Seven and a half years ago I ran my first marathon in London. Completely underprepared, I took on 26.2 miles not knowing how to run more than 18 but I limped my way to the finish line in 3hr 18mins. Skip forward to 2017 and I have just completed my 10th marathon in Berlin in 2hr 35mins. That’s 43 minutes faster, almost a half of a football match! If I’d been asked could I run any faster after that outing in London back in 2010, I would have said not a chance! Honestly, the thought that I could run it that much faster would have been almost unthinkable. But here we are! And that gives me massive encouragement about things that are seemingly impossible looking ahead. If you don’t believe, you won’t achieve – or something like that!
The last seven years of progress wouldn’t have been possible without a step-by-step strategy. To look too far ahead can be demoralising and not feel attainable. But if you break it down into small achievable steps, before you know it, you have made huge progress. Persistence and consistency are key. And staying injury free!
So how did it go?
We got to Berlin the day before without a hitch. By 9.15am start, everything was in place for a good race. I’d even managed to put my vest on the right way round. And unlike the year before, I also handled nature’s calls better. Deep in the woods with a lot of other guilty looking runners, I did get absolutely ravaged by insects but it was worth it. I knew at least that I wouldn’t be staring at the insides of a portaloo during the race which cost me two minutes last year – even if it was a PB poo!
The race strategy was to relax until 30km and then push; whether that meant maintaining my pace or picking things up a bit.
Early doors and I felt very laid back. Actually, I went through the first 5km in 18mins 40s (on for a 2hr 37-8 finish) which was only slightly faster than how I’d have started a marathon a few years ago! To this point, I’d been pacing according to my heart rate rather than the pace/speed on my watch. But once my watch informed me that it appeared I was out for a Sunday stroll, I realised it had all been a bit too enjoyable up to this point. Not long after seeing Hannah for the first time at the 7km mark and remembering how far she’d travelled to come and watch me, I picked up the pace!
Up until 30km, I spent most of my time in large packs of competitive club runners (thankfully no fancy dress fruit this time!), hiding behind people and benefiting from windbreaks where I could. Hannah and I completed a swift transfer of a bottle of Lucozade around halfway which would have made an elite coach/runner duo proud. At around 35km I was getting tired and made my first mistake of the race. I assumed the same effort level would equal pretty much the same pace throughout the race. But actually, my heart rate had picked up because I’d been running for two hours by this point. I slowed slightly to lower my pace to what I thought was correct according to my heart rate but this meant I was then running at under target pace. My average speed had dropped from 16.3km/h to 15.9km/h between 35km and 40km which cost me over half a minute.
Thankfully over the last two kms, I put in a fast finish running this final section at 17.2km/h average, crossing the finish line in 2hr 35m 11s. It was great to end so strong but also an indication that I had too much left in the tank. With hindsight, I should have got to the 30km mark a bit quicker. It’s naïve to think that you can run for 1hr 45mins and then suddenly start running faster for the last 12km. What I do know is that on the day, I’ll do everything I can to sustain my pace during the final third of the race. But I’ve got to give myself a better chance by getting to this stage in a better time – no matter how you’ve got to 30km, this is where the marathon and pain really starts so you may as well get there a little sooner!
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Overall, I’m absolutely chuffed to knock off another 53 seconds off my PB. Yes I wanted a time around 2hr 33 rather than 2hr 35 but this just leaves the door open for another big push in London next year!
The day after the race my Grandad was rushed to hospital with heart problems and sadly passed away a few days later. Words cannot express how much he was a part of all our lives. A larger than life character who will be so sorely missed – an unbelievable grandfather, husband to my Granny, father to my Mum and Uncles and brother to my Aunty.
This performance was for you Grandad. Rest in peace.