Race Report: Milton Keynes Marathon

Reports

Harriers,

Many of you will recall my slightly asinine race report from Chicago last year, which consisted of a photo of a hotdog plus a perfunctory few facts about the race. I hope this write-up will make up for it.

My reticence was due to my sub-3 hopes and dreams dying in an Illinois portaloo somewhere between mile 6 and 7. I ended up with a very decent 3:04 but as you well know, my dear runners, that just wouldn’t do.

Fast forward to February and after a strong performance in our own half followed by a near-PB at Paddock Wood, I thought I’d try a spring marathon to reclaim those lost 4 minutes. Brighton, Manchester and London were all sold out so Ian Mulheirn suggested Milton Keynes, which fell on May BH Monday (12 weeks after Paddock Wood) and advertises itself as both flat and major marathon qualification-compliant. Bingo.

There followed three months of training in the wettest spring on record. Ever-supportive Harriers noted my Strava progress, but that nagging feeling remained – will 12 weeks be enough of a build? Meanwhile MK organisers moved the start time, making a return trip in a day impossible, and engineering works would gum up the train network over the race weekend. Was this attempt also doomed?!

On Sunday I packed my kit (inc. new stomach-friendly gels and beet juice shots (thanks Anthony!)), said goodbye to my family and braved our decrepit transport system. My eventual destination, MK stadium, was to be home to both the start and finish, while also playing host to a very handy and reasonably priced hotel which overlooks the pitch of the (mighty?) MK Dons.

The 1200-strong field assembled just before 9am Monday, alongside half marathon and relay entrants. One of our number was 61-year old Steve Edwards, lining up for his 1000th marathon with an average time of around 3:21 – a new world record at that pace. Incredible!

After a short delay we were off…

The route – updated this year – was a mix of road and pavement paths (not too many roundabouts). It undulated more than expected, largely due to underpasses and a couple of fiendish hills when the course hit the semi-rural outskirts. I felt good and ran the first half under 1:28. The good vibes continued until around mile 20, when I started to feel queasy if not tired. An attempt to down my final gel at mile 22 ended in near-disaster with a stop, a wretch and my body flat refusing to consume that last bit of synthesised sugar and caffeine. Was history repeating?!

I pulled myself together. A glance at my Garmin time predictor at mile 24 said I still had 2 mins in the bank. Dwindling glycogen meant mid-way through mile 25 that had dropped to 30 seconds. Squeaky bum time.

The literal grandstand finish was one lap around the stadium pitch. On entering, I could hear the 3hr pacer just behind me yelling at his followers to pick up the pace. My legs and chest were on fire. Did I have it in me?!

I mustered what speed I had left, and managed to cross the line ahead of the pacer. But what about chip time??? I looked down at my watch….

2:59:39

Phew. As So Solid Crew once said…

The (thankfully straightforward) train journey home was spent texting family, friends and fellow Harriers. I’ve been completely bowled over by support from club mates (Josh Pratt gets a special mention for beer care package). Thank you all!

I was also chuffed that Steve got his world record, and overjoyed that our own Alex Reid smashed a milestone the same day (the 70th anniversary of Bannister’s seminal achievement).

What a sport, and what a club we have. Next up, Boston perhaps.