Marathons are really really hard, really. 

I supported some club mates who were doing a road marathon this past weekend. The marathon is dubbed “Europe’s flattest”, and is an old fashioned club runners race – no fancy dress or charity “walkers”, it has a cut off time of 5 hours and finished with 300 gruelling metres around a running track. 

I had a number of friends running and how they fared was fascinating. Exhibit One: good female V40 runner doing her first marathon. With a 10k pb of 38 minutes, this is a strong runner. But she had never done a marathon. Her training had been perfect; slow mileage build up and pace increase, emphasis on long runs with paced segments. She was injury free and determined. She was 2nd lady overall in 2:58. Ran a consistent pace with a very slight negative split. Amazing run. 

Exhibit b: top male club runner, 30 yrs old, placed locally over 5 and 10k consistently. First marathon. Went out too quick, covered the first 20 miles at sub 2:45 pace, then detonated, dropped below 9 minute miles for last 6, crawled home broken in 3.09.  Ouch. 

Moral: marathons take no prisoners! One mistake and you’re finished. Preparation, execution and luck all have to align. 

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Summing up a good season of running

oxford half

My local city half marathon was this weekend, and for me it rounded off the summer season of racing. I have had a very successful running year: I’ve had personal best times at every distance from 5k to the marathon, qualified for the London Marathon, won my club age category championships, I’ve been placed in a few races, raced on the roads and trails, and generally enjoyed my running. Yesterday I ran a good time of 1:33 for the half marathon, which was still a best time although short of the 1:30 I had hoped for.

Like most runners, I suppose, I find it difficult to be simply happy with a run, and I do dissect it and try to figure out where I lost time. Actually, I found yesterday tough. I’ve been having some calf pain, and bought (yes yet another!) pair of Adidas running shoes as my Adios Boost were starting to show too much wear on the sole. In the end, I raced in my normal racing flats (Adidas Takumi Rens), and compression sleeves on my lower legs, and my calf felt fine. I let the 1:30 pacer go ahead of me, hoping to keep him in sight throughout, but he went off a bit quickly, and I lost him within three miles. After that my brain started playing games, and I had some bad moments. The presence of a lot of supporters on the course gave me so much encouragement. All the various local running clubs were well represented and a lot of club and racing friends were lining the streets shouting at me. This helped amazingly, and I was able to pick up my pace after it started to waver.

I felt really good at 10 miles, then awful at 12, but managed to finish it off.  In reality, those three minutes were not going to be found in this race, but I know I have a 1:30 in me – next year!

I have a few local 10k races before Christmas, and cross country season begins! Marathon training will start in earnest on January 1st; good old Pfizinger’s Advanced Marathoning plan will be dusted off to see if it can get me to 3:20. Until then I’ll run in a more relaxed way.  My major excitement surrounds the purchase of a road bike, and I can’t wait to start riding properly before winter sets in completely. Triathlon next year perhaps!