The weeks up to the big day started with nicely controlled “tapering” as run mileage and intensity both reduced and I worked on recovery and energy stores. In the last week, though, I seemed to encounter just about everyone with a cold as the famous pre marathon paranoia, or “maranoia”, really kicked in as the nerves built and I, like many others, worried constantly about something going wrong in the last few days – especially illness or injury! What was at risk was 565 miles of relentless, self-focused, hard graft training…many say that the marathon is the hard bit, it isn’t, it is the “Glory Day” when you get back what you put in. As long as you enjoy it too.
Early start 0616 train from Basingstoke packed with runners and supporters. Time for the iPod and some personal space. Another train to Blackheath and I was there…umm, into grey, cold drizzle! Rats! But, I was lucky as, thanks to the great folks from Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, L&LR, I could join their pre-race do and have food, drinks, warmth and great loos!
All too soon, it was time to hit the Blue start assembly area, drop my bag and await the start in a fetching combo of old throw away tee shirt and a see through L&LR disposable poncho. Yep, I cut a fine style in the portaloo queue…but I wasn’t alone. Indeed, some 38,000 of us were doing the same thing, and we watched the big screens as the elites and wheelchairs made their early starts at amazing speeds, then queued in our particular start pens ready for the 10:10 start. I’d thought that with so many people it may take 10-20 to get across the start line….but at 10:18:22 I was off and trying to remember all the advice. Mainly to (1) NOT go out too fast and to pace it right, (2) keep my head up – take in the event fully – and enjoy it! and, (3) get my form right and use my arms to reset tempo making sure my hips and pelvis were level.
To be honest, all three worked and I pretty well kept to them although my pace and form slipped a little on miles 25 and 26 down the Embankment that just seemed to go on and on and on! I was very fortunate that my club mate, Adrian, who was pacing for Runners World, caught me and shouted at me in Birdcage Walk which jolted me back to life for the big finish. I had been aiming for 4 hours 10-15 mins and was and still am delighted with 4:12:57 with the potential to now tweak some things and improve stamina / form for the last 6.2 miles to go under 4 hours in future.
During the run, I really had enjoyed the whole thing and probably made it all look a big too easy at my cheering points at 11.5 and 23.3 miles where I not only accelerated to be far faster than targets for those miles but went by smiling and waving to show I was OK. At both, I was very lucky to have two cheering groups…first my own dedicated “cheering crew” of my wonderful Debs who has had to live every day of my relentless training, plus Julia, Heather, Sophie, Danielle, Amy and her friend. Easy to spot in bright yellow L&LR tee-shirts, they were what I was aiming for at each point and gave me a fantastic lift. Then, at each place, just down the road were the supporters from running club, SPR, who gave me another lift. Did I make it look “easy” or “comfortable” by managing pace and the race mile by mile? Yes, I probably did! I now really do understand why people say the event is the easy bit…it is the utter dedication and determination in the training that is the hard bit with lovely 18 mile wet, cold, at times very lonely Sunday long runs.I wanted to finish as the priority, I did and in a time I am very happy with for a first time running over 20 miles. There is a great medal, tee shirt and goody bag but even more valuable are the memories as I was delighted that many of the people dearest to me could be there and share it with me…or, me share it with them?
By running for L&LR I not only benefitted from pre-event support and coaching but a post run celebration at Central Halls where, after a massive cheer that I just hadn’t expected, some food, a very welcome 20 mins leg massage and an even more welcome beer. Oh, and a wonderful feeling walking on carpet with no shoes or socks on!A fantastic event and experience that couldn’t have been possible without a great group of people that each played a big role in the preparation and the day, who I trust with each aspect. There were my constant “running buddies”, Amy and Libby, some guys from the Club, especially Jonathan, Nick D & Adrian, my coach Ben from Full Potential, all the team at L&LR, Gary Turner...and my brill sports physio, Vicki at The Body Reset Clinic.
In an earlier blog I said “…just eight weeks to go to VMLM2015, and I absolutely can’t wait!” Well, I wasn’t wrong, I loved it, and absolutely can’t wait to VMLM2016!”. I know what it will take now with the kind of dedication, focus and sacrifice needed for “the hard bit” the training! Things will be different now as, before 2016, my “A” race schedule has a run of “firsts” this Summer:
· 24 hour solo endurance trail run, Endure24
· 50km Trail Ultra, the Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1
· Berlin Marathon
In my next blog I’ll talk about the recovery and the weeks after the marathon. Cheers, Mark