Race Review: The Nearly But Not Quite London Marathon 2023

Bit of a long story behind doing this event. After deciding to defer Manchester Marathon to 2024, Geth and I were looking around for a replacement spring event (as he was still planning on doing a full marathon). We selected the Saturn Running ‘Nearly But Not Quite London Marathon’ event in Durham, as it’s an eight-hour lapped event where you can do as many laps as you want. This meant that Geth could still run his marathon (six laps) and I could do as many as I was able to on the day, dependent on spondylitis flare-up level etc.

Following Geth’s injury and cessation of marathon training, it gradually became apparent that I’d be doing the event on my own (originally we’d thought that he might be able to plod round at my speed to keep me company, but it wasn’t to be). My strict rolling/stretching/S&C routine has largely kept my flare-ups away for the last month, so I was hopeful that I’d at least be able to do a slow half, even though I’d not done any long run training for the last month or two.

After a very early start to get to Durham, I was glad that bag drop was just a groundsheet at the start/finish area so I was able to keep my coat on until the last minute! It was still pretty chilly at that point. After the local junior parkrun had packed up and left the area, we were off, and I settled into practice marathon pace, which for me at the moment is a slow jog with a walk break once per mile.

The route was beautiful but not fast (a few traily/muddy sections, uneven bridges and gentle inclines) so it’s probably for the best that Geth didn’t end up attempting a sub-four marathon there – he’d have been disappointed I think. Despite the forecast rain, it ended up being a lovely sunny morning and a great day for a gentle run!

Unfortunately the spondylitis pain descended during lap two – a sharp, persistent ache in the small of my back and the gradual onset of stiffness around it. I really, really wanted to push on for a third lap to finish a half marathon, but I think I would have been crawling home and possibly risking not recovering in time for next week’s 10k. As such, I reluctantly called it after two laps and nine miles. No half marathon pin for my medal ribbon, but at least I still got the medal! You only need to do one lap to get it.

Post-race medal
Despite the disappointment I was a lot happier than I look in this post-race photo!

Geth is wondering, given that I haven’t had any problems during shorter faster efforts in recent weeks, whether my form when I’m doing plod pace is part of the problem (in terms of aggravating my spondylitis). I’m not even sure where to start with my form (as it’s pretty awful at all paces) but part of the ongoing strategy for this year is to build up long runs at a faster pace, so we’ll see if that makes a difference.

Silver linings for this run: no foot pain (due to wearing my comfiest shoes), no feeling sick (as the Clif Bloks are working better for me than gels) and plenty of energy (Clif Bloks again).

I really loved the event – pretty route, well organised, nice medal and lots of chocolate goodies to take away at the end. I will absolutely be back for another Saturn event in Durham – I want that half marathon pin next time!

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