Flying Fox Marathon – Laura Slack

Flying Fox Marathon 2017 Race Report by Laura Slack

May 27th 2015. This is the date that will stick in my head as it was the date that I, (all by myselfJ) went for a run of my own accord. Not running to catch a bus, not running around teaching PE at work. A run. An actual I want to improve my fitness run….and I hated every last second of it! It was a measly mile that took me 10:43 to complete. That mile as much as I despised it started something. It started my love affair with running. I say love affair as I do so often feel guilty going out on a training run with my other man (coach Bill Mac) whilst leaving my partner at home on his lonesome!

Fast forward to 2017. January 2017 to be precise. I had completed 32 races since that May 2015 and was looking at how I can push my running further. This is when after toying with the idea of joining a running club I became a Bat! Stone Master Marathoners newest recruit. To accompany my new ‘affiliated runner’ status I also joined the NSRRA and after submitting my previous year’s race results I was placed in group ‘M’.

So I had my support in place and now I needed some target races to train for. So I signed up to race the Flying Fox Marathon.

I was down at the ‘Bat Cave’ as much as possible, training with the Wednesday group and completed a dozen or so races to keep my legs fresh. One race in particular that comes highly recommended would be the Market Drayton 10K. Well marshalled race; well supported race and for me it gave me my coveted sub 50 10K time I had been chasing since last year.

The month of May arrived in no time and soon enough it was 27th May. This was now my 2 year anniversary since my first mile run, and it was now the eve of my first road marathon! How time flies when you’re having fun!

My wonderful parents have supported me so much in the past two years, and they have just recently started to partake in the strange sport of ‘marshalling’ or standing around in high-vis jackets and pointing left and right to runners. So of course they had agreed under the watchful eye of Bernie to marshal the Flying Fox Marathon. We all arrived at Knighton Social Club including the one and only Sammi ’the bat’ dog to begin what would be a long day.

Sammi keeping a watchful eye in high-vis

Although the weather during the week had been positively tropical, it was seeming like near perfect running conditions for the race. A nice breeze and cloudy… still being a red-head, the factor 50 sun cream would be needed as all I have to do is hear the word ‘sun’ and I burn to a crisp.

Race ready and on the start line, I can see the newest addition to the ‘Bat Cave’ Aggi Pope is here. But trying to run along with her is near impossible…the lady has got some serious speed in those legs! So I stick to the back where I will be able to run and not have a cardiac arrestJ

The route starts the same as the Knighton 20 which I completed earlier in the year. This also meant that I knew that at the finish I would have an incline to compete with…but best not to think of that at the minute!

I had my times in my head and an overall time I was aiming for, sticking around the 9:30minute mile mark to get a finish time in the region of 4:10-4:15. I did a comfortable first mile and then another but then the runners ahead started to spread out. This continued for another mile until at mile 4 I had no runners in sight either in front or behind. Then my brain starts to pester me. ‘You sure you’ve gone the right way? There’s nobody else here. You must be going really slowly to have lost the other runners.’ So, myself and I argue with each other whilst smiling and thanking the marshals along the way.

I am approaching a water station and I can hear whistling? I am certainly warm but I don’t think that I am suffering from heat exhaustion or any other condition that would make me hear things. Yes there is definitely whistling. But in a 90’s rave style rather than the wolf-whistle of a pervy builder (apologies to any un-pervy builders). It’s Penelope (aka Victoria Hughes) dancing around with her high-vis, first aid bum bag and blowing a whistle! A truly welcome sight and utter bonkers at the same time. After not seeing another runner this has lifted my spirits and stopped the arguments I was having with myself in my head. Carry on Laura. Keep going.

Penelope Pitstop raving it up

Now as much as I enjoy road running, my natural inclination is to be out trail running, x-country or just being anywhere that’s green and away from civilisation. The Flying Fox marathon although packaged as a ROAD marathon is an ideal compromise. Yes there is the road to run on but the views that surround you mile after mile compare far better to your city marathons. Rolling fields and tiny lambs bounding around to make you feel almost at one with your surrounds. It was at this joyful thought that I realised I would now need to become one with my surroundings and dodge into the hedgerow for a wee! Relieved, I carried on to the shock horror that had I miss-timed that by a mere minute I would have given some oncoming cyclists an eyeful…oh dear.

It was now coming to mile 12/13 and I can hear heckling in the distance…Fiona Bradley. Fiona and I joined Stone together in January and are coached by Bill Mac. From my brief recollection of my time at Fiona’s drink station she managed to tell me I was on target for my time (1:52 at the moment) and that she had been having a dog jumping all over her. I didn’t question that and she looked happy enough about it so I let it be.

So now I had just passed the halfway point, in the distance I can see two runners. I was going the right way after all! Two gentlemen with 100 marathon runner vests on. They congratulate me as I run past, on the fact that I am able to run up the hill we’re currently tackling. Again in the distance I can see another runner.

The miles roll along and then there is yet another delightful hill to climb. The temperature has increased and I am feeling strong but too damned hot. Around mile 18/19 I can see another marshal in high-vis at a water station…with a bike. Oh no. Now I’m in for it! Bill Mac. Coach.

If I had any plans to ease off on the pace or complain I was feeling too hot or tired, they went out the window when I saw Bill. An outstanding runner and coach, Bill was the one who came up with the times and pace for today and so there was no chance now that I wasn’t going to achieve it. Imagine having ‘Jiminy Cricket’ on your shoulder for the last 7 miles and that would sum up how the rest of the race was going to pan out.

We saw some more runners as we went along and then I knew I was approaching my holy grail… the focus point that I was hoping would give me enough of a boost to get me through the final few miles. My Mum, Dad and Sammi-dog were marshalling at water station 8. As I came round the corner I saw them and got my usual jeering from Mum. Quick re-fuel and a kiss off your parents can do wonders for the energy levels. In fact the pace for that next mile dropped to 8:54. Still on target.

The miles kept coming, I kept running, Bill kept coaching and the sun kept shining. Mile 25 and the last hill. This is the finishing hill of the Knighton 20 so I knew it was coming. Up the hill and left into the Social Club past the 26 mile sign. 0.2miles to go. 0.2 of a mile seems like nothing after just running 26 miles right? Wrong. That 0.2 miles felt never-ending. Past the caravans to cheering campers. Around the outside of the field and I can see the finish line and stood next to it my running-widower partner Scott. Keep going. Last push.

Done. 4:12:21.

Laura flying high at Flying Fox Marathon

There was a good show of Bats out running the course who all did amazing. Our very own Paul Swan was first male finisher with a winning time of 2:53:27. For the ladies we had Joanne Bentley coming in third lady finisher with a time of 3:22:45; And as I mentioned our newest bat Aggi Pope earlier has some serious speed in her legs, well she didn’t disappoint with a 3:59:50 finish.

So what’s next for this flying bat…..well let’s see what all this ‘Thunder Run’ talk is about!

Laura xx