It takes a certain level of friendly camaraderie, or stupidity to book yourself onto a marathon. But after a successful couple of reccy runs where I’d upped my mileage, I felt confident enough to go it alone and book myself onto the little known White Peak Marathon organised by Matlock Athletics Club. I came across it listed on the Fabian running website and after researching the route I found that it follows a number of trails between Thorpe and Cromford located between Ashbourne, Buxton and Matlock.
The trails played up to their reputation being white and dusty but because of their previous application as railway tracks, the route kindly lacked any harsh elevations. There were just a couple of long gradual hills to contend with, making some deceivingly not flat bits extra taxing on my legs.
Interestingly the route isn’t a circular loop, it is made up of two half marathon sections. The first 7km attributed to the majority of the 198m elevation gain. It then mainly levelled out for a long relentless stomp along Tissington trail until you reach the halfway point at Parsley Hay where you make an about turn and set off on the second half.
The second half of the route is also run on the same day as a half marathon, known as the swift half because the last mile and a half are downhill so it makes for good times and P.B.’s. The commemoration mug actually dons the phrase ‘Fancy a swift half’ so next year I might opt in for the half rather than the full.
In preparation for the marathon, I purchased a new training book, two weeks before the gun would sound, called ‘build your running body’. I set to reading the introductory chapters immediately and eventually came across the training schedules, as it happens there is one specifically for marathons. My only problem was it was an 8-week program and by this point, I had 10 days left to train. I opted to loosely follow the last week of the training program in final preparation for the race.
Struck Down By Injury
I stopped training for the final 3 days leading up to the marathon after experiencing an excruciating pain in the ball of my right foot. I researched what the cause could be and concluded I was experiencing a bout of metatarsalgia. A condition where the nerves surrounding your metatarsal, affecting your 3rd or 4th toe become inflamed, usually from overtraining.
It was touch and go for the final few days if I was even going to be fit to run the race. I was hobbling around the place and convinced I was going to be forced to pull out. In a last-ditch attempt to resurrect the situation I’d read that a supportive insole in my running shoes could offer some relief. I set out to Front Runner running shop on Sharrowvale to see if they had in-soles and they very kindly directed my attention to Outside in Hathersage as having the best local selection of insoles. Sole insoles fitted and I headed to the pub for a couple of pints to settle my pre-marathon nerves and stuff my face with some food to fuel up for the task ahead.
Fuel for the Marathon
Next day and I was at the start line feeling well stocked with 6 running gels, a bag of flapjack, a bag of jelly babies, two 175ml bottles filled with electrolyte juice, a stash of Compeeds plasters and some pains killers in the event of an absolute disaster. Controversially I’d also opted to bring and wear headphones so I could put some tunes on as I certainly didn’t want to get bored whilst running for 4+ hours and end up focusing on the heat and certain pain.
For my first Marathon I’d given myself a pretty loose race plan, due to the length of the thing. I sort out some pre-race day advice where I was recommended to run negative splits. I had a target time of 4 hours and anything around 4 hours was going to be a huge success!
Running Negative Splits
So I set a basic target pace of 5:55/km for the first half and a pace of 5:15/km for the second half. Luckily the heat didn’t deter my enthusiasm, I was feeling really strong during the first half and I ended up pushing the pace and running 5:07/km splits.
Smashing My Marathon Target
This pace surely couldn’t continue as I headed for 28 km plus and pushed past the furthest distance I’d ever ran before. POW, 30km came and I really hit the wall. My splits crept upwards for the second half. But I still managed to run 5:26/km splits for the second half and I’d managed to shave my finish time down to 3:41:56. I am absolutely ecstatic with my time for my first marathon and majorly impressed with finishing 37th out of 140 runners.