I’d been eyeing up Ladybower trail marathon for a couple of months before I finally decided that I wouldn’t bother. I’d already run the White Peaks marathon this season and it was the day after my birthday. I’d made plans for my birthday to have a bring your own curry party so I was going to be slightly hungover and heavy from copious amounts of curry being consumed – it was for the best.
Two weeks before the marathon I got a Facebook notification in the Sheffield Running Club group I’m a member of, a fellow member Simon Allen was pulling out of the race due to injury. Turns out he is offering the place to any willing member of the group, it was a Friday night and I’d had a couple of beers so I threw my name into the hat and forgot completely about it.
Ladybower Trail Marathon Call-up
The next day I get another notification, it’s Simon Allen saying that the other runners couldn’t do it and that the place was mine if I wanted it. I hesitated to respond for a while, recalling the pain and suffering experienced in the White Peaks marathon, then after a couple of hours, I caved. The place was mine and I was running another marathon.
I hadn’t been training over longer distances for a while as I’ve been focusing on running a sub 20-minute Parkrun at Endcliffe so I wasn’t in the best place for the race. I didn’t want the race to dominate my birthday celebrations either so I decided to enjoy myself but make sure I was in bed for 12:30 am the night before.
Ladybower Marathon 2018
Saturday 30th June 2018, race day. I’d managed to stick to my birthday celebrations commitment but was feeling slightly worse for wear, definitely a little hungover and very well fed from the curry banquet. I was feeling confident, possibly a little arrogant due to my lack of preparation with working out my target splits. I wrote them on my hand the night before and because I was short on time, I just opted for straight splits throughout hoping to run at an average of 5:01/km throughout. If achieved, this would give me a finish time of around 3 hours and 40 minutes, which I would’ve been chuffed to achieve again.
I met my running friend Rose at the start line, she’d managed to bag a place by turning up on the day so I was pretty excited to be running in the same marathon as Rose. It was 15 degrees when we set out and the temperature was set to soar throughout the day to 26-27 degrees, the longer it took the tougher it was going to become.
The first half of the marathon went exceptionally well, I was hitting an average pace of 4:48/km, well below my target. The sun was beating down hard and I felt my shoulders burning – I got to the halfway checkpoint and took a water break and lathered some suncream on. Then things took a swift downward turn as I reached mile 14 and the punishing uphill climb I’d read about to the top and along Hagg Side hill took it’s toll.
Running too fast
My legs were feeling tired, more tired than they should’ve been for this early on in the race and I was feeling nauseous. The electrolyte drinks I’d been sipping, the two gels I’d consumed and two bananas weren’t sitting well at all. This was going to be a tough endurance contest to make it to the end, all I could focus on was making it to the next checkpoint and being able to drink some water.
I’d slipped into checking my watch too often and I really was watching the kilometres slowly trickle upwards as I gave myself the goal of reaching the 20-mile checkpoint. It was very difficult and by the time I’d got there I felt sick as a dog, I wasn’t sure if I could finish the race, I wanted to throw up but knew I couldn’t afford to lose any of the liquid I’d managed to consume.
Running with Heat Stroke
I filled my tiny water bottle and set out again, determined to finish the bloody thing even if I just walked it. It was stop-start-stop-start as I carried on into the final 6 miles – I felt very sick and couldn’t handle to sloshing of liquid in my stomach so opted for a fast walk/slow jog pace. When I made the about turn at the very end of Ladybower I had to leave the shade again, back into the sun to fully experience a heat that could surely only be matched in hell.
Running out of water
My water bottle ran dry again and there were 5 miles to go – I kept on moving determined to get to the end. I think I counted 9 other runners pass me whilst I was in this state of reckless abandon. I knew I could finish the race but my target times kept slipping by and by mile 25 I’d resorted to accepting a four and a half hour finish time.
During the last kilometre I severely cramped up but luckily a mountain biker was passing and came to my aid. He offered up a refill of water from his water bottle and gave me a dissolvable magnesium tablet. Turns out the magnesium is really good at replenishing the salts I’d lost through sweating so much in the sizzling summer sun.
I ended up making it across the finish line in 4:21:43, which placed me at 32nd in the field of 93 runners. I was disappointed with my time as I’d lost 40 minutes on my target but considering the conditions and how rough I felt throughout the second half, I’m just glad I finished. Lessons have been learned and I’ll be back next year to try and beat my time.
Want more? Go and have a read Daniel Page’s experience of running Ladybower Trail Marathon.