I made the decision quite late on to do the Milton Keynes Marathon; whilst it was never going to be about getting a personal best, I like to do lower key marathons every now-and-then as a way to experiment with race tactics and preparation. The idea with this one was to run a very slow first five miles and to run a negative split. Sometimes these experiments have paid of, such as my win in the Preston Guild marathon a few years ago and Potteries marathon last year. There’s been some shockers too, a personal worst at Edinburgh in 2011 and a DNF at Nottingham last year, but it all adds towards learning as much as possible about the marathon.
I can’t say my experience at Milton Keynes was a complete success; after taking six minutes to cover the first mile I ramped up the pace and ran the first five miles a bit quicker than I planned, though I was very comfortable at halfway in 73:50. As well as having a sizeable gap, I was also well on course for beating the course record. 15 miles was reached in just over 1hr 24, but by 18 miles I was starting to struggle a bit; the comparative warm weather wasn’t doing me any favours either! After reaching 20 miles in 1hr 52:48, I knew I wasn’t going to run a negative split and just focused on running a six-minute mile schedule to the finish, which ended up being enough to maintain my lead and knock a few minutes off the course record. The time was a modest 2hr 31:10; I wouldn’t say the course is hilly, there’s a bit of undulation and quite a few twists and turns in the second half, but having said that the course was quite pleasant and the finish in the MK Dons stadium is great. James Baker was second and slightly reduced my gap at the end, he was also inside the old course record time. Steve Way won the half marathon, ahead of Robert Pope – both of whom would have given me a serious problem had they chose to run the marathon.
After Milton Keynes, the focus was on something much bigger than the marathon; it would be my wedding! I got married to Hannah on the 7th May, about 18 months after we got engaged and we have been together for 7 years, so I suppose it was long overdue! Weddings are certainly a lot more nerve racking than marathons, but once the afternoon was under-way the day just flew by, when everyone is having such a great time, you wonder what all the worrying was about only hours earlier. We spent our honeymoon in Wales, out in the sticks with just our running gear, a portable typewriter and some alcohol that was left over from our wedding day. It was really great for us to spend time away from all the mod-cons; no television, no computers and for the most-part, no phone signal. I decided not to fret about training too much whilst away, I just did a few runs, but nothing structured. The plan now is to get straight back into the swing of things and perhaps throw in a race at the end of the month.
On a final note; there’s obviously been a lot of negative press recently about the accuracy of some high profile races, which is a terrible shame. I feel sorry for the runners, it may affect one or two of my pb’s as well, but I feel very bad for the organisers; yes, some do make a lot of money, but most are put on by clubs and fellow runners who get very little back, other than the satisfaction of encouraging good competition at grass roots level. I wouldn’t even point the finger at the measurers, as mistakes will always happen, we are human. I am disappointed in the governing body though, which has plenty of funds; it doesn’t seem right that with all the money currently in the sport, so much of it is still dependant on volunteers. Officials and course measurers are incredibly important to our sport and there needs to be a lot more support for them. The UK Association of Course Measurers should be a professional organisation, not voluntary. Surely this would improve procedures, such as more frequent re-calibration of equipment, frequent course re-measurement and a more thorough measuring process. Touching on that last point, I was surprised that a calibration is only done over 400m (wouldn’t 1km or 1 mile be possible?) and the instance of an incorrect calibration dates back over seven years, again, do they not get checked regularly? Then, adding to that, some courses have only been measured once, which easily allows for the possibilities of errors to creep in, not only that, the race could go on for a number of years before an error is discovered.
I’m sure most of us at some stage will have run on a short course, or even long ones and mistakes will always happen, but now, in the light of 30+ races being under scrutiny, it’s time the system had a major overhaul, as it has let down far too many runners, organisers and officials who give so much to the sport.