As you know, I hadn’t been in a great place mentally from Monday onwards because of how I was feeling on my taper runs, but I gradually got myself into quite a good place in my head by chatting to lots of fellow runners both at the Expo on the Xempo stand and then at the BAC club dinner on Saturday night. It was at the dinner that I was able to discuss a few things with my mate Paul Martelletti which really started to make me feel a lot better about my chances of putting in a good performance.
So race day was here and I followed my new nutrition plan which would hopefully give me no stomach issues this time, breakfast porridge was replaced with just white toast and bananas and I also took some Imodium roughly 1hr before the race.
Arrived at the Champ start where I met up with loads of friends and then it was time to get down to business.
I was a bit further back than I wanted to be at the start, but was able to get going reasonably well and hit the first mile in 5:18, exactly to plan. Got into a group with guys I knew were targeting similar times (Pieter Vermeesch and Dave Norman) and was feeling okay……..
until my right shoelace came completely undone just after 1 mile! Bugger – schoolboy error, forgot to do my pre-race shoelace tightening in all the excitement! Wasn’t happy as I knew it was either a case of stopping to do it up or running 25 miles like that, my shoe still felt quite tight so I went with the latter which turned out okay, even when the left one came undone at 14 miles!
Anyway, back to the racing – was quite happy with how the 5:15-5:20 pace was feeling and I knew pretty much within the first few miles that this wasn’t going to be a training run, I felt good enough to race so I better knuckle down and get on with it. I had agreed with my wife, Sarah, that I would give her a signal at 7 miles to tell her if I had downgraded the whole weekend to an expensive LSR training run, and seeing her excitement when I gave her the thumbs up gave me a real buzz.
10 miles passed and I was still working well within the same group of lads, we had all been religiously taking water from all the stations and chucking most of it over ourselves. It wasn’t really that hot at that time, but I think by doing this we kept our body temps down so when it got a bit warmer in the second half it didn’t really have time to effect us, certainly worked for me.
As halfway approached I knew I was going to be a bit down on VLM10, but I wasn’t going to panic just yet. In the back of my mind I knew that last year I couldn’t get the most out of myself in the last 10k because of the stomach issues, so if I was willing to push myself to the limit this time there was no reason I couldn’t have a stronger 2nd half than last year.
Halfway came in at 69:13 so around 30s down on VLM10. I didn’t actually feel quite as comfortable as last year but it was at this point that I was quite relieved to see Pieter take the pace on and lead the group. He was feeling strong and so I took advantage of this and took a backseat for a few miles.
At 15 miles I got a good buzz from seeing best mates Trev and Bridget and this was probably the last time I was actually able to acknowledge anyone as the race got tougher.
My HR monitor had told me early on that I wasn’t writing cheques my body couldn’t cash and at 16 miles I decided it wasn’t adding any more value and I preferred the comfort of dropping it to my waist. It was around 18 miles that things started to get pretty tough and even though I was still holding on to a pace of around 5:20m/m I knew that I was really going to have to work hard not to fade any more.
Looking focused at 19 miles ( Thanks Ben Roberts for the photo!)
The next eight miles start to get a bit blurry and I was very much trying to just stay in the “zone”. The discomfort levels were pretty high and all I had in my head was to make sure the pace didn’t drop out of the 5:2x m/m pace and that I would probably be on for a tiny PB. Mile 25 was a real killer and at 5:34, the slowest of the race (a couple of earlier miles clocked higher numbers only because I pushed the lap button too late :-)). It was at this point that I was passed for the first time in the race – fellow Brit John Gilbert was having a stunning run and powered past me. I later found out that the pass on me got him the Bronze medal in the EA Champs – doh!
Pulled it back together slightly for the last mile with a 5:24 knowing that the job was almost done but as I was running down the final straight I realised that I was pretty much going to run exactly the same time as last year, couldn’t do anything about it as there was no sprint in me. If I wasn’t so far into the “hurt box” I probably would have had a little chuckle to myself……….what are the odds of matching your marathon time to the exact second. Fortunately I didn’t have to worry about that as it got rounded up to 2:19:39 compared to last years 2:19:38!
Was able to hang around at the finish lined swapping stories with fellow runners and then watched my clubmates Sharkey and Habgood come in with strong runs as well. We only had 3 of us on the champ start so we knew we all had to perform well, provisional results have Bournemouth AC down for the Silver medal in the club competition which I will be so chuffed about when it is confirmed. We were 4th last year and were all motivated in our build up to try and better that this year, a 2nd place will be a fantastic result.
So I guess the question is, why am I happy with a marathon performance 1 second off my PB
- I haven’t actually had a “good” race since last summer when I did my 5000m track PB. When you go a while without a half decent performance the doubts start to come in.
- My build up to this years VLM was compromised with injuries at the start of the year and considerably lower mileage than my VLM10 campaign (which I think was pretty much perfect in terms of mileage levels)
- I was not as fit as last year on race day. I went through halfway 30s slower this year and the only reason I managed the same time was because I was able to give it 100% with no stomach issues.
- I am now going to build on this performance and make use of this base rather than waste it by over doing my autumn marathon training and ending up in an “overtraining” hell hole like last year!
Best part of the day, swapping race stories with my RW “sub-3” mates in the pub afterwards and actually being able to socialise with my friends, wife and mum over a few drinks without having to be the boring sober sod that’s busy thinking about his next training session.
Couple of days of no running now (my postie job is performing well as a good recovery exercise) and then I need to put together a rough plan for the summer/autumn.
I was glad to see that I got slightly more BBC coverage than last year. Obviously no actual shots of me running (I wasn’t wearing a Rhino suit so why would you be interested eh?) but look!!
IT’S MY NAME……..ON THE TELLY BOX