Is VLM a good 1st marathon?

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Pethead    pirate
13/09/2012 at 13:43

Hi all,
I'm doing the VLM next year. As things stand it'll be my 1st marathon, but I'm keen to compete in it, rather than just complete the distance, because there's an inter-university competition within the race and my uni wants to win it!
Does anyone think it would be a good idea to do a winter marathon (e.g. Gloucester - my local) beforehand, to better prepare me to race for time/position next spring?

13/09/2012 at 13:50

A lot will depend on which pen you start in.  If you're in a high pen number, you will have squillions of people in front of you, many of whom will be slow runners, or even walking within a couple of miles (yes, really).

Then when you get to fifteen miles or so, people who've been running start to slow down, they will suddenly stop running and walk (while right in front of you), interrupting your rhythm, forcing you to change pace and/or direction.

On the whole I'd say that London isn't a great choice for a first mara, let alone one you want to run hard.  Too many people will be in the way.

13/09/2012 at 13:52

On the other hand, it's a marathon at which there will be people cheering you on for every inch of the way, which is good for morale. You might find yourself hitting rock bottom in the middle of nowhere, with your only company another suffering runner and some indifferent passers-by. Just a small thought.

13/09/2012 at 13:59

I loved VLM as my first one but if you're planning competitive then i'd maybe do one beforehand so you know what to expect?

I agree with Wilkie - if you're in a higher starting pen you'll be dodging people for most of the race. I started at the back this year (because I knew that i'd be slow) and it turned out that I was overtaking people from the 14 mile point.

13/09/2012 at 14:01

Don't know anything about the OP's talents, but for most mere mortals the first marathon is all about finishing and not necessarily the time. Agree about the crowding, but I would personally still try to find a fairly popular one that doesn't involve you running for long periods of time through the countryside with no one around, unless that's what you want.

13/09/2012 at 14:04

What sort of time would you be aiming for? What sort of training/mileage are you doing at the moment, and have you got enough time to prepare for a full-on marathon racing effort by the end of the year?

13/09/2012 at 14:08

Actually, thinking about it, whether you've already built-up to marathon type training or not, you're obviously a first-timer, so racing two marathons within three months of each other may not be the best idea anyway.  Best to concentrate on the one and train for it properly IMO.

London is a fast coure with good support but how quickly you can get away varies enormously depending on how far down the field you start.  If you're anything close to 3 hours it's not really an issue at all.  In the 4 - 5 hours area you will lose a lot of time because the crowds are enormous.

13/09/2012 at 14:24

Focus on London. Your first marathon is pretty special and no better place to do it than London. One of the 5 majors and a fantastic atmosphere. Not sure what you mean by "compete in it". I started running late in life (49) and did it as my first marathon just over a year later.

I did 03:12:xx and got my GFA if that is any help. I think on my predicted time I gave I started from pen 2 or 3 and it did involve a bit of weaving but I was very pleased with my time and wouldn't have wanted my first marathon to be anywhere else.

 

Pethead    pirate
13/09/2012 at 14:24
Many thanks for the speedy responses guys
PhilPub wrote (see)

What sort of time would you be aiming for? What sort of training/mileage are you doing at the moment, and have you got enough time to prepare for a full-on marathon racing effort by the end of the year?

I put down 3 hours on my entry form, which I think is a good goal to aim for. Hopefully this should also put me in one of the pens slightly nearer the sharp end.
I'm currently racing quite a bit but also increasing my mileage for the X/C season, so I was thinking I could keep increasing mileage, particularly my long runs, which would hopefully mean I was in passable (if not perfect) shape by January.

13/09/2012 at 15:04

Sounds like a good plan. Is the 3 hr target based on any previous race performances?

Pethead    pirate
13/09/2012 at 17:16
PhilPub wrote (see)

Sounds like a good plan. Is the 3 hr target based on any previous race performances?

Using the race time predictor on here with my PBs, I get between 2:39 and 2:47, which I think is rather optimistic but shows 3:00 might be achievable.

13/09/2012 at 17:48

Pethead - nice target!  The ballot hasn't been announced yet so is it a charity place you have?  I don't think its important to do a marathon beforehand, you risk more than you will gain in my opinion.  What distances do you race at the moment?  I'm guessing you must have a really good HM time?

 

Pethead    pirate
13/09/2012 at 18:03
Minni wrote (see)

Pethead - nice target!  The ballot hasn't been announced yet so is it a charity place you have?  I don't think its important to do a marathon beforehand, you risk more than you will gain in my opinion.  What distances do you race at the moment?  I'm guessing you must have a really good HM time?

Thanks! I've got a UKA place through my club and I currently race 5K up to HM. Fastest HM so far is 1:20, but I'm hoping to be a bit quicker at Bristol this weekend.

13/09/2012 at 18:11

So you just need to make sure you get the training right to convert that 1:20 into a good marathon time.  Have you looked at schedules etc?  How many miles a week do you run at the moment?

 

13/09/2012 at 18:41

Sounds like you've got a very sensible approach.  A 1:20 half suggests you ought to be capable of running a marathon around 2:50 at least, but I'm sure you're aware there are so many more variables with the marathon, and any difficulties or errors can add up to an uncomfortabe experience.  You don't need to resign yourself to a ''just get round'' strategy just because it's your first one, but sub-3 should be a very reachable target, a good marker for the next one.

Pethead    pirate
14/09/2012 at 22:25
Minni wrote (see)

So you just need to make sure you get the training right to convert that 1:20 into a good marathon time.  Have you looked at schedules etc?  How many miles a week do you run at the moment?

Well, that's the plan! I thought the Garmin-Ready plan on here looked sensible:
This one
MPW this month - not enough, been doing too many races! Once Bath Tri and Bristol Half are out of the way I'll be back up to 40-50 a week.
Thanks again guys! 

Blisters    pirate
14/09/2012 at 23:07

Pethead, you must be camping in my back yard. (Glos)

London is pretty damn special.
My maxim was that if I only ever did one marathon it had to be London. It holds true. Out of the 17 I've now completed, 6 were at London. You need to be in Pen 1 for a 2:40 to 2:59 attempt. When you pick up your numbered envelope, it's VITAL to check which pen you've been allocated. As a newbie they may think that you're pulling their leg and give you pen 3 or 4. Simply refuse and ensure that you get pen 1. They are real people who want to make the event go well, so they will make such changes.

Glouester marathon is a January rarity. It is 7 minutes slower than London due to the undulations of the Epney/Longney loop. You might spot 5 spectators, whereas it's 5 deep in the quiet parts of London. Not as much cow sh.t in London though.

15/09/2012 at 00:19

My firs mara was VLM, it's fantastic, you'll love it. Forget what your HM time is, it's a completely different beast. There's no reason why you shouldn't make it your first.

However, you will not run a 2.39 off a 1.20. That's an odd race time predictor you're using. Even say a 2.47 will be tough unless you suddenly turn in a sub 1.17 HM.
Key is to set a time (probably 2.55) and then stick to it, period. It's so easy to get carried away and go for a faster time as the first 13.1 miles will feel like you're walking.

I was down as pen 3 but managed to sneak into pen 1 and had a clear race, but they've really tightened up on this.

Edited: 15/09/2012 at 00:21
15/09/2012 at 05:32
Pethead,

My first marathon was a "Local race, for local people" type of affair. Running several miles with little or no crowd, and running well over 10 miles without seeing another competitor was 'interesting'. I'm looking forward to the contrast of VLM.

Personally I would make VLM your first, giving yourself every opportunity in April. gloucester is toward the end of January, and racing this could really interfere with a structured 18 week plan (don't underestimate the recovery time).

I would focus on your running base this year, and then onto the mara training in Dec/Jan.
15/09/2012 at 07:10

Regarding pens, if you do need to upgrade yourself - if, say, you've been allocated pen 3 or 4, take some evidence of recent race times with you to the Expo.  There's no guarantee they'll get you right up the front but they are open to suggestion.  My guesstimate time for my first marathon was 3:30 but I managed to upgrade from pen 4 to pen 2  by showing them my 1:23 HM time.  Pen 2 meant I was jogging over the start line and only had a few seconds to make up to get right back on pace.  Pen 1, you're laughing.

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