I realized today that I never wrote a race report for the Newcastle Racecourse! Although, considering the experience I had, it is not particularly surprising that I would try to forget it.
The race was held December 8th on the High Gosforth Park Racecourse. The competitors, all 100 or so of us, ran around the service road that is normally reserved for ambulances and grounds keepers. To get in the appropriate mileage, we started part way around the track with different start lines for the half, full, and 50K so that everyone would finish up at the same place. It was almost 16 laps for the full marathon, 19 for the 50K runners.
You really get to know the terrain when you go around so many times. I tend to stop looking around and focus only on what is on or next to the track; the hay bale that is ½ way around, the billboard that is ¾ of the way around, the crest of the hill, the beginning and end of the section into the wind. It all becomes very redundant. It was not an ugly course, there were trees and hills, but it was foggy with occasional rain and incessant wind. I would get a bit too warm running with the wind, and then freeze running into it so I was shucking or donning my jacket every 10 minutes or less. There were also golfers in the center of the track. I don’t know how anyone could play in that wind, but these folks North England folks are tough and a little bad weather does not keep them from their weekend golf game! On many occasions I would hear that sickening thwak that sounds like impending doom, but to the best of my knowledge, none of the runners were hit with golf balls.
The 50K runners really impressed me. All of them finished their 19 laps before I finished my 16, whizzing past me in happy chatty groups. My head and my heart were simply not in this race and it showed in my slogging steps and downcast eyes. I ran it just to run it, an intermediary step between Dublin and Anglesey in January (which I did not end up running at all.) I think 26 miles on the treadmill would have been easier mentally and certain logistically and financially.
Another nasty surprise came when I realized the drink I had been chugging each lap had artificial sweeteners in it. They make me very sick and normally I can taste them in the first sip, but everything tastes odd to me in England so I did not think much of the flavor. It never occurred to me that anyone would give low sugar drinks to runners, but after asking about it on the Marathon Maniacs’ page, it seems this is becoming more common so I will have to keep a sharp eye out for it. It really crippled me for the race. My stomach was killing me and my mood turned even darker and angrier. The food dye Red-40, and artificial sweeteners have the same effect on me. They do something to my nervous system that makes me want to jump out of my skin and rip peoples’ faces off. It is a horrible feeling and one that is very hard to overcome in order to finish a marathon. A very hard day turned into a completely miserable one.
I really only needed to run 20 miles to get in the time I needed on my feet so I could easily have walked away after 12 or 13 laps, but I was so mad at how poorly I was doing that I was determined to stick it out and get my lousy medal. When I finally finished there were only 4 or 5 people left on the track, all full marathoners duking it out with the wind. I really appreciated the volunteers that stayed at the finish line/lap station, making off runners as they came through and manning the drink table. The emergency workers on bicycles had long since retreated to the hut where it was warm and out of the wind, which really made me angry because I saw a runner nearly collapse. She had bent down to retie her shoe and set off a vasovagal response. Fortunately, she was not running alone. I stopped to make sure she was okay and then went ahead to alert the volunteers while her partner took care of her.
When I finally finished, I hung around for a few minutes to watch the girl that had been struggling to come in and cheer her on. While chatting with the volunteers, the race director told me I was the only woman in my age group to finish the race so, Tah-Dah! I had a little first place plaque to go with my medal. It always seems kind of silly to get an award with such a painfully slow finish time (5:16:17), but considering the conditions and that fact that others in my group had registered, but not shown up to run, means I’m just a little tougher than they are so I will take the win.