My marathon debut

After nearly 17 years of running I had been asked the question of ‘will you ever run a marathon?’ countless times and my answer was always the same, ‘one day’. Well that day had finally arrived.

I had picked the London marathon for my debut over 26.2 miles but was originally unsuccessful in getting in so instead entered the Manchester marathon which was 1 week earlier.

Due to the 9am start time I had traveled up the day before along with my dad and we stayed in a near by Premier inn. After a pretty good nights sleep we got a taxi from the hotel to Old Trafford and I was ready to go. The weather was good and although I’d done no specific marathon work I still felt I’d prepared pretty well amongst all the other things I’ve been doing so I was confident I could get round comfortably under 3 hours.

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I took up a position right at the front on the start line with the elite runners. This wasn’t really by choice, it was just the easiest place to get in and still get some strides in before the gun went.

Perhaps this and the first mile being slightly down hill resulted in a faster first few miles than I really needed but I felt good and although I’d set myself a target pace working on the basis that 2.45 would be achievable on a perfect day, sub 2.50 would be a very pleasing debut and I’d still be happy with anything under 3 hours, with no previous experience at anything near this type of distance it was always going to be trial and error.

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I soon settled into a rhythm and felt strong going through 10k in 38.00 and 10 miles in just over an hour before hitting half way in 1.20.21. I knew the second half was going to slow but at this point I was optimistic of achieving my top end target.

The atmosphere and the crowd support in the first half of the race was something very special. The organisers had made a nice personal touch by printing each competitors name on their race number which was something the event volunteers and the huge crowd that lined the streets latched onto and “go on Chris” etc. was to be heard from start to finish.

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At mile 16 I spotted my Dad in the crowd (or rather he spotted me) and we exchanged a few words on how well it had gone so far but looking back this was the last point I remember feeling good.

At mile 17, for the first time, the crowds started to thin as the course took us away from the build up areas and onto a rural route and my legs started to feel what was now unknown territory. I had done a few training runs slightly longer but at nowhere near this pace so I knew it was about to get very tough.

I reached mile 20 in exactly 2.04, which was only 3 minutes slower than the first 10 miles but I knew the next 10k was going to be the hardest, longest 10k of my life!

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It turned out to be a full 7 minutes slower than the first 10k but judging be how I felt I’m actually very surprised it wasn’t even slower than that. As I got closer to the finish the crowds started to build again but the shouts of “your nearly there Chris” and “not long to go now” just weren’t registering with my legs. The temptation to walk had never been more apparent but I fought it off knowing sub 2.50 was within my grasp.

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Finally the huge structure of Old Trafford was back in sight and I was nearly there. Those last 8 miles hurt like hell but the first 18 had got me through and shear will power had finished the job as I crossed the line in 2.48.59.

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This was a very pleasing debut and I learnt a lot for the future. I learnt what my capabilities are and what I need to work on. This won’t happen in 7 days time in London (as I managed to get a place in the end, after I’d entered this one!) but I’ll be ready for another serious crack in 2015, maybe back in Manchester.

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