The day after London Marathon I felt good, really good. The day after that I ran a couple of easy miles.
The Saturday after LM I did a parkrun in 21 minutes and the following day I ran 6 miles and signed up for the Milton Keynes Marathon in three weeks.
My flawed logic was that I could take London as my final long run and have another three week taper for MK. Much, much later (around mile 17 I think) I realised that what I’d done was have a 6 week taper with a marathon in the middle. Not any kind of preparation for an endurance race and a decision that was going to bite me.
Race day came and it was going to be a hot one. I’d run London in a black t-shirt and shorts ensemble and had had no chafing anywhere so decided to wear the same gear. In the blazing sun. Without the shade London offered from tall buildings.
I’m making my excuses early.
My idea was to stick with the 3.45 pacer and see how I felt after 20-odd miles (whether to push on or hold). However, while the pacers had balloons floating above them, all of them were the same colour and none of them had the time on them. You had to be right behind the pacer, able to read their t-shirt, to see you were with the right one. The start was fairly calm and although I lost my pacer, I could see one ahead and figured as long as I stayed between the two for a bit I could slow down and let my pacer catch up. It was then, within about half a mile, that it all went horribly wrong.
I felt fantastic.
Again, I wasn’t running with a gps but I did have mapmyrun on my phone in my gel belt. After a mile I had a quick check and was running exactly 8 minute miles. My target was 8.30’s so I knew I could and should back off. But I didn’t. I was still feeling fantastic, what could go wrong? Writing this blog is the first time I’ve looked at the splits and I am astounded at my idiocy! Mile 1 was 8.05 and the NEXT 9 MILES were sub 8 minute miles. Mile 13 I got down to 8.30 but back up to 8.04 for the next mile. In and around 8.30 until 17 and then BOOM! I was destroyed.
There was no way I could sustain that pace, with my level of fitness, having started so quickly – four early miles averaged 7.40. Something had to give and most upsettingly, it was my brain. I think we all like to think that, ultimately, we won’t crack under stress; that we will dig into as yet unknown and untested reserves of grit and toughness.
I cracked like all those Easter eggs I’d eaten between London and Milton Keynes.
At 17 I promised myself I could walk a bit if we got to 18. Then again at 20. AND again at 22.
I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have walked had there had been spectators about. In the same way I speed up, just a little bit, when I see another runner coming towards me , or don’t even contemplate walking up a steep hill if a car is coming on a training run, I think I allowed myself to walk because there was no-one around to judge me. True, there were other runners, but a lot of the ones ahead were walking anyway so it seemed to make it OK.
Finally I got to mile 23 and knew I just had one parkrun left to run and was determined not to walk during the race again. I made it into the stadium and saw the clock for the first time. 3.50:50. My VMLM time was 3.51.42 and I was in danger of being slower as you had to run round the sides of the football pitch. I hobble/sprinted the last hundred metres staring at the clock as I finished. I came in at 3.51.22 and later found my chip time was 3.50.40 so I pb’d by just over a minute.
The rest of the day was spent making excuses for having walked (too hot, too soon after London, really busy week at work etc, etc) and feeling really negative about the day.
After a few days though, I now feel pretty positive about it. True, I did a stupid thing, something I’ve read about in every marathon article, heard about on every podcast but now I have experienced it myself I know I’ll never do something like it again.
I still got a pb. And I know that, even with the heat, not ideal lead-up and vast quantities of chocolate consumed, I could have got a much faster time.
On to the next…