After having pretty much decided to wrap up this blog at the end of 2020, I feel the need to add an extra chapter or two.
In a strange twist of fate things seem to have come almost full circle in terms of my running.
The blog was started to document and share my journey to the 2015 London Marathon, my first attempt at 26.2 courtesy of a charity place and my introduction to the wonderfully supportive community that is RealBuzz.
Last month I received the epic and highly unexpected news that my name had been drawn in the ballot. I get to experience the magic all over again, be that in October when the next race is scheduled, or into 2022 or even beyond should our nation’s plans to unlock not prove as successful as hoped.
Regardless of date, the place is mine. I can’t quite believe my luck and will relish every step when the time comes.
After London 2015, I continued to write. I absolutely caught the marathon bug and soon had a second race lined up for the autumn at Chester.
That’s when I set my goal of going sub-4. I can’t remember where I was in terms of half marathon PBs then, probably around 1:45. My London time was 4:17, but with experience under my belt and hard work in training, sub-4 felt well within reach.
On paper, it certainly stacked up. My half marathon times were tumbling to the point where I’m now under 1:40. Same with 5k and 10k times, plus 20 mile training runs were regularly coming in at under three hours.
Yet on race day, I kept hitting problems. Chester was quicker at 4:11, although clearly not quick enough. That and I ended up in the first aid tent after crossing the line with sickness and dehydration.
Manchester 2017 – tore a thigh muscle. Birmingham 2017 – blew up at 21 miles and collapsed, eventually limping home in 5:17.
And so it continued. A few 4:30s or there abouts. A few closer to five hours, again with unpleasant encounters with the aforementioned wall.
In 2018, I decided enough was enough and switched to a different challenge, taking on Snowdonia and forgetting about finishing times. It was an amazing and rewarding experience, as was the following year.
I did later pluck up the courage to try sub-4 again. Another 4:11 at Chester was encouraging (no first aid required this time!) and then last year during the first lockdown I ran a time trial marathon from home and got down to 4:03.
Confidence riding high, I booked a place for Milton Keynes Reimagined in September, only to crash 18 miles in and run-walk my way to 4:56.
All these runs are, of course, consigned to my personal history book, so why bring them up again now?
Well, put simply, the job is finally done.
Another time trial (we’re still a good month away from events resuming on the government’s roadmap) and the outcome I’ve been chasing for six years.
Three hours, 57 minutes and 43 seconds.
I got there in the end and the sense of relief is immense. Relief because I can stop obsessing about it. Relief because the mind and body can work in harmony now, without one constantly questioning the other’s ability. Relief because I can line up on the start line of a future road marathon without that niggling sense of doubt.
A lot has changed in terms of my approach to running since the end of 2020. After years of DIY training just racking up the miles and running to feel, I took a step back and began listening to other people. Those with experience, professional knowledge and proven form.
Perhaps I’ll do a separate write up on the plan I followed and how the time trial itself panned out.
For now, let’s just say the biggest changes have centred on more easy paced miles, always slower than marathon pace, and then regular workout sessions involving intervals, progression runs, hill reps, strides and the like.
Strength and conditioning work every week has helped too, to the point where come 20+ miles into this latest marathon, that vicious wall was nowhere to be seen.
It seems you can teach an old dog new tricks (well, a 40-something year old runner in my case). I’m quietly confident there is more to come, not least because I’m enjoying it and want to keep going.
There’s a chance of an official marathon next month at Dorney Lake which I’m registered for. Everything is COVID-secure, however me actually getting down there might fall foul of the rules on limiting non-essential travel.
Then we have my first ultra in July and that is much more likely to go ahead without any COVID related issues.
If I am able to round things off with a memorable return visit to London, then 2021 could end up being a great year after all. And it might give me a few more things to write about too.
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