I went down the night before and stayed in a very weird B&B. On arrival I realised I'd forgotten to pack a technical t-shirt - oh dear. I had to laugh after last week's snarky comments about people wearing the race t-shirt before they'd run the race... my best option was to beg the organisers to give me the race t-shirt early so I could run in it. Either that or run in my sports bra... hmm... no.
In any case, I got up the next morning, put on a hoody and a raincoat and made my way to the race. The forecast was for rain showers but pretty much as soon as I arrived at the venue there was torrential rain. I had my trusty Goretex but I was still feeling pretty soggy before I even got to registration. The race was around Rutland Water, here's my first view of the lake:
I hid under a tree and checked the weather forecast. Still says showers, but with a 97% chance of rain at the start of the race. Hmm.
The race began on grass as you left the registration area but quickly turned a corner and ran along a path interspersed with huge puddles alongside the lake. The competitors were all bunched up here but it was already obvious it was going to be a very pretty race.
I had to stop three times in the first couple of kilometres - to do up my shoelaces, take off my jacket and have a wee. I found myself running alongside a local man who only ran one marathon a year - this one - to support his local race. His daughter was at Liverpool Uni and he'd been considering the Rock and Roll which I encouraged him to do. We ran together for a mile or so before I lost him. The scenery was very pretty:
One of the things I LOVE about running marathons is that there's always a new surprise to be had, something unexpected and brilliant. It's happened so many times that you almost expect the unexpected. I was running along minding my own business when I caught movement behind me out of the corner of my eye. I glanced over my shoulder. Was that man ... juggling? REALLY? I pulled my phone out to take a photo:
As he got nearer I said, "I've run a lot of marathons but I've never seen that before!" He seemed slightly surprised by that, as if juggling whilst running was pretty bog standard. He asked me how many marathons. I told him 41. He said he'd run 46. I didn't find out until later that his name was Tim and he meant 46 marathons whilst juggling the entire time. He'd done more than that but didn't count the non-juggling ones. OBVIOUSLY.
We then spent the next 20 miles talking about all the races we'd done, comparing notes of the best bits and the worst bits, ones to recommend and avoid, figuring out which races we'd both done. We talked about juggling (he's been juggling for years and it's second nature), we talked about our running ambitions - he is going for 100 juggling marathons - there's a guy in Chicago (Perry) who is doing the same but he's slightly ahead at the moment. I'm running Chicago next month so I will have my eyes peeled for another juggler.
I soon caught on that other runners/spectators are amused/amazed by the sight of a running juggler. You can see the people coming towards us in this picture smiling and giving a thumbs up. Every other person makes a comment, many of which are similar, "are you going to do that all the way round?" as well as loads of generic, "that's awesome" type comments and Tim has a range of stock responses, "I'm just doing it so I don't show you up", "I thought I'd let someone else win today" etc. It reminded me of when we had our giant dog Ludo and random people constantly said, "Is that a dog or a bear?", "You could put a saddle on her," etc etc.
Sometimes when I'm running with someone (usually someone fairly new to running) who finds out about my counties challenge, they ask me a gadzillion questions and I get a bit embarrassed going on and on about myself. It feels like bragging and it makes me uncomfortable, after all I'm just shuffling round various places on a Sunday, it's not like I'm some kind of superhuman athlete. Anyway I've discovered the answer is to run beside a juggling runner. Nobody takes a second glance at you, nobody asks you any questions, Tim was basically my human shield for 20 miles!
He was also really friendly and the miles just disappear when you've got someone good to talk to. He let me try his super-tasty snack bars (Lucho Dillitos) which I'd never heard of. We talked about stupid fancy dress costumes we've worn whilst running, we talked about his fundraising (he is raising money for Wildcat Conservation - here's the link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/timstigers
If you can spare a few quid, why not bung it in his direction?!
Surrey could learn a lot from Rutland....
the dreaded sign at New Forest marathon. She joined us and we soon found out she's another one of our sort (she's run 6 marathons in 6 months) despite various health challenges - total respect to this lady, she's not had it easy but is so determined, and has two young children to fit in around her running (or maybe it's the other way round...) I love people like her and we had some really great conversations, including about her work as a breastfeeding counsellor - she's got a car full of knitted boobs in all shapes, sizes and colours!