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Running a Marathon…. at Midnight!

Earlier this year, I ran my first marathon – the Brighton Marathon. You can read the race report right here. As I lay on Brighton Beach knackered and unable to dress myself, I chatted with my new friend, Dan Stent (Dan’s Tent is a far better name) about running another marathon. Dan had also just finished the race and was also knackered. You know you like running too much when you talk about doing another marathon right after running a marathon!

A week later, the beach-chat turned into Facebook convo and we had both entered Second Wind Running’s Midnight Marathon event. We had entered not to run a better time than Brighton (not a chance with that amount of climb – 1264.5m to be exact) but because the idea of running late at night was very exciting and something we’d not done before. The race started at 9 p.m, so unless you’re going to smash out a sub-3 mara, then you’ll be running through the midnight mark. A challenge!

So, how do you train for a hilly midnight marathon on the South Downs Way? Run at midnight a few times? Full on marathon training? Big hill sessions? Nah – I just treated it as an exciting long run with no specific training for it.  The furthest distance I’d got up to was a slow 17 miles at the Love Trails Festival a couple of weeks previously and I’d never raced with a head torch before. At least I could rely on my marathon training from earlier in the year, right? 😉

Saturday, July 28th rolled around and I decided that the perfect warm up for a marathon would be playing cricket all day in a field in Portsmouth. Make that playing cricket badly. After a day of chasing round red leather (not very vegan, sorry all) around a park, I dashed off early and went and got ready for the mara. Getting ready involved eating as much as possible a few hours before and having a massive coffee. A short drive to the start at Queen Elizabeth Country Park ensued and the pre-race nerves / anxiety (nothing to do with the massive coffee) had kicked in. I tested my Silva Headlamp umpteen times and it still worked after every nervous fiddle. Numbers were picked up and attached to vests – as with all Second Wind Running events, the race organisation was top notch.

I met up with Dan’s Tent, a quick hug and a catch up and we made our way to the start line along with 250 other runners & walkers. Some of the walkers had set off an hour or two earlier! We set off not sure what pace to run at, so we settled for something around the 7 minute mile mark, all in the knowledge that every hilly mile wouldn’t be at that pace! Dan and I had met a few times before and we have a lot in common… running, poncy beers, being handsome and we both love a band called The Wildhearts. All those topics came up as ran through the first 10 miles with not much a problem.. I think miles 8/9/10 were reasonably undulating and then we had a nice downhill run towards the half marathon mark at Cocking!

The support out on the course was awesome… it was great to bump into friends from local clubs like Liss Runners and Denmead Striders who were very vocal in their support of all the runners. That’s the best thing about running isn’t it? The amazing community around it! A lot less people take the piss when it comes to running, when compared to team sports. It’s all about supporting the individual challenge. After the downhill glide into Cocking, we had to turn back (it’s an out & back course) and this meant an uphill slog up to the 15 mile mark. It was hard to live in the moment and really try and take in the beautiful scenery, a sea of lights (head torches akin to alien invaders) coming towards you at certain points was pretty mental, as well as trying to get the race done and run well.

Here’s Si from our team who only entered two days before – the nutter!

My new Salomon hydration backpack was doing its job well and I was convinced I was running out of water at every stop (much to Dan’s mirth)…. I had a few Shot Bloks and a gel to keep me going but it was fun picking up actual food at the stations – a highlight being Watermelon, but running whilst trying to eat a banana proved impossible. Dan and I were still chatting, maybe not as much as at the start but I would not have liked to run this race without his support. It made the event so much more special by running it with someone and having that camaraderie all the way around.

My legs were getting heavier as the 20 mile mark rolled by and it’s the classic case of telling yourself that it’s just a couple of parkruns until the finish and you’re done. The miles rolled by ever so slowly and we were both walking up the hills.. Dan keeping the pace and the motivation going. We came to the last mile which was downhill and rocked back into the start, crossing the finish line holding hands and coming home in joint 10th around the 3 hours and 56 min mark. Check the results.

What a fun adventure! If you’re looking for a different race and challenge for next Summer, then this is the race for you. It’s not even a race for me… it was a load of ace people staying up late and going for a jog on the South Downs Way and creating memories that will last for ever! Kudos to Simon from Alton Sports who came home in just over 4 hours after completing his first marathon… he only entered 2 days before, haha!

Post race – my legs didn’t feel too heavy as I sat at the finish line waiting for Roza to finish. I stretched, had two loads of vegan soup and ate several bananas. I was even able to run normally on the Monday… unlike post-Brighton where a stiff waddle happened for the rest of the week. To conclude. Enter this run and cherish every moment, it’s a special one. Oh, and run it with a mate. Ta!

Thanks for reading! Check out my Strava here.

Check out all of Second Wind Running’s Events here.

Alton Sports have a website and Strava, too!

Jhon Cosgrove 🙂

PS: I am aware I do the same pose in every running photo!

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INTERVIEW: Georgie tells us all about canicross!

Georgie Lambert is the Co-Area Manager for Alton Sports and a very keen canicrosser… if you don’t know much about canicross, then you better read on!

Tell us a little bit about canicross for the uninitiated… how did you get into it, and how long have you been doing it?

Benson (my dog) and I got into Canicross about 2 years ago when we joined a local Club (North Down Canicrossers) with the help of Dogfit we learnt all the right commands to make sure Benson was always kept safe & we were doing it right, we were hooked! We kinda stumbled across the sport, I needed to go running, we had just re-homed Ben and his recall was minimal & he needed a job to do, canicross was perfect!

As a sport, is its popularity increasing?

Yes, this year we have just started competing on the Canicross stages which are held all round the country. The people I met travel to races almost every weekend, and then there’s the training in the middle and the seasons long too, it runs from September – May. With parkrun allowing canicross runners to run, people are finding the sport and the convenience of exercising and taking the dog out at the same time very accessible. Other running off road events also are allowing dogs to join in in mass events which is amazing and should be encouraged! It gets people into running, keeps the dogs fit and builds bonds. Recently a canicross runner, Ben Robinson and his dog Blake (read this) ran 12.24 for 5K at a parkrun and this obviously got a lot of attention and helped to get the sport noticed.

Tell us about your event at the weekend?

This weekend Ben and I went to Pembrey in South Wales, the location was beautiful with woodland and long sandy beaches on our door step. You camp over for the weekend as you compete the 5K course both days to show the dogs (and your) endurance. Everyone is very sociable with all the dogs enjoying life outside for the weekend. Benson was awesome and pulled me round to 3rd place in the female senior category, the course was mega hilly with a mix of sand dunes, this was our hardest comp yet. We also met a local runner from Alton! All the way in Pembrey! Naomi Shaylor is a local club runner at Alton Runners she has been canicrossing for 10years now, such a small world! Congratulations on your 2nd place, Naomi.

How important is good cani-x kit? Do the dogs need to be fitted for it?

Harnesses for dogs is just like footwear for us, you need to be fitted. Some brands fit dogs better than others. For canicross, a harness for both human and dog is necessary as the dog is pulling you in a sled-dog fashion. A bungee is then between you and your faithful partner to stop any jarring action for both of you.

Can anyone with a dog just give it a go? Any advice for people looking to try it out?

Yes completely! If your dog enjoys going out and about that is! Canicross allows you to explore new locations as your attached to your dog, in a non-annoying lead and collar style, you find yourself exploring new locations, feeling confident your dog is safely with you and they help on the uphills!
When Ben and I got into Canicross we paid for a 1:1 session with Dogfit to make sure I was doing it right and Ben liked it! It’s a social game for both human and dog to meet up with like minded people and their dogs so the dogs run in a pack, they seem to enjoy this more.  I recommend a 1:1 session first – it’s piece of mind for £20.

Do you have any other events lined up?

Yes, we plan to take part in the big boy BSSF this year (British Sleddog Sport Federation) champs which are held over 3 events – 1 in Wales, 1 in England, 1 in Scotland. You get points at each event and then get ranked out of the UK, we still only really do this because Ben enjoys running but the runner in me needs to compete! We enjoy going to new locations and camping. We also hope to do some more local parkruns as a lead up.

Just like normal running, is it important to increase the mileage steadily with the dogs?

Yes, dogs will generally always be fit to run however with Canicross they have to run at your pace and the key is not to stop and sniff/wee every 2 mins and this fitness will improve the more you both do it. Build up slowly to keep your best friend fit and healthy but also so they enjoy it.

Will we see you running a 12 minute parkrun with Benson any time soon?

Ha, Benson probably could but my goal is 18mins at the moment. No that is mental, so fast I cant even think about it. Ben Robinson and Blake who ran the 12.24min Parkrun are a complete machine.

Want to find out more about canicross? The Dogfit site is a brilliant resource! Georgie also did an interview for them here.