The day started really well when I opened the curtains and saw the weather.
I stayed in Plumstead with friends the night before so I only had a 12-minute train ride to the red start in the morning which eased a few of the worries. Luckily I bumped into four friends from work at the start so we all made a few nervous trips to the loo together laughing and joking about the event that would soon be upon us. I did at this stage wonder how much of an affect the heat would have on me.
The race itself couldn’t have gone any better up to the 20-mile point. My initial target when I started the training was to get under 3:30, this would beat my last time (and only other marathon) in the 2001 FLM quite significantly (4:23), secretly though, and my training runs had suggested it was achievable, I hoped for sub 3:15.
I aimed for 2:25 to get to 20 miles, which I achieved with some nice, even pacing and all felt good. This would leave me 50 minutes to do the last 6.2 miles, which I thought was enough of a tiredness margin (I know I can do 10k in about 42mins) to bring me home in sub-3.15. But something happened in those last few miles, I totally lost my rhythm, pace and strength, the dreaded wall hit and once I had stopped once it seemed that I had given myself license to walk whenever I wanted.
Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was all the extra water I had taken on, maybe the niggling Achilles problem actually slowed me, or maybe the 2:25 for 20 miles took more out of me than I thought it would, but either way that 50 minutes I gave myself to do the last 10k was not enough. I eventually finished in 3:17:47, a time that everyone keeps telling me is excellent.
Looking at my results and finishing position amongst all the other runners 2684th place overall is a fantastic achievement which I am extremely proud of. But I cannot get away from the fact that had I done things a little differently I wouldn’t have weakened at the end. Having only done two 20-mile runs in training I know I will do half a dozen next time.
I will also make sure that I do one, maybe two, runs of full distance. I will also make sure I follow a taper correctly and don’t do 10k in 42 mins on the Friday two days before race.
So to next year, and I will enter for next year, I have even more focus, I have a head start on the training this time and a new goal. Next year I will do it in under three hours. Well, it’s not worth entering just for the sake of the 2 minutes 47 seconds I failed this year’s goal by, is it?
A friend has also asked me if I want to do Comrades in 2006, despite me saying in no uncertain terms after Sunday where he could stick it. On second thoughts, 55 uphill miles in South Africa, now there’s a challenge!