SALISBURY 54321 MARATHON: 12/08/12

8:30am As I stayed over in a B&B the night before, race day breakfast consisted of wholemeal toast, mushrooms, beans and tomatoes followed by a banana. I drank plenty of water with a carb mix powder.

8:50am I arrive at the Salisbury 54321 Trail Marathon to find lots of activity; running gear for sale, first aiders, physio, detailed maps and pictures of the routes. As I fix my race number to my vest I get soaked in a full-on summer downpour!
I feel a tap on my shoulder at the starting area and a friendly voice says: 'Hey Luke'. It's Kevin Smith from the Bosh-Run group on Facebook - a small group of 400 members who all keep in touch about training and racing online. These groups build a real community among marathon runners and provide inspiration and encouragement, so it is always great to see fellow members at events –particularly before a race to calm pre-race nerves.

09:30am The race start gun fires and off we go! After leaving the leisure centre grounds we head up to the hills and trails that make up about 75 percent of the course today. Everyone is rather keen at a quick pace and bunched together but they soon filter out at about 2 to 3 miles in. We climb some short inclines over grass and limestone before it levels out above Salisbury. After about 5 or 6 miles the course splits with the different races diverting. The team support and marshals are clearly visible and give plenty of cheers and encouragement.

10:20am After heading back down into the village we cross a few A-roads and then cover more trails and fields over the shire. The scenery up here is very inspiring and the rain has held off as I feel the sun trying to peep through the clouds. I start to feel the first stages of fuel burning and hunger creeping upon me so have one of my SIS gels followed by some water. After about 9 to 10 miles the course takes us through private grounds into a manor park and this is where everyone seems to filter out and find their pace. It gets rather flat for the next few miles or so and I begin to feel strong so quicken my pace to an average of 7:00min/miles.

11:00am We approach a main road and the markers show to head up the road on a steady incline for a mile or so. By now I have overtaken a fair few groups of runners and get into a steady pace of 6:30-45 min/miles. The course leads up a small private road and back onto national trail into the hills and fields where the scenery is plenty of corn fields and poppy fields. The trail is rather winding and has limestone and mud throughout. We go through a few kissing gates and other styles before heading down a steep field pathway into a wooded area where the trees have a spooky feel to them.

11:30am After the 15 mile water stop area the covered woodland continues and we follow red string to find our way back into the open fields. I consume another SIS energy gel followed by water.

After about 17 miles we head through another village and then up onto Salisbury race course. The track runs alongside and down the private road until it reaches the gate entrance. The road follows downhill into school fields and through residential housing areas to another water stop. By now I catch up with other runners from the half marathon and 30k distances. My quads, glutes and calf muscles have that familiar dull ache now from covering the miles so far and I start to feel fatigued and a wall approaching.

My pace has slacked a little so I consume 3 cubes of Cliff Shot Blocks with caffeine for a lift. After about 20mins the gels start to work, I realise I have gained pace to near the front of the group and have yet to see many more marathon runners for a fair while.

12:25pm As the route makes its way into public parks of the town centre it begins to get tricky and by now I'm up to 24 miles with various coloured signs leading the way for the different races. I cut through the town centre and begin to feel I'm going the wrong way as I'm racing down the high street looking for the marathon sign to lead the way! A passer by shouts to me“Keep going it’s this way!” The path narrows and leads down the river edge until eventually I recognise the leisure centre field from afar and check my Garmin to see I've covered over 26 miles now so look out for the finish line any moment now.

As I approach the small bridge over the river I see the finish finally and breathe a sigh of relief! I now run fast to reach the finish line and clock the time as 12:57pm (chip finish time of 3:27:56). My Garmin watch distance has covered 26.68 miles so just a little over the 26.2 distance of a marathon.

For an off road trail marathon I understand this is pretty fast pace and later discover I came in second place! I am really pleased with this result as the Salisbury Trail Marathon is only my fourth off road event, which requires a different technique to standard road marathon running.

Read my Top 5 tips for completing a Trial Marathon below:

1. Navigate: Study the route in advance if it is not a marshalled or easily marked route and plan your route. Get an Ordnance Survey map to cover the area. Getting lost will ruin your finish time.

2. Nutrition: Make sure you have enough energy carb gels with you and use only the same products in training don't try anything new, you don't know how your stomach will handle this on race day. Carry water with electrolytes if you usually do on trails in training. Today I carried my Camelbak with two Zero electrolyte tabs dissolved into water.

3. Pace yourself accordingly and as training: If the elevation gain is rather steep on a course slow your pace accordingly. Do not use all your energy on early hills as you will flag later in the race. There is nothing wrong with walking/marching up steep inclines, many Ultra runners only ever walk hills and still break records by adapting to this technique.

4. Equipment: wear enough layers and a waterproof light running jacket if rain is predicted and depending on the time of year. For this Marathon it was warm but not hot with light rain. I always wear a running cap to protect my scalp and shelter from rain/sweat in my eyes. But that doesn't mean it will work for you. Some runners prefer visors or headbands. Wear your trusty trail shoes if the terrain is mixed. They will provide added grip and protection when needed. Today I wore my Vivo Barefoot Trails.

5. Community: There are many online running forums, race review sites and social networks that have tips as well as your local running clubs. I have a very inspirational running group on Facebook BOSH-Run and we all have various abilities and run different race distances and terrains all over the UK. Today there were about five of us from the group and only three of us completed the course. Two unfortunately twisted ankles on the course and had to make the decision to stop running and return back to the start. Be prepared for this kind of setback, anything is possible and you can only run to your training ability. If you have any pain or fall, stop and seek help!


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