marathon

Photos from a dinosaur-free Jurassic run

We recently went away for a weekend to the lovely coastal town of Sidmouth in Devon. As always, when we go away I take my running gear with me just in case I get a chance to stretch my legs.

My lovely wife is a serial napper, she loves a little sleep in the afternoon and sometimes even a big sleep, and it was whilst she napped that I took the chance to run down to the seafront and along the awesomely named Jurassic coast. I figured there’s always some kind of coastal path to run along, so I’d do just that.

I’m training towards a trail 100km in less than two months (terrifying how close it is!) and thought some time on the trails and hills would do me good. Sadly I wasn’t prepared at all for the types of hills on what turned out to be a 10mile run. 2hrs 7mins later and I was back at the hotel with aching quads. Having done a sub 1:40 half marathon, to run 3 miles less in nearly 30 mins more was a lesson I learned the hard way. The elevation profile below speaks volumes.

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I’ve never exceeded 2000 feet elevation, even on 20mile+ runs. To break 3000 in 10miles was a challenge. I did as much power-walking up as I did jogging down the hills or on the flat but it was definitely a positive experience and some of the views were stunning! I’ll leave you with some selected views from the beautiful coastal trail.

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Brighton Marathon 2014

Where to begin with this years’ Brighton Marathon? It’s been over a month since I ran my second marathon and I’ve still not got round to posting about it. This is in part due to a genuinely hectic few weeks at work (often up at 5am and not home until nearly 8pm, eat, sleep, repeat), as well as some busy personal weekends. Thankfully, due to the wonders of my memory and my Garmin, the race is still pretty fresh in my mind! So I’ll do my best to share what this years’ experience was like.

The race itself was on Sunday the 6th of April, but we had to head over on the 5th to go to the Expo (short review of the expo: was a bit better than last year, good food freebies) and pick up our race packs. When I say ‘we’ I’m referring to myself and my brother-in-law Ben, who was running his first marathon. We also had support from my wife Becca, his fiancée Sarah and my parents-in-law who had moved back to the UK after 4 years working Papua New Guinea just the weekend before and were still recovering from jet lag. After Ben and I had got our race packs and numbers and been to the Expo, we went back to the flat my in-laws had someone arranged for themselves through a friend.

Yes, it really was that close to the Elite start

Yes, it really was that close to the Elite start

Yes, the flat they had was directly opposite the elite start! Not a bad view for them and only 10/15mins walk from the main race start. After the evening there we were off to bed. Pre-race sleep is always tough and this time wasn’t an exception, not sure if it’s nerves or adrenaline (most likely a bit of both) but I only got about 5hrs sleep before we were back off to the flat so Ben and I could get ready to run. A brief walk down to the start line and we were there and ready to go.

The queue for the portaloos

The queue for the portaloos

Last year, I was part of a group running for charity and we were at the start at least an hour before the start with a lot of waiting around. This time we were there with about 25 minutes to go, and I spent 24 of those minutes queueing for the toilet. Now, without going into too much detail, I’m nervous before a run and my digestive system does funny things, so I’d taken an Imodium to try and avoid any mid-race hiccups. I got to my start pen with about a minute to spare, joining the very back of the 3:15-4hr group, knowing that I would never get anywhere near the 3:30 pacer that I wanted to guide me around. Last years race was started by an England cricketer, this year it was Paula Radcliffes turn, the world record holder at the marathon, she was privileged this year to get not one high-five from me, but two. I’m sure 12,000 people down the line her hands were sore! We were off!

Brighton Marathon 2014

Brighton Marathon 2014

My target for this year was 3:30, which, having done a 1:39 half marathon recently was a challenging target but not out of the realms of possibility given that training has gone pretty well, despite work commitments making the last couple of weeks a challenge to taper effectively. Last years 4:07 was definitely going to get beaten and sub 4hrs was my minimum goal. To achieve 3:30 means averaging around 8minute miles for 26.2 miles. Much like last year, the first mile at Brighton is a struggle to set off at race pace due to the volume of people, some sharps turns around the park, and one of the sharpest hills on the course. Weaving in and out of the people saw my first mile include a little walking and an average pace of 8:55. I’d already lost nearly a minute of my scheduled pace!

Luckily I remembered from last year the problems I had with trying to catch up too much pace too soon. There was still 25miles to go, averaging 7:58 for those miles would have got me back to 8min miles by the end of the race, I didn’t need to do a 7minute mile and catch it up instantly.

The next 10 miles all were safely within the 8:05-7:48 minute mile range, and the average pace was getting close to 8mins, I was well on track to finish strong. Due to some changes to the route early on, one of the biggest hills around mile 10 was removed, and there followed 3 nice gradual down hill miles to the sea front, clocking in at 7:58, 7:53 and 7:54.

Unlike last year I was running alone this time around and really looking forward to seeing Becca and family at the half way point. I passed them feeling strong and gave the pre-arranged ‘two thumbs up’ meaning I felt strong. At Mile 13.1 I did feel strong, I’d fuelled according to plan with a  couple of Jelly Babies every couple of miles and the pace just under 8min/mile was feeling comfortable. Then, all of a sudden, it didn’t.

I’m not quite sure why but just after halfway and seeing Becca, everything began to feel difficult. Maybe adrenalin had got me to that point, but suddenly, things weren’t working as well as they had and much earlier than last year when I’d crashed around mile 19. My legs felt strong, but I had no energy, surely it couldn’t be the wall? I also felt like there was a massive rock inside my stomach, maybe it was the Imodium? I still think it was the right thing to do given the stomach issues on the day, but something I’ll try and avoid in future.

I struggled manfully on and the next 3 miles were 8:05, 8:09 and 8:18, getting steadily slower and each mile used up more effort. 3:30 was definitely not on the cards, whatever had happened, I was utterly spent. The last 8 miles were a bit (a lot) of a slog, I ran/walked the rest of the way back, averaged around 10:30mins/mile with a fastest mile of 9:19 (mile 26, for some reason I found the energy) and even ended up doing 7:08 pace for the final 0.2, showing my legs still had the pace in them, but something was wrong with my energy.

I crossed the line in 3:51:03, despite the horror of the last 8 miles, a 16minute PB/PR and was looking forward to meeting up with the family. I met Becca soon after and she brought me a mini Mars bar, something that both tasted amazing and gave me a massive energy boost last year, this year it made me throw up within minutes of the race finishing. More evidence that my stomach wasn’t in a good place. However, I was craving a cup of tea and that absolutely hit the right spot.

Next up on my list is the 100km Race to the Stones in July. I’m going to try a different approach for that, especially around the fuelling given what I experienced here. My plan is to eat differently, eat far less carbs and processed food and train according to heart rate. Teaching my body to burn fat for fuel instead of carbs, and hopefully avoid the dreaded ‘wall’ for a race nearly 2 and half times the length of a marathon!

What have you done to avoid ‘The Wall?’ Any tips and tricks to avoid it?

Prague Castle

Run in the Sun in Prague

It’s been two weeks since we took a trip over to Prague and, as with many holidays, I took my running stuff with me. It was my hope to get out and run a couple of times whilst we were there, but I was enjoying some much-needed relaxing so much that I only went out the once, but what a wonderful run it was. Instead of running more I decided to use some time to relax and sleep during the day. Coming back from Prague it seems that this recovery week has allowed me to go into the last few weeks of marathon training feeling really strong, a far cry from last year!

As for running in Prague itself, it was wonderful, it’s such a beautiful city and you can spend so much time looking upwards at all the incredible buildings that you don’t look where you’re going. We must have walked 10-15 miles or more over the course of the week, so there was a lot of time spent on feet as well as the single run. Our hotel was based in the new town and one area we’d not actually seen much of was across the river and around the park you can see from almost everywhere in the city due to it being the only notable hill. The first mile was spent working my way towards the river, very stop-start at the various road crossings, but mostly down a very gentle incline to the first piece of notable scenery, the Dancing House.

Dancing House

Dancing House

The dancing house (also apparently referred to as ‘Fred and Ginger’) is directly next to the river, and the bridge crossing it lends itself well to taking photos.

View from the bridge

View from the bridge

As you can see, the weather was perfect! Crossing the bridge I was in a part of town I’d not seen before, and, without the benefit of live maps on my phone (data roaming costs suck), I tried to find the park. Somehow, I managed to find the wrong park at first, when I go to the top of a short and sharp rise and didn’t seem as high above the city as I’d hoped, the view was still pretty good and certainly beats the roads from Southampton.

First view of Prague

First view of Prague

A quick check of my handy travel-map and I’d worked out where I was in relation to the big park, so I headed straight towards it and directly at a large brick wall surrounding the park without any kind of entrance, I had to follow it back down the hill virtually to the height of the river again before getting inside and seeing this was where the real hill was.

Up the Hill

Up the Hill

The path zig-zagged up through the trees and (with a little bit of walking due to the steepness of the gradient) I made it up to a point where I had a first real view of the city back towards our hotel, where my lovely wife was having her afternoon nap.

Zig-Zag path

Zig-Zag path

From here it was on-wards and up-wards until I found a place to get a real panoramic view of the entire city.

Prague Panorama

Prague Panorama

I was high enough up the hill now to be nearing the top, so I followed the old town wall and got some more beautiful views of the city as well as the ‘pretend Eifel Tower’ that I went up with Becca the following day. It’s a lot smaller than the Eifel Tower, but as it’s mounted on the top of an existing hill, it doesn’t need to be that big to have some incredible views.

View through the wall

View through the wall

Not the Eifel Tower

Not the Eifel Tower

A little bit further along the path at the top of the hill and after heading down the hill and back up again I was able to get an incredible view of Prague Castle, which is located on the same side of the river as the park.

Prague Castle

Prague Castle

Then came what I thought would be the best bit of the run, DOWN THE HILL! Sadly, because it was so steep and cobbled, I wasn’t able to bomb down the path as quick as I would have liked, I also had to avoid large groups of tourists and schoolchildren struggling to walk up the hill the other way that I needed to avoid. I worked my way towards the castle and then back over the river along the famous Charles Bridge. Where, although it was tempting to have a caricature drawn of me by one of the 150 (approximate number) artists on the bridge, I didn’t want to tempt fate by putting the rendering of my already prodigious nose in the hands of a caricaturist!

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

Back on the flat I was able to cruise back alongside the river back to the Dancing House and then retrace the way I’d come back to the hotel. The route worked out as just over 10k, and I completed it in a little under an hour, including all the time taken with photos and marveling at the city. This was never meant to be an ‘effort’ run, more of a tourist run, but there was definitely a good hill to put the effort in on (400ft of elevation in approximately 1 mile), so I rewarded myself with a nice long bath back at the hotel.

Prague itself is a stunning city and the food there was both delicious and good value (providing you didn’t eat in the big tourist areas), and I’d recommend a visit to anyone. I’m not sure if we’ll ever go back as we have a long list of other places we want to see first (and I’ll probably want to run around), but I will always remember my run in the sun in Prague.

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Run Length: 10km  Time: 58mins Shoes: Skechers GoBionic

 

Running in Prague.

I’ve never been to Prague before but we are on the way there for the week to celebrate my wife’s birthday. With only 4 weeks until the Brighton Marathon I’ll need to do a run or two whilst I’m there. Anyone got any hints and tips of where to run?

Short post today, but I’ll leave you with a little photo taken on yesterday’s 18miler. Yes, it was that sunny in England! Spring is springing!

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Silverstone Half Marathon 2014 Recap

Sunday saw me complete my second ever half-marathon, having completed the Nike Run to the Beat last September in 1:44 I was keen to improve on that and, if possible, get close to being under 1:40. My biggest concern before the race day, as I mentioned previously, was the weather. I didn’t want it to rain, and I did NOT want it to be windy, given the choice, I’d rather have had a cooling shower on me than a headwind. Sadly, I didn’t get my way and the open nature of the Silverstone track meant that the wind was howling the entire duration of the race.

Pre-race didn’t start well, I tested my ever-loving wife’s patience by forgetting things in the car, not once, but TWICE, the second time was 30minutes before the race was due to start and the car was parked nearly a mile away, with all the foot traffic coming the other way back at us. Luckily we were able to get back and get what I needed and was back in time for the race to start. My wife then found her way to the cheer point run by the charity she works for and I elbowed my way to the start line, being careful to not try and get too near the front and get in the way of the real fast runners.

Starting position

Starting position

My goal was to get near to 1:40, which is averaging 7:38min/mile for the whole 13.1miles, I wanted to start strong but run long and save some energy in my legs for the final few miles. I’d was on track for 1:40 at Run to The Beat before crashing hard in the last 3/4miles and didn’t want to go through that again. After a brief interview the the men’s race favourite (who for some reason chose Aqua’s ‘Dr Jones’ as his pre-race song of choice) and Paralympic hero David Weir, we were off!

Pre-race Grandstands

As you can see in the above image, the grandstands were full as we set off and started to burn rubber down the straight (sadly not as fast as an F1 car). The support up in the stands and around the start was fantastic, it felt really good to be running on the race track where the greats of F1 have all raced. Within half a mile though, the support had disappeared, this was my single biggest gripe with the day as there was only really 3 places on the course where it was possible for the supporters were close enough to cheer you on. It seems F1 tracks aren’t designed to allow spectators close to the track where cars travel at over 200mph ,who’d have thought?!

For me though, the lack of support made it a bit boring, by far the least supported race I’ve done so far, for the vast majority of the three-lap course, the only thing you could hear was the pounding of feet on the track and the ever-present flapping of race numbers in the strong wind. As a compulsive high-fiver I was most disheartened to not get a chance to high-five anyone until mile 6.5! I was also the only person that was putting in a concerted effort to sound like an F1 car whilst cornering “Neeeeooooowwww!).

As for the race itself, it went very much to plan! I wanted to try and be around 7:35min/mile at mile 10 and then see how strongly I could close. I started somewhere between the 1:30 and 1:45 pacers and eased into my pace. Miles 1-4 went by smoothly, 7:30, 7:33, 7:36, 7:35. Then the wind picked up!

The curious thing about running when it’s windy is that when it’s blowing into your face you feel every step is twice as hard, yet when it’s blowing behind you, you feel nothing. You don’t get the same benefit of the wind pushing you forwards. The general rule of thumb is you only get back half of what you put into a headwind when you turn around and run with it at your back. It didn’t feel like that on the day and miles 5 and 6 were when the wind came up strongly and I did a couple of 7:40-somethings.

At the half way point though, we were back among the crowds, I was still feeling strong, and I’d just had my first high-five! This, combined with the shelter from there being more buildings at this part of the course mean that I was able to do a couple of miles in the 7:30’s, and then mile 9-10 went 7:26, 7:27, even with the wind really starting to pick up. I’d got my pacing perfectly heading into mile 10 at an average of 7:34 per mile. Right on track for a final push.

With 5k left it was time to try and bring it home, but again, the course moved away from the support and got out onto the open track where the wind was blowing stronger now than ever. I also go to see my lovely wife for the first time which was the perfect pick-me-up. Mile 11 was a strong 7:25 and I felt good, but mile 12 was a bit more effort as started to feel a tightening pain in my right shoulder and side, I think from tensing up so much whilst running into the wind. I eased back a bit to a 7:38 mile and tried to get it under control before finishing strongly.

The final mile was my fastest of the race, a 7:19 into a headwind the entire way and then a final 0.1miles at 6:30 pace proved that I’d paced things well. 49:51 for the first half of the race, then 48:15 for the second half, for a 1:39:06 overall race time. A lovely negative split, and I finished knowing that there was more in the legs. I wasn’t going to blow myself up trying to shave off a few extra seconds when I have a marathon in 5 weeks as my main goal. I’d finished nearly a minute ahead of schedule, in howling winds and I was happy.

David Weir said post race that it was the worst conditions he’d every done a half marathon in, I’m inclined to believe him. I don’t doubt for a second that I could have got another minute, maybe two off my time if it hadn’t been so windy. Now the half marathon is done, I need to get right back on my marathon training if I’m going to beat last years 4hr07min marathon time from last year.

Silverstone Half Marathon tomorrow

First race of the year and I’ve not really trained for it, I’m using it more as part if my Brighton Marathon training and to test things out for race day. I’d still like to beat my 1hr44min Half marathon PB.

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I’m nervous about the weather currently. The course is flat as a result of it being an F1 circuit, only around 60m of elevation across the entire course. Due to it being flat and in the countryside it’s quite exposed to the elements, so wind and rain on the day could impact any goal time quite notably. I’ll just find a someone bigger than I am to slipstream! Before then, I’ll be praying that the little bit of rain free cloud is in place for race start at noon.

Also hoping for good weather so my ever-supportive wife isn’t stuck out on her own watching me in the wind and rain.

Hoping for good weather for all runners this weekend. If you’re racing, good luck and run long and strong!

My running shoe addiction!

I have a problem with wanting more and more running shoes, my current collection is below, and all have had various amounts of usage in the last couple of years. I don’t think the amount I have is really acceptable, but I’ll still try to justify it and why I have all the shoes I do!

The collection

The complete collection, all have done a varying amount of miles.

As the above shows, there are 10 different pairs of running ‘shoes’ there, all of them are marketed and sold as running footwear (yes even the sandals). This doesn’t include the various other non-running trainers that I have too, I could have filled the table top!

Fivefingers and Xero Shoes

Left to Right: Vibram Bikila, KSO and Xero Shoes

I’ll run through them in terms of ‘minimal cushioning’ to the maximum cushioning, finishing with my trail shoes. The above shows the most minimal of my running shoe collection. The Vibram Fivefingers Bikila on the left were purchased in America and helped start my running bug. Sadly I’ve done no more than 20miles total running in them as I didn’t really know what I was looking for when I tried them on, and ended up getting them at least a half-size too small. I have an issue with my left foot being a clear half-size bigger than my right, and in footwear designed to be very closely fitted to the foot this causes problems, and I get pain just behind the toes of my left foot when I run in these. I still enjoy wearing them around the house and they’re the perfect beach shoes! Later on I got my second pair of Fivefingers, the black and orange KSO, but I got them a half-size bigger, which is a more comfortable fit, but the flip side of this that whilst they fit my left foot fine now, they’re now a half-size too big on the right, which causes blisters. I do wear them around the house a LOT, and for shorter runs where I want to focus on my running form and landing gently, as these shoes won’t let you land on your heel when running on concrete!

The final shoes in this picture are my Xero shoes, I actually won these in a Twitter contest (yes people really do win these) from www.feetus.co.uk. Whilst they’re designed for running, I’ve only done a gentle 5km in them late last summer, and despite me having run a lot in low-drop shoes by this point, my calves were screaming! I don’t think they’ll be a regular part of my running shoe rotation,  they’re definitely not a winter shoe but they’re great for walking around in the summer.

Skechers

Skechers Go Run Ride and Go Bionic

Now onto the real running shoes. Not many people realise that Skechers make some VERY good running shoes. Their Skechers Performance division has produced some amazing shoes in the last few years and they’re become more and more accepted as a serious running shoe. They’re definitely more than just bum-toning shoes! I got both these pairs of shoes on the same day. The blue Go Run Rides are a more cushioned shoe, and whilst very light, the grey Go Bionics are even lighter as a result of the lesser cushioning and zero heel-toe drop.

The Go Run Rides are a 4mm drop shoe and due to the combination of lightness and cushioning I’ve done nearly 240miles in them (running miles, I’ve walked plenty of others too) and they feel even better now than when I first wore them, in fact, for the first 30 or 40 miles I was disappointed in how they felt, the just didn’t seem to have a nice spring to them. Suddenly, after putting 50miles in them they seemed like they’d been made to fit my foot. They’re now my first choice go-to shoe for my long road runs, and I’d be happy to replace them with a second pair whenever it is that they come to the end of their lifespan.

I’ve done 100miles of running in the Go Bionics and due to the lower cushioning and zero drop nature of the shoes I find that I can only manage around 10miles at a time in these shoes, but they are a definite part of my rotation especially for when I want to focus on my running form, the zero drop just allows me to land correctly. These are by far the most comfortable of my running shoes for walking in, and have a permanent place by my front door, as with the addition of elastic laces (I’m a fan of these), they slip on within seconds and can be worn either with socks or barefoot equally well. My only concern with these is that I’m not a fan of the look, they feel fast, but don’t look it.

After my positive experience with these shoes I have my eye on the Go Bionic Trail shoes and the brand new Go Run Ultra. Skechers performance, but with trail grip!

Inov8 Road-x 233

Inov8 Road-x 233 (x2)

Next up is last years Marathon shoes (the Grey/Green ones), my Inov8 Road-x 233, a 6mm drop shoe with minimal cushioning that got me through last years Brighton marathon. I almost exclusively wore these for my training and the marathon itself and now with over 330 miles on the clock you can clearly see the wear on the heels. It seems as though, despite my best efforts, I can’t help but slide my heel in when I land, most notably on the left foot, which has far more wear and tear than the right. I loved these shoes so much that I bought a second pair in a different colour scheme, in which I’ve done 90 more miles. These shoes just match my feet perfectly, and are comfortable from mile 0 to mile 330m. I’ll just be sad when I final retire the shoes I ran my first marathon in for good.

Adios Boost

Race day shoes – Adidas Adios Boost

Next up are my race day shoes, Adidas Adios Boost, the only shoe in my collection that matches the profile of a ‘traditional’ running shoe, with a  10mm drop. The thing I like about them is the Boost cushioning gives them a real springiness in the heel, but a more firm feel under the forefoot, so they don’t ever feel like that high a drop. I’m trying to keep these in good condition for race days, so they’ve only done 80 or 90 miles so far. I set my Half Marathon PB in them last September, and I’ll be taking them to Silverstone Race Circuit with me this Sunday to try to set another one.

Hoka's and Trail Gloves

Trail Shoes: Hoka Rapa Nui and Merrell Trail Gloves

Finally, my trail shoes, one on the minimalist end of the spectrum from Merrell and the super cushioned (Yet still low drop) Hokas. The Merrell Trail Gloves are what I wore for my first race (The Great South Run/Limp), and were bought in the Lake District on our first wedding anniversary weekend, when I decided that I wanted to do some trail running to make a change from pounding out time on the pavements. Sadly, I didn’t really know what I was looking for in a trail shoe and ended up getting them at least a half-size (possibly even a size) too small, and after losing my big toe nail of my left foot due to it banging against the front of the toe box, I was happy to retire them to be my ‘cutting the grass’ shoes, for which they are perfect!

Finally, my most recent acquisition, my Hokas, these have only done around 60miles in, so are still getting warmed up, but they’re what I’m currently considering best suited of my current collection for the 100km Race to the Stones in July. The combination of cushioning, comfort and with a low drop means they tick all the right boxes. I’m hoping to hit the trails a bit more once the marathon is done and we’ll see how they go.

So that’s my shoe collection, there’s more than there probably should be, but they were all bought to serve a purpose!

More Jantastic and an even better long run!

So Jantastic moves on and 3 of the 4 weeks of February are out of the way. Having used my Joker last week I’m still ‘just’ holding onto my 100% record.

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In preparation for today’s long run, myself and the lovely wife went for a walk along the South Downs Way yesterday up to the hill of Old Winchester Fort. The view from the top is stunning, we could see the Isle of Wight and New Forest in the difference. Becca couldn’t believe that this was only 20mins from our house!

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My long run this morning was a 20miler for the first time this year, and I was up at 6:30am to get it done and out of the way so that Sunday wasn’t defined by me having to spend 3hrs running. Four slices of peanut butter on toast and a cup of tea for breakfast and I was out of the door.

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20miles later and I’d earned my sit-down shower! 2 miles further than last weeks and a good 15secs per mile faster. I didn’t have the same leg speed as I finished with last week, but I was still able to finish strongly as the mile splits below show.

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I’ve got a half marathon race at Silverstone next Sunday, but after that I have a couple more long runs to do before taper-time. I’m still unsure about sticking around the 18/20 mark or trying to creep up to 22miles before easing back in the last couple of weeks. I’m ahead of the curve for completing the distance, so I’ll wait and see how the half marathon goes, sub 1:40 is my goal after a half marathon debut of 1:44 last year.

Guess I should do some speed work this week!

Brighton Marathon 2013

This was my ‘A’ race of last year, my first ever marathon and the goal was simply to finish. I initially had a secondary aim of finishing <4hrs but in my first run of my 2 week taper, I felt a twinge in the outside of my left knee that caused the taper to be even more dramatic and I only managed to do around 15miles total in those final weeks directly before the marathon, and the pain whilst easing off a bit, hadn’t completely gone away.

Brighton Marathon Course 2013

So the big day came, and I set out with a plan to average 9min miles, and get as close to 4hrs as possible. If I had any issues with the leg I was going to ease off and make sure I didn’t do anything to damage it permanently, but I absolutely was going to finish! Myself and two other friends (Gary and another Matt) had been raising money for charity, so I wasn’t going to let anyone down and not complete the distance.

The first few miles were a bit chaotic, I was running with one of the above friends, Gary, and we had started quite far back in the pack of runners. This meant we were weaving through a host of people wearing tutus, morph-suits and a variety of colourful wigs. This caused the first mile to be slower than our target pace at around 9:18. The effect of this is that we felt pressurised to catch up on time and ran an 8:30 second mile. In retrospect, we had 25.2 miles to get those 18 seconds back, and could have run 8:59 the entire way and finished ahead of schedule, but the mind does funny things to you when you’re running.

There then followed 6 miles in the 8:45-8:55 range, and somewhere in that period we ran by the Brighton Pavillion. I say somewhere, as I do not remember seeing it at all. After the race I told my wife, Becca, that I don’t think we ran past it at all despite the course promising that we would. We then got the post-marathon photos and the evidence below suggests that we definitely did run past it. Again, the mind does funny things when you’re running, I’d either been that focused on running, or simply just blanked it out. Of course, it may have had something to do with the fact that around that time we were trying desperately to find Gary’s wife in the crowd so he could hand over his jacket he had fetchingly fastened around his waist.

Pavilion

I wasn’t even sure we’d run past this tiny, unobtrusive building

This part of the route around Brighton’s central area also saw a couple of hills, nothing particularly big or challenging, but enough to feel them, particularly on the outside of my knee. When running downhill or on the flat I had no pain at all, just whenever I had to run up a slope it let me know it was there. Miles 7-10 along the sea front were particularly sore and mile 9 saw us drop over the 9minute mark for a mile. On the plus side, the route there loops around and you run back the way you came, so we had the same 2/3 miles of gentle downhill to catch up on that pace so by the 13mile mark, where I got to see Becca for the first time that day, we were still averaging around 8:50min/miles.

Miles 13-20 were some of the more boring miles on the course, as we moved off the seafront and into residential area around Hove. The crowds were still out and we still maintained mile splits between 9:04-9:15, but were starting to feel it. In particular, I felt like I needed the toilet and eventually had to give in and stop briefly around mile 19.5, I left Gary to carry on running and stopped for under a minute before setting off again. The second I started running again to try and catch up, my knee felt like someone had just stabbed it, it was agony and I had to walk for a bit. Clearly the standing still and waiting for a porta-loo to free up wasn’t good for whatever was wrong with my knee. After a little walking I was able to run again and catch up with Gary.

Sadly, the knee pain didn’t go away and I started to feel nauseous as a result and had to let Gary go ahead and finish whilst I walked a little bit after the drinks stop around Mile 21. Finishing under 4hrs was not an option any more, but I knew that 4:15 was still realistic and would be a great achievement given the circumstances. The next couple of miles I walked a bit then jogged a bit, the support of the crowd was phenomenal all the way around the course and that didn’t change here. The day had started around 7 centigrade, but was now getting up to 22 as we hit the seafront. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t massively tempted to go and paddle in the sea for a bit just to have a rest.

At about mile 24, I’d managed to get back around 9:30min miles when I looked to my left and realised I was just about to run past Gary, who’d clearly hit some kind of a wall and was taking a breather (he’d averaged 4hrs sleep a night for the week before the marathon due to a crazy work load). I pulled up along side him and we agreed to stick it out to the end. We’d covered a lot of miles together that day and only a couple separately, so we were going to cross the line together. Shortly after we saw Gary’s wife and daughters, and then Becca, my sister and my brother-in-law at mile 25, just the perk up we needed before the final mile.

Look at how happy I was to see my wife.

Finishing under 4:15 now was a certainty, we could have walked it in, but we were determined to finish it running. A 9:40 final mile (no sprint finish here!) saw us cross the line in 4:07:15. Not the sub 4hrs we wanted, but given my knee, and Gary’s lack of sleep it was definitely an achievement! The third part of our fundraising team, Matt, also completed the course and we were delighted that as a team we’d raised over £3,000. The miles of training and the race day itself had all been worth it.

As for the Brighton Marathon and the day itself, it was a fantastic experience. I would recommend Brighton to anyone thinking about a first marathon, the organisation was brilliant and the support on the day was unreal. Other than the bit around mile 13-20 I enjoyed the course and it’s definitely a course that could get some fast times. As for the support on the day, I can’t speak highly enough about it. The fact that I had my name on my chest meant that I heard something along the lines of “Great work Matt!” or “Go Matt and Gary!” roughly 300 times over the course of those 4+hrs, from people I’d never met. My brother-in-law Ben loved supporting on the day so much that he signed up for the 2014 Brighton Marathon before I did and we’ve done some good training runs together already this year.

It’s only a few weeks until I get to revisit Brighton and do the course again, apparently they’ve removed one of the small hills and made the course even faster, so I’m confident that with the change and the way that training is currently going that <4hrs is definitely possible! A 1:44 in the 2013 Run to the Beat Half Marathon in September on minimal training showed that I’ve picked up some speed since Last April. I’m just praying I stay injury free this year, especially in the taper period!