Marathon Race Report 2 – Luton 20/11/2011

Leaving the house at 07:30 on a Sunday morning is no fun. What’s worse is when the car registers 7 degrees as you leave and falls to 3.5 by the time you hit the fog on the M25. At this point I started to worry about the t-shirt and shorts choice I’d made for running the Luton marathon today. I didn’t bother to bring anything else, I was reliably informed that 12 degrees and dry would be the likely conditions on the day.

As we got within about 5 miles of our destination, the fog lifted and so did the temperature. Phew!

Following the sat nav took us to the right place. Pity the car park signage didn’t. It was terribly confusing and not least of all for the car park attendants themselves who seemed to have little clue what they should be doing!

Eventually parked, I headed into the sports centre to find a toilet. More confusing signage that pointed you in one direction and then just disappeared.

We spotted Lawrence from BVR in the sports hall where a few hundred runners were huddled, in from the still reasonably cold conditions outside.

The Luton marathon has a longer official title. ‘The Luton marathon and relays’ is actually two events in one. It’s a marathon consisting of three laps for those of us mad enough (with a 3h20m time limit to start your last lap) or a three leg relay for a team of up to three runners. Thankfully those people taking part in the relay have to wear a label on their backs with ‘Relay’ on it. Presumably this is so that those of us in for the full event don’t feel so bad when we’re overtaken by one of the short distance runners at a rate of knots!

As it happens, it actually worked the other way round more of the time. I overtook a lot of people who had relay labels on. That felt pretty good!

Anyway, back to the race. The field sports a strong representation by club runners. For this reason, and the strict 5 hour limit, it’s a fast kick off from the line.

The route is described as undulating. I’d agree with that assessment. I’d also agree with the approximation of the elevation profile on the event website, though it looks almost hand drawn! There are a couple of hills of the long and drawn out variety, though neither are very steep, and one short steep climb at about 6 miles. Oh, and on the second and third lap there is a short and very steep climb up through a cul-de-sac which, by lap three is less than welcome!

The route can only be described as far from picturesque. In fact ‘dangerous’ is my favourite appropriate word for the course, in my humble opinion. There’s a stretch at about 5 miles where you climb a long hill, arrive at the top a bit knackered and turn a sharp left bend to foind yourself on an open road with cars whizzing past and a very narrow and poorly maintained footpath (which also does not cover the whole stretch of this half mile section!). This is downright dangerous in my opinion. The marshall on that corner didn’t seem all to interested in what was going on either. Very poor form.

The water stops were done really well and having a choice of water or isotonic was great. The marshals were generally really encouraging and the route marking was fine. It’s just the racing traffic on a relatively busy road that made me feel the event wasn’t quite as well thought through as it should have been.

I had intended to run around 3:45, maybe a bit closer to 3:30 if I felt good. That all went out of the window and I came home in 3h21m, 95th of 480 people who finished the full marathon. I was also incredibly pleased to find that, of the 65 teams of people who took on thre relay, I beat all but the first 17!

So, marathon number two is done. Roll on marathon three, Lisbon in just two weeks time!


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