Having watched the weather reports all week hoping that we wouldn’t see a return to the bitterly cold weather I could have asked for much better conditions for a marathon in January. It was overcast but not too cold at about 6-7ºC and although it threatened to rain during the race it fortunately held off.
As it was my first standalone marathon it was difficult to have any targets – my 4:11 at The Outlaw was obviously after a significant warm up and the last 8 miles run (ha ha!) at 15 minute mile pace because of cramp. However the furthest I had run in training was 21 miles at 3:20 marathon pace and this was my C target. I was pretty sure that I could run my B target of 3:10 as races are generally run faster than training pace. The A target had to be a sub 3hr marathon, but at the first time of asking I had no real idea whether that was realistic.
It was difficult deciding what to wear because of the weather. I wanted to wear my fusion tri shorts as with their added compression they are very comfortable to run in however they have no pockets for gels.
My compromise was to wear my tri top with pockets under a long sleeve running t shirt and to use a number belt so that I could lose a layer if necessary. I also started with gloves.
I had decided to try to run at 4:10km pace at the start and see how it went – initially that would be about 2:56 pace which would allow for some slippage over the second half.
We were walked to the start and after a short wait were off. The route was a figure of eight to start followed by three rural 7 mile loops and a short finishing diversion, or as I had broken it down in my mind a 4 mile warm up, three 7 mile loops and a sprint!!
I set off at a decent pace and during the first couple of miles got chatting to a South African chap called Rod who was running the same pace. It was a pleasure to meet him and we ended up running most of the way together. The figure of eight portion of the race was through a mainly suburban area and was a good opportunity to settle down into a good pace.
As we headed out onto the rural laps it was the first sight of the bulk of the race which was nowhere near as flat as I had thought. I had looked at the route on map my ride which over the 26 miles promised a relatively flat route – as you can see from the pace/heart rate trace later it was most definitely not!
The first half went pretty smoothly, running well and chatting most of the way, the pace feeling comfortable. We passed throught the half way point in about 1:26:30ish. The pace had been even as well the splits for the first half marathon were
Coming to the end of the second lap it was still going fine. There was one slower km of 4:29 up the hill but this was the only one. Whilst the km splits were generally slower it was only by a few seconds and most of the last lap splits were between 4.07 and 4.19. I was still on track…
Until that hill on the last lap!!
It was no real surprise that the end of the race was going to be hard however I don’t think I realised quite how hard. The last hill was at about the 38km/24.5 mile point so pretty near the end and I’d been going well up til that point. My legs felt like lead and I felt like I was treading water for a 4.47km. Rod began to pull away from me as well and despite offering me plenty of encouragement try as I might I just couldn’t keep up.
There were under 5k to go but at times I thought I wouldn’t finish! My running form was wobbly to say the least and it was only the fact that I was running downhill that I managed a 4:19 40th km. The next on the flat was a 4:30 but as I passed the 25 mile marker at 2:49ish I felt pretty confident that a sub 3hr time was still on. That left me 11:30 to do 1.2 miles. Even feeling as I did I could run 9 minute miles easily.
At the 26 mile point my watch read 2:56:13 and I only had the 375 yards to go. However I couldn’t see the finish. I rounded the final corner and still couldn’t see the end. The time on my watch was going up and I began to think I wouldn’t make it and tried to put on sprint finish! As my time passed the 2:59 mark I heard the wife shouting at the finish and ran faster eventually crossing the line in 2:59:39.
Wow, my first marathon and just managed a sub 3hr time. ‘A’ target achieved – just. In the end I just felt relief as my legs bloody hurt and I genuinely thought during those last minutes that I was going to miss out on the time. I’d rather have run 3:09 and just made my ‘B’ target than gone over 3hrs by a few seconds.
I got my medal, gave my wife a hug and said thank you to Rod who after having run a 2:56 waited for me to finish. Cheers Rod, it was much appreciated and without his encouragement I might not have got that time.
On reflection I think that running a standalone marathon for a quick time was maybe more difficult than the Iron Distance Outlaw. The intensity was certainly higher and trying to keep pushing when my legs were protesting so much was hard.
Looking at the Garmin data in Ascent a number of things are clear.
- It was not flat. Definitely not flat.
- The cardiac drift can clearly be seen towards the final miles
- Alongside that, hills aside, my pace started to drop at about the 23 mile mark
Perhaps these aren’t surprising, cardiac drift is inevitable and in my build to the race I had only been over 20 miles on 5 occasions with the maximum being a 21 mile run so to expect to run strongly to the finish maybe unrealistic.
What that may mean is that I am probably capable of running faster in the future, on a flatter course and with a higher run mileage in my legs. However it was bloody hard and I’m in no particular rush to do another. I’m planning another IM race in the summer so the next opportunity to post a better time might be at the London Marathon in 2012 as the time should (hopefully) give me a GFA place as long as the rules aren’t changed.
Plenty of time for that yet…….!