The final two kilometres were run on empty. The ‘flat’ hill of the last race section from the promenade to the road leading to the finish gave me no respite and the target time (sub 3.5 hours) faded away. I’m still ecstatic as I ran a personal best for the marathon, and the Brighton course (3hr 31min 12sec) and it felt like my most controlled marathon yet with pacing very even and hydration and fuelling going like clockwork.
I know where I went wrong and how I’ll fix this next time, whilst also feeling like I could run the London Marathon this coming Sunday as my recovery has been great, perhaps the best it ever has been. A paddle in the sea, rolling and stretching post race and a massage have all proved invaluable in this.
I now know I could have pressed more on the downhill sections to increase my pace to shave more off the finishing time, so again I’m saying that sub 3.5 hours is possible and with 3.31; 3.36; and 3.33 finishes in my last three marathons it’s certainly there within my grasp. Plus I’ve already taken advantage of the early bird entry for next year’s Brighton marathon so the training cycle will begin again. However, what is particularly interesting is that I’m more enthused about running the marathon again than I was when I began the most recent round of training back in November. The reason was because I think I had that all too rare experience of hitting the zone during the race, not during a training run, but in the actual race. This zone meant I hit my pace early – with the great assistance of my fellow training partner Giles – and maintained this when my body was telling me to push harder and earlier. I controlled this and reaped the rewards pushing through the dreaded Power Station section when this has previously chewed me up and left me nursing myself through the final four miles.
So lessons for those running a target race in the next few weeks?
Don’t underestimate the benefits of rest in the days leading up to the event, earlier than usual bedtimes, relaxing pre-race and carefully preparing your kit and yourself prior to the event helped me achieve all the above.
I have a very specific routine for race day that has been honed over a number of years that helps me – I always arrive earlier than I need to, drop off my bag early, purchase the race espresso in plenty of time, and get into the designated start gate early. My race number is on my shirt the night before, timing chip connected and tested for fit on my running shoe the day before, whilst I’ve come with my race fuel and hydration already planned out (a few shot bloks in the start gate about 20 mins before starting; 1st gel at 45mins then one every half an hour after that, whilst carrying a running bottle to top up with water on the way round), and calmed my nerves the previous day with a short 20 minute run including a few 30 sec sprints just to loosen everything off.
Supporters made a massive difference picking me up at key times and giving me something to look forward to as I knew where they were going to be.
I let things that would previously have got me wound up wash over me. On collecting the race pack prior to the race we were presented with one of the smallest kit bags I’ve ever seen which was not much bigger than a family pack of nachos. I managed to get an additional bag “as you’ve travelled from London” but by packing carefully I manged to get everything I needed in whilst leaving behind any stresses of worrying further about whether I really needed that extra pair of running tights. Watch the forecast carefully and you can usually work out what you’ll need pre and post-race and it’s surprising how little space you’ll actually need for that.
I enjoyed myself. It’s very easy to miss out on the things around you, missing the crowd, and other things going on. Focus on this, enjoy the weather hot or cold, focus on what you’re passing. All these things help to get you out of your head – which can often be giving you a range of conflicting and less than positive insights on your running progress/prowess – so you can focus on the things you can control: your technique, pacing, fuelling, hydration.
Stay in the moment and focus on what your training has taught you about getting through each section of the race.
Marvel at the sights around you, the costumes selected by some runners, that guy running in the brushed cotton three quarter length shorts that appeared to be an experiment in testing which item of clothing can I wear that will cause me the biggest chafing challenge? Or speculate just how someone runs dressed as a rhino, toilet, genitals, Iron Man or Spider Man (x3) and still manages to get round. Wonder just who does accept those massive gobbets of Vaseline from the St Johns Ambulance people around the course and more importantly how does it get applied in front of the cheering crowd. Listen to that cheering crowd and revel in the fact that they’ve never met you, are unlikely to ever see you again other than for that fleeting few seconds yet are still shouting ‘Giles’.
Enjoy the limelight.
Try to spot the photographers round the course and at least give one or two some semblance of a smile or a thumbs up. When looking back at the race through the photos, you’ll continually get emails about, it’s always better to find at least one where you look like a member of the human race rather than the next Dr Who villain grimacing as you threaten to wipe out the earth. You never know it may be so good you may even make a purchase.
And finally, appreciate the efforts you have made to get there today, celebrate the training you have done, the arrangements and sacrifices you have made, and those of others around you that have enabled you to be there in that race supporting the tremendous achievement you’re about to reach. On that day, at that time, there are many others not doing what you are doing celebrate and praise yourself – a hero, just for one day.
Alternatively, you can revel in my joy as the train pulled into Clapham Junction where an adjacent passenger rose slowly from his seat, pirouetting his backside perfectly in line with my face to celebrate my achievement by unveiling two spotted cheeks of his derriere in a unique, glute waving, two inches from my face, tribute I will struggle to unsee for many a good year – RIGHT IN MY FACE – whilst playing “I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly, I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly, I don’t think you ready for this……..” in my head.
Too right and I’m running already.