Well, we did it. After over 20 weeks of training me and my mum ran the Bournemouth Marathon and survived!
So, how was it?
We decided go to Bournemouth on the Friday and stay until the Monday to make a relaxing weekend of it. My dad managed to find an apartment near the sea front and right on the marathon route. This meant he could pop in and out as we ran past to take photos and cheer us on. And as I was taking my dog we could have some nice beach walks during the weekend.
I’m really glad we decided to go up a few days before hand. We ran a shake out run on Saturday morning which allowed us to test our planned clothes for the race. I got really hot during this short run so completely changed my outfit for the race to my running skirt and vest with no t-shirt underneath.
As I had originally planned to wear leggings with pockets to hold all my gels I hadn’t brought my running belt so we popped into one of the local running shops, Up and Running, to see if they had anything to replace it. I know you should never run in new kit but I ended up buying a Flipbelt and it was so comfortable I knew it wouldn’t be a problem on the day. Going to the shop meant we got some local knowledge from the shop assistant who was volunteering for the marathon. He told us the wind direction was going to change and it would be warmer on race day, so I knew my change of clothes was going to work out well.
The marathon is part of the Bournemouth Marathon Festival which includes races for children on Saturday morning, 10k and 5k adult races in the afternoon and evening and a half marathon starting before the full marathon on Sunday morning. As it is such a big event you hope the organisation will be good and I’m pleased to say I found it lived up to expectations. Our race numbers were posted out the week before with lots of information about the route and start and finish lines (they are in two different places!), it was really well sign posted and there were plenty of marshals along the route.
The organisation and planning was so good that there were no queues for the toilet at the start line. Unheard of, even at smaller races!
The route for the 2017 Bournemouth Marathon had a lot of out and back sections, mostly along the sea front with closed roads and although mainly ‘undulating’ it had quite a mean hill just after mile 17.
The first section from King’s Park to Hengistbury Head is fairly flat with a gentle downwards slope to the front. Most of the roads are closed for the race but for the first few miles only half the road was closed and buses were allowed along the road with a guide car leading the way. The runners and buses are kept apart by cones and tape and this section is well marshalled. But it does mean running alongside bus fumes for part of the way if you are unfortunate enough to get stuck by a bus going at your pace!
After this section there is a nice residential road down to the sea front and Hengistbury Head. This is the first out and back section where you pass other runners. At this point we saw the sweeper van and a runner beside us commented on how embarrassing it was to be running so close to the van! My mum gave a little pep talk to say it wasn’t embarrassing at all as we were running a marathon and not many people can say they’ve done that.
The route then follows a gentle upward sloping road towards Boscombe making miles 4-9 another out and back section. This is also the section that passed our apartment and we were expecting my dad to be waiting with the camera but unfortunately he didn’t time his coffee break well and wasn’t outside when we passed. However, my mum gave him a quick call on her phone and he was ready for us when we came back about 30 minutes later.
This road section isn’t directly on the sea front but you can see the sea. There are a lot of hotels, restaurants and pubs along this part which meant there was plenty of cheers and encouragement from people having breakfast and their morning coffees.
After coming back (and having our photos taken by our personal photographer) the route then turns back on itself and you run along the sea front. I think the sea front running is one of the best parts of this route as I love running by water and it helped that it was a really sunny day.
The next out and back part is by Boscombe Pier at miles 12-15. You have to run past the pier and run a bit of a hill onto East Overcliffe Drive which is parallel to the sea but not directly on it.
Then it’s back to Boscombe pier and our first run over the sea! There are no shops, arcades or chip shops on this pier, just a crazy golf course. Running on the pier was great and added to the seaside experience.
After Boscombe pier it is a straight 2 mile run down to Bournemouth pier. The only problem with this part of the run is that you can see a big hill in front of you and you have to run past the finish line! However, as it is the finish line you get the benefit of having a huge crowd of supporters cheering you on!
After the pier and the cheers of encouragement you then have to run up the big hill. When I entered the race I thought it was flat, or maybe a bit undulating. Half way through my training I was told there were a couple of hills so I included some more hill training and I was really glad I did. They were hard hills, especially coming in the second half of the race when my legs were already feeling tired. As always we ran the hills until we felt it would be quicker to walk them, which I think is a good strategy to conserve energy!
Miles 18-20 were very quiet but running through Lower Gardens was very pleasant as it was a shady area and we chatted to a few other runners.
At mile 20 the route rejoins the sea front for another out and back route to Poole. At this point I was really feeling the run. My hips had started to hurt, and the run to Poole just seemed to go on forever and ever. It was no surprise to see they had a checking mat to register your number just before you turn back towards Bournemouth. I can see that some people may be tempted to cut the race short at this point and join the runners going the other way! It was just interminable.
Once we were on the home straight I felt my energy levels return a bit. The great support from the many people outside their beach huts cheering us on and handing out snacks and water was fantastic and just what you need at the end of a long race.
As we approached the finish line we gave it a bit more effort and crossed it smiling. Our finish time was 5:25:10, just under the 5:30 we were hoping to finish in.
I’m really glad we chose the Bournemouth Marathon as our first marathon. It is a good course, well organised and well supported. The route was scenic and we were lucky to have good weather on the day. I would definitely recommend Bournemouth marathon to anyone, just be prepared for hills!