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This was meant to be an easy, enjoy the day gentle run before my ultra season commenced. Getting so close to sub 2:45 3 weeks prior threw those plans out the window. The revised plan was to aim for a slight positive split and hang on for dear life in the last 6 miles. From where I live, courtesy of a club coach, this is the most stress free marathon to get to, I appreciate I’m so lucky to have London on my doorstep. As it was a little chilly, but perfect running temp, I stayed in the marquee a bit longer, joining the pen maybe 1/2 to 3/4 back. This meant the first few miles were quite congested but most were moving at a reasonable pace so no dramas. 6:09, 6:17, 6:07, 6:06, 6:06 all on the manual lapping. I exchanged greetings with SQ along the way but no other points of note until Cutty Sark. Someone got a bit arsey when I tapped his arm as he cut across me trying to save himself a few cm’s on a turn. Whilst trying to think of a clever retort, and failing, I missed the 7 mile marker. Easy fix as a double click at 8 revealed 2x 6:15 ave. Miles ticked off nicely from 8 to 12 between 6:07s and 6:15s. Over tower bridge through a wall of noise, one of my favourite bits, I then missed 3 more mile markers but turns out they were 6:11 ave then a 6:18 mile 17. In truth, I might as well have not had a watch during this point but I was happy with my progress against those around me. Effort was noticeably rising now with pace slowing to a few 6:25s but the pace band I had, showed I had around 40s in the bank. I missed another mile marker at 18 but still on course at 19. I was aware the blue line was a bit easier to follow than usual and I was still passing more than being passed by. With the gps messed up around Canary Wharf and missing a few markers I wasn’t sure exactly what mile I was in. I saw a km marker ahead starting with a 3 but as it seemed to be directly behind a lamp post I couldn’t tell what the 2nd digit was. I was pleasantly surprised it was 35km so 7km to go, errmmm, somewhere between 3 and 6 miles ! The 2nd of 2 club cheering points was at Blackfriars so looking forward to it for a mile and the high for a mile or so afterwards took care of up to 25miles. Effort was maxing out now and paced had slipped slightly but there was a decent buffer or so I thought. 2 track laps to go at 800m looked ok but at 600m not so. I think I was working off 90sec laps (6 min mile pace) which in hindsight I clearly wasn’t running at. It dawned on me that this could be another 2:45:xx. I tried not to look at my watch too much just concentrating on getting to the line. Over the line it read 2:44:57 - for a moment I worried I had started it too late and stopped it too early and 3 secs might be added on but I soon dismissed those fears and enjoyed the long walk back to the last baggage lorry like never before. A few beers with some threadsters then a few more with the club and it was the reactions of others that finally made it sink in. I like this stat, 1st half passed 2504 passed by 28, 2nd half 296 / 25 - it did feel that way. It reads a bit numbers focussed, and it was meant to be but it was impossible not to take in everything else on the day. No better place to go sub 2:45 imho. No time to dwell too much, I had 5 days to recover for an ultra.
achieving ‘Good for age’, for me at least, took a twin-pronged attack. Training to get faster - as hard as I
reasonably could - and, alongside that, a steadfast determination
to get older. I achieved both, partly by following the 18wk P&D up to 55
programme more closely than I’ve done previously (about 650 of the ~784 miles
ticked off... including a decent
proportion of the higher quality runs) – and partly by selecting Newport
marathon which is genuinely beautiful, flat, fast, and crucially took place in
May, a couple of weeks after my 55th birthday. The mileage was
almost identical to my breakthrough Manchester campaign of 2016 (3:24) but
exactly 100 miles more than Newport last year when I got a small pb of 3:22:56
off 550 miles – although this year, I really have to consider that I started
from a very low base.
also blessed to have zero injuries - zero illnesses in this year’s campaign.
The run up to it could hardly have been worse though. Jun-Sept... very very
low mileage. Then only ran in
one of the four weeks of November and only had my trainers on once in
December. But literally on January 1st,
still with a couple of antibiotics to take and a stone heavier than Newport ‘18,
I started my 18 week journey. Half way
through, in early March, I’d averaged 37mpw so was really disappointed to do
Newport half in 1:39:57. But within a
week, I suddenly started to see real changes in my training performances
and 9 weeks on I was ready to go, in the belief that I was in the same or
marginally better shape as 2018. But without racing I wasn’t sure (I knew I was
much better than the half suggested... but I’d missed doing my key Park Run 2 weeks before
I overslept, so didn’t have that info to work with). A heavy investment in some
very light Vaporfly shoes, sort of helped my confidence even though I’d not
tried them in anger.
much study of my detailed training and race records, I hatched a plan to go against
P&D and go for a negative split – something I hadn’t done since my first
two marathons in 2012 and 2013. Last year’s near 4 minute +ve split was typical
of all my marathons since – tending to fade around the 18-20m mark. In fact, it was better than most (or
all) of them. Cutting the story
down... I created a pace chart with each
of the first 7 miles slower than 7:37 target pace... mile 8 was the transition mile (exact MP),
then 7.34 pace all the way, passing half way at 1:40:31 with a negative split
to get me home with 15 seconds to spare.
A really key part of the plan was to make sure that I arrived at mile 7
with a full load of fuel and water.
has a plan gone so well!
final bit of preamble... in the last 2 weeks, especially the last week, I was
ultra disciplined with my sleep. Race
day eve came,
I was well prepared and although I was slightly late to bed, I was tucked up by 11.30... alarm set for 6am. I got up for a wee – three times and amazed
it’s still dark. It’s 3am. Obviously I’d
overhydrated and over excited! This time my brain woke up and after a while I’m eating
cornflakes watching TV... random running
videos – mostly rubbish – but one extolling the virtues of going out slow, one
on Kipchoge’s running form... and one of some random yank spouting on about the
importance of cadence - these all proved really beneficial later in the
day. It was definitely after 4.45 before
I got back to sleep. Not ideal, but I knew I’d be ok.
bed for 5.50am, trainers on, wrapped up and straight
out for a mile very light jog
on a beautiful frosty morning. I really
like doing this on race day. I buy into
the people who say that the early natural light, the air, the exercise start the
body’s waking process effectively so that you’re really ready to go by
nine. Back for porridge and drinks, bags packed and drive 30min to Newport and by
8.10am I’m with club mates. All goes
super smooth. The weather was perfect. Cool / clear
/ still. Squeeze
through the pen about half way between the 3.15 and 3.30 pacers... and soon
enough, we’re off. 20 seconds on the
clock as I pass the start line. Only 3
things visible on my Garmin – Lap pace (autolap 1 mile), Elapsed time and Heart
Rate ( my eyesight isn’t reliable enough to see smaller numbers without
glasses... so I decided against having 2 or 3 bits of data on any
7:45, 7:45, 7:39, 7:40, 7:39 Within a
mile, we’re crossing the River Usk and soon into the
country lanes, surrounded by budding trees and out into the Gwent Levels. I
can’t say that it really felt like I was holding back much through most of
this. Occasionally reined myself in very slightly but that was matched by a few
times where I just needed to step on it a bit. Most of the time it felt
comfortable without feeling I’d want to go
faster. Having taken a gel and water 10
minutes before the start, I did the same at the 3 mile mark – taking on at
least 300ml. At mile 6, it was a
Lucozade station and I made sure I drank it all, dropping the bottle at the bin
at the 7-mile marker and, at that moment, I mentally switched on. I felt good and knew I should be fairly
topped up with sugar, salt and water...
With a few more supplies along the way, I could surely last
nutritionally to the end of the race. All I have to do is stick at 7:34 pace
all the way!
7:50, 7:31, 7:35, 7.34, 7.34 (half-way
1:40:28) Clicking up to my new race pace was easy enough. Newport Gwent Levels
is super flat... except for mile 9 which just has a tallish railway bridge and
another little hill to deal with... but I took it easy and regained most in the
next slightly downhill mile. Through the
village of Magor – the only place outside the start/finish where there is any
real atmosphere generated by the support (the rest is in isolate pockets). Once
or twice in these miles, I was a bit surprised to find my watch reading 7.45
lap pace and had to work a little to get back on track. The word cadence frequently on my mind.
Somewhere around 12 miles in, I saw the tall, hairy, smiley figure of Jooligan running towards me.
A cheery wave and he turned to run alongside and chatted for a couple of
minutes which was nice. I was feeling good at the time but was doing a pace
that was only just enough...
but with so far to go, really didn’t expect to be holding it. I
told him I’d end up in the 3:20/3:22 range. A few minutes later, I crossed the
half-way mat 3 seconds ahead of schedule!
7.34, 7.35, 7.37, 7.35, 7.40 7.27
well – again a full bottle of Lucozade consumed. - I’m running with a group of three who were
at my pace... sometimes I’m getting a bit of drafting from the gentle light cool breeze that’s arisen. But half way
through mile 17 my watch unexpectedly shows 7.45 lap pace and trying to respond
to pull it back isn’t working. Doubts start to fill my head for a minute – here
we go again. But a young lad and girl go
past me looking strong and I decided I wasn’t going to let them go and I
recovered for a 7.37 mile. From here, it was a lonely race. There are zero
spectators for large swathes, and now I was running a different pace to
everyone. I was passing plenty... and occasionally getting passed.... (but for almost the entirety of the rest of
the race, I’d be able to see the young lad and girl up ahead). I was, however, a bit concerned that I’m now
definitely working a bit harder but I glanced at my watch, expecting to be a
bit on the limit again.. and it reads 7.23 nearly half way through the 18th...
and I have the luxury of backing off slightly – and this is where I first
started to really believe that with maximum effort, I might actually do
this. I start to visualise the sprint to
get a few seconds under the 3.20. Miles 19 & 20 are a bit of a repeat where
I lost a bit of pace... worried that it was “here we go again” again... but
concentrating hard on cadence and upping the effort level again had me going
unexpectedly quick in mile 20. As I
approached the 20m marker, I checked my pace chart which stipulated
2:32:40... and as I passed it, my
elapsed time read 2:32:38... and a surge of confidence went through me. I need
to average that 7.34... but now I’m calculating that my pace band has a 3:19:44
finish... so 15 seconds to play with.
And banking on my usual fast finish, there’s another 15... if I divide
those 30 seconds up, I can slip to 7:40 for the next 5 miles and
still pull this off.
Miles 21-End 7:34, 7.37, 7.35, 7.37, 7.35, 7:08, (5:54 pace for remainder)
The confidence lifts me for a mile but the 22nd is hard work. I’m full of self-talk now. Not suffering as such, but the effort is increasing. The occasional devil on my shoulder telling me I can slow down a bit and still get a nice PB. I’m instructing myself that I simply HAVE to make this happen. That London is my prize. That I’d mouthed off about my negative split plan... and that it would be so disappointing to not deliver. I saw one of those cliché signs “Pain is temporary, pride is permanent” and I take strength from it. The 23m marker is a real target for me as it’s located at the end of a long industrial road on why my work situated. Everything now is very familiar running territory. I’m passing more and more now, zoned in – virtually ignoring people whilst trying to acknowledge support with a flickered eyelash or something. Suffering but in manageable way. I manage another 7.37 and pass the 24 mile marker, right by my factory gate, 5 seconds ahead of my pace chart requirement... So I’ve got that 5s, plus the 15s buffer, plus my expected sprint in hand and whilst effort is high, I’m suppressing excitement.
The 25th mile isn’t picturesque but it’s familiar. It’s hard and my watch worries me for a minute but I up the intensity yet again and, even though it finishes uphill (bridge that crosses the River Usk again), I only use 1 second of my buffer. Coming down the other side, the slope takes my pace to a new level... I pass the “1m to go” marker and I gave out a massive bellow – probably frightening the few spectators out there! I know I’ve done it but I just accelerated and accelerated out of sheer joy (but also aware that a GFA is no longer guaranteed if you’re too close to the qualification time). At the 26m mark, I can see that even sub-3.19 should be achievable with a sprint finish and I powered down the finishing straight with a massive smile on my face all the way to the line for 3:18:51. Elation just turned to this weird happy emotion that meant I had to keep one or both palms covering my face for much of the next ten minutes!
Other stats / comments
In miles 14-26, when it really mattered, my cadence didn’t once dip below 180, averaging 182.
I ended up with a 2min 5s negative split of (1:40:28 – 1:38:23).
In retrospect, that probably means I was capable of slightly faster with optimum pacing... but I bet not much... and I would not swap races!!
I also have another sort of “negative split”... the famed HM to Marathon time equation doesn’t work for me. If you double by HM time, you’ve got to subtract a minute to find my marathon time!
So, now, I love the idea of reaching mile 7 or 8, fully fueled, comfortable, and ready to start the race! I’ll do it again. All I’ll need to decide is how much slower to go in those first few miles.
As always, thanks to everyone on the thread (and at my club) for the support. We learn so much from each other.
Great effort there NE - truly great - you have inspired me to aim for a GFA once again.
Loved the full report (but you wont convince me that a negative split is the fastest way to run a marathon)
Great photo as well...
Really sorry to hear you’re still struggling with injury FBT.
Perfect days like that are what we put all this work in for I suppose Millsy, congrats again.
Incredible parkrun so soon after the marathon Joe. Great report as ever.
Talking of incredible, amazing work again Macca. Absolutely amazing. What a month.
Good to hear from you John. Hope the shin splits are sorted.
Glad the negative split plan worked out NE, congrats on the GFA. That photo is great, not many people look that happy at that point in a marathon!
Pleased to hear you are back running HPR.
Quality weekend Steve, you’re really building up that consistency.
Bad luck on the long course Hamo, those going for PBs must have been furious. Fantastic time given London a week ago. I’m slightly in awe of all of you smashing out great runs so soon after a marathon - when I did London two weeks after Manchester last year I found it incredibly tough towards the end, my legs were just destroyed.
I’m trying to slowly build back up while introducing some quality. 17 miles on Sunday felt fine, although my HR is still measuring higher than the effort feels. I suspect it’s cadence lock as the HR often settles around 170 which was also my average cadence. Legs felt good, and didn't have any soreness the following morning as I have had with longer runs recently, so that's pleasing.
Today the weather was miserable, and I was very tempted to ditch the planned tempo session, but I’m glad I made the effort now. 3 x 10 mins which came out at 6:33/mi, 6:33/mi and 6:32/mi. I was pleased with the consistency, if not the pace, but it’s around where I know I am at the moment. Just got to keep showing up, as Desi Linden puts it.
Macca that truly
is amazing – and all done in such a quiet yet confident style. Superb. Enjoyed
the London report too – spot on pacing. Great confidence in your ability. Very
Good to hear you’re on the comeback trail, HPR.
Such a well-executed race. Really well deserved. It looks a good race and one
for me to consider in the future. Super photo – come ooonnnnn!
Sounds a very sensible DNS, Joe. Only a few days from a huge effort in London don’t forget.
Looking forward to the duathlon debut, Steve!
Blimey, Hamo. If ever
there was a time for a race not to be massively over-distance it sounds like a
second marathon in a week when you go off hard! When done on finishing and
having such a good time.
Great to see a tempo session in there, spoons. Things are slowly aligning. I’d be up for track perhaps
next Wednesday if that fitted with you. And a colleague keen as well.
Lots of short recovery runs last week, all at an
exceptionally easy effort level. On Sunday I ventured on road, and even managed
a sub 8m/m! Off the bandwagon with diet last week and felt appalling for it –
much better now. Tried a few strides on the grass track session yesterday, and
whilst they didn’t feel fast, they seemed to have helped liven up the legs a
little by this morning. Returned for a classic canal ten, with a pleasing pace
of 7:16 for an easy effort. I’d forgotten that I’d entered the Berkeley 10k this
coming Monday evening. It looks a fast course, but no idea what kind of shape I
will be in. It also clashes with a work do, so a few decisions to be made.