Last time I mentioned that what happened to me during the London Marathon on the 13th April 2014 proved pivotal to changing my attitude to running.
On race day it was unseasonably warm. Then I started feeling a twinge in my calf after a few miles. I kept a decent enough pace going for the first 13 but was starting to slow by the time we got to Canary Wharf. I was hoping initially to get around in 4.30 and I was more or less on course for that early on but was slowly but surely moving further away from that pace.
At near 20 miles, 4 hours in and on the way back to Canary wharf, I hit the wall so hard it was sheer agony. I stopped running and started walking. Every single step was pain. I was undertrained, overconfident and out of energy. My upper body was reasonably okay but my legs felt like wood. I forced myself over the next 2 hours, step by agonising step to walk the next 6 miles. The support of the crowd was immense and got me through. I suppose there’s something to be gained by knowing I had the mental strength to continue but I was disgusted with myself that all I’d managed to achieve was a time of 6 hours and 2 minutes.
Over the years I’d forgotten just exactly how much work you need to put in to get round the course.
The seeds of this were sown back in early January. I didn’t have a proper plan and training, such as it was, consisted of a 2-3 gym sessions each week, mostly on the cross trainer. I cycled around 12 miles each weekend and went for the occasional run. The longest run I did was 10 miles. I’d convinced myself I was doing enough and I shouldn’t run too much as my knees hurt if I did that. I knew I’d get round in a reasonable time because I’d done it before. It’d be fine. I’m not saying I was unfit, but I was not fit to attempt a marathon at the pace I thought I could run.
Then I made the stupid, stupid mistake on race day of not taking account of both my condition and the race conditions. Realistically I should have been aiming for 5 hours with a mixture of running and walking. The way it all fell apart is quite spectacular as the following splits (and photos) bear out.
5K 0:31, 10K 1:03 (I’m doing 10.16 minute miles here, I’m going to smash this.)
15K 1:36, 20K 2:11, Halfway 2:20 (slowed down a bit but I’m still okay, I can pick this up)
25K 2:50 (Fastest 5k yet). 30K 3:37 (This is starting to hurt, 4.30 pace runner is a distant memory. 5 hour pace runner goes by. Then the get you round pace runner passes me.)
35K 4:32 (ow, ow, ow, oh my god how am I ever going to get round. I’ve just taken nearly an hour to walk/stumble 5K and I’ve still got loads to go)
Final finish time: 6:02 – Each and every step in the last 2 hours has been sheer agony. I’m done, nothing left.
I made £3500 for Macmillan that day. I kept going right to the end even though I just wanted to stop. I’m proud of that. Proud of the money I made and proud I had the determination to plough on.
Amazing how quickly you forget the pain isn’t it!
Now the wonderful thing about long distance running is it exposes so many things about you and your character both in the preparation and the execution of the event. I promised myself I would never fail that way again. So I started going to the gym more over the summer. I started running more.
I’ve read books and articles about training methods, plans and strength training (and I even understood some of it). I spent 6 months just getting fit enough to start training properly. I went to the gym and ran every other day on holiday. In October I ran a 10K race in 53.
Then late in October 2014 I got the news I had a charity place for the London Marathon 2015 (having failed in the ballot). As I write this I’m just starting week 4 (of 18) of the hardest training programme I’ve ever done. And I’m loving it.
Now reading all this you might think it’s all about the London Marathon and perhaps it started like that. But now it really isn’t, that’s more a case of unfinished business and come April 26th me and that course are going to have it out, once and for all.
The best thing, the lasting legacy if you like, is I’ve discovered I love running, the feeling of being fit. I want to set some decent PB’s over all sorts of distances. And at the age of 46 I really better get a move on before my knees give out!