Full write-up for anyone interested...
After the massive disappointment of London last year, I wasn’t planning on running it this year. But as the December deadline loomed, and since I had the qualifying time (just), I decided that I might as well put an entry in. I could then decide later whether I toed the start line or not.
However, I didn’t want the marathon to be the only focus of the training block. So I changed my approach, and dropped the miles right down (to a max of c.75 per week) and focussed on more quality sessions including endurance and speed work at the track and longer tempo runs. I hoped this would lead to me shaving a few seconds off my 10k and half marathon pbs (and also beating PaulF in a race!).
The only problem with this plan was that it didn’t really build in any long steady runs (20+ miles) to get distance in the legs. I banked on the endurance I’d built up from previous marathons being adequate.
Between November and March I managed to bring my 10k pb down by 1 min 23, and take 1 min 23 off my half pb. Both of those runs were so satisfying, particular the 10k one, because I’d not even thought running sub-33 was possible. Those times also gave me a lot more confidence. I bit the bullet, and the marathon was on.
On race day morning I arrived at Holborn underground station to find neither line with a service running (signal problems on Central / too early for trains on Piccadilly) and a pack of panicking runners outside. Looked at google maps, worked out Charing Cross was less than a mile away, so led a walking bus to the station.
Still made it onto the intended 7.45 train, and arrived at Blackheath for 8.15. Found Paul C in the changing tent, and had a catch up with him. As we were both aiming to run 6.05s, we planned to run together.
I was a few rows back at the start, but could see Paul over to my left, and after a few hundred metres of the race we were running shoulder-to-shoulder. Shortly after that Todd arrived, then Ross, and we formed a pack. Ross and Paul would be slightly ahead, with Todd and myself tucked in behind. At the drinks points we were sharing water, and working well together. The first 10k flew by feeling very comfortable.
I knew that Emma, my parents and my brother were going to be at mile 9, so was looking forward to seeing them there. Took on a gel at 40 minutes, got a boost from that, and then an even bigger boost from all the cheers from the support squad. Perhaps got a little excited in miles 10 and 11, and then had a little bad patch for about half a mile in mile 12. Got over that quickly, and by tower bridge was feeling good again.
Running over tower bridge with Paul and getting the crowd to cheer us by waving my arms was absolutely the highlight of my race. It was such a massive buzz. Followed closely by Paul making rabbit ears behind Todd as we ran past the BBC camera (I can’t believe that didn’t make the highlights programme!).
Still feeling strong at halfway, and kicked on a little to catch up the gap that Ross had got on us. This was the last point I saw Paul, and it was perhaps a mistake for me to do this so early. We all came out the tunnel at 15 together to more great support.
I could now see Zak Mellard and Stuart Maycock ahead of me, and I was closing on them quite quickly. Passed Zac first just after 19, and he looked like he was really struggling. Then passed Stuart just after 20, and he kept with me. But by this point, both Ross and Todd had pulled away as I must have started to slow slightly.
It was at 22 that I think the lack of long runs hit me and the walls started to close in. I felt much more prepared for this eventuality. I dug deep. Stuart overtook me again at 24, and I tried to go with him, but just couldn’t. My body was screaming at me to stop, but I knew if I did that it was game over. I just focussed on keeping going, using the energy of the crowd and previous experiences.
Couldn’t muster any kind of sprint finish, and crossed the line in 2.44.45, 17 seconds outside my pb, but under the magic 2.45 barrier. Not quite what I was hoping for, but still very pleased, especially with the way I stuck at it when the going got tough. Last year I would have just given up.
Great support all the way round from Emma, my parents, my brother, Martin & Lesley, Jon X & MC, Matt Palmer (I’m sure I saw him) and the person who shouted ‘Go orienteer’. A massive thanks to all of them. I don’t think us runners really appreciate how stressful watching a marathon is.
So what would I do differently next time? Maybe a couple of 22+ mile runs…