The Belfast Marathon - a good walk soiled

A report by Damon Rodwell, dating from May 2001, re-posted here for posterity. This was my first marathon (discounting the one I did a few days after my 16th birthday in Canterbury!).

Mark my words – that Crispin lad will go places. [Wales wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I wrote this!]

I somehow managed to talk him into accompanying me to Northern Ireland for a crack at the Belfast Marathon, only a week after our combined exertions on the Erskine Bridge [see this article]. How many runners, let alone hill runners, would see the allure in taking on a road marathon at two days’ notice, a week after a similar distance on the road, especially when the intervening week has been characterised by rotten guts and nights perched on the porcelain?

We travelled on the Sunday evening, Crispin popping immodium and Rennies like smarties, and awoke to blue skies and a steadily rising temperatures on race-day.

The race blurb boasted of a 6000-strong field. 5,000 of these turned out to be participants in the 5-leg relay, run over the same course at the same time as the individual race. This made for an interesting and confusing run, as we had very little idea of where we were in the field as fresh relay runners kept skipping past.

A brace of Kenyans had been drafted in for the event, and duly ran away from the rest of the individuals and all-but two of the relay teams. Further back I set off faster than I’d planned (no surprise there, then) and soon commenced a battle with my irksome bowels that would dominate the middle section of my race. A quick dive for the bushes (posh suburban garden) at 7 miles cost me a minute or so, but I was straight back into 6:10 miling with no ill-effects. 10 miles passed in 62 minutes.

A second whirlwind pit-stop (building site) at 12 miles cost me another minute or two, and 15 miles and my first jelly-baby point trotted by in 1:34. Thereafter stomach-cramps assailed me and I slowed gradually and miserably until a 7:20 22nd mile. Another handful of jelly-babies and a dramatic improvement and guts and spirits returned me to cruising speed, and I happily bagged 4 places in the last three miles to finish 10 seconds shy of my target in 2:50:10.

A few minutes back, Crispin ran a disgracefully conservative race, bouncing unruffled through half way in 1:29 and speeding up for a 1:27 second half and a final clocking of 2:56. Judging by his ridiculously fast last few hundred metres and his look of utter composure at the end, he could knock lumps off this whenever he wants. He ran exactly to plan (I hate bastards who can do that!) and trotted bemused through the latter miles, waiting in vain for the expected ‘wall’.