Mine has been a peculiar running year. Successful (so far), but peculiar nonetheless. Having never run a step beyond 26.2 miles prior to January, I started 2012 by reinventing myself as an ultra-runner. My first 30-miler – the Winter Tanners in Surrey in January – seems an age ago. Since then I have completed the 61-mile Fellsman in under 13 hours and the 66-mile Bob Graham round in under 20. There’s nothing to this ultra-running malarkey, I thought, before my summer was largely wiped out due to mega-distance induced aches, niggles and weariness. By September, I was back on the short stuff, and a month later breaking 5km and 10km PBs over the course of one weekend. The enormous base of fitness gained in training for the Bob Graham seems to have actually made me faster.
Now, having re-learned to run quickly, I’ve got to slow it down. The Broadway Tower Marathon, organised by Cotswold Running, will take me back into ultra territory. The ‘marathon’ in the title is deceptive; the race is actually in excess of 27 miles. It is very hilly too, with some 2900ft of ascent and descent amid the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire. I’m expecting a relatively small field – it’s an inaugural race, after all – of unknown quality, on a course that looks beautiful from above: a range of surfaces, a range of gradients and – as a good race should be – a proper journey through local landscape, not a mere PB-chaser.
One moan. Sorry. We runners will have to hoick bags around the course due to an interesting list of mandatory kit, which includes 500ml of liquid (in a bottle), a mobile phone, a windproof or waterproof jacket, a bin bag(!), and enough plaster and bandage to mummify myself. I’ve been less-equipped on races up Ben Nevis or over the Paps of Jura.
How dangerous is running in the Cotswolds – or, more specifically, running in the Cotswolds in daylight, with feeding stations, on a marked course that is just a shade over a marathon, on what looks set to be a fine day? Is health and safety taking over our sport? I can hear my Scottish running friends who tell stories about folk doing Ramsay’s Round on a bunch of bananas and wearing nothing but shorts, singlet and fell shoes muttering about soft Sassenachs. Wouldn’t it make more sense for individual runners to independently decide what they need to survive for anything between three and eight hours in the elements? If I’m chilly or thirsty or hungry or feeling lazy or get a blister or lacking motivation or have wet feet, it’ll be my fault, not the organiser. Common sense is underrated. I’ll reserve final judgement, however, until tomorrow afternoon; besides, I might find some unexpected creative use for my black bag.
Above: Cleeve Common in the Cotswolds – not on the marathon route, unfortunately.