On a cold spring morning in Paris, five runners from the UK nervously eye up the marathon miles ahead. It’s Sunday 7 April, and the culmination of our ASICS Target 26.2 spring marathon training project. The mission: to run their best ever 26.2 miles at the Paris Marathon.
Whittled down from over 1,700 applications, and following a tough Boot Camp selection day and public voting on rw.co.uk at the end of last year, our five runners Mel, Adrian, Steve, Alex and Sarah won one of five coveted spots on the ASICS Target 26.2 team – and so began their incredible journey.
Kitted out head to toe in ASICS gear and supported by coaches Sam Murphy and Steve Smythe, plus a hit squad of physiotherapy, nutrition and sports psychology ASICS PRO Team experts, our five runners diligently trained through one of the UK’s toughest winters. So, after 16 weeks of expert coaching, how did they do? Read on to find out…
They’ve fallen in ditches, slogged through snow and ice and struggled with nutritionist Ruth’s bacon ban, and now six months on from filling in the initial application form, the mission to run their first or best marathon is complete. So, the big question: how did our five runners fare at the Paris Marathon?
New PB: 3:25
Previous PB: 3:45
‘I’m not the fastest runner, but I may be the most determined,’ Sarah told us on her application. Her natural ability combined with determination helped Sarah achieve her goal of a championship qualifying time. ‘How my training went speaks for itself: I was 20 minutes under my previous PB and 10 minutes under target. It was comfortable, which I never thought possible.’
Coach Steve on Sarah:
‘3:25 is a huge PB for Sarah and she ran a quicker second half. I think she’ll go away with a very positive experience, knowing that next time she can go even quicker.’
New PB: 2:53
Previous PB: 3:06
‘Running a sub-3:00 marathon would mean the world to me,’ said Alex in the early stages of the Asics Target 26.2 project. Six months on, standing on the finish line in Paris, Alex has realised his dream. ‘This is my seventh marathon and in every single one up until now I’ve had to walk in the final stage – but this time I ran the whole way. I don’t think the race could have gone any better.’
Coach Steve on Alex:
‘Alex paced the race perfectly and came in shaving 13 minutes off his PB. It’s a brilliant achievement, and he has lots in hand to go even quicker next time.’
PB: 4:21 in her first marathon.
‘I don’t give up without a fight,’ said Mel on her application form and how true those words proved to be. Mel was unfamiliar with structured training plans, but with Sam’s coaching she came on leaps and bounds, proving to herself she was a ‘runner’. ‘It’s been an amazing experience. I feel like a runner now, even though I’ve still got all my toenails – though I did get to wear a bin bag at the beginning of the race!’
Coach Sam on Mel:
‘I was so pleased to see Mel cross the finish line with a big smile on her face. A time of 4:21 is something she should be really proud of for her first marathon.’
New PB: 3:29
Previous best: 3:44
‘I’ve reached a plateau I can’t seem to beat,’ Adrian told us on his application form. Fast forward six months and Adrian today is a lean, mean racing machine. ‘I always thought I was a runner before I did this, but I was overweight, I always started off too fast and I couldn’t run a negative split. Now I’ve learnt to run for all the right reasons and to eat the right foods, I’ll never be the same again.’
Coach Sam on Adrian:
‘Right back at the beginning when Adrian said he wanted to run 3:30, I said, “Hmm tough ask, I don’t think your times reflect that.” So to run 3:29 on the day is a fantastic achievement – I’m so proud of him.’
Injured, could not run
‘I will always look for the positives in any situation,’ said Steve in his application form. Sadly, a knee injury 12 weeks into the project meant Steve was not able to run in Paris, but his positive attitude will be key to getting him back into his running gear. ‘Paris is actually the first marathon I’ve been to watch so it’s been a scouting trip. I’m hopefully going to do an autumn marathon – just as soon as I get my knee sorted!’
Coach Sam on Steve:
‘It must have been tough for Steve to see the others in the race, but he’s got a massive amount of progress to build on when he does get back to running after his knee is repaired.’
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