There are a surprising number of V marathons to chose from, and three years ago I picked Vilnius. As my overall timetable began to take shape, particularly last year, I changed my mind. The sensible option would have been Vienna as it would still have left time for me do fit in one I really wanted to do, The White Nights in St Petersburg. But it would have been a too close to the NDW50 and I also really wanted to complete the continents by running an African marathon; luckily Victoria Falls fitted perfectly (but not The White Nights which was the week before) and it gave me plenty of time to run W without having to do one in my home country.
The 11 hour flight to Johanasburg followed by a shorter one back up into Zimbabwe had the advantage of only a one hour time difference so no jet lag. But the flight was overnight and I do not sleep well, or even at all, on planes and I had 2 nights to catch up before the 6.45 am race start.
Registration, it wasn’t an expo, did throw up the most unusual race rule I have come across.
Well we didn’t see any, but the large deposits on the trail at various places were evidence of the elephants; but there were armed around the course, just in case! We did see baboons a few times, and some of the runners were not alert enough to their habits and lost bottles that they were carrying in their hands.
Of the two problems I had been suffering with over the previsions weeks, the hip was the one I was most concerned about. Self/Google diagnosed as bursitis it was giving a very sharp pain when first getting out of bed, and different degrees of discomfort during the day; I hadn’t run at all since it surfaced. An ankle problem appeared a week or so earlier, a dull ache inside the heel that occasionally became a very sharp pain during running. The hip was as bad as it had been when I got up for the race, but magically disappear when I sat down for the essential pre-race ablution; and it did not appear at all during the race. But the heel pain was noticeable on the walk down to the 6.45 start, just a short distance from my hotel, and it ended up being the factor that determined my conservative pace right from the starting horn.
The beginning was comical, the inflatable arch collapsed just as the race was starting and we ended up clambering over it wondering if our chips were being registered! The start time might seem bizarre, why not 6.30 or 7.00, but it was clearly chosen to give a view of the spectacular sunrise over the Falls as we ran over the bridge that joins Zimbabwe and Zambia over the Zambezi; I have never seen so many people stop in a marathon to take photos.
After our detour over the bridge it was into The Zambezi Nature Sanctuary for most of the two laps. Although the surface we ran over was vehicle accessible, it wasn’t really made for family saloons, uneven, dusty and not made up in the most part. I was the first race that I have done where, apart for the brief time we were in the vicinity of the Victoria Falls township I had no idea where I was with regard to the start/finish. Apart from other runners the only signs of human habitation was the odd lodge. There were aid stations every 4k and every one had Coke as well as water. There was also a half marathon, which started 30 minutes later, which covered most of the first lap.
The course was mostly flat, the few undulations towards the middle section of each lap (but nothing that could be called a hill) which shouldn’t have been of any concern. Even when the sun was up it wasn’t too hot as there was plenty of shade over most of the course. As usual I started off running on my own, occasionally chatting to other runners. Around the half way point I teamed up with Geoff Thomas who had nipped over the boarder from Zambia for the race. It was Geoff’s first marathon for many years and he hadn’t trained much over half marathon distance so we worked to keep each other going particularly over the last 10k; Geoff kept me inside my Athens time while I helped him to not walk at all over the last 5k as he suggested he would not be able to start running again if he did.
We entered the last stretch together, for one of those annoyingly long trips around a field after you have passed close to the finish line; Geoff was meet by his family and his three young children ran over the line with him.
The race bib was different to most others in that it had a box for age to be filled in. This lead to me being spoken to quite a number of times by and I was actually interviewed by a US YouTube sports channel who were very interested in my alphabetic quest; haven’t seen if it has appeared yet.
#feelthethunder is used by the organisers, and when you are standing next to the Falls you can understand the reason for it; even though my hotel was more than 2k from the Falls, at night when there was no other noise, a constant low level rumble is very clear.
This marathon is not one of those were the organisers are frightened to make sure the race is recognised after the event, the race top really advertises it well.
I am so glad I decided to include this in the 26, I don’t expect to do another where a majority of the course will be through a setting where you can loose yourself and reflect on being lucky to be able to run over the ground not too far from where Mitochondrial Eve would have walked.
Just over a week after returning from Seville we were back at Gatwick for our flight to Marco Polo, Venice.
I had, of course, booked an apartment in Treviso, where else for the Treviso Marathon? It was the 13th running of the event and in previous years it had started in, or north of, Conegliano (itself 25k north of Treviso) and finished in Treviso. They changed the course this year. It started and finished in Conegliano (the expo was also there) and didn’t come within 30k of Treviso! Thankfully the name stays the same so fits in with my ‘rules’ the alphabetic being the name of the marathon, ignoring sponsors names.
There was no special transportation for the race, but there was a good quick and cheap train service which made it easy to get there for the 9.45 start. The forecast suggested almost ideal marathon conditions, cool with not too much sun or wind. Various items were used for protection before the start, the bin liner that had travelled to five continents with me was finally used and I saw a first, forensic suits.
Even though I started in just my normal top and shorts, many were wearing base layers, jackets, buffs and gloves.
I had a moment of panic as I walked up towards the start. Even with my non-existent Italian I could understand a countdown, but the relay started at the same time as the main marathon and the half at 10.10, could I really have the start time wrong? Of course not, it was the wheelchair and bicycle race starts.
The marathon web site, T shirt and bib state ‘corri nelle terre del prosecco’ which translates as ‘run in the lands of Prosecco wine’ and we certainly did that. In the first 10k we twisted our way through vineyards, more than once I was offered a glass by locals supporting outside their houses and the goodie bag did contain a 375 ml bottle of the sparkly stuff.
I ran most of the way with the 4 hour pacers, it clearly wasn’t fast enough for one of them to sweat out his pre-race liquid as a number of times during the race he quickly ran off in front of the group then veered off the road to relieve himself!
I was confused during the first 8k when on occasions we passed ‘walkers’ that were part of the race and they seemed to be in similar or even identical kit. After the 4th time I was convinced it was the same person each time, but did not know how he had got back in front of us; clearly I had not been observant enough because I did then see him come running past us a little later and he continued with his successful walk/run strategy for at least the first half of the race as we continual swapped places but after that we seemed to stay in front.
We were given a sponge in the goodie bag, and in some races these are very welcomed, but I was correct in thinking that I did not need to take it with me. Quite a lot of runners did have theirs, I saw them being used at all seven of the water baths provided. The ‘refreshment’ stations were every 5k, with water plus energy drinks in the second half; at two of the later stations cups were handed out that contained neither, strangely it was something warm. I have no idea what it was, a had a mouthful but spat if out at the first and just handed it back at the second. Maybe it was the peach tea that we were given in the goodie bag. I wonder if any using the spongers to cool down then used the drinks to warm up.
It was another easy course; Strava shows it having an elevation of just 86m, making it flatter than Seville. The only noticeable rise came after we ran through a tunnel under a road just after 38k, and the descent came in the final 0.5k running over cobbles in Conegiano. As we ran after the 30k mark the paradox of the area became clear, because when the view to the north was unimpeded the snow covered Dolomites rose out of the plain not a marathon distance from us. I did find the whole run as comfortable as Seville two weeks previous, and ended up more than 2 minutes quicker with 4:03:57 and 3rd in my age category.
The athletes village afterwards had free beer, which didn’t run out and it seems you could keep going back for more. There was also a warm soup provided, and the servers understood the 2 Italian words I had specially learned “Senza gluten” and immediately went to a different casserole to produce something suitable for me.
So just another 2 week recovery before my U marathon, there aren’t too many beginning with letter 21 of the alphabet. Actually I am lucky I was injured before I was due to run my very first marathon as the change to Athens has left this country free.
OK there are 2 reasons why I won’t be running today.
Firstly, a bit of a lame excuse? My trainers are still very wet from the Parkruns of yesterday, and the new pair I ordered just after Christmas haven’t arrived yet. I certainly won’t be using the new ones for Parkruns, am trying to decided on a suitable pair for trail running. Suggestions please.
Secondly, the real reason. I need to let the limbs recover, particularly from the two 5k runs at Riddlesdown which is very different and more demanding than my normal road work.
I did manage a sneaky 4k walk very last night, so I am claiming that for today. But also I have received a pre-planned summons to the pub, to start to use the latest batch of CAMRA Real Ale 50p off vouchers which start today, and this has given an excuse to ignore the bus and do a reasonably paced walk. It isn’t the nearest pub, but the burgers are OK and they are happy to use my own gluten free rolls. So another 10.4k is added to Janathon.
But… it’s now 10.20 pm, my trainers seem to be dry, limbs are lubricated and I really would like a short run around the block…and so another 4k is now logged.
But why do some w**kers seem to think it fun so slow down and stop in their car, wind the window down as if to ask a question and when you slow to help they then just drive off?