Yesterday reminded me why I don’t run marathons.
After my morning run I settled down in front of the TV to watch the coverage of the London Marathon. Taking place on a unseasonably warm day, it provided plenty of entertainment. If you are a massive sadist who likes to watch people suffer, that is. Fortunately I am so had a great time.
Neither the men nor the women set off at a pace appropriate for the conditions and as a result there were some ugly scenes towards the end as titans of the sport crawled home like the charity runners several miles back down the road. Watching Mary Keitany, normally such a graceful and elegant runner, shuffle the last mile, cooked from having gone out inside world record pace on a hot day, was excruciating.
The men’s race was no different, and in the opening miles the men resembled a group of 9 year old boys throwing rocks at each other to see who would get hit by the fewest. Mo Farah managed to dodge several of them but still grimaced his way to a 4 minute positive split.
It wasn’t just the elites. My friend Dan, in a message afterwards, said “I can remember nothing from the last 12km and woke up under a pile of ice in the medical tent.” Sounds like fun.
I’m sure running a good marathon is a hugely satisfying experience but it seems to go wrong more often than it goes right. This must be hard to take in an event you only get a couple of chances at every year and that requires several months of dedicated training. I’m sticking with steeplechase.
Monday: AM 8km easy / PM 12km easy (20)
Tuesday: 16km easy (16)
Wednesday: 16km easy (16)
Thursday: AM 10km easy / PM 13km moderate, weights (23)
Friday: 15km easy (15)
Saturday: rest (0)
Sunday: AM 17km easy / PM 8km easy (25)
No sooner had I hauled myself to my feet than I was back on the track again. Unable to stand up, I lay on the warm tartan once more and took in a welcome lungful of sweet oxygen. The second attempt was more successful. Assisted by one of my competitors, I got to my feet for just long enough to stagger off the floodlit track and to a nearby railing. Mark had crossed the line by this point and patted me on the back, congratulating me on a hard-earned win. These moments are always best shared with friends.
Three minutes earlier I could smell blood. Increasing the pace every lap, I had picked my way through the field from 12th after one lap to second after ten. The leader was in sight and with a kilometer to go I realised I had a strong chance of catching him too. I was already on the limit though. Dan had just called my 4k split and it was faster than I had ever reached that point in a race before. A personal best was in the bag; now I wanted to win the race. With 800 to go I was within striking distance, by 600 I was on his shoulder. I went straight past and made one last push for the finish. In the last three weeks I had led at the bell on two separate occasions but been beaten. I was determined not to let it happen again.
Richard and some of the others from the club were at the finish line, roaring me on as the bell sounded. The announcer was now saying my name, not someone else’s. It was a big boost.
My winning time was 15:09, an 8 second improvement on my PB. This is the biggest chunk I have taken off my 5k time for a while and it now puts sub-15 within my reach. I need Tuesday’s conditions as well as the nerve to commit to the pace from the gun rather than giving away seconds in the first few laps. I’m delighted with my improvement; it is hugely satisfying on the rare occasion when everything clicks.
How great it would be if the next post here contained the number 14.
Something awesome happened this weekend. My friend and training partner Dan took well over a minute off his personal best time for 10k. His stated aim before the race was to break 34 and he absolutely smashed it, going through half way in 16:30 and nearly skipping the 33s altogether to record a time of 33:03. Dan, the Sergei Bubka of the local running scene, had been telling me the previous Tuesday how he only tends to improve by very small margins, citing his 4 minutes in 4 marathons as evidence. This has proven not to be the case.
Dan’s story is inspiring and is proof, if any is needed, of the value of sheer hard work and graft. Dan trains hard and puts the miles in and in the last few months his approach to training has really started to pay off. In September he ran his fastest marathon ever, in October he ran his fastest half marathon ever and in November he made a mockery of his former 10k PB. I predict a quick 5k before 2012 comes to an end.
This also tells me that I need to reprogram my brain and consider carefully what is possible. If someone I train with can break their PB by so much, why can’t I? I need to aim higher and Dan’s performance is just the spur I need. No more conservative goals. No more messing around. Sub 32 here I come.