There’s no such thing as an easy marathon.
On Sunday I learnt that however slow you run there is no escaping the fact that 26.2 miles is a very long way. This would be my fourth marathon of 2015 and third in six weeks, all of which have been very different in terms of course and time.
The first one back in March was muddy, windy and very uncomfortable due to being dressed as a postman carrying 10 pounds of weight in a post bag. The second one on Easter Sunday was a 12 lap trail course and both we very low key. The third couldn’t have been more different as it was the world’s biggest in London in late April where I ran a PB of 2.46.12. This time, three weeks later I was back in London at the stunning Richmond park to pace my sister Elise who was hoping for a time around the 4 hours 30 minute mark.
The race consisted of a three lap course around the park. A 12 mile lap followed by two identical 7 mile laps. After one of the most underwhelming race starts I’ve ever witnessed, quite surprising considering the Paralympic legend David Weir was the quest starter, we were off. The required pace was just over 10 minute miles. This felt literally like a walk in the park but before we’d had a chance to settle down into a rhythm the first of several long hills was upon us.
As we passed herds of deers in beautiful surroundings it all felt a little too easy. For me that should have been the case considering I was operating at almost 4 minutes per mile slower than I was last time I ran the same distance but Elise kept creeping in front of me and pushing the pace. I reminded her there was no need to be in front of me at any point but it was tough to stay disciplined while running down hill and feeling so fresh. We also only had Elise’s own prediction of what she thought she could run based on her training as her only previous marathon was some what of a disaster having done very little preparation and being dressed as a giant crayon!
In hindsight I should have been more strict in holding her back over the first 10 miles but chatting away with a smile on her face she seemed so comfortable and it wasn’t until we were on to the second lap and past the half way point where any signs of tiredness set in. From then on thorough, the all too familiar pains of marathon running became all too apparent.
A couple of the hills were killers and seemed to come at points where Elise was struggling the most. It was amazing how you’d go from flat ground with the skyline of our capital city in full view to steep hills that wouldn’t be out of place in the Welsh countryside. Well placed water stations and the downhills that followed were our only saving grace at times.
What impressed me the most though was that no matter how hard the hills were, how tired the body was getting and how much the sun was beaming down draining what little energy Elise had left she carried on running throughout. It would have been very easy to have stopped and walked as many of those around us had began to do but we pushed on.
Then came a huge psychological barrier as we crossed the finish line at the same time as the faster runners were completing their days work only to have yet another 7 mile lap still left to do. Even at a pace that had now become 12- 13 minutes per mile my legs had started to stiffen so I didn’t want to begin to imagine how Elise’s felt. We had a brief stop as we passed our mum and it took a couple of minute for Elise to get her head around the fact she could do another lap. She seriously considered ending her race there and then but I managed to convince her all the hard work she’d done would be wasted and that a sub 5 hour clocking was still there for the taking which would be very respectable on this course.
Not only did she pluck up the courage to carry on she actually picked up the pace and we worked from the motivation of gaining what would still be a massive PB.
The only walking on that entire last 7 miles came on the two biggest of hills and we picked up pace again as we neared the finish. We crossed the line in 4 hours 59 minutes and 21 seconds.
I was a very proud brother and also very pleased that I’d made the decision to accompany my sister for the entirety of the distance. Not only to share the accomplishment with her but to learn a number of things heading into Endure 24 in a months time. From miles 20 onwards my thighs had really stiffened up. I’m putting this down to having ran a lot of training miles already during the week but also taking form it that more stretching is a must.
It also reminded me that going too fast to early will only result in my downfall. Everything I save in the first half of the race will benefit me in the second half. As easy as 10 minute miles seem as you near marathon distance the legs still tier and the race becomes as much mental as it is physical.