Marathon reflections

One week down the proverbial road and I’ve had chance to reflect on my first marathon experience so I thought I might share these thoughts.

On the race itself

I maintain that the weather conditions were probably the major factor. The newspaper interview with the winner also mentioned the conditions as a major factor (he mentioned a planned 2:24 but actually won in just under 2:31). Probably not so much the cold but the combination of cold and wet really saps the strength – a really big lesson learned.

On the distance

I underestimated the effort definitely. Having completed numerous half-marathons I didn’t think the difference would be too huge in overall effort terms. But as the famous saying regarding children goes “two is more than double the trouble” and this is certainly the case with the marathon. Whilst I completed a number of training runs in the 2:30 range, I think next time I might go for a couple of longer run, maybe three hours or so.

On the running surface

I do most of my running off road and over hilly terrain. The marathon itself was flat and ridiculous as it might seem I missed the “relief” of occasional downhill stretches. Also running on tarmac for over three hours is probably the main reason I still have some calf stiffness after a week. I think the answer here is training specificity and next time I will probably try and include some more tarmac work.

One the pace

I figured I was easily in sub 3:30 pace, but my opening 10k and half marathon put me in the 3:15 bracket. Given that and the conditions I probably committed the classic error or going off too fast – and how did I pay for that? Caution should have been the order of the day especially given the mild infection I had in the week before.
Other factors that had an impact was the fact that I chose to use my camelbak for carrying drinks, in fact there was plenty of drinks stations and I didn’t actually take a drink from my own supply until almost 40k, other than that it was just an increasingly irritating burden.

But I have to reflect that this time last year – as a 30 a day smoker – I could barely run 2.6 miles never mind 26. I should also reflect that as recently as April I set a time for the half marathon of 1:36, hardly a lot faster than that which I achieved for the first half of the marathon.
PS I am a desperately sad bloke for stats so here are some interesting (not!) figures.
Of 1,140 male runners only 69 ran a negative split.
On average each runner ran the final 16.5km 9 minutes and 36 seconds slower than the 16.5 km before that.
I was in 232 position at 10k and 282 position by 26,5k but finished in 491st, losing over 200 places over the last 16.5k
In percentage terms I was the 1,050 th worst runner over the last 16.5k (based on slowing)
Of the 232 people who were ahead of me at 10k only 6 finished behind me.


  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    Martin, reading through your post I would probably say that the biggest "mistake" was starting off too fast. The fact that you've not run over 2:30 in training shouldn't matter too much if you've done these runs at marathon pace.

    I assume that you've decided not to do the marathon you planned on doing? Was it next weekend?
  • Drew - I think you could be right, its difficult to say how much the conditions came into it but I think the combination of the two was disasterous.

    No I haven't yet definitely binned plans for the marathon - its Frankfurt in two weeks. I still feel pretty tired and I'll see how I feel next weekend.

    Watch this space

    PS Well done on your 10k PB a really excellent result.
  • PB - to be honest I never felt either hungry or thirsty. During the race I drank at every station and ate banana through the race. Also I had half a litre of Isostar when I woke up and a further half litre in the hour before the race (bleeeh! Can no longer face Iso!).
  • Martin,

    Great post - those stats are really interesting as I am planning to go for a marathon next year. You've probably posted all this somewhere else but what was the marathon and how did you get all those stats? Can I ask what your finishing time was ?

    Well done anyway - your half marathon time from April is about the same as mine from earlier this year so I guess I have some work to do before I go for that marathon!
  • Martin,

    I'm really impressed by your thoughtful take on your race. Whenever it goes wrong for me I just get really annoyed and try to blank the whole experience out of my mind (race...what race ... no spent the weekend gardening!)
  • Martin,

    Yes, some of those stats are desperately sad ;-).
    Others are absolutely fascinating though - in particular, the one about the number of negative splits. If they're that rare over a marathon, what about shorter distances?

    I'll bet there were none at all in the 10K I ran yesterday!
  • Popsider - or should I say Fabrizio. The marathon was the 3 countries marathon in southern Germany (I live in Germany). The stats were available on the website, I just downloaded them to an excel sheet and then analysed them every way possible (still didn't get any faster!). My time was 3:40 but I was aiming for sub 3:30. If you can run a half marathon easily then you'll be ready for a marathon in no time.

    Parky - I tend to do the same but I don't dwell on bad results. I think for the marathon it probably warrants preparing a bit better for next time. I did forget to add the full "what I would do next time bit". This is:

    1. Start slower - aim for even pace target time and be pleased if still feeling good at halfway. The psychological damage of over 200 people passing me in the final 16k was huge.
    2. Wear an HRM - I ignored advice and left mine at home, this might have stopped me over-cooking it.
    3. Watch the waether conditions and dress appropriately.
  • Mike - I agree the one about the negative splits was particularly interesting (I'm less interested in those which morbidly demonstrate my own rate of slowing) especially when ALL advice is about running even paced.

    Interestingly all but 12 of those running negative splits finished outside of 3:30. Perhaps were all pathalogical fast starters.
  • Hi guys, I'd like to try one of these 'negative splits' in a race, but considering the time you spend preparing for a full marathon it's a bit of a waste if it all go's t*ts-up ! I just can't see myself running the last 6 miles at the same/faster speed than I would run the first half of the race. I'm sure achieving your target is more about getting tons of quality miles under your belt rather than doing a neg. split. In my 3 marathons I've always got to halfway on target, and always slowed dramatically over the last 6 miles, which I put down to not enough experience/miles under my belt. I might try a neg. split in my next 1/2m though, anybody out there done it successfully over the marathon ?
  • Interesting stuff. Doing my first mara in 10 days (dublin) of my conerns is going out too fast. Aiming for sub 4.15, done the training I think 3 x 20 miles, 3 x 18 miles andd lots of runs under that. Only tywo things really concern me at present 1) getting the nutrition right next week 2) wearing the right gear for the day. Cant decide whether to wear my running belt with drink + snacks or rely on the water/feed stations in the race.
  • Ian -- if you normally wear your running belt when training and it doesn't bother you, I would suggest wearing it during the race. If you don't wear it, you could become desparate and distracted for a drink halfway between stations and then you'll curse your decision not to wear it!
  • Can't see why negative splits would be such a great strategy in a marathon unless it's a matter of a very few minutes somehow made up in the final couple of miles. Even pacing must be the 'safest' strategy, if you go out very slowly hoping to do a negative split there's no telling you'll definitely make it up in the second half. And we all know going out too fast is devastating!
    In my first marathon I slowed 3 mins during the second half, but I was quite happy with that being as close to even pacing as I could expect.

    1/2m are different; get to 9/10 miles and if you can speed up you haven't got too much to lose if you subsequently run out of steam.
  • I run negative splits, in the last 5 miles or so I always pass a lot of runners who've left me for dead earlier, done it 3 times in a row to my brother and he doesn't half get mad! Our club trains to do neg. splits.
    Also - 3 hour runs are a part of our m-training schedules. Unless you're a really fast runner of course, then 3 hours is over-distance training.
  • How do you do this training Ironwolf? For someone who's done 30, you must be onto something! I would have thought you'd still pass a lot of runners even without negative splits since most runners slow towards the end. Or does this vary a lot depending on your target times?
    Also, how many 3 hr runs would you normally do as part of your marathon training?
    Can't believe I'm already thinking about it...
  • Im currently training for my first marathon (Luton,December 1). My training has gone quite well and I'm aiming to do a 21 mile run on November 3. My previous longest training run so far was a 19.5 mile in 2hr34 (7.54). What would be a realistic target time to aim for in the marathon, and does the 20 mile mark really only feel like half way
  • DustinDustin ✭✭✭
    I did the Bramley 20 miler (pre FLM) in 2.43 and ran the marathon in 3.31, I guess therefore you should be on for around 3.30 too.

    Most runners say that 20 miles is halfway, if you're ill prepared - or if you've gone off too fast - then the last 10km can be torturous.

    Good luck
  • Hi all,
    Some really interesting stuff here, so I'll add my little bit of experience for what is worth. I've run 3 marathons now, last one 2 weeks ago, and always run negative splits...last one 1:35, 1:33. Personally I think it is about confidence...if your training has gone well, and you go in fresh, and from your training have a good idea what you can do, then trust yourself and do NOT go off too fast and get ahead of WILL pay later, but stick to your pace, and trust yourself. If your are strong over the last 6m, then going past others is a tremendous feeling and carries you forward...the opposite is true if you have blown up and people are streaming past you. In my last marathon the last 10k was my fastest, and it can make a huge difference to your time, to keep pace or speed opposed to losing perhaps 1-2 mins per mile as you struggle home can make 10-15mins difference overall.
    So how do you do this...well long runs are key, you should be aiming for 5 good long runs 18-22. Plus a good medium run (10ish) mid week at a faster pace each week. Also make sure you rest well from 2 weeks before.
    During the race drink and drink some more. I do carry my own bottle for 3 reasons, 1 I do it in training and it is no bother, 2, I can get a good drink whenever I want it, (I find it really hard to get much from cups other than a load up my nose!) and 3, I use an energy drink, and I think that can always add water from drink stations as well. Oh...and do eat...banana's, energy gels, long as you do this in training and you stomach can take it...I'm lucky and I can.
    So to all of you doing your first or just another one soon, good luck, it is a great effort, but the feeling at the end of achievment is worth it.
Sign In or Register to comment.