MILTON KEYNES MARATHON 2017
Milton Keynes marathon weekend is a massive event that puts on 5 different races over 2 days:
The rocket 5km is on the Sunday, a fun, easy 5k from CMK to the stadium perimeter road.
The superhero fun run takes place after the marathon has set off, a 2.62km (approx. 1.5 miles) on traffic free closed roads with everyone dressing up in their best superhero costumes.
The MK Half Marathon starts from one of our fabulous Milton Keynes landmarks, the stadium MK. The first five miles are on wide roads and tree lined boulevards, giving runners a chance to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy some enthusiastic spectator support.
The marathon relay runs alongside the Milton Keynes Marathon event, pitting teams of four runners (adults only 17+) against each other, each competitor running a leg of 6.2, 6.9, 6.9 and 6.2 miles.
The MK marathon is consistently ranked in the top 10 UK marathons, an AIMS/IAAF Grade a certified race, with BARR Gold accreditation for outstanding race management and an amazing stadium MK finish.
Starting at 10am, the marathon offered accurate chip timing, a bespoke medal, finishers technical t-shirt, instant results with live tracking (which is very accurate), plentiful course support – Water, Sports Drink, High5 Gels & 1st Aid and much more!
Costing £42 EA and £44 non-EA (with price increasing the closer it got), the race started at 10am and had a course time limit of 6.5 hours – a little bit nerve wracking when you’ve never run before and you’re a slower runner!
This was going to be my first marathon, I had no idea what to expect from it but reading up about it and knowing the route I was sceptical about being able to complete it. I had followed all of my training plan and had been given new advice for the tapering time, to rest more and do as little as possible in the week before. This was something I struggled with and also something other people didn’t follow as they carried on with more miles in that week.
For me, when people asked about what I hoped to get for my time, it was to just get over the finish line, and to beat the cut off time. This was the final challenge for us zeros, by the end of it; we had become ‘heroes’.
The MK Marathon starts from a Milton Keynes landmark, the stadium MK. The first five miles are on wide roads and tree lined boulevards. Coming from MK it was amazing to see how many roads had been closed off for the race, a normally busy part completely shut off to cars. This part was filled with spectators, giving runners a chance to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the support.
The route is advertised as fast and flat but I can certainly say it was the opposite, it followed part of the same route as the MK winter half and I remember thinking the same thing, about how hilly the race actually was, especially the last half! The first 3 miles though, you follow into the city centre, part of the road I never believed to be on a hill but boy was I wrong! A slight incline for about a mile as you head and do the square around the main centre of the city, its all up hill for part of it but then you get to run back down that hill meeting at mile 5. You also followed a few underpasses and so you ad the down/up parts of that which are actually a little bit brutal because they were short and steep. Mile 20 onwards was where it hit you with the big hill! The downside to this one is after the tiny bit of downhill; you get another 2 steep climbs to get you onto the path that heads towards the stadium.
The route follows a fairly scenic path for the first part until the split, where you get to see parishes and redways. The split between the full and half is in a very scenic village in Woolstone, local pubs on the side and playing fields following the canal following the route which was up to mile 7.
Throughout the route, there were signs pointing out landmarks, such as the Concrete Cows, Bradwell Windmill (which I did pass, but I have no idea where it was, I saw the sign but think I was concentrating too much on running so I didn’t actually see it!) and Bradwell Abbey. It was nice to run around MK and see the sights that you don’t usually get to just driving around.
Around mile 11-13 you head through Willen Lake and pace the Peace Pagoda before heading on to the path of the grand union canal. For some reason I always struggle running through Willen so this is where I started to slow down, although this part is very flat for a few miles so for hitting the half marathon distance, it wasn’t the worst!
The course was very windy, it felt like you were always twisting and turning around the corners, and so you never got too bored. I think the only really straight bit was at 14-16/17 where you are running along the old railway path, it’s so straight you did end up questioning where the end was a few times!
Drinking stations definitely came along when you needed, I don’t think I ever felt like I was in desperate need for a drink as there would be a station around the corner. They were spaced out and well placed with plenty of helpers everywhere. If you didn’t want water, you were offered Gatorade (9, 15, 21) or gels (12, 18). These were on the course at 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21 and 24 < plenty of times to get water!! The one downside to this was that there were no litter zones, signs saying no little after this point but they were only a few metres after the water station so you didn’t get much of a chance to drink and if you were carrying the bottle you were stuck with it. Although luckily enough there were a few bins dotted about after the signs so you could put them in there.
The latter half of the course was definitely the prettier part of Milton Keynes, following through Loughton Valley Park, passing Lodge Lake and then Teardrop Lakes. All lovely places that truly show off why MK is known for it’s green spaces.
When you get to mile 24/25 you can see the stadium in the distance and it almost feels like it’s laughing in your face because it is not a straight path to the stadium, you’ve still got to weave in and out of paths before you finally get to the underpass that takes you to the final bit. You then have to run down the bottom of the stadium before making your final lap. The stadium finish is the selling point of the race, you do have to do 3/4 of the pitch before you get to the finish line, you think its so close but you’ve got to keep going. For me this was hard, I had actually reached my 26.2 outside the stadium and so the rest of the mileage was just extra traipsing along. Quite a thin path, it was nice to feel like I had the whole stadium and path to myself (even if no one was there by the time I came over the finish line). To then get your finishing pack, you have to walk back up the hill that you ran down to get in the stadium, a little bit cruel if you can’t move your legs afterwards!
The course overall was not awful, but I feel like it shouldn’t be advertised as a flat course as it’s far from it. It was pretty though, worth seeing the landmarks of Milton Keynes.
The stadium was certainly packed with people; parking was a bit of a nightmare. If you are parking for the day, find an estate that surrounds the stadium and park there for free all day. Luckily one of the ladies I was running with lived 5 minutes away and so we parked by hers. There aren’t many places of free car parks in the area so look into it before the race!
There were toilets dotted about the stadium with the surrounding restaurants packed full of people queuing, we headed into the actual stadium and that’s when the crowds started to fade out, I queued for about 2 minutes for the loo so try inside if you want to get everything done before you start running.
The start of the race was announced, but if I’m being honest, if you were in the back ‘pen’ you didn’t hear a word or see what was happening. The pen wasn’t closed; it was just stood in the car park waiting for the crowd to move. There were spectators and superhero fun runs stood in the back with all of us as well so no set order or ways to distinguish who need to start. We could see that they had all set off and the race had started but because we had the combination of the half marathon, relay runners and marathon runners it took a long time to get to the start. There was no atmosphere at the back really and then you had to walk through the smallest funnel to get around the corner and to the start, about 3 people could get through it and you had hundreds trying to get through. So even though you started, there was a very slow shuffle before you could even get anywhere near a jog and that was when you went over the start line.
The start line was great through, smoke, balloons, music and commentators. This got you in the mood for running, it was actually a bit scary going over that finish line; this was truly the start to the marathon!! A few tears from my fellow runners and screams of excitement, following the closed road with hundreds of spectators either side set the atmosphere, it was lovely to see this many people had made it out for the race.
I had read that there were pacers for the race, in the half marathon every 10 minutes and every 30 minutes in the marathon. Unfortunately, I never saw the pacers throughout the race. Even lining up at the start, they weren’t noticeable and if they were, there certainly weren’t any for the slower racing times.
It seemed like it was going to be a cool day, a very cloudy sky but when we were lining up the sun came blasting out and we all panicked a little bit as we hadn’t put on sun cream! The first few miles were in the heat and then it cooled down from about mile 5 onwards, it wasn’t particularly warm but it wasn’t cold. It was the perfect temperature for a marathon day.
The split was interesting, up until the split for the half marathon and the full marathon, the support and signage was fairly predominant. As soon as there was the split, which was filled with crowds of people there was nothing. It was almost complete silence, it actually made me look around to see whether I was going the right way because I had no one in front or behind me, luckily I saw a marshal who did point me in the right direction and at this point one of my fellow Z2H’s caught up with me and we ran together for a few miles. It was just a bit weird, I was expecting more support/spectators but from this point onwards it was minimal, only passing random pedestrians who had gone for a walk that day and happened to be on the route.
There were marshals everywhere throughout the course, very well placed. From miles 1-17 they were very enthusiastic and encouraging, and then it started to fade out, although well placed, they were clearly fed up with us slower runners and it would just end up a smile or stare at you whilst they waited for the cut off time to finish. With marshals were also lots of mileage signs and phrases dotted about the course, often with encouraging words, one for me I thought was horrible though was “pain is temporary, DNF is forever” – this was around mile 19, something I wasn’t overwhelmed to read. I spoke to others who did find that encouraging but for me, not so much.
Between miles 11-14 I did struggle and for me I hit the wall, which was frustrating. I had done this distance so many times before but for some reason I couldn’t get past this bit. I started doing my run/walk technique for this part to help me out, even though I had vowed to get to 15/16 miles and then start the technique. This helped a little bit more and gave me a chance to recover and gain myself before carrying on. This was also the part with the longest straights of running and so in places you were just trying to get to the next corner to give you a different view. I managed to get over the hard part and carry on to get to miles 16-19.
I definitely think the second half of the course seemed better for me, making sure I was finishing my gels and taking water when I needed. For me, a very encouraging and lovely part was my family. They were everywhere! They managed to turn up in the places just when I need it, they were so lovely waiting around all day and finding the best parts of MK to cheer me on. At one stage I had no idea how they had managed to get on the part of the canal but they were just there! I think support is a massive part of races, especially if it’s your first at that distance, having someone there to cheer you on constantly is such a massive part of encouragement.
From mile 19 onwards I ran/walked with two lovely ladies, one was in a bit of pain on her feet and was struggling a little bit with running. We kept giving her encouraging words and making sure she didn’t give up, she was so close to the finish now and we needed to make sure she got to the finish. Here, my time went down a little bit; my legs were hurting like hell, trying to move my legs in front of the other was a struggle but I knew I could continue doing the run/walk technique. Unfortunately because the lady was crying I slowed and walked more than I wanted as I wanted to make sure she got over the finish line, for me helping someone finish is more important than just my time. At the 24 mile mark though, I did have to make my choice, we luckily found her family and from here I knew I needed to keep running in order to hit my target.
Coming into the stadium was awesome; Mitch followed and ran with me for the bit leading up to the stadium entrance before running inside to get a good video/photo. As I said earlier, I had already hit my distance outside of the stadium so I was just trying to get over the finish line from now on. A big thing for me was to beat 6 hours and I knew I had reached that outside I didn’t have so much of a worry for the rest of it.
I ran into the stadium and there was only a few people left cheering us on, by now I was just determined to get over the finish line. I heard my name being called over the tannoy and I let out a wave before turning the corner and making my last sprint finish over the line. I had done it, I had completed a marathon and my family were there to cheer me until the end! I couldn’t believe it, to finish and then be greeted by other redway runners and the Z2H’s was lovely to see everyone cross the finish line. The medal was good, anything with glitter on gets a + from me!
The lady who I had run with for the last bit also finished, and gave me a big hug once she got over to me. It was so lovely to see the delight on people’s faces when they crossed the line. For everyone it was an amazing achievement.
I never really wanted to put this section in here, but something that needs to be said so runners who will be doing Milton Keynes will know.
One thing for me though and was slightly disappointing about the whole race was the lack of support for the slower runners, (excluding my family support, for which I am forever grateful). I was still plenty of time off of the cut off time but in the second half of the marathon everyone was just packing up. At one stage (I think mile 17) there was a band, and out of the 20+ of them who were now packing up, only 1 stood up and said well done and clapped. The others just stared at me and then carried on packing up. I understand you only sign up for a few hours but it is so discouraging when people are packing up and ignoring you when you still have another 10 miles left to go!
Coming into the finish was a similar experience. As great as the stadium finish was there was a lack of people, everyone had gone home and everything had been packed up, but I was still a good 45 minutes in front of the cut off time. When I wanted to get my finishers bag, I had to walk up the long hill to get to it and they were packing everything away, there was no place to pick up the finishers bag. I stood at a table for a while before someone came over and just stared at me, I asked for a finishers bag and she looked me up and down with a face like I shouldn’t have got one, “well we’ve only got larges left”, she said as if she wasn’t going to give me one. That was the size I had ordered in the first place, it made me feel so bad, the woman clearly wasn’t in the mood for giving me my finishers bag, and what does it matter what size I was, I just finished a marathon and she was making it more difficult. It also confuses me about when people have ordered shirts in sizes, and the sizes were placed on our bibs, how they ran out of sizes?! When she finally gave me my bag it was lovely to get the t-shirt and goodies, but just a bit of a bad note to get the bag on.
They needed to be aware of the slower finishers, just because we run slower doesn’t mean we should get different to the elite/fast runners. I came out on a high luckily but it could have been ruined for the lack of care for us slower runners.
The DOMS! I couldn’t walk after I finished, I had to be helped on and off of the massage table! A few days of waddling like a penguin followed behind the race.
I managed to nab a whole bunch of milkshakes as they were packing up – the brighter side to everyone packing away once you finish, there is a lot of stuff going to waste. We took 3 big boxes of milkshakes, 2 boxes of brioche and that’s still in our cupboards!
My family’s support was amazing, without them I would have struggled a lot more!
26.2 miles were completed, I ran a marathon! I am happy with my time, I do feel like I could have improved it a bit more with the last few miles but I can get better over the next few years. I came out of this race saying never again, now, after a few weeks of consideration, I would happily do it again!
Milton Keynes marathon has been completed, I have run a marathon. Well done to all of the Z2H’s who completed their first marathons, it has been a journey! This race is worth a tick in the box, but I think I will focus on different marathons in the future, lets keep London in my sights!!