Monday 29 August 2022

Kent: Pride marathon race recap

There were some aspects of my final marathon I'd planned since the very beginning.  I always knew I wanted to finish somewhere local (ish) so my family could come.  I always planned to wear all the medals for the last mile ... that was why I made the rule that every race had to have a medal in the first place.
But there were also some things I hadn't thought about.  Various changes to marathons and their dates meant the most logical county to finish on was Kent, which wasn't that local for most of my family. The way that my races fell meant this would have ended up being my 99th marathon which seemed a bit random, so I squeezed in an extra one during London's 35 degree heatwave so this could be my 100th.
I hadn't really thought about how to celebrate the end of a challenge like this (other than obviously there MUST be cake).  I started there, by ordering a massive 12" x 12" plain iced cake, some green fondant, some paper flags and a running figurine.  Ben managed to print out a map, transfer it onto cardboard and patiently assisted me as I recreated it in fondant and placed it on the cake.  Here's the finished cake, which we were rather pleased with:
and here's a close up of the flags...


I also ordered some helium balloons, a couple of confetti cannons and a smoke grenade to add a bit of drama.  Ben organised some champagne and we bought a new coolbox and packed plastic glasses and a folding table and chairs.  I arranged for my mum and dad, my best friend Lee-Anne and my daughter Iz to come along.  Closer to the time, my lovely running friends Chloe and Paul also entered the event meaning I'd have company throughout and some extra people to celebrate with.  Ben had also entered the half marathon.  I was getting very excited!  I was also a bit nervous because the weekend before the race I scratched my cornea taking a contact lens out, and had spent much of the previous week in a lot of pain.  I'd managed to go into work but couldn't drive and had to wear sunglasses all the time.  I'd not done any running other than a 5k two days before.  Then again, after all this planning, and after all the hard marathons I've run, there was no way I was going to give up easily.  I would give it my best shot.

Another reason I'd chosen Kent was because I'd been here a couple of times before (once I planned to do the marathon but it was close to my 100 miler and my coaches insisted I stop after 3 hours, the second time was so Ben could do his first half marathon).  I'd met Traviss, the race director, who is lovely and organises an awful lot of races so is very used to people completing 100 marathons.  We chatted beforehand and he was happy to host, and it was also a looped race (5 x 5.25 miles) so very convenient for spectators.  It was also the 10th day of 15 days of races so there were plenty of people there doing multiple marathons, i.e. I wasn't the only nutter.

Ben dropped me off early and then drove to the station to collect Chloe and Paul.  I registered, went to the loo and got my table all set up and sorted the cake out, which pleasingly received lots of "oooh"s from other runners. Ben, Chloe and Paul arrived and we said hello.  As we were waiting for the race briefing, Traviss introduced me to a runner called Ivan Field who was also a counties runner.  He'd run waaaay more than me, as he'd also done all of Scotland and Wales and (I think) quite a lot of Ireland as well.  I'd vaguely heard of him as he is top of the leaderboard for counties on the 100 Marathon Club website. We bonded over how many ultras one has to do to get all the counties - apparently in Wales it's even worse! - and had a really nice chat. 

In the race briefing, Traviss pointed out all the runners doing their 10th marathon in 10 days (there were quite a few of them!) and then told the assembled company about me and my challenge, and highlighted that I had brought cake so I got a cheer for that!

And then it was time to set off!  I had run the course before and it is a very, very simple out and back route.

There's not much to say about the run.  Chloe, Paul, Ben and I chatted away at an easy pace, catching up on what runs we'd done lately, what we'd got planned and so on.  Chloe had had a nasty fall over the summer so was just building up her distance again and planned to stop after the half.   We noodled along and the time passed quickly.  Ben took a nice selfie of us, I think this was on the first lap:

On the second lap, I took one, laughing that it wasn't as easy as I thought...

It was a perfect day weather wise: dry with a slight breeze, not too warm.  The course has a couple of gentle uphills, barely noticeable at first. 

After 2.5 laps it was time for Chloe to finish.  She was delighted to find that she was 1st female in the half marathon and got a special "Winner" badge for her medal!

While we were stopped, my daughter Iz appeared. My parents had just arrived, but had parked in the other car park, and sent her to find us.  I was planning to cut the cake (so that it could be shared with all the people doing the half as they would be long gone by the time I finished) so Iz stayed and watched that before going back to collect my parents.  


Chloe went to get a cup of tea and a change of clothes and Paul, Ben and I set off to complete the third lap.  One of the particularly lovely things about these local races is how lovely the other participants are.  So many people said, "Congratulations" to me as I was running.  It made it even more special.

On our return to the car park, my mum was there with her gigantic sign (you may remember it from Northamptonshire and West Midlands) but this time it had been amended!
Ben was finishing here, so he got his medal and we all stopped for some cake and water.  Dad took this lovely photo before Paul and I set off for the fourth lap.

Paul and I ran together for the first half of lap four, chatting away.  As we passed the loos, he wanted to stop so I decided it'd be a good idea for me to stop too.  He told me not to wait and he'd catch me up.  Unfortunately, due to faffing on an epic scale, I took ages, and by the time I was back on course I could only just see Paul disappearing into the distance.  I noodled on, eventually seeing him after he turned around and was on his way back.  He was laughing.  He'd thought he was behind me, so had done "the fastest kilometre ever" (his words) without realising he was actually getting further away!  

In any case, it was fine.  I noodled along some more, stopping to take photos of the motivational words written on the pavement.  I was starting to feel quite tired, but my eye was completely fine which I was very relieved about.

As I came up to the aid station at the end of the fourth loop, everyone was there waiting.  To my surprise, Ben's friend James was also unexpectedly there, having cycled from Bromley to see my grand finale - I thought that was really kind of him as it seemed like a long way (apparently about 25 miles).

Paul had waited for me (also lovely as he must have been standing around for 5 minutes, never great in the middle of a race) and we ran the last lap together.  I'd arranged to meet Ben at the bottom of the slope going up to the finish to put on all my medals and collect the smoke grenade.  He was there waiting, and it took a couple of minutes to put on all the medals.  I'd weighed them beforehand (4.7kg) and it was really funny putting them all on.   Paul said I looked like Mr T which was amusing because only earlier I had been going on about how much I love milk as a recovery drink.  I tried to make the smoke grenade work, but when I pulled the cord, nothing happened, so I abandoned it*. 

Once I had all the medals on, I started making my way up the hill, with Paul and Ben following behind.
Here is a hilarious video of me clanking my way towards the finish.  You can hear Lee-Anne laughing her head off in the background, which totally adds to it for me.  Hope it works...

As I passed Lee-Anne and Iz, they set off the confetti cannons on either side of me.  I absolutely love these photos....

It was such a joyful moment!


And here it is from another angle!


Biodegradable of course.

I jogged on to the finish where everyone clapped and they added my 48th medal to the clanking pile of medals around my neck.

I had a few photos taken with all the medals but to be honest I was quite keen to take them all off.  Despite having run the marathon distance 100 times, I've only actually done about 7 other official marathons, so I'm still 45 marathons away from joining the  "official" 100 marathon club.  By then I'll probably have run nearly 200 marathons! 

After that it was time for some photos with my family and with everyone who ran with me today:

Then I gave a short speech, which I hadn't originally intended to do but Ben encouraged me to write one the day before.  There is a video of it but it's too big to put here, suffice to say it was quite a cute moment and Ben was right, it was a good thing to do. 

And then we opened the champagne and some alcohol-free fizz that Paul and Chloe had brought, and we all had a few drinks.  Lee-Anne had brought me a running mug (which I love) and a bottle of sparkling wine from Kent (awww, so thoughtful!) and I received a couple of lovely cards:

I'll do one more post with some stats and my thoughts on all the counties as a whole, but for now this is the end.   People keep asking me, "What's next?" which is always a tricky question.  For now, I've signed up for another 100 miler next summer so I don't just give up running - sounds funny but it's actually very easy to just sort of let things slide at the end of a big challenge!   After that... who knows?  I do have a bit of a plan... and I'll post again here if there's any news.  So thank you all so much for reading, feel free to make a donation to my chosen charity if you've enjoyed my blog, and I promise I will keep you posted.

* It transpired later that the smoke grenade was NOT intended to be hand held as it was in fact a firework (I hadn't read the instructions properly) and required an 8m radius.  Its failure to work narrowly averted turning my last marathon into some horrifying trip to A&E.  Yikes!

Photo credits: Ben, James, Chloe, my dad - thank you all

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