2 years ago when I started this challenge I wanted to achieve the following:
- Take part in every 2016 Olympic sport
- Have an appreciation of every sport
- Improve my fitness
- Discover new sports that I will continue after the challenge has been completed
I think it’s safe to say that I have fallen in love with running. I have just completed the Greater Manchester Marathon in 3.55.55. This was my second marathon and follows four half marathons, one 10k and three 5ks since the start of the challenge.
Having run London in 2013, finishing in 4.36, it felt like unfinished business. I trained poorly, got injured, had a poor nutrition strategy and struggled to a walk/jog finish. I believed that sub 4 hours was possible.
I started by working backwards, what time do I need for half marathon, 10k and 5k? There are lots of calculators on line, most of which are very optimistic. I then came across the Fetch calculator, which is based on real life times from half and full marathon races. Based on this I needed to achieve a half marathon of around 1.45 and a 5k around 23 mins. I think Fetch is slightly pessimistic so I felt that if I could get close to these times I would have a good chance of reaching my goal.
In November I ran a 23.36 5k during a parkrun having set off a bit too quickly so felt that this was a good indicator that I had the speed I needed. I decided that I was in good shape and signed up for the Greater Manchester Marathon. I was still about a month out from when I would start a 16 week training plan so went about trying to find a plan that would work for me. I wanted something that involved running 3/4 times a week, but also set the paces for each of the sessions.
I decided to go with the FURMAN, run less run faster training plan. The plan involves an interval session, a tempo session and a long run close to marathon pace each week. The recovery sessions take the form of swimming, cycling or rowing. I lasted just 2 weeks. Whilst I managed to hit each of the sessions I was shattered. I was also missing the slow recovery runs.
During these two weeks I came across the Runnersworld ASICS 26.2 Journey to Paris and in particular the sub 4 thread hosted by James Carroll that I refer to in my earlier thread. His plan seemed perfect. 4 runs a week, with a mixture of slower and faster runs. I adapted it slightly to reflect where I was but also to fit in around work/social commitments that I already had. It addition to following the plan, I immersed myself in the thread and tapped into the knowledge of other runners, but also the coaches and nutritionists that were contributing to the thread.
7 weeks in, the training was going great, I had just completed an 18mile run around Richmond park. During the run, I had a couple of niggles in around my left knee and shin but this seemed to come and go. Unfortunately after the run the injury started to flare up and I was diagnosed with patella tendonitis. Not great, but at least manageable. I took a week off and the following week achieved a half marathon PB of 1.46.07 (see earlier thread). Close to my 1.45 target so I felt confident that sub 4 was on the cards. Fetch had me down to finish around 4.04 but I knew that if I trained well I could do it.
The final 7 weeks after the half went perfectly. I made every session, hit every target, tapered well and felt fit. My weight had also come down to 12st 6 from almost 14st a year earlier.
During the week I was very nervous, thought I was getting ill everyday, started imagining injuries that weren’t there and wasn’t sleeping very week at all. 3 nights before I also had some really bad cramping at night and ended up damaging my right calf, although not too seriously.
The night before the race I stayed with a mate of mine from Cheshire and he kindly agreed to get me to the start line. On the way we bumped into another mate of mine from university who was also running and aiming for sub-4. So the three of us travelled up from Altrincham on the tram to Old Trafford and the start of the race.
The weather forecast wasn’t good. We had a cool temperature and light breeze at the start but the rain and wind was due to hit around half way through. I was slightly worried about this as I had somehow managed to avoid most of the terrible weather that we’ve had in the UK this winter.
Mark and I decided to start off together and for the first few miles we stuck to the goal pace. We didn’t really have much choice as the 10,000 or so runners were very congested. At this stage we were running between the two 4h pacers. After the 4mile point the runners started to space out a little bit and I soon lost Mark as he paced ahead. I decided to keep to the plan of 9min miles. Unfortunately this meant that I was always in and around the pacer groups and the congestion was becoming slightly annoying so I decided to hang back about 50m – I felt that they were going a little bit too fast anyway.
At the hour point I felt good and it was time for the first of my gels. I didn’t feel like I needed one but knew the importance of regularly fuelling to avoid hitting the wall later on. I was starting to get into the zone and as we approached Sale and Altricham the crowds started to get larger and more vocal, which provided an added boost. 12 miles in, there was Rhian with Tom and Keely (our friends that put us up the night before). It was amazing to see them cheering me on. I did my now custom dance and ran on. Luckily this was at a loop and just after the half way point I saw them again. This time I pretended it was the finish and did a mock dip as I went passed them. Not sure why I do this, probably sub-consciously it helps me to relax. About a mile later I also saw Dave and Viv (stayed with them on the Friday night), again it was great to get support from friends.
I still felt good until about mile 15/16. At this point my legs were starting to feel heavy. I started to worry. I still had over 10 miles to go, was this what I felt like during London in 2013. I kept on reminding myself that I had trained as well as I could have done and my preparation for the race was perfect. My next goal was 20 miles. I knew that if I was still running at this point I would probably be ok. I was relieved when I got there. I shouted out ‘come on everyone 10k to go’. I think I scared a few people – but it was the boost that I needed, for the next 2 miles I felt good, the second wind had kicked in and I had about 3 minutes in the bank. Surely I could do this. However, at mile 22 I started to feel tired again – the crowds were light and the road that we were on seemed to go on forever. But at mile 23 I took my last gel and I knee that I would reach my goal. The wind and rain had also stayed away.
Mile 24 – I caught up with Mark, he looked like he was struggling a bit. We had a quick chat and he had been struggling with cramp. We decided to run together – it was great having company again – although we didn’t say anything to each other it was a massive help knowing that you were with someone. The next two miles seemed to go by quite quickly, we were almost there. Rhian, Tom and Keely cheered us round the final corner. Suddenly Mark decided to up the pace and the competitor in me came out. I summoned all my energy in the last 50m and sprinted for the line. I went passed Mark and about 10 other people. Where had that come from?
So the time, 3.55.55. I was exhausted. It is really only writing this now that my achievement is starting to sink in. I am delighted with this time. Running sub 4 hours has been the goal ever since London last year and for the past 16 weeks I haven’t thought of much else. It was a 40 minute PB with a negative split, the holly grail of marathon running.
Running has provided me with a real focus and recaptured my love of competing at sport. I will probably enter the London 2015 ballot, but if I don’t get into London I will have a year off from marathon running and focus on trying to complete the other sports on the list.