Abingdon Marathon: The Return!

2004's forum build-up to the Oxfordshire 26.2 began in February, and culminated in October. Here's the inside story


Posted: 22 October 2004
by RichK

The Abingdon gang assemble before the start
The 2003 Abingdon marathon was a great forum event, due mainly to Ashley Smith who went to great lengths to organise the social side of things and to Abingdon Amblers AC who made us so welcome despite the fact that we had some runners who were going to take longer than the advertised cut-off time.

The other thing that made it such a success was the enthusiasm of the forumites themselves and this year lived up to last. Back in February SoVeryTired entered the race and started the thread and in the months since then the now familiar Forum pattern has been followed of advice, sympathy and encouragement (as appropriate usually, but not necessarily).

I was a relative late-comer to the thread, having only decided to enter the race in September. But I soon got caught up in the banter, more so once Knackered Knees asked if I could use the Forum banners, which had been used at GNR. So all of a sudden I was forum get-together-on-the-day co-coordinator.

On race morning I hadn't even finished pinning the banner up on the notice board at the back of the stand where we'd arranged to meet, before I was joined by Blonde Bird and Blond Dog, and soon more forumites came along. Some said hello and got on with their preparation, whilst others stopped and took time to chat. Not every forumite found us, but meeting virtual friends in the flesh for the first time isn't everybody's ideal marathon preparation after all. Time flew by and we just managed to take a photo of some of the group before we had to line up on the running track for the start.

Before the event I'd promised to try to help DawnM finish in under 4 hours. ICRAM caught onto this in the forum thread and it wasn't long before I had a group of people threatening to follow me all the way round. Ironically DawnM wasn't one of them as she was injured 3 weeks before the race. As a group we'd agreed to set off at 9 minute mile pace which would, if sustained throughout, bring us home in 3 hours 56. So, feeling a little like a tour guide, and a little apprehensive at the responsibility, I gathered the sub-4's together, and away we went. I don't think any of us heard the starting gun. We just followed the herd.

The sub-4's consisted of AJH, Legless, Muttley, SoVeryTired, its time, DawnM (who ran with us to halfway), parrotmad, Noelene, Iron Godzilla, Blond Dog, ICRAM and myself. Muttley soon left us behind after a couple of miles, following his usual strategy of crash and burn and then cling on.

The group was great, all good company which made the miles go by so much quicker, and I think we all spoke to forum lurkers on the way around who knew there was some sort of pace group that had been arranged. But as we went through Abingdon the second time at about 17 miles I was aware that people had gone quiet, and it was obviously getting tougher for everybody. With hindsight I should have remembered that Ye Hippo's course profile said that this section is uphill for some 5 miles, but it hadn't seemed uphill last year and it still didn't this. Maybe it would have been better to ease off the pace a touch for this part of the race.

Noelene and parrotmad decide to back off a little

Noelene and parrotmad opted to ease off the pace around halfway as I think they had begun to feel the pace, others of the group were hit by cramp, heavy legs and the other assorted demons that slow us down in the later stages of a marathon. The unluckiest of all was Legless who slipped on a carelessly discarded Argos catalogue in the 18th mile (there's this strange section there where we seem to run through the local resident's front gardens - and I guess the Argos catalogue had been left behind by the bin-men).

It was tough seeing people drift off the back of the pack, I wanted to run back and encourage them but I had a role to play and I'm not sure I liked that bit. Anyway, I tried to run at a steady 9 minute mile pace, and it wasn't easy. Most of the miles were a few seconds too fast and a handful were a shade too slow but overall we were pretty close to the target, and we reached 20 miles in 2.59.01 - 59 seconds faster than the schedule - or 3 seconds a mile too fast.

Trouble was that by then there was only AJH, ICRAM, Blond Dog and me left :(

Next thing I knew, a mile later, I was on my own and had a real battle in my head . . . we were on a downhill section and I was picking up the pace automatically . . kept trying to slow down but struggled and was going too fast.

Part of me said I had to stick at 9 minute miles, because the guys behind me would be looking out for me and would want to keep me in sight.

Part of me said that now I was on my own I could pick the pace up and see how fast I could finish.

Some of us shortly after finishing
In the end, inevitably, I did neither but something in between, and finished in 3.53, which is almost 3 minutes inside 9 minute mile pace. Of course I'm happy with my time (a V50 PB for me) but I still wondered if others might have gone faster if I'd been more restrained in the final 10K?

So with those thoughts in my head I was thrilled to see ICRAM, Blond Dog, it's time, and Muttley (who had, as predicted, crashed, burned, but had clung on) and Bod (who we'd passed in the final 2 miles) all make it in sub-4, and it hurt to see Legless and SoVeryTired just miss by 10 minutes, and then AJH, Zill and Noelene 10 minutes later and parrotmad in 4.23 . . particularly AJH who had looked so strong at 20 miles but then her knee let her down and had to walk the last 5 miles.

There were many excellent performances from many other forumites, far too many to mention and I don't want to risk leaving anybody out. Some of us enjoyed a relaxing drink in the bar afterwards, drifting off home to bask in the day's achievements, and for the second year in a row Shades and I were the last two to leave the car park!

Legless hides behind a Guinness
It was great to meet everybody and be part of such a fab event once again. Have to say well done and much respect to everyone, especially those fast wotsits up ahead (I'm jealous you see) and also to those who were virgins but are now marathon runners and specially those who hit their targets . . . and especially Abingdon Amblers, the non-running supporters and marshals (who were so supportive, particularly forumites NickP and Ye Hippo) . . . and specially those who missed their targets but gritted their teeth and hung on and finished anyway . . and specially anybody who doesn't fit into any of the above . . and must close with commiserations to those who had trained but couldn't take part for whatever reason . . your continued interest and encouragement in the thread was an inspiration to those of us who were able to compete.

As I write the thread is still alive with so many reports of a great event, regardless of whether hopes and aspirations were met or not . . .

How You Rated Abingdon...

Want to add your rating?

  • Run Around: "A must race for every marathoner - elite to beginner!"

  • Blackers: "This is an excellent event. The stadium start encourages a great feeling of cameradery which continues throughout the race. The organisation is the best I've seen in years. I will definitely be back next year. 80% down to the organisation, and 20% down to the flat, flat, flat profile of the course."

  • Flying Ant: "If you're thinking of doing a marathon and miss out on the FLM, then make this you next choice."

  • Blond Dog: "There was a great camaraderie amongst the 9 minute milers. RichK logged the mile splits with unerring accuracy. The course was almost flat and the weather was spot on. Great stuff. If I get my head around the idea of doing a marathon again, this would be top of my list in the UK"

  • Garr: "My first marathon. Hurt like crazy. Loved it!"

  • Iron Godzilla: "My performance did not do the race justice - Great fun, well organised and some great RW support. I may be back. "

  • RichK: "Once again a great day out. The large number of Forumites made a difference of course. Abingdon Amblers have a top event here and their organisation and friendly marshalls are an example to us all."

  • Tim M: "Enjoyed meeting other forumites and felt really good at the end!"

  • straitjacket: "For a first time marathon run I was definitely encouraged to do it again. A marshall at about mile 22 shouted to me, "You can do it, I can see it in your eyes". Whether he could or not, these words kept going round my head like a mantra. See you next year."

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