I woke up to my first marathon since York in October last year with ice on the car and a cold feeling inside.
I’d been training, I mean really training, for this one since Christmas. Actual Christmas Day. I’d decided to run 3 marathons in 3 weeks but had entered Manchester specifically because it was reputedly flat and fast.
All winter I’d attended interval and track sessions in a bid to get quicker. Training had gone well up until about a month out when I couldn’t run for two weeks due to illness. But I’d recovered and run a couple of (for me) pretty quick half-marathons quite comfortably.
This, then, was the culmination of all that work. I had put a lot of pressure on myself in trying to attain a specific time and now it was time to go for it.
I had three targets in mind.
Sub 3 hours 15 for a Good For Age automatically qualifying me for London next year
Sub 3 hours 25 to allow me to apply for Boston Marathon next year
Crash and burn and just enjoy the run
3 wasn’t really an option but its nice to think I had every base covered.
I knew 3.15 was going to be really tough as I hadn’t run at that pace (7.26 minute miles) for a sustained period as, but the time I was well again I was into my taper. However, the half marathons at Cardiff and Reading (both 7.17 minute miles) showed that, if the stars were aligned, I could get close.
My previous marathon pb was 3.26.59 so I would need to beat that by 12 minutes or nearly 30 seconds per mile.
I’ve read a lot of blogs over the last couple of days detailing the failure of the infrastructure at the start and finish of the marathon so won’t detail it here. The only thing I will mention is that it was unclear where the start line was until you were running over the timing mats which caused a lot of confusion but ultimately didn’t affect my race.
By the time the race started the sun was out, there were blue skies and no wind. I guess it started at about 5-8 degrees. Absolutely perfect running conditions.
I wanted to start with the 3.15 pacer but couldn’t see him as the pens were pretty fluid. Luckily there were a fair few switchbacks early in the race and I saw where he was. Slowly I reeled him in and spent most of the race sitting 50 feet behind. The pace was ok to start with but by 8 miles I was wondering how I was going to sustain it.
My pace started to drop a little, from 7.20’s to 7.30’s but I was still keeping up with the pacer. I should have realised something was wrong but it was so comforting to be putting all my calculations in someone else’s hands that I just went with it. Looking back, from mile 8 to the end we only went under 7.26 4 times.
There isn’t much to say about the race really as I was so focussed, so exhausted and so determined to keep up with that bloody bobbing flag in front of me I didn’t take anything in around me. I was hoping to see some Frank Sidebottom characters around Timperley but couldn’t tell you where Timperley was on the route. I did see a couple of fellow Handy Cross Runners on the long out and back to Altrincham which was great but aside from this there was no distraction from the relentless pace.
Eventually we were on the home run, about 5 miles from the finish. These were my slowest laps. I was pretty much done in. I’ve never wanted to stop and walk before but I could easily have done over these 3 miles. The pacer was slipping away from me and I was averaging 7.35 minute miles. My only consoling thought was that, as I had started quite far back from the pacer, as long as he was in sight I had a chance.
The last 2 miles I really don’t remember. I know I managed to increase my pace to 7.30 and then 7.25 for the last mile. I also remember the finish gantry never seemed to get any closer. And I remember slumping on the barrier immediately after the finish line. Oh, and a chap puking just over my shoulder and thinking “well at least I’m not THAT guy.”
I knew before I looked at my watch I hadn’t beaten 3.15. There had been too many slow miles and sure enough I came in at 3.16.13. The pacer was only 30 seconds ahead of me but obviously had a problem and came in around 2 minutes slow.
I was ecstatic. No really. 3.15 had been a dream. It would have been a miracle to beat my pb by 12 minutes.
But to beat it by over 10 minutes was still incredible. Almost certain to qualify for Boston just amazing.
There were many things I could have done that may have shaved those 74 seconds off. Not eaten ALL the Easter eggs, trained harder, lost that half a stone I’d promised I’d lose.
But I’m not going to beat myself up. On the day I simply couldn’t have run any faster. Its the first time I’ve felt I left absolutely everything out on the road and I’m kind of proud of that.