I religiously followed the 4hr Garmin-ready training plan from Runner's World. Looking back on my training now, I think I probably ran too often too hard. My slow runs were at my target marathon pace rather than slower. I still find it really hard to run slow. My standard pace seems to be between 8.30 and 9mins per mile. Here's a typical long run from March. My average pace is 8.51 per mile. I should have been aiming for 10minute miles:
I also didn't stretch enough or rest enough in between runs. I can remember doing some runs with my shins really aching before I set off. I did have one period, I think in January, where I had to stop running because my shin-splints were so bad.
In February I ran my first half-marathon - The Great North-West Half Marathon in Blackpool. This was also my first big running event. I think I had entered a local 10k before this but nothing on this scale. My race time was 1:46:50. A really good time. Again, a pacing fail, there were Runner's World pacers at the race and my plan was to stick with the 9min mile pacers but I got bored of that after less than a mile!
I was also learning some valuable lessons in running attire. It was snowy and cold on Blackpool prom. I still managed to overdress in my baggy denim shorts and fleece! A bout of man-flu in late April meant that I missed a week of training and my longest run was 20 miles. I felt good and prepared though. My aim had always been to complete the marathon and was aiming for 4 hours but I wanted to be careful not to put pressure on myself by trying to beat 4 hours.
On to Marathon day. A misty and damp start in Edinburgh. People were applying sunscreen, Idiots! An amazing feeling waiting at the start line of a marathon. Checking out the people around me. Hmm, that guy looks pretty fit, plus he has an Ironman tattoo. Ipod loaded with podcasts, most notably, and foolishly, a phedippedations podcast with the title of, "Can Marathon Running Damage your Heart?" I also had my power-songs, Black Eyed Peas - "Let's get it Started" among others. Lots of nervous anticipation now. People jumping up and down, a few hip rotations - good to feel that my hip still clicks out and back into its joint. Liz Yelling was starting the marathon. Checked my watch, good signal on the Garmin. Lots of people kissing loved ones. Come on! Come on! BANG - we're. . . walking. Yeah, it took a good few minutes to get over the starting line. Now we're going though, this is it! Butterflies on crossing the start line, I'm doing it, I'm actually going to run a marathon - FUCKING HELL!
Pace, Pace, Pace - stick to 9 mins per mile, stick to 9 mins per mile. Mile 1 in 8.39 - really good considering that the start is the time when people, myself definitely included, typically go too fast. Interesting to see that some people were walking already. Fair enough if you want to walk or run-walk a marathon but why are you in the 4hr group? First five or six miles are slightly downhill. Feeling good. Due to my religious following of the training plan, this is the first time in a long while that I've actually been rested before a run. Here are my splits for the first six miles:
So far so good. Really nice running around Edinburgh. One thing I always enjoy about running in races is that you are allowed to run in the middle of the road. Feels a bit naughty. Heading towards Portobello beach now, still feeling good.
Pretty comfortable here. Starting to think that sunscreen might have been a good idea though!
Miles 7 to 13 splits:
Happy with that, pretty close to 9 mins per mile. Isn't it? Ok Statto, I've acutally ran 13 miles with an average pace of 8.49 (sound familiar?) I was just over 2 mins ahead of schedule. Note to people running their first marathon. At this point, try not to think that you have another half marathon to run, that you are half-way there etc etc.
Miles 14 - 20 Splits:
Yep, slowing down a bit here. Road heading out of Edinburgh into, what seemed like, the countryside. This is where I saw the first runners heading back. One thing I really don't like is when you run repeat routes or over the same route there and back. The first runners were really flying. For what ever reason, it didn't seem to help me to see the lead runners. At about 16 miles, there is a little part where you run up a road so far and then turn around and run down the other side. Again, not enjoying this part, I think because of the repeating parts of the course aspect. At 17 miles the course went a bit cross country onto a dirt track. Lots of complaining from a lot of people. Also a few hills thrown in here. The course then looped back around to start heading back into town. I remember at mile 20 thinking, this is it, only 6 more miles! Every step was a step further than I had ever ran. I was really feeling the heat though and was finding it tough going. Average Pace now at 8.57 which, although I have been slowing down, is pretty much spot on.
Definitely not as pretty on this stretch (or was that my legs talking). I was managing to maintain a 9.30 ish pace. Hot as hell now, really hot. Lots of spectators with water, hosepipes, sweets etc. Lots of cheering. Great support. Then, after 24 miles, some fool tripped me up. I wasn't hurt but I stopped running and had a drink, and because it was really hot, I had a big drink and then, when I tried to start running again, this drink sloshed and swayed around in my stomach and I couldn't run. I walked for a bit, then ran for a bit, then walked a bit more but I couldn't keep running and walked most of the 25th mile. This was my one mistake really. Ok, I had not had a perfect race, I had slowed down (and I was wearing cargo shorts and no sunscreen) but otherwise, I thought I had ran well and executed my plan. Towards the final mile, the crowd gained in numbers and the cheering and shouting pulled a run out of me. Running into Musselburgh Race Course, the final stretch was over rubber mats laid over grass. Some of the corners were a bit turned up and I remember concentrating, making sure not to trip on any of these mats.
My other main thought was, "I've fucking done it!"
So, so, so, so, so stoked! Tears in my eyes as I'm typing this. Go run a marathon! Do it, now, just fucking do it!