Now I have never put myself in the same category as Mo Farah or the other great middle and long distance runners but seeing as i came to running late i have been fairly pleased with my pace over 5, 10 and 20km and vowed I would never make the jump to Marathon (21.32mins, 46.02mins & 1:45:02).  So after a drunken camping trip (see my previous blog) I embarked on the training I needed to undertake to get ‘Marathon Ready!’

Up to this point training for the occasional half marathon meant that training consisted of hill and speed work and a long runs of 10 miles.  Training with a Paralympic blind footballer @KerynSeal allowed me to really push my speed and strength (especially as he is a lot younger than me!)  Following his training programme of Hill sprints and speed reps soon saw my parkrun time drop and for me to hit a half marathon PB of 1 hour 45 minutes!  Keryn’s programme prevented him from going over 8km to reduce the risk of injury within the campaign towards Euro’s and beyond.  This allowed me to do my own thing with my long runs and this had worked well so far.

Sadly I cannot get out and run every day so I knew that planning 3 runs per week would be far more achievable and less stressful so I created my own plan with help from my friends.  Trying to get 1 quality long run, 1 hill or speed session and a 3rd run of middle or tempo the dreams of a sub 4hr marathon.  So starting in the new year, I felt 3 months gave me ample time time to get from my 13 mile base up to 26!

Training started well and I kept to the 10% rule and built my distance up slowly and found out pretty quickly that Exeter was not that big and training runs needed to head out of the city and took me along the Exe Estuary to Starcross.  I was enjoying the training and was getting up to 16 miles with no change in speed with my runs still coming in around an avaerage of 5:00 minute a km!

As with all first time marathoners I was hit with the dreaded ‘Marathon Flu!’ it lasted a whole 2 weeks and hit me for 6 which took 2  1/2 weeks out of my training and then trips and work pushed this out to 3 weeks!  I feel this was the pinnacle point in losing my speed.  With the knowledge race day was fast approaching and I wanted to get to 22 miles before the day a couple of times I got out as soon as I could and started to up the mileage.  Stupidly I got fixated by distance and forgot ‘the plan’.

My runs got longer but also were my times.  Running comfortably at the beginning at 5 minute k’s i soon found myself and struggling to keep below 6 minute’s for a KM.  Don’t get me wrong i’m not fixated on speed and splits and regularly run ‘naked’ with not phone or watch.  I also don’t want you to think i’m a speed snob.  I have huge respect for every runner regardless of speed, age or distance. To be honest I have greater respect for the slower runners who push their limits more than those who find it effortless.

My gremlin ‘personal competition’. Since starting out with running i have enjoyed the gains.  Loosing weight, changing shape, becoming fitter and feeling good but as my love of running has continued I, like most other runners have become obsessed with PB’s and getting faster and stronger.  With the thirst for PB’s upping the distance can really play with your head.  Coming into this venture I felt bulletproof but now I felt deflated.  My dream of a sub 4 hr marathon had slipped to a hope to finish in less than 5 hours!

To friends I spoke of being happy to just being doing one and finishing was the key but in my mind anything over 4:30 would be a failure.

So race day came, lining up with the thousands of others that had been through the challenge of marathon training as I had.  Most will have been through similar problems in training as I had but we all stood there scared, excited and determined to do our best.  It’s amazing what can happen on the day, I had forgotten the training problems and felt good and the kilometre splits were looking good and I was back on track for a sub 4 marathon.  Could this be true, I felt fast again and was doing well….. but then it happened mile 18.  I began to slow my projected sub 4 at mile 15 was slipping away.  My legs were slowing my determination and will power were slipping and the miles were going slower and slower.

The final kilometre was pure agony.  I had gone from a confident 5:32 midway to a 6:57 and getting slower as the metres passed.  My legs were cramping and it definitely wasn’t my finest hour.  I hear the crowds were amazing but in the last few k’s I had entered a tunnel.  My tunnel was not real but one in my head.  I felt disconnected from the world and those about me.  I finished and didn’t feel euphoria but pain.  What was my time? what was my time? I looked at my watch and it was showing 4:20:06.  I wasn’t a sub 4 runner but I had finished and got under my revised target of 4:30:00

Now it’s taken me 900 word to get to my point but what has happened since?  After some rest and distraction I have returned to running but the speed I had previously has gone.  It had left me and I couldn’t find it.  5 km runs had become a struggle and speed sessions had become as fast as my previous long runs.  I’m not sure if I have done too much resting or too little or if i need to get back on the horse and train harder but in a weeks time I am taking on the #ClassicQuarter as a pair.  This 44 mile trail race from Lizard to Lands End in Cornwall.  I’ve only got to do 22 miles! but that is 22 coastal path trail miles and hope that I may find my speed along the rugged coastline in Cornwall but I feel that this may not be the case and that my need to regain my speed may take a little longer!

Happy running @Mattupston