The Canal Canter and the battle of the Masked Juggler

March 12, 2017

Yesterday was marathon 3 for 2017 and number 33 in total and we were back in Leeds to run the Leeds Liverpool Canal, an It's Grim up North Running event.


Parking and facilities are up at the Leeds Postal Association Club, which is about a 10 minute walk to the start (and due to aches and tired legs etc, about a 20 minute walk back after the race)!  After several last minute wee stops, we headed on down to the start.


There was a good turn out - there was a 5km, 10km, half, marathon and ultra going on yesterday.  It was great to see so many familiar faces.  After nattering to the other runners, we were soon on our way.


It was quite a relaxed affair and it was good to have a chat to a few runners as we set off. As always, along the first 3 miles there were quite a few runners - doing the half and marathon (the guys doing the 5km, 10km and ultra all set off in the opposite direction).  After mile 3, the half marathon guys turn back and the crowds thin significantly.


Due to the location of the start (a little away from the facilities), I really needed a wee and for the first 4 miles, I was looking for somewhere discreet to go!  It's fine for the lads in the race as they can pop behind a tree, but for us ladies, it's a little more tricky.  I was having a catch up with Roy when I spotted somewhere to go and left him on his way.  As I returned to the course, I spotted in the distance behind me a marathon runner wearing a tiger mask and no lie, he was juggling as he was running!  From that point, my aim for the day was to beat the juggler - how could you live with the shame of being beaten in a race by someone who juggles throughout the entire race?!


For once, I had actually arrived at a race with a plan in mind.  My hope was to run the entire course, albeit slowly, but just so I could prove to myself I can actually run the full 26.2 miles. I've done this plenty of times before but during my last few races, I have spent a lot of time walking and this does knock your confidence and it has filled me with a bit of self doubt.


I have not done as much training over this last month and it is only 2 weeks since the Bolton Abbey Marathon and so I was still feeling a little stiff, especially in my hips (due to all those hills) but after the first few miles, I actually felt rather strong.  I was wearing newish socks and shoes for the race.  I had trained in them before but never raced in them.  I think the step in my shoes is lower than my previous ones so I had a couple of niggles around my ankles and randomly a bit of pain in the balls of both feet but this eased off after about 6 miles!


I like the layout of this course - 10 miles towards Saltaire and then 10 miles back to the start, then 3 miles out to Leeds and 3 miles back to the start/finish - whilst there are long stretches where I run by myself, it's great to see other runners heading back towards you (even though they are beating you).  In bigger marathons, when you see other runners, they barely acknowledge you.  As there are lots of familiar faces at these smaller races, everyone smiles, nods, cheers you on and I even got a few high fives yesterday!  Even dog walkers and other runners just out for their weekend run offer their kind comments too!


Terry Forrest is the fastest runner I know and I am now used to being lapped by him at most races!  Yesterday he flew by me at mile 7.5, smiling and high fiving me as went!  It was an easy win for him yesterday and I believe he beat me by over 2 hours - incredible!


As I approached the 10 mile turn around point, the runners already on their way back were heading towards me thick and fast.  Amongst these runners was my dad who was looking really comfortable.


I had a quick drink and a natter and headed back towards Leeds but as I turned, I could see that the masked juggler was slowly catching me.


I actually felt rather good up until about mile 13 where I slowed a little.  I have always struggled with fuelling before, during and after a race.  It's hard to find food that agrees with me.  Before the race I had had porridge and a drink but I could not face eating a banana too, which is what I usually have.  By about mile 13, I was starting to feel a bit hungry so I stopped at the next drinks station for some water and a jelly baby.  Yes, it was only one jelly baby but it did the trick and I felt comfortable again.  The juggler was still behind me but I could tell he was getting closer.  The little sugar rush spurred me on for a good few miles but by about mile 16, I started to slow.  I was absolutely determined not to walk so I slowed my pace.  Sadly, at this point, the masked man overtook me and he was still juggling - he didn't just pass by slowly, he did so comfortably and was soon heading off into the distance!  I was rather disappointed - I find just running 26.2 miles tough but to run this distance and juggle is an amazing feat, especially without tripping up and going head first in to the canal!


The canal path at this point becomes a little winding and this was great for me as when turning a bend, I could see the juggler ahead and then Roy came into sight.  It gave me a bit of focus and gave me the strength to keep on running.  I managed to keep running up until the very minute my Garmin clocked 20 miles.  My aim had been to keep running until the start/finish area, then have a quick pit stop before heading out towards Leeds.  Sadly, I didn't quite make it.  I walked for about 150 metres before giving myself a kicking (mentally, not physically) and on I went.


It was great to get to the finish point.  There were lots of faces and cheers.  I stopped for a drink (my choice being 2 glassed of coke!) and I headed off.  The coke didn't sit well at first and filled me with bubbles so mile 21 was a rather tough.  After this point though, I think the extra sugar really helped and I think these next 2 miles were my strongest of the entire race.  I saw my dad heading towards the finish and he was looking good.


I may have felt great, but my pace wasn't brilliant but as I had planned, I did not walk and this filled me with confidence.  Again, it was great to see the lovely friendly runners heading back to the finish, everyone cheering each other on.


I got to the turn around point in Leeds and had another couple of cups of coke and had a chat with the lovely marshal.  We discussed my plan to shuffle back to the finish without walking and she commented that this was a bimble!  So off I went, bimbling my way back to the finish.  After the coke settled, I once again had a bit of a sugar rush and I managed to make it through the next few miles.  Sadly I did stop to walk a couple of times up a couple of small hills but once at the top, I continued bimbling.  My Garmin stopped at about mile 24 so I was unsure where the next mile was.  It must have been about mile 25.5 when I finally stopped and walked a little.  I was rather gutted as I had hoped to run the full thing.  After giving myself one more talking too, I headed on my way and did not stop until I reached the finish line.


I was once again greeted by the lovely faces of the marshals, a few other runners and my dad and Sandra.


As expected, my time wasn't brilliant.  I believe it was 5:06 something but I was pleased that I had just about run the entire course with minimal walking.  I have since checked my Garmin and I ran the first half of the race in 2:13 which is actually not too bad - I clearly need to train more over 15 miles and work on my stamina and fuelling!  I think the masked juggler beat me by a couple of miles in the end.  Just finishing the race juggling is an amazing (and crazy) achievement!


My dad had a cracking run and finished in just over 4 hours.  This should fill him with confidence and he'll soon be knocking the minutes off this time.



Next up is the Gin Pit marathon next Saturday.  I only made it half way around the course last year so I am determined to finish it!  I'm actually looking forward to the "bog of doom"!











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