“Flat, perfectly organised, and just down the road”
Peterborough has had the Great Eastern Run (aka. The Perkins Great Eastern Run) for many years and its well supported and benefits from council support for road closures and is generally great fun. For those wanting a longer race, the choices have been London (if you can get a place) or marathons in Brighton, Manchester and other big cities. Peterborough runners need to travel, and typically stump up for hotel costs in order to get their Super 6.
This year Sublime Racing put on a short notice Marathon race through Peterborough as a trial to see what level of interest there was and to ascertain whether it was feasible. I had been impressed with their hosting of the New Years Eve 10k race in Ferry Meadows; squeezing 750 runners round a familiar set of quite narrow paths using wave starts (including the innovative ‘early starters group’) to create a really good and different race. Like the NYE 10k the Marathon avoided costly road closures by using the extensive cycle track network to create a certified 26.2 95% off road (but crucially; on tarmac).
As an inaugural race, the limit was around 200 runners, and it was fully subscribed; mostly by local Cambs and Beds running club members.
The course started and finished at the Marriott hotel in Peterborough Business Park with parking provided at the nearby Thomas Cook offices car park. The Marriott, perhaps sensing a good opportunity for the future, provided the Race HQ; toilets, changing rooms, bag drops and discounted bar and café for all runners and supporters. Additional toilets were provided at the start line as well.
Start time was 9:00 with a mandatory race briefing at 08:55. The course had been laid out with signposts and tape overnight on Saturday to prevent any interference with route markers by hooligans and I spoke to a few volunteers who’d put in an entire night shift to lay out the course. Sublime have a policy of offering free 10k race entries to marshalls and ‘race makers’ which must go someway to rewarding the efforts that had been put in. There were in the region of 150 marshalls, including the Cadet Force, with many familiar faces from local clubs helping out.
Starting from the Marriott the early course built up a kind of slingshot effect round and round the familiar paths of Ferry Meadows and the old A47 before shooting us all out along the rowing lake to the Green Wheel route via the Magistrates Court. Weather was perfect, if a little cold and a strong steady wind to be overcome on the river bank towards Millennium Bridge.
Crossing the bridge the course takes in part of Stanground before returning to the Key Theatre and the remaining 6m back through Ferry Meadows to end back at the Marriott.
This is a flat course with only the A47/Castor area with any noticeable incline.
The use of cycle paths for most of the route means very little road running and therefore no traffic or road closures, other than a small section through Castor. For any Peterborough runner these are all very familiar routes and gave the race a very local feel. Some out-of-county runners commented to me that the lack of “boring roads through endless housing estates” was a real eye-opener for them and the course was very positively commented on.
Support was excellent in those areas with marshalls and water stations (bottles) were based on England Athletics standards rather than the “one every two miles” over larger races. Its not necessary to carry your own water or gels unless you want to; but be prepared for a slightly more spartan experience if you previously have run a Big City Marathon.
On the day the steady and strong breeze from the East made the river section quite a challenge but thankfully it was before half way (although did make itself felt on the Stanground stretch too) and was a back breeze on the return trip down the rowing lake.
With only 200 runners the field stretched out and with the marshall stations being placed at junctions, many runners ended up on their own for long distances; I bunched up with a few similarly paced runners, but if you are running a specific target pace you need to be prepared to do some solo stretches. This may all change with next years race where I’d expect the numbers to be more in the region of 700-1000.
The finish, goody-bag, medal and T-shirt were all up to Sublimes previous high standard; and having a cupboard full of T-shirts I appreciated the quality of the one that we got. Runners were invited back to the Marriott where a subsidised bar and café were available as well as free massage.
Runners and supporters could all enter a free spot-prize raffle which was drawn just before the prize giving; and additionally the race finish line was streamed to YouTube for posterity.
I needed a Marathon finish to make my Super 6 Standard before my looming 50th birthday and I’d looked around for a summer race to take part in. When the Peterborough Marathon popped up on the internet it was only 6 weeks away, and consequently there was almost no time for any preparation. My intention was to both support the new race, and finish the thing. This isn’t really the best way to approach a first Marathon, but it seemed ‘do-able’.
I managed a training plan of a 15, 16 and 19 mile run before the race day, and this was insufficient (as any coach would tell me) to prepare. Consequently I planned to run at a slower pace than my normal distance, hoping to trade off preparedness (or lack of) for speed. It was a gamble and worked out OK until 23 miles where cramp struck and ended my attempt at 4:00:00. When the 4:15:00 pacer went past after 2 miles walk-running, and then just walking, I was satisfied just to cover the distance. My race number was 114 and I finished in 114th place with a time of 4:21:40.
The WJ family cheered me every step of my way and if I could bottle up that support and inject it into my failing calf muscles, I would have romped home.
The moral of the story ? Sure; with a base of good long running you can finish a Marathon on little specific training, but don’t expect it to be pretty, and don’t have any illusions that you will look your best doing it. Like all racing the result is a factor of the effort you put into the specific race training – if you train properly you will achieve your best possible result; if you don’t train properly you simply won’t achieve your best possible result.
That Super 6 is going to look mighty good on my shelf though 😊