After successfully completing my first 69 miles ultra a few weeks back I thought it would be a good idea to see how I’d fare with a repeat run from last year – a marathon at Scorcher Running Festival or maybe go one better by doing one on Saturday and then one on Sunday.
As well as that I wanted to improve my time and to further test the run-walk-run technique I’d used successfully to complete The Wall ultra but with some modification.
Last year, the Scorcher Marathon was my second ever marathon and I’d struggled with it – taking 6:08:27 to complete. About halfway round it had all started to go bad resulting a slow hobble to the finish due to sore feet.
The Scorcher Running Festival is held over 7 days from 16 July 2018 to 22 July 2018. You can run a 5k, 5 milers, half marathon, marathon or a 50k ultra marathon everyday for 7 days or any combination or you can choose to just enter a race on a particular day. You can also camp at the Salwick Showgrounds and this is included in the entry price.
The races are run on roads around the Salwick Showgrounds. The roads are open to traffic but there isn’t too many cars. They’re flat with the only “hills” being as you go up over the 2 bridges crossing the M55 motorway.
The marathon, half and ultra are run on a 4.37 mile loop. For the marathon you go around just under 6 times, with the start part way round the first lap to get to the measured marathon distance.
The Test Method
My plan was to run/walk/run the course by running 5 k at 6:30 per k pace and then walk for 3 minutes and to do this for 8 times with me expecting the walking to complete the 2 kms needed to finish – it should also give me some spare time to allow a slowdown a little at the end.
I wanted to get a PB (personal best) and to go under 5 hours which I thought considering the terrain was more than doable (Previous best was for a marathon was 5:17:51 chip time for Beachy Head Marathon).
I worked out what I needed for a sub 5 hour marathon at – 40 kms at 6:30 would be 4:20:00plus 8 3 minute walks would give a total time 4:44:00 = assuming I walked 2 km’s in 24 minutes leaving a 16 minute buffer.
I wasn’t going to worry about my heart rate although I would be monitoring.
My nutrition before the race was to be a double bulletproof coffee (coffee, butter, coconut oil plus double cream) along with primal nutoats (almonds, pecans, coconut milk, 1/4 banana, yoghurt and berries).
During the race I’d have an eat protein bar and peanuts along with electrolyte and water.
During The Wall I’d run 25 minutes and walked 5 minutes not a set distance or pace as I was attempting here.
I wanted to check that running at faster pace than previously (for me at a marathon) combined with walking would prevent exhaustion and help with recovery to allow for a 2nd possible marathon the following day. Of course, get a new PB too. It would help me with my plans for future ultras and marathons.
The walking time gives time drink and eat while your legs get some rest from running. It also might help with injury prevention as well as reduce fatigue.
The course being relatively flat did mean I shouldn’t need to walk as there were only 2 small hills for the motorway crossings.
I was expecting that this would go well as it was only a few weeks since I’d completed The Wall ULtra and thought I was still fairly fit for me.
How The Run-Walk-Run Marathon Went
The marathon has a good start time at 9.00 am.
I got there in the morning around 8.00 am for registration to avoid the stress of being late. It was fairly quiet and it continued to be with just 20 people running the marathon. There was plenty of spare room for campers and car parking.
The start was fairly low key after the short walk to it. After a quick briefing and countdown we’re off up a slight slope.
I started out running the 5ks quicker than my target time and I felt good – running between 6:00 and 6:20 per km (not breaking any records). The 3 minute walks added a 0.3 km which I added to the 5k running so after the 2nd 5k running plus walk meant I’d covered about 10.6 km.
At the start of each lap there was water, flat coke, electrolytes, sweets and flapjack. I ignored it all except the water where I had a couple of cups each lap and filled my bottle on the last lap.
The weather was just about right – overcast and not too hot – around 17 degrees – more like it normally is in the North West summer than one of those hot sunny days we’d been experiencing where it had got up to 24 Celsius or so and sunny.
Being on open roads without footpaths even though quiet can be a little concerning. For the most part the drivers of the cars are careful and give you plenty of room. However, it’s the groups of bikes that gave me most concern as you don’t hear them until the last minute and they don’t like to slow down nor change their line too much. But apart from giving me a bit of scare when I’d hear them late, I didn’t have any issues nor did anyone else as far as I know.
Some of the stretches on the roads did drag when the end didn’t seem to be getting closer and then you’d get to the bend and be faced with more of the same. But overall it’s a reasonable route even if going round 6 times isn’t the most exciting. It’s not like a big marathon through a city must be like (I’ve not done one) with plenty of support to help with motivation and distraction or a trail marathon where there is plenty to see and concentrate on where to put your feet. Good for testing the mental part of running.
Halfway through the marathon having completed 3 laps and I was at just over 2:17:22 so I was making good time. I was about 13 minutes up on the schedule for a 5 hour finish. The 5ks running and 3 minutes walking was working well. I felt good and last year this was when it all started going wrong.
And so it continued until…
It was about halfway through the fifth lap that I ran into problems. I was just finishing up a 3 minute walk section. This was about the time I was lapped by a runner from my club who was on his 6th marathon in 6 days – he went on to have the fastest combined time for all those who did the 7 in 7 days marathons. He was only about an hour faster than me on this race! Good for him.
I think 4 people lapped me on the course, at least no-one lapped me twice as happened last year, it was Adam Holland.
I had a draining of energy at about the 20 mile point. After running below 6:30 per km I was now over 7:00 per km and struggling – I even had one at 9:41 just before the end.
I continued the 5k running and 3 minutes running until the 8the repetition where I took a walking break after 3 – 4 kms and had a 5 minute walk and then ran the last 600 meters to complete in a new PB of 4:47:14. I felt exhausted and much worse than I did at the end of the ultra.
My average heart rate was 163 bpm with a maximum of 181 bpm. Which would also help to explain the sudden drop off of energy at mile 20.
And to finish it off:
it was pointed to me at the end of the race I’d suffered the indignity of a double nipple rub to the point I’d bled on to my running vest – not a good look or pleasant experience – I wasn’t looking forward to the shower later on.
I received a nice medal and a banana. If you get 7 of the medals they fit together to make a sundial – I’ve only got 5 more to go.
After resting for awhile and eating some cocktail sausages, peanuts, drinking water I drove home and sat on the couch and binged watch the second series of Westworld for a few hours. That was my recovery. Not smart. No stretching, no foam rollering, no hot or cold bath to help with recovery.
I’d decided at this stage not to do a 2nd marathon on Sunday and I stuck to this.
What I Learned
I guess you could say for a road marathon and a flat one at that I “cheated” with my plan of run /walk as there is the expectation that you should run for the whole way – not something I’ve ever managed on any marathon although they do tend to be on trails where there is less expectation on running the entire way with some steep climbs and only the best being able or prepared to run the entire thing.
I’m closer to the back than the front and it is the challenge of getting around quicker is important to me is my justification.
I didn’t take my nutrition as serious as I should I thought I’d be able to run on a bulletproof coffee and a primal nutoat (made from banana, coconut milk, almonds and pecans). I did eat half an eat protein bar during the race
I guess I sacrificed my performance for long term health, (although I’m not sure how good a marathon is for long term health) trying to keep my blood sugar levels from spiking by not ingesting too many carbs at one time. I need to check and test this sometime in the future – although testing my blood sugar levels while racing is probably not the easiest – and what about the time I’d lose too!
I got my nutrition and glucose and heart rate wrong on this for sure. Not sure I’d have finished within 5 hours otherwise. I’d consider this a breakthrough workout of distance at this pace for me.
So, I need to remember a marathon is a long way. I going to concentrate on getting my nutrition right and improving my pacing rather than more long races before the Snowdonia Marathon – on 27 October with a couple of big hills to add to the challenge. Concentrate on the training. I don’t really want to be eating sugar gels or the like. Might go back and try Phil’s bars along with cocktail sausages, maybe add some olives next time too, to add a few more carbs in.
For the next marathon I need to ensure I have more training runs at MAF, stick to a low carb healthy fat diet, add some intermittent fasting and get the weight down. It had crept up to 13 stone (182 lbs).
It wasn’t all bad I did go better than last year where I faded after I’d just completed the third lap and walked the remaining 3 laps. I just felt like it had been a bad run/walk marathon.
Overall I managed to run/walk my best time for a marathon and also below 5 hours achieving a time of 4:47:08. So not a total loss. But it did make me re-think my plans – I wouldn’t do a second marathon in the weekend nor sign up for the Cumbria Way Ultra that was to be run in the middle of September.
Instead I’d concentrate on my training for the Snowdonia marathon at the end of October rather than possibly overdoing it to take advantage of my current level of fitness and give some more time to recover from the marathon and ultra. And make sure I get my nutrition right too.
There is always next year!