I advocate have different plans for marathon day ready in advance. If you need to adjust down because its a really hot day, or if plan A drifts beyond reach and you still need a reason to keep pushing and hurting. you’re also not thinking on the fly when your mind is lacking glucose at mile 22. you know exactly what you have to do.
So my marathon had the following plans
Plan A: sub 2:55 this is the perfect day run. I’m knocking out 6:40 miles easily at 164bpm during long runs, not tapered. so 6:38 and a 1:27 first half leaves space for a little slow down and the fact that London is a little tougher int he second half. if I can hold on to a 1:28 its all there for a great comeback to marathons post (my wifes) partum.
Plan B: sub 3! I’ve done it 5 time up ti 2016, and there’s no escaping how much meaning I attach to being a consistent sub3 marathoner. It also would get me another Good For Age London Entry and of course is the big goal my training group has been pushing for. I want to be part of that. I guess I feel the need to still be able to walk the walk as well as talk the talk when I’ve got the coach hat on. SO 1:27 / 1:33 or 1:28/1:32 is totally worth turning myself inside out for if Plan A isn’t happening on the day.
Plan C: 3:05. it used to be the GFA time. its the over 35 Boston Qualifying time. If the wheels really come off, there shall be no surrender. I’ve put too much time and effort into this winter to be walking or giving up. Respect the crowds that are all going to be cheering, the sacrifices I’ve made and Caroline has made through the winter and give it everything. even though its not what I really wanted to achieve.
Now, a Plan A day is fantastic, I’ve been lucky enough to have had those a negative split 2:56 @ Seville. a 1:27 1:28 first sub 3 at London that went totally to script. They’re hard, but not that hard. The body hurts in the last 10K, there are issues to deal with on the way, but you’re the master of what’s going on. mind and body working as one. The self belief is answered with cadence and flow. it hurts, but it’s nice hurt.
London 2019 turned into a Plan C day for me. I’m less experienced at these. This is not meant to be excuse making, just getting how it was down so I can move on.
Had a head cold for the week before, nothing paracetamol and decongestants couldn’t help but still feeling tired. Have also been having some work/life stressors to manage over the last month or so, and sleep hasn’t been amazing during taper with several 4am wake ups. Slept well till about 4:30 on race day and felt the most relaxed I can remember before London marathon. Cool weather, a bit of wind but otherwise a perfect day for a marathon. A gentle walk to the start and a really easy pre race routine as usual at the GFA start.
I set out with Darren on a 1:27 plan, wasn’t going to let all the above get in the way of trying. It felt good, if a little harder than it probably shiould have felt. cruised down the hills to be under 21min for the first 5k, eased through 10K. Consciously adjusted back to 6:45s for 10-20K as I admitted to myself it was felling tougher than it should. Darren drifted off after about 10 miles, it wasn’t going so well for him. GPS had been a bit dodgy so had been lapping the watch and focusing on 21 min 5Ks.
Halfway 1:28:33 came as we got a tailwind and I let it flow with a 6:35 14th mile. around mile 16 the calf cramps started. I’ve had these before, once or twice pre 2014 but hardly ever since and know I need to manage them. Had I drunk to much? gels were going down well. nothing different to normal. SO no we’re very much on Plan B. 21 minute 5ks to 30K in 2:06. miles 16 to 20 were harder than they should have been and I knew the last 10K was going to be problematic by this point so ran at the limit my legs could handle without cramping. Hit peak HR of 171 for the 21st mile.
I refused to fully accept that these cramps were going to defeat me and did everything I could (including a brief stop and stretch) to get to 35K in 2:27 in the end it was 2:28:52 and I should have known at this point that I was on Plan C. But thinking gets muddled and 7 minute miles for 4 miles would still get me just under 3. So I was going for it, one mile at a time. I became a bit emotional as I let the sub 3 go. the crowd were fantastic with some real individual shouts of encouragement as I was clearly struggling. I could run under 7 minute pace, but if I did I’d cramp up. the right quad started cramping now and then then right groin. So the pace was easing back, from had gone wonky, and the HR was low 160s. Continuing to run was better than running to fast and taking walk breaks. amazed I managed 8:30 8:19 7:52 pace for the last 3 full miles!
A big push from Big Ben the last third of a mile a 7:07 pace worked out and the plan C happened. I them dissolved in a pile of cramp and tears on a barrier and got a big hug from a marshal to help settle me.
It was a huge amount to take in after the race. I really felt like I’d lost a part of me during the couple of years I wasn’t able to train and on the one had I was super happy to be back int he game as a fast marathoner. There was definite disappointment too though, I knew I needed to accept that I’d played the hand I had as best I could but it still felt like a missed opportunity. Of the core 5 in our training group the blooming coach was the only one not to go sub3! The fitness is definitely there, even though the buildup has not been perfect.
5 longest runs: 21, 21, 21, 20, 20
Weeks with training missing due to illness during the 26 week build up: 6
What might I do differently next time out?
- Sleep better. (somehow!)
- Less boozy nights (didn’t have loads but there were a few that didn’t help)
- Not change job midway through the training!
- more strength work
- regular massage
- Don’t go on a skiing holiday!
- Run solo fitted into family life a bit more
- Diet improvements, slightly lower weight.
I’m not going to define running success by a London GFA time. I’m not going to rush out and do another marathon before the end of the summer. It will be good to do a lower key marathon, or Boston next spring!
I’m really keen to move onto the trails this summer. get quicker over shorter road distances too. I’ve loved getting back into regular training and I’m getting within training distance of my best times, so it’s been an awesome winter.