Is VLM a good 1st marathon?

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?

Comments

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

     

  • Many thanks for the speedy responses guysimage
    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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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?

     

  • 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.

  • 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?

     

  • 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.

  • 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! 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Should Av Run Quicker wrote (see)

    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.

    It's not that odd, the predictor didn't say 1:20 HM = 2:39 M, that was predicting from 5K and 5M times. Apparently 1.20 HM = 2.47 M. As for HM, I ought to be a good couple of minutes quicker at Bristol this month if everything goes to plan, but even a new PB doesn't mean I need to be too ambitious when it comes to the full distance! And thanks for the advice on pens.

  • Hhhmmm interesting thread, it seems to be suggesting that if you're a slower runner, 3hrs plus, then you may as well not bother running London, and the slower you are the worse it gets. This certainly tallies with my two London experiences! I didn't enjoy either of them, too many people, can't run you're own race, speed up, slow down. So maybe all of us 3hr plus runners should just boycot it, and leave London to the sub 3's, charity runners and fancy dress brigade?

     

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