The New Forest Marathon was my 26th marathon (though I have actually run the marathon distance 28 times but they’re unofficial).
I did this race a few years ago and was looking forward to it. I normally predominately do road marathons, so it was nice to a “semi-trail” one. I say semi-trail because a lot of it is still on road and the non-road bits are on compacted trail so realistically it’s not that off-roady. You wouldn’t need trail shoes for this race.
Sarah, Kyle’s mum, looked after Isaac the night before and came to ours for 7.30am to drop him off and join us. This was really handy because it meant I got a decent night’s sleep the night before. I do have to wake up in the middle of the night though to pump as I’m still breastfeeding Isaac so it’s not perfect but definitely easier.
I fed Isaac and got my porridge together and then we were off. It was about 40ish minutes away and the race started at 9.30am. The traffic to get into the race village is a little heavy but we got there with enough time for me to go for a quick wee and do the warmup.
Then we were off! Sarah and Kyle were going to try and see me during the race but I wasn’t banking on it. It’s a tricky course to spectate unless you drive or cycle around. Spoiler alert: they couldn’t find a way to see me. It was just impossible. But it didn’t stop me thinking “I might see them soon” as I was running which, while ultimately disappointing as I never saw them, was a nice motivator.
I felt very swept away with the first mile, looking at my watch and seeing 7:20s and thinking wooah there this is not sustainable. I’m not in the mindset to GO GO GO. This race was more just about enjoying it and seeing what I could do with the level of effort I want to put in. I pretty much say this about every race so I know I’m a bit of broken record by now! But that’s just how I like to run and do marathons. And I do wonder because I don’t go for a time every time I enjoy them more and can do more of them as I’m not rinsed at the end every time.
Anyway I pulled back the pace a bit and let people fly past me. Marathons are a long way and I wanted to relax a bit more early on. The first 10 miles went by without much to report. The scenery was beautiful. Gigantic trees (apparently weighing around 104 tonnes!) and gorgeous views. It was very peaceful. The marshals were really supportive and happy, so that was great.
The race organisers had said the change of course meant it was now “fast and flat”. Well between 8-9 miles it was certainly not flat! There was a slow incline up to Rhinestone House (which was beautiful) that seemed to suck the life from me. And at different points during the race I would be really questioning their “fast and flat” description. Maybe compared to last year! It certainly isn’t hilly but I wouldn’t describe it as flat. Occasionally bumpy.
I got to mile 10 and decided to put a podcast on. Recently I haven’t felt the need to listen to anything during marathons. I quite like the freedom of just running with the surrounding sounds. Sometimes listening to things during the race can put you in a little bubble away from the race atmosphere. However I was starting to feel a bit bored and the idea of 16 more miles was weighing heavily on my brain.
Don’t get me wrong, the views are beautiful and the marshals lovely, but I needed something to take my mind off the task at hand. So I popped one on and just zoned out.
It was getting really warm now, and humid. I hadn’t got anything with me because I knew there were enough water stations and from about halfway I started stopping at the water stations. Like literally stopping and getting a cup or two of water to drink. They were using paper cups (yay for sustainability!) and I didn’t’ want to try and run and drink because I was getting very thirsty and I knew I wouldn’t take in enough otherwise.
After halfway my mood started to sink. I was mentally struggling. Maybe it was the humidity or maybe it was just one of those days, but I found my pace dropping a bit. It just felt really hard, and finding it hard made me feel demotivated. I’ve run marathons before! I’ve done solid training! What’s going on! But this is why the marathon is so challenging, anything can happen and it doesn’t matter how many you’ve done. It’s still a long way and you’re only human.
I needed a wee as well and I couldn’t see any toilets on the course so I decided to duck into a bush. In doing that I put my foot straight into a soggy bog… ah wonderful. I had my wee and then got back mile 19. This was amazing! I’d somehow glazed over a mile. I can’t tell you what this did to my mood.
Now I was in a whole different head space. Suddenly the end was in sight – I could absolutely do this. I switched the podcast to music and BOOM I was good to go. It was like someone had injected lightening up my bum.
It’s crazy how suddenly my body didn’t feel so tired and demotivated as before. When I got to 20 miles I was feeling in a great place. Knowing I had only 10k to go – I could definitely do this. It helped that there was a great downhill at mile 21. My legs ached and were tired, of course, but I knew I could push through to the end.
I definitely could have had an easier time at the end had I just kept the pace nice and chilled but after I had started getting faster I was like “well I can’t slow down now!”. So I had to ride that pain train. I passed a few people who cheered me on which was nice and the supporters on the route were lovely. I tried to keep a smile on my face as much as I could because, ages ago, I remember reading about fooling your body into thinking everything was OK if you smiled (don’t quote me on that research, ha!). But also it encourages supporters to give you a big cheer so that was nice.
We had now joined the half marathoners which meant a bit of weaving in and out of runners. This involved more concentration that just head down pushing forward. Finally we got to the race village and I could see the finish line. I put some more welly into it and got going. My legs were BURNING. The finish line had a good crowd of supporters lined up along it so that was amazing. They were all cheering and that hugely helped. I saw Kyle and he shouted me on too.
As I almost got to the end I started to feel a little sick, probably due to the effort I was exerting, and I suddenly got a big whiff of a burger van nearby and I honestly thought I was going to throw up! Luckily, thank god, I didn’t. Whew!
My time was 3:24:37. I am SO over the moon as I really thought my race was nosediving in the middle. I actually thought I’d be closer to 3:30+ than a sub 3:30. I’m really really pleased. Especially for a race that I had zero expectations for. It’s one of my faster times (6th fastest in actual fact).
It’s a little annoying that it isn’t a full 26.2 miles on my watch but I’m assuming that’s because of the trees and satellites. I had the same issue last time, and that was a different course. Hey ho!
I met someone I knew from Instagram and we had a nice chat, so that was cool, and then I found Kyle, Isaac and Sarah. Ahh it was so lovely to be reunited and have a cuddle with my little man!
Apparently he’d had a great time enjoying crawling about the place, eating ice cream and spending time with his Nana (and dad of course!). A big thank you to them 🙂 I’m very lucky to have such patient and supportive family who are happy to come and join me when I do my races.
So all in all, a tough but enjoyable day. I’m glad I got myself out of my funny headspace mid-way through the race and finished with a smile on my face. Though my legs were certainly feeling more achy than I’d anticipated!
Do you prefer trail or road races?
Have you had a race where you’ve dipped but then brought it back later?