#249 - Night of Flanders Marathon Race Report

Marathon #249 Night of Flanders done! A mere 56 minutes quicker than my previous best on this course so from that you can probably tell it was a decent run! lol 3:59:19 so my second sub 4. Not quite sure where that came from, and although it sounds odd, I felt OK at about mile 2 so just tried to hang on and basically did for the remaining 24 miles. It's not wholly a pacing technique I'd recommend mind you! And oddly both my best marathon times have been in brand new Hokas! Not quite a PB but very pleased with that effort level tonight!


Hadn't originally planned on doing Night of Flanders marathon this year, although logistically easy there was an Enigma event on the same weekend and they're always enjoyable! But Rachel wasn't terribly keen on laps of the lake and our friends Ian Berry and Sandra Bowers decided that they were going to be there too then eventually we decided to hop on the ferry across the Channel to this one. Was the third time we'd been to the small town of Torhout for this event, only about 45 minutes from Dunkirk, its very inexpensive by race standards (20 Euros), just pay on the night and beer in the big hall is 1 Euro a glass... Aside from the marathon there was a 10k and new this year a half marathon and 50k (on the Saturday along with the 100k) and as always there were walks as well, the main event there being the 100k.


We'd met up with Ian and Sandra on the ferry for a bit of a chat and this year we were staying overnight, with a 2000 start time and ferries running all night previously we'd just gone home again in the small hours but this time making a very small break of it.... we found the hotel OK, parking though was rather more tricky as the town centre was closed off and the streets narrow. We found a spot and a local in a hi-vis jacket tried to explain how the ticket machine worked, without joy, couldn't really figure that out. So after checking in to the hotel we drove around the sports centre where the start was and number pick up, luckily found a space in the main car park and then left the car there for the rest of the time we were there. Parking a bit chaotic!

Paid the 20 euros for the number/chip timing and sorted things out after a beer and more chatting with Ian and Sandra (Ian was in for the marathon and Sandra the 100k next day) and Emily Hannon, who although an "Enigma usual" actually lives in Brussels.

The main appeal of Night of Flanders is that its all road, dead flat and rather interesting in that it is two loops more or less between two town centres where there is lots of music/stalls/fair type things... and then very quiet out in the fields and residential districts with odd pockets of support (on the first loop, by the time I'm around on the second they're usually given up and gone to bed!) They have chocolate drops at the aid stations too, I like that idea!

So at 2000 we were off and as usual with the odd starting time wasn't really sure how I would be. I don't like to run around with a full stomach of food and suspected that I had too much in me from the day as had basically eaten normally (i.e too much!) but trotted off through the town and being quite a small event (350 maybe in for the marathon and 500 for the half) only took a little time to hit my stride. Continental European marathons tend to be pretty quick and sensible, not the usual dodging of walkers/5:00 runners in the 2:30 pen and so forth, the downside of that is when you're slower, they can be lonely at the back!

I'd decided that if things felt OK then this would be a "proper effort" run, but I am only allowed so much sensible thoughts for a marathon so as a last minute random idea I was wearing brand new Hokas which had been on my feet for the first time about 30 minutes before the start and brand new "X-Socks" I liked the look of for no reason I could remember when I put them on. Not even sure why I decided to do the race in Hokas really, I had one pair left I'd never worn and just thought I'd give them a try I think. I did have two other spare pairs with me which I figured I could change in to if needed anyway.

But all felt good (I'd had some worryingly painful hip flexor pains in the week) and a usual first mile of "way too quick" settled into a just under 9:00 pace which felt OK, so by mile 2 or 3 I basically decided that I would try to hold that pace for the next 24 miles. One real benefit of doing the long ultras is that you lose the fear of 20 miles+ There is no breaking it down in to chunks, no aid station to aid station, its just "right, hold this effort for as long as you can!" and off I went.

I skipped a few aid stations as didn't need any fluids, always a way to save time when on a mission and pounded along, music blaring away and generally just running. About mile 8 when I'm usually getting to the "had enough of this game" I decided I was feeling pretty decent and had noticed that nobody was overtaking me which is what usually happens, and if anything was reeling in a few folk and thought right, sub 4:00 on the cards here, hammer down and had a real good 3 or 4 miles. Got to half way in 1:55, which would be a PB I think, and held on at a sub 9:00 average pace (although my mileage times were slowing by now) till mile 20, 2:58 or so, now just a 10k in an hour and a PB was on the table.

I'd had one slow mile at 18 filling up the bottle and grabbing raisins to eat (no chocolate drops this year!!) and another at 23 where I was beginning to feel really very sick. A brief walk and a bit of a throw up helped (oddly had felt rough after the "Train Station aid station" last year too)... but wasn't feeling good still. Then it was a case of "how much do you want a sub 4:00" versus "will still be your second best marathon time even if you walk from here" and the former won! Unusually for me I reeled in a steady stream of others as I pounded along (ok at 9:30 pace!) though by mile 25 I suspected a PB might not be possible but still put in a 9:07 mile (with a few little uphills!) sadly not to be a PB but went through in 3:59:19 on the Garmin (which was 3 seconds slower on the chip timing eventually)

Felt pretty sick afterwards but good to see Ian, Sandra and Rachel at the finish, the latter two having rather enjoyed the festivities at the town centre! Very unusually for me I wanted nothing to eat, nor the next morning either... though by lunchtime normal service was resumed! What had caused that wasn't really sure...


Things I Learnt

home | about me | wise words? | race reports | contact Copyright © Traviss Willcox. All rights reserved