I wanted to wear the shirt of shame. Iain’s Norseman run top from last year, the run I didn’t manage to complete myself two year’s earlier. It would remind me to keep going. To complete this.
But first I needed to ask someone the time.
After a quick change in transition, as one volunteer takes your bike and racks it, another volunteer helps you find your bag and help you unpack your run kit and pack it again with your cycle kit.
As soon as I left transition I asked another competitor if they had the time. 1540, they said. Excellent, I thought, I had been aiming to start between 4 and 5pm so this was a bonus to be out so early.
I also felt good. Legs were fine and I didn’t have any of the feeling of trying to adjust from cycling fast to plodding along and wondering why I was no longer moving as fast as I’d been 10 minutes earlier.
My plan was to run to 10k, then walk a bit then run as much as I could until the half way point.
(Also my plan was to work out how many kilometres there were in a marathon as I’d been relying on my watch to tell me and I’d never checked the metric equivalent of 26 miles – for half the race I thought I was running 44 kilometres as I’d miscounted).
My plan didn’t last long though – it lasted until 2km when I saw Iain. He had a Twix. I almost gave in. I almost ate it but I thought – be good, keep going, you don’t need this!
Then 2 km down the road as we started to run down the canal I thought. “I want a Twix!!!!”
On the canal, you run south for around 4 kilometres, then north by around 10 kilometres then back south again by 6 kilometres. A long straight flat course along the banks of the canal and over white, light, dirt trails.
Every kilometre is signposted. Every two kilometres, if not sooner, has a feed station. At this point I switched to a run/walk strategy.
I played the Dariusz Dziekanowski* game. Along the bank are green and white poles and I would run between them and then walk for a minute then run to the next pole again.
(A Polish Celtic player. Geddit?)
I would also stop at every feedstop and have a bite of something and a cup of something. At first, just water, electrolyte drinks and a pretzel, then, as the feed stops got more elaborate, a choice of:
Cups of salt water
Slices of bread with liver pate!!!
This was less of food stop and more a Continental cafe.
To keep us going on the canal, there was a band playing rock covers. Stripped to the waist, the middle aged singer was belting out Highway To Hell…
Who said the Germans don’t like a laugh?!
As the canal section finished, and the second half of the race began, I knew that there was still one thing missing. Luckily, I saw Iain again and he had…
The second half of the course is hillier, I walked more, and you could see my time per kilometre drop by minutes from the start of the run. I didn’t mind. I’d never trained to run a marathon, I trained to run a half marathon and then take however long it might take to complete the rest.
The second half takes you back through Roth and along the main streets. Pubs blared music – more AC/DC – people cheered and the atmosphere is fantastic.
Until you get to 10 kilometres to go and you realise there’s a long, long hill to climb before you return to the finish line.
I didn’t run at all on the hill. Instead, I’d picked up my phone from Iain, along with the Twix, and listened to a Podcast interview with the comedian Lee Mack. Headphones are allowed on the run course at Roth so this was a welcome change after hours with no conversation.
At the end of the hill, there’s a great turning point around a pond, with flags and posters designed by school kids. One of the last posters was of the Scottish flag so I tapped it for good luck and began the final plod back to the finish. This time, going downhill. I could start running again, and I was able to keep a good pace back round to the finish where I met Iain. He said that he could run in with me, which was great, as I didn’t know you could be accompanied.
I now had a second wind (or fourteenth wind after hours of swimming, cycling and running) and was able to jog to the finish line.
The stadium was noisy, chaotic and, while I kept thinking I needed to make sure I had a decent finishing photo I also now had my time and saw that I could finish below 14 hours if I could finish within the next few minutes.
Across the line, a medal and then a quick trip to the finisher’s tent to get changed and back out to meet everyone else. On my way out I checked my final time and found out, without my watch, I’d got my times completely wrong, I hadn’t been running to finish within 14 hours, instead it was 12 hours 53 minutes.
I didn’t mind losing my watch for that! Well, almost!