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Sunday, 7 June 2015

Bolton Hill Marathon by David Sloan

Bolton Hill Marathon, 06/06/2015

Firstly, best put the kettle on, it does ramble on a little...

This is my third outing in as many years for this event and it is safe to say that it has become somewhat of a nemesis of mine, meaning that the more time I spend up there trying to acclimatise myself to the hills in the weeks coming up to the event, the harder I find it on the day. Plus, my PB for the course is from before I joined A&T and actually walked all of the hills, including most of the first 4-miles, so that is a bit frustrating.

Anyway, as this race is on a Saturday and only a couple of miles down the road it gives the perfect opportunity to get up later than usual and actually have a rest day afterwards, which you can't say for many races, especially marathons.
The day started in Moss Bank park, a stones-throw away from the start line of Trotters 5, with the ever-present smile of Mark Lysicia snapping me unexpectedly whilst juggling safety pins with t-shirt in mouth, thanks Mark (I still managed a little smiles, although it may have shown as a grimace). I managed to catch up with Malc a couple of minutes before the start alongside a few other familiar faces from marathons past, but had no chance to wish Cath luck with all my faffing around and numerous trips to the car (and toilet). 
At 9:30 we were on our way and the next 4-hours were filled with glorious sunshine and strong head winds to accompany the amazing views across Bolton and the moors. I must add now that this is the first time that this event has been run in June, the last two were in the first weekend of March, the inaugural event treating us to a sprinkling of snow and last year being thick with fog in the early parts, both being much cooler than today, not necessarily worse conditions, but definitely different.
This year also saw the addition of a couple of extra feed stations, which were all stocked with sugary treats, water, electrolyte drinks and High-5 Energy Gels, so this was massively appreciated, especially when the sun came out late morning.
I would also hasten to add that throughout the whole event I did not witness one single case of littering, something that nearly threatened the event continuing after the first year, so well done everybody.

Back to the race. 

As some will know, the race firstly heads straight up to the mast in the first 4-miles, before heading down Mast Road to Wilders Wood, across the Roman Road to Sheep House Lane and then into the Abyss for a few miles, popping out at the far end of Anglezark reservoir, where you are told by helpful marshals (at the 12-mile point), that you are now half-way! Good job I had my trusty Garmin. Up to this point in the race I was feeling good, weather was nice, big hill behind me, another 10-miles until the next big hill and slowly picking people off. I even went past the actual halfway point 2-mins slower that last year, which was pretty much as I planned after blowing up at the 18-mile point in that race, all was well in the world of Dave.

The 'short' out-and-back section of 4.5miles gave a chance to see how I was getting on against those behind and I was happy to see that I had made up some good distance on those whom I knew were going to run similar times to me. Once this section is completed, there's pretty much exactly 10-miles to go, with the ascent of Rivington at the 22-mile point looming in the ever-present future. Try as I might to pick it up on the relatively flat-to-undulating section, my legs weren't working. I don't remember swapping my 8:00-mile shoes for 10:00 ones, but for some reason they had found their way onto my feet. I could feel the chaser's breathing down my neck, and the chirpy voice of one Malcolm Collins, who then drifted past with a few supportive words and a puff of that heel dust he has been showing me in recent races, never mind, it was inevitable. 

The last few miles were really tough, mentally and physically. Looking back at my preparation I think I put too much faith in an ultra I did 5-weeks prior to the race giving me the legs to get round. I will tell you now, lesson 1, there is no short-cut to fitness! I didn't train enough, fact. Onwards and upwards though. 

I had three targets on the day, the first being sub-3:45, the second to beat my PB from 2013 of 3:51 and the third of sub-4:00.

I crossed the finish line in 3:58, so at least made one of them. Bronze medal for effort then!

Official times have yet to be published, but Malc was able to get around in 3:44. I have seen Cath on Facebook, but didn't see her finishing time unfortunately.

In summary, a great event as ever, a lot of support from Burnden on the feed stations, and beautiful course which seems different every time you run it. I will be back next year to see if it gets any easier (or less difficult). Maybe with a few more A&T at my side (Chris Bennett).

Well done to all who completed the race it really is a great achievement.

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