘race’ was early on Geoff just disappeared, catching us up a couple of miles later having gone for a pee. After a few more miles, Steve pulled up next to some bushes and spent the next few miles trying to pull back on level terms. Just before he managed that, I popped around a corner for a pee leaving me peering into the distance looking for a deckchair to pursue. Prior to half way we were reunited again and the pitter-patter of our 7:53 trio resumed. Neil certainly won the prize for the number of pit stops, with no less than three (of course it’s impolite to ask an M65 how many stops he had, so we’re presuming for Mark, just the one was plenty).
Our chief picture taker, Ed, kept popping up to record for prosperity our photographs. The ‘live’ report was a plus. Jane placed herself prominently on the bridge catching us crossing twice and passing the bridge once more. Both of them helped us tremendously, clapping, encouraging and cheering, and lifting our spirits. Thank you, it was pleasure to see the pair of you at each point.
At mile 19, Steve had dropped off, for his second pee, and Geoff was plodding at the prescribed 7:53 pace. I decided to push on a bit and upped the pace for a period of four or five miles, developing a gap of approximately a minute. The last two miles were painful with my calves pretending to pull apart at the seams. I slowed to the previous 7:53 pace and hoped I wouldn’t be pipped at the post. Neil and Mark mainted their positions, with Carol’s pre-meditated run walk paying dividends.
So to the positions, and without exception we all did much better than we thought.
Simon Howden 3:26.44
Geoff Turner 3:28.03
Steve Austin 3:30.55
Neil Clark 3:35.29
Mark Taylor 3:53:52
Carol Tsang 4:14.21
If I could pause for a moment to pay attention to the adjacent letter. I’ve already mentioned the queue to pee and it didn’t stop there. The queue to the baggage drop was just about manageable, while the arrangement to get into the pens was quizzical, leaving very little time to spare. But the biggest question was the baggage reclaim queue leaving cold, shaking and angry runners in the pissing rain, queing for 45 minutes to get their bag, and that was at the 3:30 pace. Later in the queue extended even more. The organisers definitely get a P for poor!
Having said that, the marathon was pancake flat, modestly supported and the race itself ran smoothly. But the prize goes to Porto, a friendly, cheap, interesting place, with a history I certainly didn’t appreciate. Oh and did I mention, Port, Port, Port! I would highly recommend a visit and hopefully the organisers can pull their fingers out, sort out their problems, and put on the perfect marathon weekend away.