The One That Got Away.

I normally like to write my race reviews as soon as I get time to after the event while it’s all still fresh in my mind but in truth I’ve found this one pretty hard to put down in words. It’s taken me the best part of a fortnight to digest it and find an angle in which to express my feelings.

I also normally like to paint a mental picture of what the event is like, explain the format, tell the story behind it and give my reasons for doing it but this is the London marathon so that’s not necessary. It’s the most well known running event in the country if not the entire world. As well as the near 40,000 people that take part every year hundreds of thousands are turned down a place, even more line the streets of our famous capital city to support and almost everyone else watches from their TV screens at home. It’s a special day that is part of our country’s heritage, a race that I have attended three times since taking up marathon running three years ago and one I intend to be a part of for ever year I’m fit and healthy enough to do so.

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I arrived with the target of beating my PB of 2.46.12 which I ran in last year’s race but with expectations of a clocking closer to 2.43 based on the pace I’d ran at during my weekly 10 mile tempo runs. I was confident as always, but judging by my first 10 miles maybe, quite rarely, I had been a little too over confident.

I had planned to hit 6.13 miles as my top speed knowing that 6.15 would do me and 6.17 would equal last year’s effort. Miles 1 to 4 and mile 7 were all too fast (6.09/ 6.04/ 6.07/ 6.08/ 6.07) and the remaining 6 miles were all 6.12/ 6.13 pace. The plan was to come off that tenth mile feeling fresh knowing all i’d done was the same as I do in training every week but feeling even easier in the race environment. In theory those extra seconds per mile had began to tightening the muscles.

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I was able to maintain the speed for the next few miles but I was weary that my legs were heavier than they should have been. I reached half way in 1.21.35 so spot on for my top target but I knew it was going to take a momentous display to repeat that.

For some reason by now I had it regimented in my head that I needed to stick to 6.13 or below pace and anytime that padropped, even ever so slightly I began to panic and speed up to pull it back almost instantly. I know this isn’t the way to pace in any race and certainly not the marathon so why I was doing it I do no know. All I have in my defence is that the occasion got to me. Whereas in 2015 I was as controlled and as focused as I’ve ever been on this day it seemed that rather characteristically I’d let adrenaline get to me.

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After hitting 6.09 on mile 15 I started to feel the struggle but it was on mile 16 that I saw my family in the crowd for the time which pushed me on with another 6.12 on mile 17. It was then that the wheels began to come off. I clung on for dear life for the next 4 miles using some of the focus I really should have had in the first half. By mile 21 though I knew the hope of a PB had all but faded away.

The last 5 miles I had to draw on all the remaining fight I had left to keep me running when every part of my body was telling me to stop and walk.

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Although my pace was dramatically decreasing I had some time in the bank from the fast start. A few calculations told me I could still make it to the finish line in under 2.50 which could get me my second fastest time. The problem was every time I mustered up the physical and mental strength to get my legs moving again and I started to overtake many of the runners around me my right hamstring tightened up so much that I had to slow back down allowing them all back past me.

Running along the embankment towards Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament with the finish getting ever closer and thousands of people cheering you on should be hugely inspirational. It’s those moments that make this marathon so special but I didn’t have an ounce of sentimentality left in me. My time had gone begging miles back, my legs were stiffening with every hobbled step I took and l just wanted it to be over. But I didn’t want it to be over in a ‘never again’ type of way. If my body allowed me to do it all again the very next day I would have done. I just wanted this particular experience to be done with and with one last push it was.

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I stopped the clock at 2.51.31. A respectable run (my third fastest marathon) but not what I was after on the day. I put this down to a combination of not sticking to my pre race plan and perhaps being a little over ambitious considering my running milage and quality has decreased since the turn of the year due to my Ironman training. That said if I could go back and do it again I wouldn’t change my targets and I would still be confident of achieving them, I’d just pace it in a different way. The marathon is a distance that needs to be given ultimate respect and going off too fast never works. If I’d of ran with the discipline I did the year before I truly believe 2.43 would have been possible.

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Next year, with a lot less distractions from other events I hope I can give the training more commitment and see what I really have to offer over 26.2 miles but first I have another marathon to run after already completing a 2.4 mile open water swim and 112 hilly miles on the bike. Ironman, I’m coming to get you!

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