It’s done, in short I’m really thrilled to have finished with an apparent chip time of 3:34:58 and what turned out to be a much better run than I’d feared might have taken place given a very disrupted training program from January.
My stretch target was to basically follow the 3:30 pacer around the course and basically overtake them on the finish line to sneak in at sub 3:30 but despite going into January with a good level of base fitness and mileage I struggled with a knee injury and then spent most of Feb-April catching seemingly every cold going around meaning that around week 4 of my training plan I started having to deviate and drop runs and mileage in order to rest and recover.
The initial plan was to include speed work in the form of fartlek once or twice a week and to eventually build to around 45-50 miles a week following a standard plan 3:30 pace from Runners World which I’d modified slightly to account for the fact that my run to work in the morning is 5-6 miles instead of the 3-4 outlined in the plan. I’m comfortable enough with allowing some flexibility and tweaking and the big change for me at this early stage in my running “life” is the long sunday run is now done at a set pace that was faster than I’d typically been used to plodding at but the aim obviously is to get to a point where race pace (8:00/mile) is comfortable and sustainable.
Ultimately the injuries and illnesses meant the longest run I’d managed during training was 15 miles. Not enough. Not by a long stretch.
Last years Manchester Marathon was nothing short of an organisational disaster, with utterly dreadful weather and incompetence on so many levels by the company running the event I was honestly amazed nobody died. This year, they took on board all the feedback and came back with a new flat course that remained in the city rather than going through the outskirts and the race village was at Old Trafford instead of some sodden muddy park last year.
It made it a lot easier to get ready and was certainly more organised but I did feel there was a distinct lack of signage when entering the city and then very little direction to official parking.
On to the race itself, having studied the course and availability of gels & drinks etc, I’d decided to carry 3 gels from the start and take them at 5, 10 and 15 miles then pick up some Clif Shot blocks at the closing aid stations as I’d had them before and knew they were a “safe” option on race day.
The plan for running with the knowledge of my lack of distance training was basically to follow the 3:30 pacer for as long as possible and then basically jog in at an easier pace according to how I felt. I knew I’d be OK at the 8:00 pace for about 15 miles and also figured race day adrenaline would help carry me along another couple of miles. As it turned out, I made it to 20-21 miles at the pace before my lack of fitness caught up with me and I hit the wall.
The pacer went out fast, around 7:40-7:50 miles and there was only one mile in the first 15 that was over 8:00 pace (8:05) but then he eased up a little and I believe eventually finished around 3:27 but I had to let him go around 21 miles, I just couldn’t keep my form or pace steady. Still, happy to have got that far at that pace to be honest.
I’d had stomach issues (which necessitated a 2 minute porta loo #2 break at 8 miles!) which I still need to work on generally and again they cropped up a little towards the end but it was amazing I’d lasted that long to be honest.
I was really pleased I was able to run through 20 miles at a sub 8:00 pace in comfort, I went through 13.1 miles in around 1:44 very comfortably which was pleasing. I’d definitely run within myself so I’d be confident with an uninterrupted training program I could run into the 3:2x:00 range next time (if there is a next time). I wanted to tick off a flat road marathon just to see what sort of time I was capable of at the moment and that’s now done.
My longer term goals this year are trail ultras and I’ve got a 50 miler (Dusk til Dawn daylight) in May, Thunder Run in July and then the Hardmoors 60 in September so my main goal is to improve my running style and efficiency over long periods of time on my feet and this was a good outing for many reasons.
Being a student
One of the things I’ve learnt leading up to the marathon and during the race itself is that good preparation and planning is something that can make a difference of minutes over the course of a long race. I’d planned in advance when I was going to use my gels, when I’d pick up more and unlike previous races I’d not gone Forrest Gump from the start and paid attention to how I felt knowing what sort of time I should arrive at certain stages of the course and it made a big difference.
I’d expected to blow up in the closing miles due to the lack of training and while it was painful and not pretty losing around 5-6 minutes in as many miles, it didn’t phase me and I stuck to the task about as well as I’d hoped for.
One of the things that last years race got slammed for was the frankly dire organisation from start to finish, rightly so. It was bordering on negligent and dangerous. This year was a massive improvement across the board apart from perhaps a bit of missing direction to parking and my wife said the trams getting out to the halfway point were chaos, I’m not sure if that’s the fault of the race organisers or the tram company.
The race village was well organised and bag drop was very quick and easy. There weren’t enough toilets but I’m not sure there ever will be at a mass participation event where pre-race nerves kick in 20 minutes before the gun!
The new course meant better access for supporters and all round the course they were wonderful. It was great fun high fiving kids on the way round and great to see so many of them getting into the spirit of supporting sport. The looping nature of the course also meant it was possible at a couple of points to see the elites speeding past in the other direction and then for me to see the other folks behind my pace. I really liked that as it was possible to be inspired by the speedsters and to cheer on the folks behind.
One of the disappointing aspects following the race was getting home to try and see official times and splits on the official website to find it hadn’t changed at all (not even a check here for results later link or anything). As a web designer, I would have pre-planned a race day change to the site to give links or results etc once the winner had crossed the line. Fuller results could follow but I’d have liked that to have been better managed.
A great day out all in all, perfect running weather, a much better course, a massive PB and a performance I was very happy with. Can’t complain too much really!