Monday, 18 May 2009

London Marathon 2009...

I will say straight away that I need to find a new mantra because 'finish strong' was not what happened here, or what I would use to describe how I was feeling at mile 20... I won't try to build the suspense to my finish time so here it is.... I finished in 3h42m16s. Short of my original 3h30m target time, and way short of my more recently revised 3h15m finish time, which I am now cursing, because had I stuck to 3h30m I think I would of definitely achieved it. argh!

As it was I went out at a reasonable pace 7:45min/mile for the first 10 miles as planned, then knowing I had to up the pace to have a fighting chance of getting anywhere near a 3h15m finish I upped it to 7:30m/m from mile 10. This unfortunately was probably my undoing later in the race. My pace dropped slightly in mile 17 & 18, and then BANG... mile 19... ARGH there it was...the dreaded WALL!! Something us runners have read all about but not really something I believed existed! I always told myself it was all in the mind... and thought that I could plough on at the same intended pace to reach my end goal...but my legs didn't agree and let me know it in no uncertain terms. I felt completely helpless and could it seems do nothing about it... By going all out for my ultimate goal of 3h15m I had unwittingly, now put what I thought was going to be a certainty (finishing in under 3h30m) in extreme jeopardy.

And as the last 6 miles wore on it become painfully apparent that 3h30m was indeed slipping away. How could this happen, i asked myself? All my training pointed to the fact that I was indeed well capable of finishing sub 3h30m. However you are only as good as you are on the day, and unfortunately this wasn't going to be my day... I had left my best run in training weeks before, rather than saving it for the big day itself. Mile 23 was particularly tough (a 11 minuter!!), made tougher still by the fact that the 8 min/mile pace makers steamed past me at what felt like a sprinter pace. I attempted in vain to keep up as I clinged on to the hope of my sub 3:30 dream however it was quickly apparent that even with the added motivation of seeing my dreams laid out in front of me, the two pace makers and the hordes of runners that followed them disappeared off into the distance.

I kinda knew already that I didn't have enough to keep up with them, and with this realisation came a slight sense of calmness, and contentment. Despite my current plight I was still in the race, I was upward and mobile and was still moving forward towards the finish line. This restored some perspective to my thoughts, and I started to enjoy myself again. I stopped worrying about my time, and took in all the wonderful sights and sounds of London, including the amazing supporters that lined the streets, 10 deep in places. At one point a guy shouted out "Disco Stu want a beer" which he handed out to me, and I kindly accepted the offer taking a gulp of warm beer which tasted 100 times better than those energy gels I had been taking (a note to makers of Carb BOOM - beer flavoured energy gels are definitely the way to go!! :-P) And so the final miles ticked by at a snails pace. I was still extremely disappointed that my dream was in tatters (something I had been training 6 months to achieve), but nevertheless as I bounded down Birdcage walk in the final straight with my wife and 10 month old daughter cheering on from the sidelines I was happy and smiling, and so very very glad that it was now all over!

3:42.16 was a new PB. 15 minutes quicker than my previous best set in London in 2006 so I have to be happy with that. There was much I learned about marathon racing on that hot hot Sunday in London, 1) Never underestimate the marathon distance even when your training has gone well. 26.2 miles is a long way, and whilst a cliché its never over until its over and the last 6 miles are as hard if not harder than the first 20 miles combined... 2) Set one target time and stick to it! Because training went so well I confidently upped my target time to 3:15 which I felt was realistic, however this wasn't the case and as a result of this over-confidence I took my eye off my original goal to only see it slip through my fingers... 3) Its only one run, so don't build it up in your mind to be more than this. In short treat it as a training run and run it like you would any other. 4) big races attract big crowds in terms of spectators (a good thing) and lots and lots and lots of runners (and bad thing) who all seemingly get in your way, break your rhythm, and effect your focus. Want to achieve a super quick time...choose a small low key event not arguably the biggest marathon in the World!! 5) Want to have the experience of a lifetime?...then run the london marathon! it rocks! The fact that I did run a PB in the biggest marathon in the world and finished in 6,236th place out of 36,000 starters, whilst not being what I originally set out to achieve time wise, was indeed a great journey, and one which I will take a lot from.

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