ISLE OF WIGHT MARATHON 2020
So running races/events during 2020 has definitely been a bit of a challenge right?
That was the same case for me, with having 3 marathons cancelled/postponed this year. The first weekend of October, my goal was to run a marathon, and with a few more changes, I scoured the internet to find myself an event in the UK that I was going to be able to run. I stumbled across the 64th Isle of Wight marathon, and knew immediately that I wanted to sign up.
Clear, concise instructions and with immense detail regarding the COVID restrictions. I knew this was going to be a smaller event (I tend to come last/at the back at smaller events because of my pace), but I wanted to see what the Isle of Wight had to offer.
Adult Affiliated £21.00, Adult Unaffiliated £24.00, 11:30am on Sunday 4th October.
The Isle of Wight Marathon is celebrating the 64th running of this historic race. It has been run continuously since 1957, making it the longest running (and one of the first to be held) in the U.K.
A course that has been used since 2013, takes runners on one lap of the west side of the island. This route is majority on the roads, with one small part on a nature reserve track. The undulating route takes you from Cowes to Yarmouth and back around.
In the lead up to the event, the information received was very thought out. At no point in the lead up did I feel like I wasn’t sure how the event was going to work. There was plenty of communication via emails and on the facebook event page which broke down exactly how the event was going to be structured.
Here are some of the following restrictions that were put in place for the event. I am highlighting these so other races take note, and see the effort the organisers of this event put in to putting on the marathon:
-Only the number and chip were posted prior to the event. Race instructions and rules were emailed prior to the event
-There were eight drinks stations (sealed bottled water provided) at approximately 3 Mile intervals. There was NO sponge stations and NO Special Drinks facility. These water stations were manned but runners had to pick up the bottle and either dispose of 200m down the road or carry to the next station.
-The venue was used, but essentially no indoor usage, no baggage drop, no place for spectators in the venue, and no changing facilities.
-There was 4 porta-loos on the field cleaned regularly
-There were no race presentations
-The start used a socially distanced grid that was seeded by expected finish time. It was split into row, line and number.
-Runners were asked to leave as soon as possible after they finish.
-Steadier runners were sent off at 11:00am, in order to reduce time on the course, where they would be caught between 3-5 miles.
The event took place on Sunday 4th October, and unfortunately for us, there was a huge storm. The weather honestly couldn’t have been any worse for running a marathon – but us marathon runners do crazy things for the medal.
The 11:00am runners huddled under the tiny bit of shelter we could find just trying to hide away from the rain and wind. A few of the runners were also running their London Marathon entry as well on this event. They called us to get in the start pen. Runners were lined up/spaced out according to the numbers and rows that they had been assigned. It was a staggered start, setting off runners every few seconds.
The route was fairly simple to follow, but it is always a good idea to check out the route before. As it is a smaller event, there is less runners to follow. Each mile was marked throughout the route, and there were marshals on the important sections, including road crossings or any turn off points. It never felt confusing, or like I was going to get lost at any point during this race.
The route followed the quiet roads from Cowes into Yarmouth for the first half, leaving the runners to be battered by the elements, splashing of cars, and general mileage.
The weather was terrible, there was every type of rain you could imagine. Hard rain, soft rain, torrential rain, just it was a wet, cold and miserable day. There was no way to escape it, and no letting up for the event. You were soaked from the beginning, right until the end.
Around the 12-13-mile mark, we hit the marsh area near the Western Yar, which became almost impossible to run due to the wind. It was close to the coast, and it got to a stage where it was easier walking because it was consuming more energy trying to battle the wind than running. This was also a track, a little bit off road, full of puddles – you spent quite a bit of this part weaving in and out of the puddles. Although you were already soaked, it’s not nice to be completely submerged in a puddle. Once you got back onto the road, the wind was behind you, and it was a bit calmer. This was also the halfway mark, which was met with some spectators, and marshals from the water stations – this was a welcome sight. It was nice to feel like you were back in the ‘race’ after having a bit of time to yourself.
Most runners were respectful of the COVID distancing when it came to overtaking, waiting for bits of the road where it was easy to pass. Others unfortunately did not and I found myself almost brushing shoulders with a few of the faster runners, even though I was trying to stay out of the way as much as possible.
The last 2 miles were completely uphill (with a few small downhill bits). Which was really hard, I don’t think by this stage any of the runners around me were running by this stage. Having those hills from 24-26 really was a massive killer, and a time cruncher as well. This was hard, very hard to do, but give everyone their dues, we all made it. The elevation on the website was in feet, but I’m not entirely sure it was completely correct. Here is my strava below:
Coming in to the finish, I can’t fault that there was definitely a bit of an atmosphere. People weren’t in the community center area, but they were dotted along the road cheering you on for the final finish. You could see other runners who had finished coming out as well, giving you a cheer as you came into the final stretch.
Once you crossed over the finish line, it was a case of finish, leave as quick as possible. Leading up to the event, I was under the impression that the medals would be posted out, but actually they had them lined up on the table with a bottle of water. You had to pick it up yourself, and then head off.
A well-run event, I can’t fault the time they took to put the event on. I am giving my kudos to every other person who ran that day, it was terrible conditions.
I’m going to be completely honest with this one, I’m not sure my mind was completely in it for this event. The day before, I just didn’t feel like I was 100% committed mentally to doing this. I hadn’t enjoyed this training period at all. My goal was to just complete the race and enjoy it as much as possible. There was no pressure on my time, I knew with the COVID restrictions, and just the general mental state I had been in, this probably wasn’t going to be a PB race. I took away that pressure, and just focused on the fact that I was going to be running 26.2 miles.
I did a 10-minute meditation session just before the event, to try and get myself into the mindset – ‘why are you doing this?’, you don’t need an answer, but just to feel the reasoning behind the run. This got me ready to get going, knowing that I will complete this marathon no matter what.
Standing outside, I had all my layers on, but ended up deciding/having a decision about running in my raincoat. Usually I wouldn’t have, but honestly, seeing other people lining up, they were in bin bags & their raincoats as well. I think the usual clothing that people go for went out the window, and it was comfort to try and attempt to stay warm and dry.
We set off into the rain and cold, ready to start this marathon. For the first few miles up, it felt like I was at the front of the pack, as the faster runners hadn’t started the race yet. It actually felt quite nice feeling like I was at the front. After they caught us up, there was a steady flow of runners coming through, which was nice to have. Every now and then, I ended up being alone for a bit of the event, and it was a bit lonely and sad, particularly in the rain.
The weather was the most terrible thing I have experienced, I’m not even going to sugar coat it. At times, the rain was so bad I couldn’t see a meter in front of me. It was almost like that scene in Forest Gump, where he talks about all the different types of rain – it was like that.
For the first half, I felt super strong, I kept my pace up for the half. In my head I was like ‘ooo I feel like I could do this’, however, by 16 miles, I was struggling. I had admitted the day before that I didn’t think my heart was in it. I hadn’t enjoyed this training period for this particular marathon.
Over the next few miles until mile 21, I had a few cries to myself, a few pep talks with myself, and just really felt like it was breaking me mentally.
From miles 24-26, it was the uphill point, and I saw my watch – I knew I could have achieved myself a sub 5, it was so close, but unfortunately the 2 miles of hills stopped that. I just couldn’t physically go any quicker, I made peace with this. I knew I had put in my best effort, and nothing could change.
The finish was a bit of a weird atmosphere, I was coming into to the finish alone. There was a charity runner finishing at the same time as me. I had my final sprint to the finish line, and they were all cheering for him. It might have been because I was struggling mentally, but to not literally have a well done as I crossed the finish line was very hard, it felt a little disappointing. I was able to pick up my medal and water, but that was literally it. After I synced my Strava, I found out I had run a marathon PB!
Reflecting on it all, I am really happy with my marathon. I’m so proud of myself for finishing it, particularly in those conditions, and persevering with running when I mentally wasn’t there. I am happy I did it, although I didn’t enjoy it. This wasn’t down to the organisation of the event, this was down to my own mental state. I just want to make a note to thank all the marshals & organisers for the day, it was faultless, and a well-run marathon.
I only have a few points that I would say in terms of improvements/things to work on. Given the circumstances of the situation, I do understand that this might not be the same case next year.
-Just before we started, one of the race starters shouted very loudly “All the slow runners go to the start”. I know it was just turn of phrase, but several of us called him out. Just because we are steadier, does not give anyone the right to make us feel bad about our pace. Being referred to as the slow runners can be upsetting, particularly if this was someone’s first marathon, and they were nervous about their timing. We know we are steady; you don’t need to call us slow; it almost becomes elitist. Again, it was just turn of phrase, he meant no harm by it, just a note for future events!
-The finish. I know that they were trying to get people out as quick as possible, but for me, there was no well done, no recognition. It felt a little bit disappointing/upsetting to finish and not one person who was marshalling at the time said well done. I know there is a lot to focus on, and maybe it is just me being needy, but just someone to have recognized I just ran 26.2 would have been appreciated.
I would highly recommend this marathon to anyone who wants to visit the Isle of Wight. The organisation of the event was spot on, the marshals so friendly and helpful, and in the right conditions – would be a lovely race!
Check out the website here if you want to sign up for next year!