May 7, 2013
Well on reflection of my London Marathon experience, as much as I was pleased to have run the event, enjoy the atmosphere and get a medal around my neck, I was ultimately a little disappointed with my final time. I know I am my own worst critic and my hardest judge, but I just know how hard I worked for those 20 weeks from just before Christmas. I find it interesting how different types of people react as well. There are those that are/have been serious runners that knew I was disappointed despite my brave face! There are those that know enough about a marathon to understand that I ran a respectable time on the greater scale of things and were probably more excited for me than I was! Then there are the group of people that really have no idea – the ones that say “how far was this marathon then?!!” To them the time I took is largely irrelevant!
I was also really surprised how well I recovered so soon after the race. There was no limping around afterwards which I know should be a good thing! Of course me being me, took this as a negative and thought this had meant I hadn’t worked hard enough on the day. Of course it could have been the result of my extra marathon training too, preparing me well for the 26.2 miles!
Anyway, I decided I was going to search around and see if there were any other marathons coming up I could take on and have another go. As I mentioned in my previous blog I never got going in London, so I didn’t feel I ever got a chance to test myself – especially as I had ran so well in my training. The first marathon that ‘appealed’ to me was a Kent race that was 17 laps! As daft as this sounded I thought it would be ideal for me to test myself and as it was 5 weeks or so away, I was sure I could get myself nicely prepared for it. Unfortunately though on further investigation it had sold out! Another I found was Milton Keynes. This was 2 weeks and a day after London on the Bank Holiday Monday! As sad as I am I looked up the 2012 results and then picked out a number of the top finishers on the Power of 10 site to see how their MK time compared to other marathons! I wanted to make sure it was a relatively quick course! The guy that finished 3rd had ran about three minutes quicker than London (only 8 days previous), so I decided this was a good race to consider!
Knowing I can come up with daft ideas I decided to sound out my idea to Angela and Dave W – expecting one of them to be the voice of reason! To my surprise Angela said she was keen to race too as she hadn’t been 100% at Brighton and Dave was also very supportive telling me only I knew how my body felt, but in my situation he would be very tempted to do the same thing! What was agreed was that we would all keep it amongst ourselves, on the basis that if it ended up being a complete disaster, I hadn’t lost anything! Dave also agreed to do a quick 12 mile run on the Saturday after London to ensure my body was capable. This we did and I was surprised how good I felt running 12 miles at an average pace of 7:15. No excuse now, so Angela and I entered Milton Keynes that afternoon!
I decided not to get up tight about this marathon, so I just did a couple of easy runs on the week leading up to MK, although I did take part in the Folkestone relay trials on the Tuesday evening. I didn’t think a quick small run would do me too much harm. I should have realised the competitive streak in me would take over though and despite sitting behind Cads and Will in the first half, I couldn’t help but push in the final stages to pull away in the the last half mile or so. I felt good and it was nice to stretch the legs out and finish 4th behind Fletch, Dave W and Mick D in a time of 16:13 (over 2.55 miles) which was a few seconds slower than last years trial! So much for going slower! I decided to just do a gentle 4 miles on the Thursday with Angela and then rested completely until the race day itself to freshen my legs up as much as possible.
I was so relaxed in the days leading up to the race compared to my London build up. As far as I was concerned I had nothing to lose and the fact it had all been kept hush hush meant I didn’t have the pressure from others. I did get a few strange looks when on Sunday I turned up to the Hythe Round the Houses with my children, but having no intention of running myself. I felt bad that I just fobbed of the questions! It was great to enter my kids into proper races even if I did have to drag little Abigail around at the end when she wanted to be carried! Poor Becca too seemed out of breath running the 1k race for her age group, but she did me proud!
Onto race day, my alarm went off at 4am and by 5am I was driving us to Milton Keynes with a small comfort break at the Services. We arrived at race headquarters some 2 hours before the 10am start at the Milton Keynes Stadium. We knew at this point it was going to be warm as we sat in vest and shorts awaiting the start. I tried not to take too much fluid on board again and squeezed my last wee out many times!! Eventually it was time to gather on the start line and I got as far as I could to the front. There were two colours, red for the top 300 and then green for the rest. As I was a late entry I was a green too but I forced myself to the front of the green, so I was just behind the last red. As is the norm, I found myself chatting to a nice chap about race experiences etc.
The last moments before a race seem to take an eternity, whatever the distance and this was no different. Finally we were set off on our way and although the first hundred yards or so were tight, we soon went onto a main road and I had the luxury of running the pace I desired! After such a slow start at London, my plan today was to try and run at 7 minute mile pace and hang on for as long as I could, so at least I could test myself and all off my training I had. That said I was wary of the conditions and rather than set off too quickly, my first mile of 7:30 was just right really. I naturally pushed on a little quicker for the next couple of miles and after seeing Angela on a loop I was happy to be at about 28:15 at around 4 miles. It was all going to plan so far!
We headed back towards the stadium and past and at one point there were three groups of runners visible all running in different directions. I knew although I wasn’t right up the front, there were only 150 or so ahead of me. The next few miles continued in the same vein and although I was hot, my running and legs seemed unafffected by my early pace and as I approached 10k, I was happy to be clocked at 44:11. That was nearly 5 minutes quicker than London and mentally gave me a positive vibe. Unfortunately though that positivity didn’t last too much longer! At around 8 miles, I really started to feel quite negative and even in these early stages I started to question what I was doing! “Why am I running a second marathon – what am I hoping to achieve?!” Surely I wasn’t hitting the wall with 18 miles to go! This was clearly making up for not hitting the wall at all in London.
Ironically my pace was fine still, but my brain was playing tricks on me, telling me I was knackered and couldn’t go on! Amazingly I got through this dark period. I told myself I will get through to 10 miles and reassess and this is what I did. At 10, my aim changed to 13, although I concentrated on ticking off my mileage one at a time. Even at 12 miles, having 14 to go didn’t seem as bad! There were crowds all through the course who were very supportive and much needed as there was nobody else out there looking out for me like London. We went through a park which was a mini fayre type atmosphere with people enjoying the sun and eating their picnics etc. But despite all this they all encourage us running past. It was really nice and it was great hearing some of the children shout “You are doing really well Tim!”.
At halfway my split was 1:36:00 which normally I would be thrilled with! This worked out at around 7:20 average pace, so I knew I had already started to slow. It was such a different situation compared to London where I had started slow and was building up strongly. Today was the reverse which I expected, although perhaps niaively I did think I would last longer than this. What I was experiencing mentally was what I would expect with 8 miles or so to go. I still had 13!
Anyway, it was back to counting down each mile. As soon as I was past halfway I thought to myself it is mile 14 next which means 12 to go! Already that sounds better! The heat was really noticeable now though and my soles of my feet were feeling it too on the hot pavements. Water was available at every 3 miles, so each time I would take down a couple of swigs, cover my head and back of me in the remainder and then perhaps take an extra swig before discarding the bottle. The further I went on the bigger the sips!
As for my gels, my plan was to have one at every half hour and I religously did this to the point each gel was consumed slightly earlier each time around! A strange looking guy that I had spotted at the start was near to me around this point and as I do attract stranger people we ended up chatting briefly. I think I was looking for some inspiration but all I seemed to get from this guy was him moaning that he had blown his 3:15 marathon! We said our goodbyes and I continued my running, getting gradually slower all the time!
I somehow got through the next few miles and I recall looking at my watch at 16 miles. Yay – only ten to go!!! My watch said bang on 2 hours. I knew this was 7:30 pace which again I would have been usually really chuffed with, if it wasn’t for the fact I wasn’t feeling like rubbish and getting slower! I clung on to the hope I would hang in there, but it wasn’t easy! I did read up before about going over subways and little bridges and to be honest every little hill felt like a mountain! On one of them some kind runner told me to use my arms which actually worked for me – I clearly just hadn’t been concentrating!!
I am not exactly sure when it was, but I think it was between miles 18 and 19 I hit my lowest moment of the race – the real brick wall! This is when it is supposed to happen! My brain was telling me to “STOP, STOP, STOP”! Unfortunately, or possibly fortunately unlike London there are not many convenient points as there are limited marshals and there are plenty of open spaces as you through residential areas! But I saw a marshal and at this point I thought to myself enough is enough!! I saw some grass and I just threw myself down – almost in a tantrum that my kids are so good at! As I did it a few runners shouted “keep going mate!”. I now know how Mark was probably feeling at mile 23 the other week when I tried to encourage him because all I could think of were expletives! Fortunately I kept them to myself!! The marshal came over and I asked if I was ok! I said, “no I want to pull out, I can’t go on!” She responded with “Do you need medical attention?!” I declined as there was nothing physically wrong with me as such. But she didn’t seem to have any plan to get me to the finish other than me walking back the 7 miles or so. At this point a lovely lady in green came over and gave me her personal bottle of water. I gulped half of it down and got on my feet. She offered me the rest to take with me, but I said no thanks and with this I started shuffling my feet and set off again. I got a few cheers from people alongside me and I was off for my final 7 miles or so! I re-started my Garmin which I had paused (for about 45 seconds!) and then carried on!
By now I could feel blisters on my feet which made my shuffling a lot more painful. I kept seeing the same vests too as some would walk and then overtake again. Going back through the park was great for encouragement and it must have been obvious how much I was struggling as I was getting heaps of personal cheers! For a lot of the course I did seem to be running alone so I always knew people were clapping and shouting for me which was quite nice really. At 20 miles I could kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel. A 10k to go! I had given up looking at the time on my watch by now, knowing my PB had gone. It was now a case of looking at every 0.5 miles or so, knowing I had less to go each time. It didn’t help seeing the 3:15 pace maker go past me quickly with his group of runners!
The last few miles took an eternity but eventually I got to 4 to go, 3 to go and then 2. Around this point the 3:30 pace maker went past too although on a positive note I finally started believing I was going to make it at this point!! It was great to make it to mile 25 as the view of the industrial estate and stadium could then be viewed in the distance. My trauma was soon to come to an end! As we made the car-park to the stadium there was still a loop of this although the support was magnificent and uplifting. It got better as I finally made it inside the arena and the crowd sat down were going bananas! I still didn’t have that many runners around me, so I knew a lot were cheering me on. For probably the first time I smiled back as people encouraged me and I gave a few ‘high 5′s’ as I went around my last couple of corners. The finishing line was so close now and I was going to do it! I went over the mat and stopped my watch seeing I had ran around 3:34. Not a great time, but still respectable. I later found out I finished 219th out of 2,041 finishers which isn’t too shabby either! I must have beaten a fair few from the red start!
I wanted to just throw myself on the floor again, but this wasn’t possible so I instead collected my medal, goody bag and then my kit before taking on much more needed water! Next thing I knew the kind lady in green tapped my shoulder and said “Oh I am so pleased to see you made it. I have been looking out for you!” Seeing as she got back before me I probably could have got a lift back after all although that would have been cheating!
I then waited patiently in the sun for Angela to come around for her moment of glory in the stadium. She did around 4:52, so again a bit slower although likewise she should be proud of getting around the course. Ironically she enjoyed it compared to Brighton which she didn’t like at all.
So was I mad? “Yes!” Would I do the same thing again? “Probably!” Am I glad I did it? “Yes!” I am proud I made it through as it was mentally tough and drained every bit of me out. But I did it! Two marathons in a fortnight, which were both quicker than what I had achieved previously. And at least I gave it a go. It didn’t work out, but I am pleased that I put myself in a decent position on the day which my times reflected at 10k, halfway and even 16 miles. Whether it was the heat that did me on the day, running so soon after London, dehydrating or just not being mentally strong enough, at least I won’t be now thinking “What if?”.
May be marathons are just not for me also. I don’t think my training reflected my end result. I am not convinced I am mentally strong enough to run what I should be capable of. Perhaps I am more suited to half marathons? I am not sure I can train any harder than I did. But there is no time to dwell as now it is all about the shorter quicker stuff! I will now allow myself a week off before the Kent relays and then I will start thinking about an odd 10k and a 5k series or two via Niceworks. There is still plenty of life in the old dog yet!!
Splits: 10k: (44:11) – ave overall pace: 7:04
13.1 miles: (1:36:00) – 11k split (51:49) – ave overall pace: 7:20
20 miles (2:35:53) – 11k split (59:53) – ave overall pace: 7:48
26.2 miles: (3:34:13) – 10k split (58:20) – ave overall pace: 8:11
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