Last weekend I took a trip to Manchester. I had promised my long suffering wife that I would not run London again on a charity ticket as raising over £2000 each time was seemingly tougher than the training. Having run London twice like this and getting some pretty decent times, some of you will know that I have got close but not close enough to that elusive GFA of 3:05.
Well the great news is that since I last ran London in 2015 I have got older!!! Now its not always great to get older but when it comes to GFA’s... older is better! I am now in teh V40 category and will be 41 in May. That meant I was no longer chasing 3:05 but 3:15...
Who wouldn’t turn down an extra 10 minutes!!
But...... the competitor in me, particularly with myself wants more. I went to Manchester hoping to get a PB. I had picked the race as it was flat and ripe for PBs. My training had gone well with no major injury issue. Sure I had the odd niggle here and there but nothing my physio couldn’t work out for me.
The frequency of my training was somewhat hit and miss as work has meant a lot of trips away and its difficult juggling work, family and training. Subsequently I had been concentrating on 2 decent runs a week, 1 short and fast run mid week and 1 long and fast run at the weekend (I don’t do long slow runs... though I probably should). Unfortunately building work in my office meant that in the last 2 months we have had no shower so my run frequency generally dropped to just 1 long run at the weekend.
I flew up to Manchester on the Saturday leaving my wife and son behind to keep costs down and treating this race very much as needing to get the job done. I scoped out the start and finish Saturday afternoon (trying to avoid all the Man U fans at Old Trafford) and felt as prepared as I could be but wishing I had put in a few extra miles.
Sunday morning was glorious. The sun was coming up and the streets of Manchester were waking to runners appearing from every corner of every street all flocking together around the tram stops and making their way to the start. For me this is the part of the marathon that I love best knowing that I am surrounded by strangers with a common goal and shared passion.
I though the organisation of the event was great and didn’t mind the short walk from the athletes village and bag area to the start line. Its a great way to warm up
I made my way to Pen 1 and positioned myself in a good spot. Within minutes the gun went and we were off. I quickly settled into a fast but comfortable pace trying hard not to get too caught up in the start and allowing those faster than me to pass whilst keeping to my own rhythm.
I worked hard to pick the racing line and make sure I wasn’t running any extra mileage (my last outing in London I recorded an extra 1/3 mile) and I tried to keep my pace consistent. As I passed mile after mile my Garmin beeped with each lap almost exactly at each mile marker and it was satisfying to see I was holding a consistent pace of between 6:40-6:50.
At half way I still felt good andmanaged to record my FASTEST ever half marathon (1:28:46). I check my form, tried to keep my breathing relaxed. By this point I had ditched my nutrition strategy. The Cliff Shot Bloks that I had used effectively in training suddenly felt too difficult to chew and swallow. I put this down to a combination of sunny weather and water stations spaced every 3 miles instead of every mile as you get in London. I had a feeling that this may come to bite me later so grabbed a Gel from a water station and had a go at that. I think I probably had about ½ and then ditched it as it was quite frankly terrible.
At 17 miles my pace had slowed a few seconds to 7 min miles and I was passed by the 3 hour pacemaker. I kept him in sight for the next 2 miles and then at mile 19 I gradually started slowing. I checked my Garmin and saw my pace dropping to 7:40 but figured I had banked enough good miles to still hit a PB. However, the decline continued...
The sun was beating down and I was struggling. This is what the marathon is all about... the last 6 miles... It sorts the men from the boys and you know that there is only one person you are racing against and fighting... yourself.
As runners started to stream past me I kept my head up and put one foot in front of the other. I watched as runners ahead of me fighting the same battles stopped to walk.... then run.... then walk again. I saw a bloke who I had been following earlier during my pacier times but who had run ahead when I had slowed. He was sat at the side of the road, head hanging back and eyes staring everywhere and yet nowhere while he was being treated by medical staff. This quickly focuses you and brings it home that running a marathon takes a serious effort and is not to be taken lightly.
At mile 24 I grabbed a water and after taking a swig gratefully doused myself with the rest. I checked my pace and I was now down to 9 minute miles. By this stage the crowds were gathering after having run a few miles of fairly deserted roads and this gave me a lift. I pushed as hard as I could on that last 1.2 miles knowing that I had blown my PB but could I still get a GFA?
I crossed the line feeling completely broken with absolutely nothing left in the tank.
The time......... 3:13:52
I had done it!!! It wasn’t a PB but it was a GFA.
Manchester had been a great course, very different from London, with less spectators and a few funny suburban streets with sharp corners. Overall I was pleased with the result and had thoroughly enjoyed the experience on what turned out to be a fantastic day.
Next up for me is the Plymouth Half Marathon on the 23rd April and although a lot hillier than Manchester, nothing less that sub 1:30 will do!
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