Well, yesterday was the Steyning Stinger Marathon… After the rain all week (including the night before) the weather was at least dry for us even if it was VERY windy..
I think it is fair to say it was a mud bath from start to finish and there was a particular hill that I was attempting to run up, sliding everywhere in to the wind that just seemed to go on forever !
This is the most local race for me, running by my local running club, that starts about 150m from my front door. It is also one that I never thought I would complete. The idea of running 26.2 miles seemed an impossibility a few years ago, running 26.2 miles up and down hills in mud was so far from anything I had ever done that up until recently I never thought it was something I would be able to achieve.
The full gory details can be found here :
It took me 5:29:58 to complete and there were times when I wanted it all to be over. From the start through the muddy fields, up over the hills, through the mud, down the muddy hills it was tough. I have run marathons before but they had all been on the road and you really can’t compare the two.
The Stinger has a variable start; basically after 7:30am you can start when you want. There are cut-off times at three of the checkpoints and if you don’t meet them then you are either diverted on to the half marathon course or you don’t finish. Knowing that it would take me a long time I opted to start just after 7:30am, this meant I knew I didn’t have to worry about the cut-off times and could relax and not have too push harder than I should too early on.
The downside of this strategy is that for quite a few parts early on in the race I couldn’t see any other runner in front, or behind me…. all I could see were trainer prints in the mud, direction arrows and the marshals at the checkpoints… So, being used to road marathons with large crowd support this is VERY different and you shouldn’t try it unless you are comfortable running on your own… Because of the terrain and the fact it is a small marathon (500 entries in total for both the full and half marathons) it is never going to attract the crowds of supporters that a marathon in a city with 10,000+ runners attracts. This was more than made up for the enthusiasm and cheerfulness of the marshals on the route, being a member of the local running club I did know most of them and I did stop to chat at every water station (and to eat some of the mars bar provided 🙂 )
So, here are a few things that I think may be useful :
I wore long running tights, and Inov-8 merino wool base layer with my mudstacle t-shirt on top. I also had an Inov-8 buff round my head to keep my hair out of my way. In my backpack I also had my Haglofs Gram-Q waterproof (just in case). I also wore my Inov-8 Merino Wool Mud Socks.
When I was out of the wind in the sun I started to get warm but just pushed my sleeves up and was ok. When I was running in the wind it was about right with my sleeves down and over my hands. I didn’t need the waterproof; I had it with me because rain was forecast later in the day and I also thought if I got cold for the last section running back along the South Downs Way in to the 20mph + winds it may be needed.
The weather was dry, varying from 4 – 7 degrees with winds of about 20mph gusting up to 30mph.
It was very wet and muddy underfoot.
I wore my Inov-8 Trailroc 255’s. This was only my third run in them…. I chose them over my Inox-8 X-Talon 190’s because they have just that bit more cushioning that I felt I needed for a marathon; they are also half a size bigger and I’d had problems with my big toes on 20 mile runs in the X-Talons (plus I could feel EVERY flint through them !) The X-Talons would have given me better grip in the mud but to be honest in places whatever you wore you would still have been sliding everywhere…
Food and Drink
For a few days before I had pasta based meals… i.e.. Pasta vegetable bake, Quorn Bolognese… For breakfast I had porridge made with semi skimmed milk with 1tbsp Chia seeds and a chopped banana added to it. I’ve experimented with this combination on long runs and the addition of the chia seeds and banana makes a real difference.
I took approx 1l of water in my backpack along with a pack of jelly babies. At each water stop I did drink some additional water and had a slither of the mars bars they were handing out (imagine a mars bar cut in to 10 pieces and you will get the idea of quantity). I only ate 4 of the jelly babies in addition to that on the way round although I did lose a few on my “sprint” finish !
Funnily enough this is far less than I consumed at the Brighton Marathon last year where I relied on the Clif ShotBloks and Gatorade. What I did find this year is that I didn’t need to stop for the loo on the way round and didn’t feel so awful for the last few miles (knackered but not the about to throw up with every step type awful)
So, here are some of the photos from Sussex Sports Photography (it’s always great when they are there to photograph a race !!)
One VERY long, steep, muddy hill !
At the finish..
Walking the uphill when tired..
These two were taken just before you turn a corner and then see the next massive hill !