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Tuesday 19th April 2011

So here’s what happened at the London Marathon…

The aim was to have a go at 2:30, or at least try and get as close as possible. I felt I had earned the right to at least try after all the training I’ve been doing. This meant averaging 5:40 per mile so that was the pace I set off at. I was clicking off the miles nicely for 17 miles, only straying from my target pace by a few seconds at every mile marker. I ran about 14 miles with a guy from Coventry Godiva, another Midlands club, whom I recognised and realised was trying to hit the same splits as me.

At every drink station I sipped water or lucozade depending on what was being offered. Usually I cope just fine with this but today all the fluid just sat in my stomach and from about 8 miles I had a pretty uncomfortable stitch. This also meant that breathing became quite difficult, and that I didn’t take on any more as I knew this would make me feel sick. I kept the pace going but after about 17 miles the effect of not absorbing any liquids really caught up with me. I slowed down dramatically and started getting passed by some other runners. It wasn’t a huge number, but that is mainly due to the fact that the field is so thin around the 2:30 mark. The people who passed me were moving a lot quicker than I was. Just after 19 miles, I put in a surge to try and stick with a group who were coming past, but it felt as though I was sprinting just to stay with what was quite a modest pace. Shortly after passing the 20 mile marker in around 1:55 or 1:56 (it’s hard to recall this part of the race) I started wobbling and collapsed. Race over. I briefly considered getting up again and carrying on but I could barely speak, let alone run. It took the best part of a minute just to give the police officer my wife’s phone number. The St John’s Ambulance team took me to their tent and lay me down. After some time there, my stomach settled and the fluids started to get absorbed. I started feeling much better and headed to the finish to meet my family.

Some lessons learned:

1. Practise with drinks.

Sometimes I do drink on the run, but never at the same kind of pace I try to run a marathon at. Part of the problem may have been that my body is not used to taking on liquids whilst running at that intensity. Practising drinking on the run should help me work out exactly how much my stomach can handle at once and I won’t take on too much liquid.

2. Train harder and smarter.

I know I’ve increased both the volume and intensity of my training in the last 6 months, but there are definite areas I need to work on. For a start, I haven’t been running my long runs hard enough. In order to run a good marathon, you need to run a significant chunk of your long runs at target pace. The cost of this may be my long rep session on a Tuesday, but with the other speedwork I do, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Long rep/short recovery sessions will remain a fixture of my training schedule, as it is crucial to practise running when tired and with lactic accumulation in the legs. Mixing up the distances is also beneficial. I’ve found that alternating fast short efforts with long sustained efforts can really help train the body for the fatigue that comes from running 42k. Running doubles has also helped with my strength, as has the increase in the number of miles I’ve been running. This will continue.

3. Don’t trash talk

…about running times you’re not sure you’re capable of. When someone asks what time you’re going to run, be conservative in your claims.

I put a lot of pressure on myself, and perhaps I don’t need to put any more on my telling people I’m going to run a certain time.

4. Sometimes you just have a bad race

I’ve had some good races recently as a result of all the training I’ve been putting in. I’ve recorded PBs for 5k, half marathon and 20 miles, and even beat my 10k time in a solo effort on the track. Maybe I was just due a bad race. Sometimes you prepare well and just have a bad day.

5. Spend more time running and less time writ