No Cider at The Taunton Marathon

April – 3 marathons in 3 weeks… Taunton / Great Welsh Marathon and the epic Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series Exmoor marathon! It’s all part of ultra training, learning to run on tired legs so they tell me. The first rule of Ultra Club is “You don’t talk about Ultra Club” – mainly because there’s no time as you’re always running / eating or sleeping!

Today was Taunton – on tired legs to bring up the weekly mileage to 75. Yesterday was a leisurely 12 miles including a blast around Cardiff parkrun at marathon pace to pre-exhaust my legs a bit, sort of an anti-taper if you like.

Another race with a reasonable start time – 10:30am let me have a bit of a lie-in again before setting off down the M4 / M5 to Somerset. 90 minutes later I’ve arrived and parked-up around 400m from the start line, as normal – groups of runners emerge from their cars, strip off to near-indecent levels and lube themselves up… Where else could you see that on a Sunday morning?

A quick walk to the race area and my bag is dropped off, final ablutions carried out and off to the start line with around 1500 or-so runners, 1200 of which appear to be doing the half marathon option. You can tell the hardcore marathoners as we have red numbers on our front AND back – Grrrr…!

My plan is to do this one by the book – it’s a long, aerobic run so I’m not bothered about pace… Just keep my HR down below 154-ish which is 75% of WHR and see what happens.

First Half
8:50 8:40 8:46 9:09 8:31 9:05 8:33 8:39 8:56 8:46 8:51 8:13 8:28
We set off around the town centre and the roads are closed – thanks Taunton! I start near the back so I’m overtaking pretty much right from the start. The full marathoners stand out with their red numbers on their backs – and as I steadily move up the field you can hear the occasional awed gasp, “OMG – he’s doing the FULL marathon!”

The miles slip past easily and apart from a couple of 9:0x miles they’re all comfortably coming in sub 9:00 with my HR around the 150 mark. Nice… The course would best be described as “rolling”, there’s a few playful uphill sections but nothing to worry about. I’m constantly reminded of how far I’ve come since my first Half Marathon 18 months ago when the pace I’m doing now was my flat-out half pace – today it seems effortless!

The course is well marshalled and I have my first encounter with sponges! I overhear one of the “red-backs”, (as I’ve started calling the marathon runners) telling a group of girls doing the half that the sponges are soaked in disinfectant – surely not, but probably best not to try and suck on one I decide!

Soon enough, we’re back round to the start line and funnelled off onto the second lap – I’ve gone through half well under 2 hours and still feeling really fresh…

Second Half
8:24 8:44 8:28 8:49 8:57 8:35 8:40 8:28 8:46 8:29 8:54 8:08 7:41 1:25
We lose 1200 runners doing the half and set off on the second lap – the roads are now open through Taunton and it’s a bit hairy running through the traffic for a couple of miles. The marshals do an excellent job though of stopping us getting squashed and moving along.

As this is the second lap I know what’s coming so can tick off the landmarks – sponge station, tick… Black Death Run advert – tick, (I did that one last year – thanks) gap-toothed locals sat on fence drinking cider – tick!

Again the miles tick by, I get to 18 and wonder when the pain will start but nothing happens… My legs just seem to know what they’ve got to do now. I haven’t been overtaken by anyone since starting the second lap and have been targeting my victims – ahem, I mean fellow runners and picking them off – errr, running past with encouraging comments ever since!

Mile 22, 23,24 disappear and the hills are done, it’s all flat and downhill from here… I open it up a bit and am amazed that my legs still feel fresh and fast so push out the final couple of miles in 8:08 and 7:41 with a sub 7:00 finish to come in at 3:45:52

The showers in the sports hall are hot and welcoming, there’s a moment of changing-room hilarity as one chap screams as the hot water hits his nipples – he obviously forgot to lube himself up in the car park with the rest of us

On the way back to the car I walk behind a couple of scruffy-looking types staggering along the road – I’m about to offer my congratulations to fellow marathoners in pain when I notice the carrier bags full of cheap cider they’re clutching – Ahhh Taunton, I love your marathon – but you can keep your cider, (this time)

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