The Marathon Tour of Coventry and Warwickshire
The Marathon Tour of Coventry and Warwickshire was a series of five races in just 8 days that collectively equalled the classic marathon distance of 26.2 miles. The event was to commemorate the running of Britain’s first ever Marathon Race from Coventry 100 years ago. This ambitious event was conceived and organised by the Coventry Godiva Harriers; and the first initial race in the series was their traditional May Day 5 held every spring, followed by four races in four days, one after the other, over the forthcoming bank holiday weekend – Friday to Monday. The climax of the event was to be a prize giving award ceremony and barbeque at their headquarters on the Bank Holiday Monday after the final race.
I was a little nervous when I applied for this event as I knew that the four race / four day stretch of the competition would be the biggest challenge of all as I usually only race every few weeks with at least a fortnight in between for recovery. But I decided to take the plunge and go for it. This is how I got on during this Quintology of Races, with a small report on each stage –
Stage 1 – Lady Godiva (May Day) 5 Mile
This was the first race of the Marathon Tour, but also their May Day 5 race as well, so was evidently the most attended event of the five stages, as it was an “open race” for all runners. As per previous years, this race consisted of 2 full laps of the Coventry Memorial Park, starting and finishing at the pavilion which was also the race HQ for the morning. As this was an open race, many more people were running it than was actually in the Marathon tour itself (61 “Maratourers” signed up) so the field was a little more crowded and competitive than the races which were to follow later in the week. I managed to achieve my Sub 35 target time and completed the race in a time of 33m 37s, coming in at 42nd for the race itself, but in 11th place for the Maratour League standings. A pleasing start to the competition and a good foundation for the four races that were to follow in just five days time…
Stage One Time & Place – 33m 37s 11th
Stage 2 – The Peeping Tom Trial (4.2km)
After a few days break, this second stage of the Tour was held in Allesley Park on the outskirts of Coventry on a pleasant Friday evening. For this race we were divided into heats, with 8 runners in each. This 4.2km time trial was all about speed, running your socks off from start to finish. However this was easier said than done as Allesley Park is deceiving. At first glance, it seems quite flat with no obvious hills; however it soon becomes apparent when running that the park consists of long inclines that make much of the course more demanding than you first realise. After completing this short course, I crossed the finish line in 3rd place for my heat, with a time of 16m 40s, and 13th place overall in the league standings.
Stage Two Time & Place – 16m 40s 13th
Stage 3 – The Black Price 10K
This race signalled the start of three consecutive 10k races, one everyday for three days until the end of the event, and I knew this is where it was going to start to get tough with no real time in between for recovery. However this 3rd race was made a whole lot easier by the fact that it was ran on a beautiful course. 6 delightful miles around Packington park, a private estate of the Lord Guernsey family. A host of grounds, lakes, animals and birds, overlooked by the Stately Home, accompanied us on our mission that would see us past the half-way point of our tour. I had a decent race, which at one point saw me within tenth place, but unfortunately the opposition was too strong in the final mile and eventually I reached the end in 12th position in a time of 41m 58s, with a Half way (13.1m) Maratour time of 1hr 28m. Also a quick thank you to Coleshill Town Football Club who offered excellent facilities before and after the race.
Stage Three Time & Place – 41m 58s 12th
Stage 4 – The Lord Leofric 10K
In my opinion this was the hardest race out of the 5, both physically and mentally. Not only were we competing with very tired legs, but the course at the Prodrive test track is a very long, soulless run. It may be perfect for fast cars, but for a runner it’s a real battle of the mind. During this 10k, you have to keep your mind focused on the challenge ahead as there is nothing to entertain the eyes, not even any distance markers to judge your pace or occupy your running brain. I had a feeling this would be my worse time of my Maratour, and I was right, as I laboured across the line in a time of 42m 48s. The only blessing from this race was that I knew I had broken the back of the Tour and that I only had one more stage to go.
Stage Four Time & Place – 42m 48s 14th
Stage 5 – The BBQ Breakfast Run 10K
The end is nigh! After a gruelling week, we could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel as we gathered for the last time at the Godiva Harriers HQ for the final race of the Maratour. As this race was held on a Bank Holiday Monday, it also had an “open” invitation for other runners to join the fun, so the field that lined up at the start was a little bigger than the three previous stages. After the customary group photos by the organisers, we then set off on this 10K course which consisted of 2 laps of Warwick University. As it was the final race of the Maratour, with the promise of a well earned break to follow, I decided to give it every thing I had left in my tired legs, unfortunately I think every other Maratour competitor had the same “run till you drop” attitude so the whole race felt quick with a decent pace from start to finish. Upon the home straight, it was quite a feeling, as not only were we reaching the finish line of this race, but the finish line of the entire Maratour event. I crossed the line jubilantly in a time of 41m 59s… and almost immediately handed a beautiful laser cut crystal memento to acknowledge our achievement… a nice unexpected surprise which now has pride of place on the centre of my dining room table.
Stage Five Time & Place – 41m 59s 11th
I can honestly say that I loved this whole event, even allowing for the toughest bits. I found it more enjoyable than, and just as rewarding as a proper Marathon. It is an experience that I will remember for many years to come and would whole-heartedly recommend it to any runner who has had the patience (thank you) to read this l-o-n-g report and has in turn sparked a glimmer of interest. I realise that is was a lot of hard work for the organisers who did an excellent job throughout the week, but it they do decide to hold this event again next year, I will be the first to enter.
So all that’s left now for me, is to conclude on my overall performance so here’s the scores on the doors, official standings and times as it appears on the final league positions and certificate for the 2008 N.P. Aerospace Marathon Tour of Coventry and Warwickshire –
Overall Final Place – 11th (out of 61)
Overall Time for 26.2m – 2:57:12
(I only wish I could run a real Marathon in a Sub 3 hour time – I can only dream!!)
Finally, a big Thank You to Colin, Ann and the all the other organisers at Coventry Godiva Harriers for all their hard work in delivering an enjoyable, rewarding and memorable running experience.