Bournemouth Marathon

The Bournemouth Marathon was a long time coming, little did I know at the time that my last marathon would be at Auckland in 2017.  I had almost forgotten what running a marathon felt like, so today was going to be a fresh dose of pain.

Coming into the race I did 68.11 at the Lake Vyrnwy Half last month so I knew my form was probably better than I had given myself credit for.  My plan was to aim for 2.24ish (or at least 1.12 at the half way point and then see what happens).  The conditions on the day were forecast to be dry and about 15 - 18 degrees, but windy - about 18 mph gusting to 30 mph.  As much of the Bournemouth Marathon involves running along the sea front I knew that this was likely to cause some issues, so in the end I thought that I'd just run to feel but also be conscious about what was happening in the race around me.

15 mins before the start.  In the same England kit from the 2017 Chester Marathon - hopefully a good omen!

The off - pretty much straight into the lead.

At the off I went straight into the lead even though I normally tend to work my through the field over the first few km.  I tried to ease back but even then I was still starting to form a small gap after the first km.  This really wasn't a scenario I had remotely considered so I tried to quickly figure whether I should slow right down to have someone to work with or just do my own thing.  I decided the latter and just hoped that I wouldn't regret it later on.  The first few km largely came and went and I was going at a cracking pace that felt really easy - this included a 3.13 km after 4km which kind of scared me a bit and my Garmin at this point was predicting a 2.15 finishing time!

I soon understood why I was going at such a fast pace as at 6km there was a loop back the way we came and suddenly I was hit with a huge headwind.  Gone were the 3.15 - 3.20 min/km splits and the next 5km were straight into the wind without any respite resulting in a much slower 3.25 - 3.30 min/km range.  Much of the course involved switching back the way we came so I always had a pretty good idea of the gap behind me and already at this point it was at least a minute, if not more.  I knew I had made the right decision earlier to do my own thing, but it also meant that the race was going be a 26 mile time trial.  That didn't mean I was confident of winning at this point, just that if I blew up later on, I would almost certainly be by myself regardless.

About 10.5km in - into the headwind but felt fairly comfortable at this point.

About 500 metres later coming back the way I came albeit now running with the wind.

The crowds all along the sea front were nothing short of fantastic, better than any other race I've done.  All cheering me on, shouting my name that was on my bib, offering loads of encouragement.  Between 12-15km there was another switchback with the wind behind me and again I was back into a 3.16 - 3.18 min/km range.  I was still feeling reasonable and the signs were good.

About 19km in now at Boscombe.

At the end of the 15th km I went from running along the road just above the coast to actually running directly on the seafront next to the beach.  Again, the wind was just as bad, if not worse now as it was so exposed.  Added to that was the path had loads of loose sand which made it very hard to get any traction and it often involved a fair bit of weaving to try and find the best grip.  Km 16 - 22 were back into the wind without any respite and my splits were back into the 3.25 - 3.30 min/km range.  There were a couple of anomalies though, one of two significant climbs of the course took place involving a 30 metre ascent resulting in a 3.47 km, but the corresponding descent was done in 3.18.  I went through half way in 1.11.40 but I knew the chances of a negative split were pretty low as much more of the second half was going to be in the headwind.

Again another switchback took place between 22 - 25km which was done in a consistent 3.18 min/km and at this point I still felt ok.  It also involved a more interesting part of the race that involved running on Boscombe pier out to the sea and back which broke up a bit of the monotony.  With the consistent switchbacks I could see that my lead had grown to several minutes so at this stage I knew that as long as I kept a decent pace I was in all likelihood going to win.

About half of the course was run on these sandy patches which just added to the toughness.  About 22km in here and still feeling alright.

26 - 36km was horrendous for lots of reasons, it was a relentless headwind that just sapped any energy I had and also involved the second main hill of the race.  Just when you think that was bad enough, the sand on the sea front made things worse; it was this point of the race where I went from feeling half decent to feeling like the race couldn't end soon enough!  My splits went back to a range of 3.26 - 3.34 including a 3.49 and 3.41 on the hilly bits.  It was at this point where I knew any chance of a 2.23 or 2.24 finish were gone.  These conditions were simply just not conducive to fast running, especially when there was no one to work with.  I just kept thinking, indeed praying that the final turn for home would be near by, but no, it just kept on going.  The support though remained fantastic throughout, especially at the start of this section that involved lots of little loops near to the finish and also running a loop along Bournemouth pier.

Eventually there was the final turn for home and at last the wind was behind me, but at this point it didn't really make much of a difference.  My legs had more or less gone and if I'm honest any incentive to push on just wasn't there as I knew my lead was substantial.  I even ended counting the number of steps to each km to try and keep going.  My last few km were done in the 3.30 - 3.34 range even with the wind behind me - not fantastic if I'm honest but at this point it was all I could give, the incentive was just not there.  I knew I was going to get a small PB and that was good enough.  I crossed the line with some fantastic support from the crowd in a time of 2.25.48.  Second place came through in 2.33.26 with 3rd in 2.41.06.

Absorbing the crowds at the finish.

Love this pic - punching the air.

Breaking the tape.

It was a fantastic day which I will remember for a long time to come considering I was even thinking about stopping running altogether earlier this year.  Although my time was a bit slower than I thought, it was simply down to the wind and underfoot conditions along the coast.  I'm sure it accounted for 2 - 3 minutes, but at the end of the day a PB is a PB, a win is a win and a cash prize of £1,000 along with a donation of £500 to a charity of my choice cant be ignored.  In terms of the latter I will have a think who I will nominate, but my current thinking is a small local charity in Tamworth where it will really make a difference.

Prize giving.

All in all, my UK marathon ranking places me 52nd in the UK so far in 2019 and 16th V35.  My only small claim to fame is that in England I'm 13th V35 with a certain Mo Farah in 1st position and in the West Midlands region I've run the fastest time so far this year across all age groups!

The only plan for the next few weeks is to recover but I have the Valencia Marathon scheduled in early December.  This was always intended as a backup in case I was injured (again!) for Bournemouth, so I will give it a good go assuming I stay fit and healthy, although my time today would have placed me 70th last year!


  1. Well done Lloyd. We were at the Sandbanks end of the beach , just before the turn, cheering on the runners and the wind was gusty and blowing the sand around. The Samba band was belting out some good rhythms, but you may have been too much in the zone to notice them.You looked strong and relaxed, and we waited a long time for the second runner to come through. Well done on such a strong performance in challenging conditions! It was a joy to see such an elite runner!

  2. Well done Lloyd. My wife and I followed your progress thoughout the race. First at the 6 mile point when you were encountering the wind resistance after a fast start. We then drove to Bournemouth pier to follow the action around there.
    I am now 68 and it seems like yesterday when I ran the London Marathon in the early 80's in a time of 2.54. And that was after hitting THE WALL at 24 miles which took a good 10 mins off of my target time of around 2.45.
    You mention in your blog that you considered giving up running a little while back. The reason for this comment is just that I implore you to try and keep competing as long as you can. Like me the day is just around the corner when your body will not cooperate and your running days will be over. Then, like me, you will watch the ones that will follow you and although you will not be in the race the feelings you experienced during your time will come flooding back. Unfortunately those feelings will be tinged with regret that you cannot ever again experience the exhilaration of being completely at one with your body.
    Hope to see you next year and given good conditions and luck with your training you can defend your title.
    Best wishes
    Roger Howlett

  3. Thanks for both comments. Hope you enjoyed the race Roger!

    Not sure how I looked, but felt ok departing Bournemouth towards Sandbanks but the wind eventually sapped my energy. I know realistically at the age of 38 I've probably got a couple of years to peak, just got to recognise that at my age I need to be a bit smarter in how I train.

    I'm not sure you are aware but the organisers have decided not to hold the Marathon going forward so unfortunately I wont have the opportunity to defend the title next year.


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