Posted: 15/10/2014 at 09:58
Going into a marathon half baked is a little intimidating. Knowing that you haven't managed to do the long, quality runs that are essential to coping with the last 6 miles is thought provoking. We hope to dodge 'the wall' but to anticipate it with certainty is sobering.
Fortunately I had Malcs, Reiki and Sarah to calm the pre-race nerves. Their camaraderie was appreciated more than they realise. I had set the goal of finishing just under 4 hours but I am competitive and needed to reign in the beast.
Fortune smiled on me again as I bumped into a friend Jack on the start line, the easy banter distracting me from the task at hand. I was in zone one and could see the start line from my point. The plan of action was start slow, run easy for 20 miles, hold off the cramps and then grind out 6 painful miles. Fortunately the day was cool and foggy.
The first few miles were all about settling into a rhythm and enjoying the support. York Minster with bells pealing, coming out of the ghostly gloom was quite a sight. The undulating course suited my preferred method of running. I had latched onto a '100 Marathon Club' runner and followed his line. He looked like running 'as the crow flies' and I sought to take advantage of that whilst my clear head lasted.
I was ticking off the miles with a consistent 8min pace and had the 3h30 pacer in sight in the foreground. I wasn't daft enough to try and reign him in. At the first turn point I saw Jack ahead by 300m. Like Malcs I enjoyed running near the dividing line, seeing the runners ahead and behind. I find it distracts me from the task at hand for a short while.
At the second turn point at Mile 18 I saw this dazzling vision of Asiics apparel cruising along at a cracking pace. Malcs was looking very controlled and focused. He was over a mile ahead at that point and I could see a phenomenal time was on the cards. I also saw Sarah a small way behind me and was confident I would break 4 hours at this point. I also stumbled across the Huddersfield parkrun cheering squad. Unbeknown to me, a few of the guys and gals had made the trip. Again I was reminded of the camaraderie that comes from this amazing initiative. With their cheers ringing in my ears I floated through to mile 20.
You can run, but you can't hide. Someone once said the two halves of a marathon are 20m and 6m respectively. The cramps that I had kept at bay started to jangle a little and I had to adjust my pace, cadence and stride length at times. From a confident 8m/mile I felt myself drift into the blackness. Does anyone else get that focused glazed look with tunnel vision when things get tough? Suddenly 9m/miles were an effort. Those damned mile markers kept coming through what felt like every 3 miles. I saw people whizz past me whilst I overtook people walking. In that time I must have overtaken Tom Williams from Marathon talk who was apparently having a worse time than I was (Yeh gods!)
Drawing on ultra-marathon experience I kept running (maybe shuffling) and watched 23-25miles slide past slowly. I didn't know about the last hill leading to to the finish point. I nearly broke at that point but just ground the teeth and shuffled up at a pace that would have embarrassed a fast walker. Over the top and into the triumphant home straight......
Cramp! 30m from the line! In front of all the cameras and mass crowds, I ground to the first and only halt of the race. With the clock ticking mercilessly I wrapped the last shreds of dignity around me and tottered to the line, looking like the tin man from the 'Wizard of Oz'.
3h43min41secs. Not my best, but perhaps my most controlled marathon. I knew my conditioning was suspect, came up with a race plan and executed it perfectly. This is a result I am proud of.
Fortune smiled on me again as I bumped into Reiki an