Sunday 22 September 2019

Rutland: The Rutland Marathon race recap

Rutland is the smallest county in England, a fact I didn't know until I began this challenge.  When I came up with the idea, the first thing I did was check that there were marathons in all the counties that might not have them: Rutland, the Isle of Wight, City of Bristol etc.  Last year it clashed with something so I put it on my 'definite' list for this year, just in case it was discontinued!  The week before the marathon, Rutland was in the news for being the only county in England not to have a McDonalds.

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.   
I made my way over to registration and explained the t-shirt problem.  The girl doing the registration didn't know and fetched one of the organisers, who said I couldn't have the race t-shirt early because it was "a surprise".  I resisted the urge to mention that a) I'd rather be comfortable than surprised and b) I was going to be wearing a jacket and a vest over it anyway.  She said she'd see what she could do and went and rummaged through a box.  First she produced a non-technical t shirt and said, "I've got this," which I wasn't exactly thrilled with given the weather conditions but beggars can't be choosers, but then she said, "oh hang on... there's some of last year's technical t-shirts here... you can have one of these?  I've only got large though?"  I gratefully accepted and put it on.  It was vast, but I tucked it in and got on with sorting out my race number/drop bag/running vest etc.   This race also had a very cute idea of a "Runner's Needs" bag which you would get at mile 14 and 21 so I dropped that off too.  Then I got a cup of tea because I was cold, and hid under some trees waiting for the race to start:
By the time they called us down to do the (very brief) race briefing, the rain was starting to ease off.  It's never great starting a race when you're already wet and cold, but I was hopeful conditions would improve as the race went on.
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:
If you can spare a few quid, why not bung it in his direction?!
So yeah.  We did some running.  The race was sponsored by Gu so I kept picking up gels even though I don't really use them, thinking they might come in handy in future (I do sometimes have an expresso one in night races to help me stay awake).  The race did an out-and-back, then went past the start again and headed out towards the peninsula.  There were a few forest bits:
The longest road section was on the way out towards the peninsula.  Somewhere along here Tim dropped a ball, something he only did three times throughout the 20 miles I ran with him.  The whole race was amazingly well marked, with marshalls anywhere you might get confused, and excellent medical support all the way round.  There were regular, well-stocked aid stations and friendly volunteers.  Surrey could learn a lot from Rutland....
This was the view back across the lake once we got onto the peninsula.  There was a little uphill section which we walked up whilst eating (both of us had done enough ultras to value a hill in a non-hilly race!)
This bit was probably the prettiest section of the whole race.  The rain seemed to have given up and I was feeling pretty cheerful at this point.  Tim and I were talking about blogs, I was telling him about how mine are really long and waffley and epic tales, whereas his are 3 lines: "Got there, ran it, went home".  He is writing a book, and we discussed how he could use his imagination to spice up his race reports - zombie sheep, killer geese, things slithering out of the bushes.  It was highly entertaining.
Around this point we bumped into Helen when she overheard me ranting about 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! 
It was on this bit that the sun finally came out.  I remember this bit because the three of us all agreed that this was the BEST way to spend a Sunday morning - out on the trails, running, chatting with people we'd only met today.  Despite the fact my entire weekend often has to revolve around my races, it's worth it for these bits.  It was one of those lovely 'runner's highs' where everything was alright with the world.
We finished the Peninsula and got back to the 21 mile feed station, where I got my hands on my previously-provided "Runners Needs" bag.  I guzzled my lovely Coke and Kendal mint cake, which gave me a massive sugar/caffeine boost.  This sign was right by the aid station and I was a bit like 'WTF?  WHY?'
I stayed with Helen for the rest of the race.  She said I helped her but it was definitely mutual!  Tim likes a sprint finish so we lost him somewhere in the last few miles.  Helen and I agreed we definitely had no intention of anything resembling a sprint finish so we chugged along chatting.  All was well until about a mile before the end, when the rain returned.  With a vengeance.  It's difficult to tell how bad it is from photos:
The lake just looks pretty in the above pic, but we were getting absolutely hammered, you can sort of see it here but you'll have to take my word for it that it was like getting in the shower fully clothed.
However luckily we weren't far from the end so we just gritted our teeth and got it done:
Lovely finish line pic!  Well done us.  Not the easiest race weather-wise, but lovely scenery and brilliant organisation.  The medal was good too - it has a cutout of the shape of Rutland Water which was a nice touch.  After crossing the finish line you walk round the corner into a tent where you're greeted by this joyous sight:
I ate about 4 slices of cake and got one of the volunteers to take this horrible photo:
Then I had a (free!) post-race massage.  I explained to the guy that I had to drive back to Liverpool (>3 hours) and couldn't be arsed with stretching or foam rolling, what did he suggest?  He did something which didn't really feel like much - just sort of pressing rather than massage - getting me to push against his arm with 10% effort.  I don't know what he did exactly but I had the best recovery from a marathon ever so whatever it was it totally worked - thank you so much dude! He also gave me twice as long as everyone else which was super-kind of him and much appreciated.


  1. Rutland is only the smallest county when it's low tide on the Isle of Wight.

  2. Hi Alice, I see you availed yourself of the lovely cakes at the end. I think you finished just behind me as I went out to cheer you on,and after about 15 minutes thought you had either already finished or been devoured by those wild looking sheep.
    It was great running and chatting with you - you've given me lots of inspiration and ideas. I'm currently working on the scary blog - woooh! which will replace my current one in a week or two.
    A big thank you from the Tigers for the lovely donation - a few boxes of super sized whiskers cat food are now heading over to the Indonesian rain forests :-). I'll keep following your blog and keep an eye on where you are running and it'll be great to meet up again.
    All the Best
    Tiger Tim (roar!!!!)