Whilst most Exmouth Harriers were spending the beautiful sunny Sunday of April 1st on the East Devon coastline participating in the Exe to Axe fell race, 3 Harriers were in the rather less pitturesque setting of central Taunton for the annual Taunton marathon and half marathon events.
Entries for this year were good with about 1500 runners signed up for the half and 250 for the full events. Both races start together from Somerset College and go through the town centre before heading out into the countryside and passing through the pretty villages of Bradford-on-Tone and Rumwell before returning down the mainroad to the college. Marathoners then carry on and complete the 13 miles lap again.
Three Harriers were entered into the half event, which was won by Peter Monaghan of Torbay AC in 1.14.52. Harrier's ultra-specialist Mark Thompson was making a rare appearance on the roads in his final build up to London, which will be his first ever road marathon. Mark ran well, in what turned out to be much hotter conditions than forecast, to cross the finish line in 1.25.59 for 52nd place over all and 12th MV45.
Adrian Kearns struggled a little bit with the heat but battled on hard to get to the finish under the 1h30 mark, in a fine time of 1.29.52 for 88th place over all and 8th MV40.
In 707th place was over 65 man Mick Allen, but competition is tough these days right through the age groups. Mick finished 7th in that category, despite covering the distance inside two hours (1:59:17).
There were 1118 finishers in the half marathon so our Harriers did very well to finish well inside the top 100 finishers in a race that always attracts a good quality field.
Meanwhile, in the full marathon event, I was going for my first sub 3 hour clocking. Ordinarily I would have felt confident about getting it but just last weekend, 7 days out, I contracted the norro virus and spent a full 24 hours being violently ill and lost 9lbs of weight in 2 days. I couldn't race at the Yeovil Half marathon last Sunday, where I planned to defend my title and course record, and spent the rest of the week desperately trying to regain the weight I'd lost and rebuild my strength in time for Sunday. On the start line I knew it could go one of two ways: either I was well rested and had fresh legs that would get me around in under 3hrs, or my depleated glycogen stores would start to make themselves felt at about 18 miles and I would totally blow up. Do or die!
The first lap felt very comfortable and on my tapered legs I really had to hold myself back at some stages. I ran with Adrian for a good few miles of the first lap. This was my first 2-lap marathon and passing the crowds and the annoncments of all the half marathoners finishing at 13 miles when I still had another 13 to go was mentally tough! The second lap was not much fun. Without the half marathoners for company it was a very lonely road and my legs started to feel tired at about 19 miles in and it became a struggle to keep the pace below 6.50m/m. There are 2 very nasty hills on the course that aren't a problem on fresh legs in lap 1 but which became a major issue on exhausted legs on lap 2! I have never wanted to slow to a walk in a race so badly in all my life, and I couldn't even just slow down a bit as I wouldn't make my sub-3hr target. I knew I had a good gap on the next female runner and from miles 18 to 24 I had slowly reeled in 4 other male runners who had gone off too fast and blown up, and I found myself sat in 8th place over all.
The last hill at 24 miles was brutal and the only thought that kept me driving on was that if I just missed getting in under 3 hours, I'd have to put myself through all of this torture again! So I dug in, shouted 'come on Sutcliffe' at myself a few times and with a final finishing flurry of the last half mile at 5.50m/m pace, I crossed the line jubilant in a time of 2.59.20. Sub-3hrs, 1st lady (by 11 minutes) and 8th over all (out of 199 finishers). What a cracking feeling... however, movement of any shape or form is going to be difficult for some days to come!!
This time currently puts me at 4th fastest female over all in the 2012 UK marathon rankings, behind 3 GB international athletes. This will all change drastically once London is out of the way, so for the next 2 weeks I am just going to make the most of this short lived glory!!
Exmouth's own Cathy Newman has the female course record at Taunton of 2h53, set way back in 1985 - proving what a hard target that is to beat and what a class act she is. Having given it absolutely everything to still be 6 minutes outside of that, I have nothing but respect and admiration for the woman!
Knackered but happy at the end of the Taunton Marathon