The morning after the marathon before. Runner Iwan Thomas analyses the Virgin London Marathon 2013
22 April 2013
Now there aren’t too many people who can claim to feel as fresh as a daisy barely 24 hours after running a 4:36:54 marathon, but Iwan Thomas is one of them. The morning after the end of the Virgin London Marathon 2013, the former European and Commonwealth 400m champion is full of beans, although ironically, he wishes he wasn’t.
“I had a bit of a disaster yesterday, which is why I feel so fresh. I was going so well until mile 15 when I suddenly developed really bad stomach cramps. Without wishing to go into too much detail I had to find a toilet fast and there just weren’t any where I was on the course. In the end a nice man opened his shop so I could use the facilities there and from that point on I was all over the place. I had to pretty much walk the rest of the way, so I was gutted to say the least, especially as I’d gone through halfway way in around 1 hr 50, so my target of around 3:40 was definitely on.”
Up until his emergency call of nature, Thomas had been running in the company of BBC newsreader and former Realbuzzer Sophie Raworth, after the pair had decided to plot their way around the course together.
“My problem in the past has been that I go off too fast. The crowd and the event can really get the adrenaline going and before I’ve gone off too quickly and then paid for it later in the race. So Sophie and I chatted on the phone for ages about it and decided we would run at a steady pace together. We were doing that yesterday, running around 8:30/8:40 per mile and we were going along brilliantly until mile 14 when I started to feel unwell. I told Sophie to go on and she ran amazingly (3:44:19) which is exactly what I was hoping to do too.
“I think it might have been the gels that caused the problem. I haven’t used them much in my training this winter and I think they may have given me an upset tummy. It’s so frustrating because my preparation had been just right. I’d done a couple of 15 milers and an 18 mile run ahead of the race. I also ran the Silverstone Half Marathon in 1:37 so everything had gone really well. But that is marathons for you. I guess you can’t predict when nature will come calling!”
This was Thomas’s 5th London Marathon, and he admits it’s an event like no other. But that said, the 39-year-old is considering giving it a miss next year, just to give his body a rest.
“I’m 14 and a half stone so I’m not really built to run marathons. I spent my whole athletics career doing something completely different, so it’s like chalk and cheese for me. With sprinting it’s all about explosive power and a high knee lift. With long distance events and marathon running you have to conserve energy, so it actually feels like I’m shuffling when I run long distances. It is so slow to me, that I find it hard to adjust.”
But being an athlete or a sportsman or woman can definitely be an advantage in terms of marathon running, according to Thomas. Even if you have to grit your teeth when the pain hits hard and the banter starts to grate just a little.
“It can be a bit of hindrance when people pat me on the back when they pass me in the race and shout; “Come on mate – pick it up.” I am going as quick as I can! I’m never going to be brilliant at marathons because it’s not my event. But I do have the advantage of knowing how to cope with the mental demands of sport. I know how to dig deep when it matters and deal with the physical and mental side of it.”
Image courtesy of David Wearn/London Marathon
While the Olympic 4 x 400m relay silver medallist ponders putting his marathon feet up for the next 12 months, many others will have been captivated by the coverage of the race. So for those now seriously considering having a go at the Virgin Money London Marathon next year, he has some useful tips.
“Definitely do it!!! There is nothing like it, so do give it a go. You won’t regret it. There is just no feeling like it when you cross that finish line. You must do all the right training, because you can’t cut corners with a marathon. But on race day don’t go off too quickly. It’s really easy to get caught up in the moment and run too fast. Even 20 seconds quicker than you normally run can be enough to make it really difficult for you later in the race, so pace is the key.
“And prepare to go to a dark place. You will have to dig deep and it hurts. I told my neighbour that when she decided to run it this year. I saw her at the finish yesterday and she was limping and in a right state. She said she realised then what I had meant. It is hard, but it’s worth it.”
Thomas is promising to return to the streets at London at some point and freely admits he may yet decide to change his mind about having a go at next year’s race. And there’s no doubt the competitor in him is keen to improve upon a marathon PB of 3:58.
“I ducked under 4 hours the first time I ran it, but I’ve been getting slower ever since! I will definitely do it again and hopefully I’ll run the time I think I can. I finished the race yesterday walking over the finish line with two blokes called Rob and Mark. We were hands aloft and enjoying the moment and the race is amazing for that. The camaraderie is phenomenal, that feeling of knowing that you’re all in it together, achieving something that’s hard but so special. ”