Well, my Virgin London Marathon in 2010 was supposed to be a triumph. I had racked up more miles than ever and was, I hoped, heading for a glorious 2:59.59.
It was not to be, and really I knew that before I started. I was in the Good for Age start on the front of the red posse. I wasn’t feeling great. During sixteen weeks of training I had taken four off with injury, the most recent being the week before the marathon. A very gentle four-mile run on the Friday beforehand had only just worked out and I was nursing a problematic ankle.
I decided that however I felt I would launch off at sub-3:00 pace, and would see what happened. In all honesty it went OK until about Mile 9, but my head started playing games with me from Mile 3. My ankle was fine, but I was running with a flatter gait to protect it. This made me feel my quads and I was convinced I was doomed - failure was all I could think about. Everyone was telling me I was looking fine but inside I was a boiling cauldron of negative thoughts.
I made it to halfway in 1:30 dead. That would have been one thing had I been feeling fine. But I'd run a half that for me was relatively slow and despite this, was feeling like death. Several runners I knew had overtaken me and in all honesty I gave up trying. I decided that so long as I didn’t have the indignity of having to walk I would be fine.
So, as the race went on I steadily lost time running 8-minute miles all the way. The support at Mile 17 was great. I threw off my vest as I was far too hot and hit some poor supporter right in the face.
I have to say too that the crowd support was great. Without my vest, I had loads of cheers - "Go naked man!" and one St. John's Ambulance girl shouted "Rub some vaz on for the girls!" ! I really didn’t know I could have that effect.
Gradually, once I woke up and listened to the enthusiasm of the day, the crowd began to have an effect and I eventually picked my head up, stopped staring at my shoes and enjoyed the last two miles. Finally, a sprint finish to the aptly increasing pace of Zorba’s dance saw me over the line in 3:18. This was a time that years ago I would have killed for but which now is not just a miss, but a miss by nearly three miles!
On reflection I now realise I have made a number of mistakes. In training, I decided to focus on mileage rather than quality training. Running 80 poor miles a week (rather than 60 quality ones) was a mistake and I do really need to remind myself of the mantra "PMA not PMT". That's Positive Mental Attitude not Pre-Marathon Tension.