This was an unusual 40 lap race which I did to try and get a good for age time (3 hours 15 minutes) to allow me automatic entry to the London marathon. In the event I managed 3 hours 26 minutes but was pleased with 4th place on a very warm day which saw none of the entrants finish in under the time.
It was a wonderfully organised race for 40 competitors in all although some of these were doing the 6 hour ultra marathon round the same course. Despite such a small field competitors were rarely running on their own for long as each lap of just over 1 km meant that we were quickly distributed all around the circuit.
The loop took us around a tarmacked path on the out side of a recreation ground. It was essentially flat except for a 150m section where the path climbed steeply for about 35 feet of height gain. This probably was my undoing as although each climb was not much, after 40 laps it totalled getting on for 1500 feet of height gain. This is about the same as in the Isle of Wight marathon which is generally regarded as a pretty hilly marathon! I think you should allow about 7 minutes extra on to your time at about 3 hour marathon pace to account for this.
It was the most friendly marathon I have ever taken part in and drinks, sponges and food were available after every lap.
A special feature of the event was the lap counters who sat at the finish and checked you off after each lap you completed. It was good to be getting a friendly nod from them each time you went round. It was a good event for spectators too as you got lots of opportunities to cheer on your hero(ine) each time they passed.
I had been concerned that doing the same lap might be a bit repetitive but I can only say that on the day that did not really seem to be a problem as the laps went past so quickly and there was always plenty to occupy the mind.
I set off at the correct pace to acheive my time but from about half way it started to feel very hard. I kept pushing until 20 miles at which point I was still leading the race but it then started to unravel fairly quickly and I was losing time with no realistic prospect of being able to pick up the pace again. I decided to go with the flow a bit and a combination of jogging, rehydrating, a few calories and some judicious walking saw me home to the finish line tired but not completely spent and able to run again a few days later.
I dont know why the closing date for good for age places is so early (August 22nd!) but for me London will now have to wait until 2010. This was the only marathon in England held in July and before the closing date so not many options. I am glad I ran it though because it was very different, incredibly friendly and the best goody bag and trophy I have ever seen.
It is definitely not a PB course but the course record of 3 hours 12 minutes might just tempt a well prepared faster runner.
This is a 'connoiseurs' marathon which I would recommend to anyone looking for a fun challenge and a great day out.