15th place and 1’14’59 in the Maidenhead Half Marathon! This is 45 seconds off my best and in many ways, I should be pleased. But I also missed out on a huge chance to push on and take at least a minute off of my best.
The omens weren’t good when I’d inexplicably managed to put my Winchester running vest on the wrong way round. Luckily Hannah spotted this just before I was toeing the start line in front of the lenses of the local press!
The race was then underway, signalled not by a gun or horn but by a massive cannon. So loud, it got some of the spectators moving faster than the runners at the start! I settled into 20th position quite nicely and didn’t make any sudden movements to move up the field for the first few kms.
The race started stretching out at the front and after about 5km, I started picking off the runners ahead of me one by one. With hindsight, I now know this was way too aggressive. Even though, I was only picking up the pace slightly, I was using precious fuel I needed in the latter stages of the race. It doesn’t matter how many of these races I run, I always forget just how hard the end stages are. Surely it’s better to finish strongly than go out too hard? I suppose that’s what keeps you coming back for more. If I could have remembered how dreadful the last six miles of my first marathon were in 2010, I wouldn’t have come back for more in 2013!
10km in and everything was going great. I came through 34’20 which is only 30 seconds off my 10km PB. So at this point, I was on for a sub 1’13 which I would have been immensely happy with. I started to feel pretty tired sustaining the pace at this point but to be honest, nothing that a bit of grit and determination wouldn’t help. The longer you’re out there, the harder you have to work to sustain the same pace. For some reason, I didn’t have it in me to work that bit harder.
And in looking back, I clearly had one eye on Berlin. Two weeks later and I’m still kicking myself. There’s a lesson here about adjusting goals. OK so I was paying for my slightly aggressive overtaking in the early parts of the race, but if I’d fought harder and pushed past the small groups ahead of me who were slowing, it would have been a different story. The door was ajar and it was almost as if I wasn’t ready to take my running to the next level. Definitely a case of mind over matter and that mind just wasn’t ready.
When 1hr 13 seemed out of sight, I cruised to the finish in 1hr 15 rather than readjusting my aims and realising there’s always something worth fighting for. Even if that something is matching your PB and not bettering it.
So harsh lessons learnt and plenty to take with me to Berlin.
I’m now just seven days out. The last few weeks have been very positive. I’ve had my last three hard workouts. Another 40km, a very successful 29km fartlek and 16km of intervals. The 29km fartlek was all the more impressive because it was jammed in the middle of a weekend in muddy fields at Bestival!
What I have learnt from the last five months that I’m going to take into the marathon next week?
- Relax from the start – it only takes me a few kms to settle into a marathon pace rhythm
- No need to fixate on my watch. I’m the best judge of a sensible pace
- If targets start to slip later in the race, there is always something else worth aiming for rather than allowing the wheels to fall off altogether
- The marathon doesn’t really start until 30km!
- Preserve fuel and mental resilience – the aim is to get to 30km using as little energy as possible
- Other runners are easier to overtake later when they’re slowing. Save the aggressive racing until the latter stages
- And finally, leave it all out there!