In the end I decided to break with my two year tradition of running two half marathons on Boxing Day (one early and one late) and instead opted to simply run a full marathon in one go.
I was making my plans last night when I saw a post from my running club (FastTracks) on Facebook to say that there was a group run at 6am from a supermarket that’s relatively close to my home. They were planning a six miler then regrouping at seven for an optional 10 or 14 miler. Perfect base for a marathon as that would leave me with only six point two miles to go!
The run on the recently extended Chester Valley Trail (CVT). This trail runs along beside the 202 in PA for quite a while but these further reaches are a little nicer and head off through parks and campuses.
We all started together but I quickly found myself a way out in front of the group. It was dark and most people were running with headlights. I prefer to only use my knuckle light when necessary and was soon far enough ahead to be able to turn mine off and soak up the glory of the early morning. It was beautiful. I felt strong and connected to the world.
The first section was supposed to be six miles but I decided I could do seven and still get back for the regrouping. Indeed, I did manage this. I took off my outer layer and left my gloves, ear warmers and torch in the car. Drank from a spare water bottle and then stood with the others for a minute and we headed off for the longer run.
This time two people went off in front of me and it was all I could do to keep myself from hunting them down but I knew I was in this for the long game. Sure enough, they turned around at the 3.5 mile mark and headed back to base. They hadn’t got out of my line of sight. I kept going.
When I hit the 11.8 mile mark there was a park with full restroom facilities. Never pass an opportunity like that! I stopped in for a much needed bathroom break in a heated and plumbed restroom; lovely. As I came out and joined the trail, the ten mile group were just passing. I scooted past them as I knew it was approaching their turning point. Sure enough, they called out to me and I told them I was going long.
I then ran to the end of the trail which now extends past the shops in Exton which is a darn sight longer than it used to be. I was exactly at the fourteen mile mark at this point.
On the run back to the car I passed a few of the runners in the group who were doing the ten and fourteen mile runs. At the car I swapped out my water bottle for my second spare and ate half a Clif bar then locked up the car and started out for the last five point two miles. 21 miles done.
Everything was fine until about mile 22 when my legs started to stiffen up. I ended up having to walk a little and switched to a regime of 0.2 miles walking and 0.3 running for a couple of miles. Then I ran the last three quarters of a mile as a block to finish.
Since finishing I’ve been sitting in the coffee area of a wegman’s supermarket supping coffee and coke, and eating cookies and croissant. I have been here for about fifteen minutes already and the shaking is starting to ease off. My legs seem to spasm if I tense them at all. I think they are trying to keep running. Stupid legs!
I wonder what the staff make of me sitting in the corner shaking away?
Okay – the shaking has passed now (30 mins). I wrote that paragraph first and then went back and filled in the details. Now I feel back in control. The sugar in the coke must have kicked in.
Time to do a quick shop, refill my coffee and head home to relax with the family. And maybe, perhaps, snooze a little later.
26.2 miles. 3:38:17. 8:19 pace. Not too shabby considering my total lack of a training plan. I guess we’ll see what the recovery looks like!