I trained at running up and down hills, because I live a relatively flat part of the world. The nearest steep hill I've got is a couple of miles long, with a maximum gradient of 20% - whereas the three Snowdonia ascents get up to nearly 30%. So I trained with ankle weights on.
I'd heard that for marathons, it's better to run three days of 10 mile runs than to do marathon length runs as training - so I did that.
I'd been told that the Snowdonia marathon was mainly road, with a little bit of track and path - so I mainly trained for road, with a little off road.
On the day, I slogged up the first ascent and down again without much trouble. The long down hill and flat section was steady, then the second ascent went reasonably well.
|Some loon who thinks he can run|
The last mountain was where I picked up the pace again - going up hill puts less pressure on your feet. I'd trained and trained at the uphill running. From mile 23 or so, I climbed about 200 metres in single run, then as the ground was just levelling out, I had to slow to walk. The road turned into a rocky path, all uneven footing and sharp edges. My knees and all the fine-control muscles hurt like hell, and my feet ached.
When I'd made it to mile 23, I'd been on track for a personal best marathon. If I'd had that bit more stamina to manage the flats and the hard terrain at the top, I'd have managed it.
As it was, I still made a respectable time for my first Snowdonia - just under 5 hours. I'd been hoping for under 5.5 hours. I'd have been happy with under 6 hours.
My brother, the rugby-playing runner, by contrast - he passed me at the top of the last climb, and bounded down the rocky descent.
So - the lessons:
- Train the long distances till they're routine.
I want to run marathons fortnightly, so I'm prepared for those last six miles.
- End on bigger hills, including the descents.
Going downhill when you're tired is hard. I need to condition myself to run down hills after a long tiring run.
- More off-road.
The surprisingly tough surface at the end ofthe run threw me. I do a fair bit of off road running, but I should have done more long distance off-road for this one.
They print your name on your number sheet, so everyone calls it out as you go past - "Come on, Alastair! You can do it, Alastair!" That's still with me - but my knees don't hurt anymore.