Week 18: Eighteen Miles as They Happened
London Marathon training reached a crescendo this week with the longest weekly mileage and the longest single run. Sunday morning was my 18-mile Long Run which was a dress rehearshal for the day. Here's what it looked like:
7.00am - The alarm goes. I was already awake - nerves! Straight up and into the kitchen. A large bowl of porridge and a slice of granary toast. Back to bed.
8.30am - Up, change into running kit and make my pace band. Trying these for the first time today.
9.00am - Time to start warming up. 6 minutes walking, 6 minutes very light jogging, some stretches and I am ready. Finn arrives. He has agreed to join me and cycle round with me for almost 3 hours. What a mate!
9.30am - Head down to the pub car park to meet Ian and Louise who are also joining me - these two on foot. Louise is also running in this year's London Marathon.......dressed as a dragonfly!! Bit of a chat and a few nervous jokes.
9.45am - The time the London Marathon will start. Do last minute pre-flight checks and we're off. 18 miles in front off us - 3 laps of my 6-miler.
9.55am - We've all settled into a nice pace - nothing too fast - about 9.30 min/mile. I spend a moment just checking all is well. Nothing's too tight, no unusual aches and pains. So far so good. Lots of chatting and laughter. Wonder how long that will last!
10.00am - It's obvious Louise is suffering the effects of a bad cold. She's brave and obviously motivated. That's what the London Marathon seems to do to people.
10.04am - We turn off the main road onto Keepers Hill. Very steep downhill. Everyone being careful not let the pace run away. Running fast downhill is murderous on the knees. 2 miles done.
10.19am - The first water station approaching - just a case of water bottles hidden in the woods - nothing smart here! Time for a gel. Water taken which as always disrupts my rythm.
10.25am - The rythm is good, feeling comfortable and the sun is out. This is great!
10.37am - 5.5 miles covered and the end of the first lap approaching, but not before we have gone up "The Swearing Hill" - a long 1/2 mile steady climb. So named because I swear out loud on faster runs to help me up it! Everyone up it in one piece although the chatting has stopped briefly! Funny thing that. Pace still steady at 9.30 mins
10.42am - One lap down! Back past the pub car park where Finn is waiting with water bottles for all - I could get used to this. We also pick up my friend Nick who is joining us for a lap.
10.50am - About 7 miles down and Louise has to leave us as she has a children's party to go to. She turns back and will finish with 8 miles done with a cold. Gutsy effort.
10.59am - We turn down Keeper's Hill for the second time. 8 miles gone and the pace has picked up. I check my watch 8.40 mins!
11.12am - Back onto Monxton Road and 9.4 miles down. It is clear Nick is struggling with the pace. We offer to wait but he insists we push on. 100 yards later faced with a choice to fork left and go home or fork right and press on, he presses on. Good man!
11.14am - Water station. Finn is standing by the road holding out water for us - very London Marathon!! In all the chatting with Nick I have forgotten to take my gel so now I am running down the road with my hands full, my rythm broken and fluids flying everywhere!
11.29am - Pace has definitely picked up - my watch tells me we are running at 8.00 mins. Could end in tears so I suggest we ease off. Ian who planned to run 2 laps with me tells me he is up for a 3rd lap. Great morale boost for me. Now I will have company all the way.
11.35am - We pass the pub car park for the last time and head into the third and final lap. Both feeling OK.
11.45am - We pass through the half marathon mark in almost exactly 2.00 hours. I tell Ian that last Summer my goal was to run a Half Marathon in under 2 hours which I achieved in the Autumn. Now I have done it 6 times in the last 2 months of training for the London Marathon.
11.52am - We turn down Keeper's Hill for the third and final time. Running down a steep hill is especially sore on tired legs. We both step gingerly. 14 miles gone and 4 to go. A bit of digging in needed.
12.06pm - The final water station. Finn waters us then packs it up and cycles with us. I take my final gel and dig in for the last 2.5 miles. Generally feeling OK but the odd niggle from my knee. Nothing to overly concern me.
12.20pm - Running through Quarley with a mile to go. We have hit a really good rythm. Ian complains that his legs are beginning to feel heavy. Considering the poor guy hasn't taken a single gel he is doing brilliantly. We are definitely having to work harder to keep the pace. I look down at my arm where written in pen are the words "Be all you can be". It's an old US Army recruiting slogan but now it is my mantra for the London Marathon. It spurs me on.
12.23pm - Up the Swearing Hill for the last time. Ian discovers now why it is so named! We are on the home straight and the pace quickens.
12.28pm - We stride purposely into the village, past the post office, up the main road to the pub. Dutiful to the last, Finn is standing on the finish line with bottles of water for us. 18 miles - done! Our time 2.42.30 hours. A pace of almost exactly 9 mins a mile. Handshakes all round.
Ian has to shoot off home. More handshakes. As Ian goes Finn and I marvel at how he has just rocked up and nailed 18 miles - impressive. Finn and I head home. He sunbathes for 15 minutes while I have a quick ice bath and a recovery drink. While changing I look at my watch and see I have burned 2,497 calories - almost a whole day's intake for a normal man. Finn and I waste no time time in heading back to the pub for burger and chips - the recovery food of champions!! We've both earned it.
Thank you to Ian, Finn, Louise and Nick for helping me today. Their company made my 18-miler much easier to do but more important it made it much more enjoyable.
So that is the end of this phase of my training and I am glad - it has been hard work but rewarding. With three weeks left I am entering the pre-race phase known by most people as "The Taper". I won't stop training, but I will substantially reduce my mileage and gradually reduce the intensity of my runs until the week before the London Marathon where I will only do two short easy runs. The aim is to rest tired muscles and give them a chance to repair for the big day. So it is not the end of training but certainly the beginning of the end.
Weeks to go: 3
Miles run to date: 445.26
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