To start with the stats. I’ve completed 23.8 official race miles, ranging from the First Mile of the Year at Centerparcs, Longleat, to the 13.1 mile half marathon in Marrakech. In addition, I’ve completed 25.3 training miles, bringing my total mileage for the month to 49.1 miles. Across the total mileage, my average pace has been 5.29 miles an hour. I completed three Cardiff parkrun events in January, reducing my time to complete the 3.2 mile course by 2 minutes 15 seconds across the month. I am on track to achieve my target of a 25 minute parkrun by the end of the year.
Now for the colour. Without doubt the highlight of the month was the Marrakech Half Marathon, run on Sunday 31st January under a cloudless sky in temperatures that peaked at around 20 degrees C at the finish. It was a lovely course – flat and wide, starting near the walls of the old city before leading us out through olive trees and parkland towards the airport, and then bringing us back in to the old town and around the walls to the finish. There was a lovely relaxed party atmosphere before the start of the run, with groups of runners from Germany, Holland, France and various parts of Morocco all taking turns to sing, dance and generally have a good time. The sense of fun was maintained throughout the run as locals and visitors alike lined the route, encouraging the runners. The local children in particular kept up a noisy barrage of cheering and applause, with many of the runners responding responding by ‘high-fiving’ as many of the kids as possible along the route.
The organisation of the event was generally pretty good. Roads were well-marshalled for the most part, and traffic was kept well away from the runners (not an easy task in a city where – as far as we could tell – any idea of a highway code has long since been abandoned in favour of absolute anarchy!). We had been promised water stations at 5km, 10km and 15km before the race, and it was reassuring to arrive at the 5km mark to see plentiful stocks of bottled water being handed out. Unfortunately, this engendered a false sense of security, because that was the last water I saw until I crossed the finish line! Charlotte – running 5 or 6 minutes behind me – did manage to get some water from a fresh batch that had just arrived at the 15km station, but by then the damage had been done for both of us. The last two miles were especially hard work for me, with the temperature rising and dehydration adding to the soreness in my legs. Up until that point, I had been on target for a 2:30 finish – about what I’d hoped for given the relatively limited preparation for the event. In the end, having slowed considerably from about the 10.5 mile mark, my Fitbit recorded my finish at 2 hours 39 minutes (the official race time, which registered from the starting gun rather than the time we crossed the start line, was 2 hours 45).
It is with sadness that I have to report that one runner (from Holland) collapsed shortly after completing the Half Marathon and – despite the best efforts of local medical staff and a speedy transfer to hospital – he did not recover consciousness and died later in the day. This sort of tragedy is not unknown even at the most well-organised events, but it is hard not to wonder whether the shortage of water on the course may have played a part.
We didn’t manage to get very many photos of the day itself (one of the drawbacks of being there on our own) but we did manage a ‘selfie’ just after the finish when we weren’t looking too distressed!
The one massive advantage that comes with running a half marathon as part of a winter sun holiday is the quality of the warm-down arrangements after the race. Our hotel pool was perfect for this, and I’ve never been more happy to jump in than I was that afternoon!
Finally for now, a huge thank you to everybody who has already sponsored me in this challenge. I am raising money for the British Heart Foundation and I am delighted to report that – through your generosity – over £250 has already been pledged for this great charity. If you would like to make your own contribution, you can do so here : Andrew’s Justgiving page