Monday, 4 August 2014

Vanguard Way Marathon Report

Time to reflect on my third marathon yesterday and my first of three marathons in the next three months. Warning this blog may turn into a bit of a marathon read and doesn't even fully cover everything that happened along the way! 

Yesterday I completed the Vanguard Way Marathon, a small local trail marathon starting out in South Croydon following the Vanguard Way trail out to Limpsfield and back. The race was organised by a member of the 100 marathon club and I was in awe of some of the runners I ran with who were rightly introduced and acknowledged at the start of the race, a few had run in the region of 500 marathons and one gentleman was on the verge of completing his 1000th marathon in the coming weeks! If that didn't motivate me to run then I don't know what would have!

The run turned out to be really enjoyable with some great trails, countryside and scenery to experience. I enjoyed some great running and felt stronger and ran more than in previous marathons. I also experienced some great camaraderie with my fellow runners along the course. 

The marathon turned out to be a rather eventful few hours of running.


In the week leading up to the marathon I had very much enjoyed 'the fun part to marathon training', that is the bit where you get to eat loads under the guise of 'carb loading'. Despite eating lots I managed to keep it all healthy and clean with lots of potato, flapjacks and tortilla wraps, you can read about some of my carb loading fun here

I felt pretty good in the build up to the run although I had missed out on a few long training runs due to illness and injury, see previous blog articles here.
The start of the marathon was about an hours drive from home, so I made sure I was all organised and ready to go the night before with only a little bit of packing in the morning. We set off in good time and we managed to find our way their easily and got there in plenty of time. I say 'we' as although I wasn't running with anyone I had my number one supporter my wife with me acting as driver, support crew, photographer and cheer leader.

This was my first event with my camelpack and I must say it worked out well as it was comfortable to wear, allowed me to stay well hydrated throughout the run and I was able to carry energy gels a lot more comfortably than my running bum bag I used previously.

The Actual Run

The marathon was a small scale trail marathon only in its second year. The course was marked out with tape and spray paint arrows which required a certain amount of self navigation and awareness to ensure you stayed on the right track.

Lets just say that although I didn't have any real running problems my navigation wasn't as successful! 

Detour number 1

After around 3 or 4 miles I was part of a largish group of maybe ten runners coming down a trail picking up a decent speed enjoying a decline in the trail. We came to the bottom of the section, over a crossroads in the path and I followed everyone through another gate up onto the next part of the trail. As the trail started to get steeper I was now part of a group of maybe 20 runners when 2 or 3 runners started to raise questions over whether we were on the right path and if any markers had been spotted. After a bit of discussion they decided to head back but I made the decision to press up following the majority of the other runners ahead of me.
It turns out we had missed our turning and had ended up going up and around the golf course rather than along the bottom of it an up the other side. After a mile or two we met up with the proper route again and I think the detour only added a short distance to the course. Although I was at fault for not observing course markings and getting caught up with the group I don't consider this error to be my fault which is frustrating as it cost a lot of time in deliberating and discussing which way to go and how to proceed.

Detour number 2

Just after the half way turnaround I was running with another guy who I had been running with for several mile and we had struck up quite a bit of conversation about the course and the run. The route took us onto a bridge over the motorway and back onto an off road track into a wooded area. I was confident we should then veer off to the left down a few steps onto another trail. Following the guy in front I kept my eyes peeled for this passage to the left but couldn't see it so I thought I must have been mistaken and kept on running up the track. A few minutes later and I started having serious doubts over where we were heading and sure enough shortly after the other guy stopped to question me. We consulted the map and decided we were unsure of where to head so should continue to the next junction before deciding how to reconnect back with the real trail. We were soon caught up by another runner who confidently reassured us we were on the right path and should keep going straight on. I voiced my concerns that we had missed a turning to the left through the woods and although the other two thought this might be correct we decided going back would waste too much time and we should just try to reconnect to the real route. After pressing on for several minutes with the three of us having contrasting views on how to proceed I decided it was time to whip out my phone to consult my mapmyrun app which had been tracking my run. I quickly identified where we had gone wrong and where we needed to head to reconnect with the route. A few hundred metres down the side of a busy road and we met up with familiar territory and the course. Easily a mile wasted and more time lost in discussing where to go. 

Worse than the detour upon trying to quickly navigate the most direct route through a field of cows I failed to notice a rather large muddy patch and ended up taking several large squelchy steps. As if that was bad enough the mud wasn't pure mud and contained the kind of smelly stuff you unfortunately find in cow fields! My trainers got pretty dirty and wet which made them heavy for the next few miles but the worse thing was the stinking smell caused my the cow excrement coming from them which thankfully only lasted for a few miles! 

Detour number 3 

Coming into the last 4 or 5 miles the trail passed through some woods before coming out onto residential roads towards the finish in Lloyd Park. I was managing to find my way OK while trying to make ground on two runners a few hundred metres ahead of me. I remembered from the way out that there was a tight poorly signed corner which I think I managed to take, I was then heading straight along a path for ages waiting for the path to come out onto roads. It took me too long to realise I had gone to far and obviously had missed a turning. Upon consulting my phone to check mapmyrun My heart sank as I realised I had ended up a long way off course. I quickly planned the most direct route to link me up with trail again determined to get back on course and complete the route. My heart quickly sank as I realised it was around 3 miles to join me back up towards the finish line and the start of this journey was a steep long hill! I walked/jogged my way towards the finish carefully checking my map to make sure I was heading the right way and taking the most direct route. 

I decided to keep going until I hit the marathon distance and then to just concentrate on getting back to the finish line. I had spent so long looking at my map and trying to navigate that my race time had suffered greatly.

After an age I caught sight of the park where the finish was, I felt like a right idiot heading towards the finish line in pretty much the opposite direction of the actual course and my wife was shocked to see me creep up on her from the wrong direction! 

So the finish brought a range of emotions, I was so pleased with my actual running performance as I ran throughout the 5 hours it took me to complete the course and my legs were full of running in the final miles. I was so disappointed to have messed things up so much though! 

I was very downhearted to have put so much effort in and sacrificed so much to end up with a disappointing time caused largely by my detours and the delays and stoppages they caused. 


Post race apart from the anguish, frustration, disappointment and annoyance of taking so many detours physically I felt good, really good! Throughout the day I kept waiting for the pain to hit me but it never came. 

Directly after finishing I did a bit of a shakedown and cool down and as well as taking on plenty of water I consumed an energy drink, a protein shake, a banana, a mars bar and a tortilla wrap. As well as no physical pain I didn't suffer any stomach issues either during the race, directly after the race, after eating or during the drive home.

I did take a huge amount of satisfaction from feeling so good after such an effort and knew it meant I had trained and prepared very well.

First thing I did when I got home? Before I jumped in the shower I popped my favorite source of post run dirty carbs in the oven and as soon as I was washed up I devoured it pretty much as quick as I could.

A Chicago Town takeaway style filled crust pizza, hits the spot every time! 

Thanks for reading and I plan to share more thoughts from the marathon and my experiences soon.