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Race Report Newport Marathon 2018 - 3:22:56 (a 77 second PB)
Background: Four marathons up to 2015 had yielded
stagnated times between 3:45 and 3:49, then a big 21 minute PB in Manchester
2016 (3.24), followed by a steady decline, and felt lucky to break 3:30 in
Manch 2017. I decided on a loose 12
month plan to seriously target 3:20 GFA time in Spring 2018 and signed up for a
mountain marathon, a 75 mile ultra and a semi-serious
Chester marathon to try to make sure I
didn't lose my spring marathon fitness - and build a good endurance base
through 2017, ready to attack spring 18.
It went pretty much to plan until a short semi-break in November turned
into a longer break, for no very good reason, and I was then wiped out with flu
until mid-Jan, so somewhat disappointed and I decided to target Newport at the
end of April to give me 15wks rather than 12wks to Manchester - I made a hybrid
15wk P&D plan up to 55 miles.
never come close to sticking to actual P&D but this time I made my best
attempt. Comparing the 14wk leading up to marathon week, my total mileage was
528 compared to 545 in 2016, so near as damn it the same, but this time I was
much more consistent in the most critical months, with 7 consecutive weeks
exceeding 40 miles (I was very surprised to find that never before in my life
had I exceeded two consecutive 40-mile weeks).
And also this time, I had 10 consecutive weeks with a long run of at
least 16m (including 26m in Manchester 3 weeks ago!)... again, I've never come close to that
before. The other side of the coin is
that I did fewer MLRs, so something to improve there... and also I averaged
about 1.5 strength / conditioning sessions per week which is by miles the best
I've ever done! I'm sure it helped, but
plenty of room for improvement! Did I
miss a day's training through injury? I don't remember doing so. The other key
thing I did over the last 3 or 4 months was to slowly chip away at my weight
and was delighted to reach racing weight (as per Manch 2016) during the last
to pick up a cold which didn't really develop much but limited me to one 2.9m
run on the Tuesday and that was that...
and then it started to get a bit worse on race weekend, leading me to
have only 4.5hrs sleep the night before the race. I've had much worse colds, but I was bunged
up, a bit sneezy... and just not feeling quite 100%. Lots of machinations about the pace I should
aim for but I finalised on setting out about 7.30-7.33 pace, allowing for a
small fade... but my prediction all
along was that I was in about 3.22 shape and just hoping I was a bit stronger - enough to achieve that
required average of 7.37 pace to dip under 3.20 (even though this is no longer
GFA, after changes announced a couple of weeks ago).
It felt really odd to be at home the evening before the race. Other than the cold symptoms, everything else went perfecty. Woke up to ideal cool dry weather - the wind they'd been forecasting all week just never materialised. OK, a cool northerly breeze at times, but it was of little hindrance and late in the race, I actually found running into the cold air helpful at a time I was feeling hot and uncomfortable. Travel was really easy, with my wife and younger daughter coming to support - along with loads of others from Spirit of Monmouth running club. Parked up easily but round the other side of town, the Park & Ride was suffering chaos which led to 30 minute delay to the race start. I found this helpful. We'd had a big pre-race club meet-up and once I'd dropped my bags I was going to have to head straight to the 9am start but the delay gave me time on my own to fully relax, then gently jog and stretch. I must learn from that... I got to the start line feeling really good.
Ah.. the race. Even though I was (to my mind) a bit embarrassingly near the front, it was still a bit congested in the first half mile which had to be done about 8.15 pace but after that, soon got into rhythm around 7:30 for the first 3 miles before easing up a bit to around 7.35 as we went out into some lovely countryside and lanes. There were pockets of good support and great to see Monmouth people dotted around the course. There was no better support than in the village of Magor around the 10 mile mark, where I saw Jooligan and such was the intimate atmosphere of this race, it felt like I'd had a reasonable conversation with him without ever slowing down. At the time I knew I was going OK but also had a good idea that 3.20 would be elusive - not confident I was in quite good enough shape, especially after my short sleep slight cold.
Got to half way in 1:39:31. About 30s behind my plan. Whilst my HM pb is 1:33:xx from 2016, I've just checked and this is the only other time I've raced sub-100 minutes for a half marathon distance! I really should train specifically for one because I did it in training in March.
Now calculating that I need 7.39 pace in the second half for a 3:20, and whilst I kept to that for quite a while I'd used up my buffer by mile 19 - exactly avg 7.37 at that point but it's becoming all a bigger effort and I'm recalculating that I have 7 miles to go and a 4 minute buffer on my existing PB... that's roughly 30s per mile, so 8.07 pace. I get 7.56 for mile 20 then mile 21 is just horrible. Feeling a bit unwell (only slightly... but seemed discernable from normal tiredness) - hot. Tired. I found tipping cold water down my back helped. I reached a point of excellent support including a big contingent from my club, which I didn't even see because I'd put myself into zombie-autopilot mode, ignoring it all and just hoping to survive to a point where it felt better again.. which it sort of did after 15 mins or so. But surprised that I'm still achieving 8.0x for 21, 22 & 23 - it felt slower. Hitting the 23 mile mark is always a big morale boost.. a park run to go. I soon see Jooligan again at the start of an out-and-back stretch that I know very well as it's the street on which I work. They put the turn point at 0.6m just after the road narrowed markedly, making for an uncomforably sharp about-turn. About 30-40s later, I'm surprised to get a shout from a fast club-mate who must be at least a minute behind me, and I realise that I must be the lead runner from my club (the really fast ones weren't racing). Soon back to the end of the road where Jooligan's running aside me telling me to lift my bloody knees and I get a momentary boost but whilst I think back to running sub-8, my watch says 8.16 and I need 8.30s to get the pb so I can't slow further.
My fast club colleague had now got a target and a lift from seeing me and he swept past me just before 25. I did that mile in 8.22 and recalculated again and realise approx 9min/mile would be enough to scrape a PB - and now it was my turn to get a lift from seeing my colleague ahead. I got on my toes and as so often before in marathons I shook off the slow-twitch muscle fibres, told the fast-twitch ones to take their bloody turn for remaining 1.2 miles... and I just slowly ramped up the pace for 8.01 confident I'd bagged it... and as I approached the 26 mile marker at 3:21:40, a bit of pre-planning came off. Before the race, I'd worked out that if I was anywhere near 80 seconds off some target at the 26 mile point, then I should absolutely leg it because that's about the limit of what I could possibly do in the home stretch... and of course I now realise I'm just in that window to go for sub 3.23. So with the crowds narrowing the course either side, the cheering, my wife and little girl shouting and the sight of the gantry ahead, I was like Usain Bolt flying down the course and having time to ease off slightly with a beaming smile and punching the air. About 30s after the finish, the smile wobbles and I'm hunched over the fence holding back tears. My mate's beaten me by 7 seconds but I can't believe I'm back to where I was 2 years ago - and even a bit better. Manage to hold it together as I chat to a couple of other strangers I'd met en route, but very emotional for at least 10 minutes. To be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Truly delighted with 3.22.x - of course I'd have loved 3.19.x but genuinely that feels a minor footnote and hopefully for another day... maybe in 12 months when it would be good enough for GFA. As it is, I now have a marathon age-graded percentage that exceeds 70% for the first time and whilst I had felt a bit self conscious at the start, being pretty close to the start-line, it was unfounded because I finished the race with even fewer people in front of me. My positions at various timing mats were 5k = 361, 10K = 369 10M = 372 HM =358 15.5M = 351 21m= 315 23=300 Finish=286. So although I suffered in the closing miles, of all the runners in front of me at the painful 21 mile mark, I had effectively overtaken 10% of them by the the end - and half splits of 1:39:31/1:42:24 shows the least discernable fade I've had since a positive split in Chester in 2013 (about 20s less fade than previous pb), so I didn't get the pacing badly wrong. I came 290th (by chip) out of a field of about 3500 finishers and 18th out of about 230 in my gender/age category, which a) sounds pretty darned good to be well inside the top 10% and b) sounds like an indication that the field wasn't particularly strong for this inaugural event. I bet it's a lot stronger next year when word gets round about what a lovely, peaceful flat route this is. I really loved the vibe. So, now a week's rest then I'll have 7 weeks before I'm on the start-line of the Pen Llyn Ultra - better find out what hills are again, PDQ!
Jooligan: still having problems with the knee so just doing what I can, big bike miles at the weekend
Good work on the new PB NE
Make that 2:53 marathon sound easy Tom
Just remember P&D recommends a 5 week post marathon recovery Spoons, so it will take time to feel 'normal' again
Have you devised a run/walk strategy for the ultra Macca?
Hope the flu shifts John
Congratulations on the new job Reg!
8 miles for me yesterday at 6:55 pace, was rather unpleasant with hills, niggling knee, constant sweat in eyes and after the gym at lunch. Also did the hill segment AWC did the other day and nabbed 2nd place. Sensibly rested today
Good luck for the TP100 Macca!
Get well soon John.
Congrats on the job Reg.
Paragliding sounds fun Hazel!
Always hard with issues like that SQ, as you never quite know if it’ll develop or just go away. But might pay to get it looked at now, before it becomes an issue, if it doesn’t improve soon.
Great report NE, and congrats again. Love that you worked out how fast you’d be able to cover the last bit ahead of time, really good idea. Maybe I should have done that at Manchester lol.
I had a lovely sunny 10 miles along the canal yesterday. This morning was the polar opposite - wet, windy and miserable - but thankfully just the five. I had originally hoped to begin my 12 week plan for the Bourton Mile this week, but don’t feel quite ready to start with faster stuff so have backed off a bit. Might do a light stride session tomorrow or Friday, depending on how I feel.
Congrats on the new job Reg.
Good luck on Saturday Macca-What's your pacing strategy going to be?
Jools-great cycling and spectating on Sunday. I do recall someone shouting my name at 24 miles (must have been you!) but I was in a bit of a trance like state so didn't really register....
Glad all those who endured VLM seem to be recovering well. No need to rush back into anything serious.
I would take it very easy for a few more days SQ before seeking professional help if still not right then.
Loved the report NE-a joy to read! You judged the pace very well and dug in when it mattered-excellent work and a well deserved PB.
My report is rather brief (particularly when compared to NE's) but here it is anyway:
It was a very odd but pleasant experience being able to sleep in my own bed the night before a marathon. I was fairly relaxed as I wasn't going to be racing it and had no time pressure to worry about so had no problem getting 8 hours before the alarm went off at 5:30 am.
I then drove by myself the 45 minute journey to Newport (wife and son came on the train a bit later to see me at the finish) and arrived in plenty of time to find a parking space bang in the city centre. After the usual toilet adventures, lengthy baggage drop queue and half-hearted warm up I made my way to the start line to discover the race had been delayed by half an hour due to problems with the park and ride etc. This made me slightly annoyed (mainly because it was cold and I wanted to get on with it) but luckily the start was right next to the university campus café which was open and full of runners waiting and staying warm. I went inside, walked through the crowds and discovered a large sofa completely unoccupied. the invitation to lie down for 15 minutes was one I couldn't resist!
Finally the time came to get under way and the there was a significant crowd which had built around the start and down the fist stretch of road. I had made the decision to take it very easy for the first part of the race with the possibility of speeding up if I had it in me later on. Holding back on pace is something I struggle with so when the gun went I deliberately settled in behind someone who seemed to be going very slowly......I felt like I was barley jogging....and there I stayed for 3 miles! In fact the fist 10 miles I spent almost on autopilot at the back of a group of 6 or 7 just ahead of the 3 hour pacer. I was just looking around at the lovely country views, having a chat and generally just running very easily until we reached a village/town (not sure which) called Magor where the crowds were immense and the atmosphere was electric. I got a sudden urge of adrenaline and took of ahead of the group. I then found another pair to draft behind up to the half way point and noticed I had gone through in 1:27:59. I was feeling pretty good at this point so decided to pick up the pace again. The nect10 miles were great fun as I picked off target after target on the road ahead. No groups.....just individual runners in my sights all coming back to me. Sometime I would run on their shoulders for a while and then go again, sometime I would just go straight past to see who was next-this is the way to run a marathon! I have never felt so good at 16-20 miles in a marathon and I was enjoying it so much that I was smiling and thanking those few who were out supporting at various points.
I would love to say it was all plain sailing to the finish but that would be lying. I had a bit of a bad patch between 23-25 miles where I could no longer pick up the pace and it was really hard work to maintain. I was in the zone though and this wasn't going to stop me from finishing strongly and I dually quickened up again in the final mile and was even able to put in a sprint finish as the noise from the crowds up the finishing straight got the adrenaline pumping once again! My finishing time of 2:53:34 was much more than I was expecting and to run a negative split in a marathon is very rewarding-certainly far more enjoyable than burying yourself and then hanging on grimly (as is my own previous experiences). I was fine afterwards. fairly tired and sore the following day but was able to run yesterday and again this morning with no problems and the legs feel decent.
What's next? I have a local 10k in 2 weeks and another local HM in June. Both of which will be laid back casual affairs with few expectations. I wont be doing a marathon in the Autumn so will be targeting a 10 mile race in September and then Cardiff Half in October as PB attempts. This should be no problem with the 10 mile race as I haven't raced one before! I may even attempt to get to Cardiff Park Run at some point in the summer if the Mrs lets me!
Nice work with the long run, Hazel. Sounds like motivation is high.
Great consistency, SteveMac.
Bodes well for your ultra.
Good to see you’re getting back into it, spoons. Let me know when you’re up for
a track session. Next week? Thank you for the hamstring advice. Will see how it
responds to some faster work next week and then point an appointment as
Hope you’re on the mend, Millsy.
You do love a puncture, Joe.
Excellent commitment to get it all done.
Excellent report, Tom.
It’s making me want to enter a trail marathon where time is of zero importance.
Loved how much you enjoyed it.
Easing back into then Jooligan,
with consecutive reps session, 1M, 5k days! Hope the pop returns soon.
After yesterday’s abhorrent weather, it was a pleasure to be
out in 5C sunny and still weather this morning. 8 and a bit miles in the
countryside with some strides on grass to finish. The strides were probably
pretty slow, but it was nice to change pace. Considering a parkrun effort this Saturday,
childcare dependent. Weather for then looks amazing too.
Looks like spring is back just in time for the bank holiday weekend
Nice long run Hazel and shows you're in decent shape to run a mara if you decide to go down that route
Sounds like some conditioning work might be the key Millsy
May sound harsh but I had a little chuckle at your multiple strava posts yesterday Joe
If I was you Tom concentrate on some more speed based work over the summer for 5/10km and then that will set you up nicey to up the mileage ready for the 10 mile and half
You'll still have the marathon in the legs Jools, it will take time for the speed to return so slowly does it
35 mins last night feeling much better than Monday followed by 45mins this morning, felt like hard work. Started on some exercises last night to increase my rotation in my hips to see if that has any benefit, turns out mine is incredibly poor
Hope the physio advice helps Millsy.
Terrible luck with the punctures again Joe. Get it out of the way now though eh?!
Great report Tom, sounds like a fun way to run a marathon!
Not wasting any time get back to racing Jooligan! Annoying about the track not being certified. Do I remember you saying it’s an old school 440 yard track?
Good work making full use of the gap between jobs Reg.
Good luck for parkrun SQ if you do it. Will contact you about next week.
My heart rate seems to have made some progress over the week, which is reassuring. Still higher than “normal”, but by 5-10 beats now, rather than 20! Did a small strides session this morning just to get the legs turning over again. Hopefully I can make a proper start on the McMillan plan I’m using for the mile next week.