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 Abingdon gang assemble before the start
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.