9 Crazy Days in March
My partner in crime, James Pearson, had the crazy idea of running 4 marathons in 9 days. The idea came about back in 2015. The plan was to run 2 days of the Enigma Weak at the Knees series, Sunday of the Gin Pit double and Codopoly on the Tuesday.
As the date of the Enigma race approached, we both contemplated also running the Canal Canter, organised by the brilliant itsgrimupnorth. This was a double being held on the Saturday and Sunday before the first Weak at the Knees. For me common sense prevailed, however James decided to take up the challenge and ran the Sunday event, finishing in 3rd place with a time of 3.23.54. He was joined by fellow Harrier Guy Gibson, who finished in 5th with a time of 3.42.52.
Day 1 – Enigma Weak at The Knees – Monday 14th March 2016
The event is a 7 day marathon series held at three different lakes in Milton Keynes. Days 1, 2 and 3 are held at Willen Lake, days 4, 6 and 7 at Caldecotte Lake and Day 5 at Furtzon Lake.
David “Foxy” Bailey and Karen Webber organise the series, along with a number of other runs on the lakes. The events are always oversubscribed and are particularly popular with 100 club members and 100 club wannabes, as they are relatively flat and contain a number of back to back events.
Setting off at 5.15am to make the start time of 9.30am, we made good time, hitting a bit of traffic near Nottingham and shortly before Milton Keynes, eventually arriving at around 8.45am.
The race registration was held at a cafe on the lake from 9.00am onwards, so we arrived just at the right time. We quickly stretched, said hello to our running friends and grabbed our numbers.
On the previous night I had been thinking about the race and who would be entering. The field was about 40 strong, however I knew that James would be tired from the day before and 20 or so would be doing all 7 days, therefore pacing it like an ultra. With this in mind I thought a top 5 place may be possible.
The route was 7 and a bit laps of Willen Lake and for the first lap we were to follow Foxy on his bike, to ensure that no wrong turns were taken. He had kindly also laid flour wherever a turn occurred.
At the start I set off at a reasonable pace, finding myself behind Foxy. After a few hundred yards, I turned around to find a gap had developed between me and the rest of the runners. It entered my head that if things stayed as they were, I could potentially take first place.
Travelling in a clockwise direction, with the lake mainly on the right, there were maybe only 3 or 4 slight inclines per lap. The only real incline was at about mile 2, which James nicknamed Alpe d’Huez from the Tour de France. Shortly before we came to it Foxy advised that I would quite like this bit. It is an uphill slalom, with hairpin turns, for about 200 metres, criss crossing some steps. Once reaching the top, however, there is a kind downhill section to get your breath back.
Foxy left me at the end of the second lap and I didn’t see anyone apart from the odd recreational walker for the next lap. I didn’t need to follow the flour as such, as the local crows had developed a nasty addiction to it’s taste, so I just followed the black harbingers of doom, pecking away at the ground.
At the start of the third lap I began to overtake the back markers. This came just at the right time as boredom had started to set in, so gave me the opportunity to say a quick hello as I went past.
The next few laps flew past and I still maintained a healthy lead. By the time the sixth lap arrived I was beginning to tire, however I was confident that no one was going to pass, so eased off slightly for the last two laps, eventually finishing 1st in a time of 3.18.05.
I am happy to say that James finished 2nd in a time of 3.32.35, making it an East Hull Harriers one two.
Day 4 – Enigma Weak at The Knees – Thursday 17th March 2016
Being a sensible lad I had forgotten to rest between this and the previous marathon, squeezing in 3 spin sessions and a couple of 3 mile runs. This led to tired legs on the morning of the run.
We again set off at 5.15am, however traffic was much kinder and we arrived at around 8.15am.
This time the race was at Caldecotte Lake, which is were the majority of the Enigma events are held. Registration being held at 9.00am at the Premier Inn. Luckily we had brought our race numbers from day 1, as the same numbers are used throughout the week.
In a strange twist of fate, every time we run around Caldecotte we end up running it in reverse. I think Foxy must think us lads from Hull are a bit backwards.
Again it is a 7 lap course, this time starting with a small mini loop. The reverse run is clockwise around the lake and is even flatter than Willen, with only one slight incline around 300 yards from the end of each lap.
Judging from Mondays run I was confident that James and I would probably finish in the top 5, depending on who else turned up on the day.
This time it was James turn to set the pace, following Foxy on his bike and slowly building up a decent lead.
Even though I have been around the lake too many times to think about, I found myself lost about 3 miles in and was unsure whether to go straight on or take a left. Looking in front James and Foxy were nowhere to be seen and looking behind I couldn’t see anyone. I decided to take the left, which turned out to be correct. From this I was pretty confident of another East Hull one two.
The miles seemed to melt away and shortly before the end of lap 2 I passed the first back marker. This was one of the 7 in 7 runners, who must have been feeling the affects of the previous days exertions.
I felt a lot more tired than Monday and had developed a pain in my right shin/ankle, which hurt each time my foot hit the floor, making laps 4 and 5 drag. The only consolation was greeting fellow runners.
Near the end of lap 5 someone told me James was just ahead, which spurred me on. The pain suddenly disappeared and my running seemed more relaxed, helping me to push out lap 6.
I could see James starting his last lap, when I was near the finish of the penultimate lap, and estimated a gap of around 3 minutes. I knew I had no chance of catching him and enjoyed the last lap, knowing that the end was just under 4 miles away, so not too long.
James crossed the line 1st in 3.18.49 and I came 2nd 3.21.44, making it another East Hull Harriers one two.
I think our post run celebrations may have sent race organiser Karen over the edge. Unfortunately she got a little drunk and broke her shoulder bone getting out of bed in the night. Hopefully she has a swift recovery.
Day 7 – Gin Pit Sunday– Sunday 20th March 2016
This is a double marathon event organised by Malcolm and Yuk-Lam Collins. The start is at the Miners Welfare Club, Gin Pit Village, hence the name of the event.
Fellow Harrier Tom Dawson had taken 2nd place on Saturday in a superb time of 3.09.41, this is despite getting lost and doing an extra mile or so. The man’s a machine.
Setting off at 7.00am, allowing what was for me a lie in, we arrived around 9.00am.
It’s a very friendly event, and is the second time that James and I have taken part in it. We knew quite a few of the runners and took our time to say hello. It was good to see a fellow Hull runner, Jonathan Godfrey, from City Of Hull at the start. He had been struggling with an ankle injury and I believe this was his first marathon since New Years Day.
Knowing that there are only 3 water stations, I decided to take my camelbak. I do take on a lot of water when running, even in cold conditions, so like to be able to hydrate at my own leisure.
This is a well thought out route, starting at the club, before quickly emerging onto public roads. Travelling East the route goes off road after about 3 miles continuing on, into and through Worsley, before hitting the Liverpool to Leeds canal path at mile 8, turning right and running to the West with the canal on the right.
Continuing along the canal path for about 11 miles, travelling through Leigh, the route then loops back to the East, back onto public roads for 3 to 4 miles and finishing with an off road section.
The highlights of the course are the wonderful buildings that were serviced by the canal during the industrial revolution and the “bog of doom” at around mile 24, which Malc must water every year. No matter how dry it has been during the previous week, this is always a quagmire.
I had sensibly not run since the previous marathon, however being addicted to spin classes, I had managed to squeeze another 3 sessions in. My legs were now beginning to feel the affects and I wasn’t looking forward to the run. The plan was to just take it easy and plod around.
This plan was immediately thrown in the air when a pack of about 5 runners, including James, set off at pace. I didn’t want too big a gap to develop, so followed in their wake.
For the first 3 or 4 miles the gap started to widen, however by mile 8, when entering the canal path, I had caught up with James. He was running with a local runner called Gareth, who we had run with for a few miles the previous year. Running in a pack for the next 5 miles or so, we enjoyed a little chat, whiling away the time. At around mile 13 my legs began to drag and the other two pulled away, and from mile 15 onwards it was just a case of enjoying it and trying to get to the end. My energy levels seemed ok, however it felt like my legs belonged to someone else, I just couldn’t lift them.
Around mile 18 a couple of runners passed me, however I didn’t let it faze me and continued running/plodding my own race.
I eventually finished in 8th with a time of 3.33.09, with James taking another 2nd in a time of 3.21.38, only marginally missing the 1st position, which was taken by Gareth in a time of 3.20.48.
Jonathan Godfrey came 5th in a time of 3.25.47, which is slower than his usual sub 3hrs, however it was probably the highlight of my day seeing that he had finished unscathed.
I was too far back to see, however the finish was apparently quite entertaining, with the top 5 all swapping places in the last few miles.
Another notable piece of news from the day was Gillian Verdin of Liverpool Running Club becoming the youngest female to reach 100 marathons.
Day 9 – Codopoly– Tuesday 22nd March 2016
The final day in our epic journey took us to Coalport in Shropshire for the COD organised Codopoly.
Race director Denzil Martin puts on a number of themed events around Shropshire, with the motto “How Hard Can It Be”. They are mainly trail runs and predominantly marathons or ultras.
This time I had rested properly and hadn’t run or done any spin sessions since the last marathon.
Back to another early rise, we set off at 5.45, with the intention of getting there for the start of 10.00am. Traffic conspired against us and we gave up all hope of arriving on time when getting stuck in roadworks on the M54. Getting to Coalport at around 9.45am, we got a little lost, having to negotiate tight steep country roads, eventually getting parked in the YMCA car park around 9.55am.
A quick stretch and 1 mile run to the start wasn’t really ideal preparation. Another couple of runners had arrived late, so Denzil said he would start us at 10.20 and rearrange our times accordingly. I quickly used the portaloo, whilst Denzil shouted out the race instructions. I was still sorting my ipod, when the second start commenced, finding myself about 20 seconds off the pace.
Catching James within about half a mile I soon settled into a swift pace. My right leg hurt for the first couple of miles, however I soon caught the back markers from the first start. This motivated me to push on and I soon forgot about the pain.
This is a 3 lap out and back, which Denzil had alleged was 27 miles, however from previous experience I knew was just over 28 miles. It is quite pleasant and takes in an old railway line, with a converted station at around mile 2. Being an old railway line, it is pretty straight and flat with the only turns being at each end.
I saw the lead runners after the first switch back and estimated that I was around 10 to 15 minutes behind them, so with the late start I could potentially get a top 5 finish.
Things just seemed to click and I got into a steady rhythm. James was struggling with fatigue and had dropped a minute or two behind. I continued to push on.
Rather than count the miles, I counted each lap. I tried not to think of the first lap knowing it is usually the middle section that affects me. On the second lap I just tried to get it under my belt, knowing the last lap would take care of itself. I also estimated that I was gradually catching on the leaders, of which 3 were in front of me.
At mile 21 I had shooting pains on the top of my foot and was worried about injury, luckily this passed after about 5 minutes and I was able to keep up a decent pace.
Third place was starting to flag and I took him at the last switch back, with about 5 miles to go. My strategy of counting laps was working as rather than pace for 26 miles, I knew I still had power and energy for the last miles. I could see second place and eventually took him with 2 miles to go, finishing quite strong only a few minutes after first place.
Denzil readjusted my time, taking into account the late start, handing me first place in a time of 3.33.20. I did feel a little guilty as it meant I had wrestled 1st place from Malc Collins, however I’m not going to argue with the race director.
James came in third with a time adjusted 3.47.34. Another great showing from the boys in red.
Not a bad few days. I’ve lost track of all sense of time, however between James and I, in 4 races we have achieved 3 x 1st places, 3 x 2nd places 1 x 3rd place and 1 x 8th place.
I have no visions of grandeur. My inspiration over these days are people like Gillian Verdin, completing 100 marathons before turning 24, John Hammond, who did 10 marathons in 10 days over this period, Adam Tysoe, who I lost count how many times I saw and who is well on his way to 100 marathons, plus all the Enigma Week at the knees 7 in 7 day runners.
Next up Round the Reservoir in Northampton on Sunday 27th March 2016. The gruesome twosome become the three stooges, with the addition of fellow Harrier Guy Gibson.