The Kielder Marathon

This weekend Alistair and I both completed the inaugural Kielder Marathon.  It’s been a surprisingly short six months since we both found out that we had got places and that we were going to be doing our first marathon ever, and while I can’t say that I enjoyed the actual running of the marathon, it’s been a pretty fun journey.

One of the first things I should say is thanks to everyone who supported us while we were training up for the event.  We raised £1343.80 for kidney research, which was far in excess of what we anticipated.  So thanks all, from Nigel, Alistair, and myself.

I will warn you now, there are photos of paleness after the link.

Lisa and I headed up to Alistair’s on Saturday, and after an afternoon of shooting things in the face in Halo:Reach followed by a roast chicken and a viewing of The International (a movie that tries to cover up the nonsensical premise by having a character deliver the line “the difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense” – quite) we retired early for yet another early-morning start.

Instead of driving up to the race, we decided to get a shuttle bus from Newcastle to Kielder park.  As it turned out, this was the best idea ever, ever, as we turned a corner towards the start area and witnessed the enormous queue of cars running down towards the athlete’s car park.


Cars. They has them.

We shivered out of our nice warm clothes, and met up with Steve, Alistair’s workmate and crazy fitness guy extraordinaire. This was the same bloke that ran the Sunderland 10k with a chest infection and then ran the five miles home afterwards, so I guessed (correctly) that I wasn’t going to see him again that day.


It was bright but still very cold on the road up to the start point, so I borrowed Lisa’s mittens, which I was very tempted to keep for the run. Sadly, she didn’t want them to get sweaty so I had to give them back.



Kielder. It’s pretty. Pretty damn cold.


When we arrived, the surface of the lake had been hidden by a thick layer of freezing fog that was just disappearing as the race started.

Alistair and Steve going across the line. I, being a sensible sort who knew exactly how much training his three colds in a row had cost him, stayed back at the “over 4.5 hours” section of the start line. The lenses on Alistair’s sunglasses *are* interchangeable, in case you were wondering. He explained the choice of orange lenses by saying that looking through them made the world sepia-tinted, and thus any pain experienced was obviously occurring in the old-timey past and could therefore safely be ignored.


Me crossing the line. I get shouted at if I don’t wave and smile, so therefore I wave and smile even though it makes me look like a creepy mannequin that’s going to kill you when security accidentally lock you inside the shop.


This is the start. There is a hill here. There were hills throughout the entire Goddamn race. If it didn’t say “steep incline” at the side of the road, it either said “tight bend” or “steep decline”.



It looks flat now, but just wait…


In fact, the race undulated in the severest of manners for the first 18 miles. After the dam, it flattened out a little and would have been really, really nice running had there not been an incredible headwind powering up the valley and into the faces of everyone taking part. I’d have really enjoyed it had there been anything left in the tank to actually keep me going. For the last 8 miles, I had to adopt a run-walk strategy that got progressively less run and more walk, but that was okay because I found that I could stride along quite happily and when I was walking I was actually passing people who were trying to run up the hills. there was a particularly sharp one just before the 35 km mark that I yomped up, catching several other runners on the way.

That’s not to say I felt particularly great, though. I had adopted a strategy of taking an energy gel every 3 miles in the race, with 8 gels stashed about my person in total. Aside from the fact that eating an energy gel is like trying to eat a slug, it got me through the first 15 miles in fairly good form and I wasn’t worried at all about my stamina levels. By the time I hit mile 21 I had a pounding headache, was clutching a bottle of water and a bottle of powerade, and I was sorely tempted to just eat my last two gels in one go. I was thwarted in that temptation by the fact I had a bastard of a time getting the first one open, and by the time I’d chomped that down I was so put off a second that I saved it until mile 24 as planned.

Oh, on a side note, it surprised me how badly other runners treated the course. Fair enough people dropping bottles near water stations, or even gel pouches near water stations, but there was so much crap just tossed to the sides all the way round the course that it made me quite angry. How hard is it to tuck an empty foil pouch back into your belt and dump it at the next station? How hard is it to carry an empty bottle that extra km or two? Did dropping shit all over a beautiful country park really improve anyone’s time? I’d love to know, because it just struck me as disgustingly inconsiderate. They’ll be finding wrappers well into next year, no doubt.

Coming round the last few bends, I kicked myself into a proper run to finish instead of the half-walking jog. It was the first time I’ve had my name announced when I crossed the line, and that moment might not have been worth the two hours of cramps and pain that preceded it but it was still pretty awesome.


Number 1118 – 845th place; gun time 5:25;16; chip time 5:22:33.

Alistair had a bit of a nightmare on his run – he was on schedule for sub-4 hours when his ankle (that had been troubling him on his long last run and he had accelerated his taper because of it to give it time to mend up) decided that it had had enough at (again) the 18 mile mark. Maybe it was just that bit when we both turned the corner and the chill hit us that did it, but he spent the rest of the race limping to the finish – when he got to the last couple of bends people cheered for him to run to the finish but he was in so much pain he simply couldn’t.


Number 1119 – 800th place; gun time 5:09:19; chip time 5:08:00

And that was it. I’m not sure we’ll do the Kielder next year – it’s an extremely challenging course and maybe we both bit off a bit more than either of us was capable of chewing in attempting it as a first marathon, but we both still managed to finish. And, as an additional bonus, my blood pressure was lower today than it has been in two years, which was really good to find out.

Now if I could only move my legs…

4 thoughts on “The Kielder Marathon”

  1. Congratulations to you both!! I can’t believe what a challenging course you chose. You should be really proud of yourselves. Also, congratulations to Lisa for being the ULTIMATE supporter/photographer/mitten lender (and presumably knitter).

  2. well done guys i also ran the Kielder marathon as my first marathon and although everyone i knew was telling me it was hilly i kind of chose to ignore them. most of my long runs had been on flat terrain so i found it difficult also. I.m still suffering now and its 3 days later although i managed a 2 mile run last night im hoping my little toe changes back to a toe from a blister in time for the north east harrier league starting on Saturday.
    I’m sure you’ll manage to complete Kielder next year, im rather tempted to try and beat my time of 4 hours 40 mins and 44 seconds.

  3. Brilliant write up! I’m doing this year’s Kielder and have been searching for as much runner’s info as possible to try and prepare myself, and this did just the job! I do train on hilly routes a lot, but I get the feeling none of them will be anything like this course! Thanks for writing this up, I’d love to know how you’ve been getting on race-wise since this one, Ruth

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