Monday, 7 May 2012

The Marathon of the North

Pre Race thoughts...

They say the marathon takes a long time to master and I have to say that is very true indeed.  Yesterday was my third marathon and my third under 3 hours.  It was also a pb by over 2 minutes as I clocked 2nd place in the first Marathon of the North in 2 hours 46 minutes 29 seconds.

The weather was almost perfect pre race with a light wind, cool temperatures and the start area around the Stadium of Light was well organised, everything within easy reach of the start and plenty of toilets, baggage areas and lots of people out supporting the first event. 
My race plan and aim was to run under 2.45 and set off at a pace that was going to take me comfortably under that goal.  In the back of my mind my ultimate goal was a sub 2-40 but I was not confident that the course profile was going to make that very easy so I put that at the back of my mind.  What I didn't expect was the kind of race that this turned out to be with a podium place coming into my head and ultimately affecting the way the race turned out.  

The first five miles (30-40 Garmin time) heading through Hendon and Grangetown was a case of holding myself back.  The lead pair of Wilson and Atlee had pushed ahead and held a decent lead and I found myself in third place with a fairly big group of runners tracking me including Steve Potts of local club Sunderland Harriers who had a large contingent of supporters tracking him on bikes and giving feedback on those in front.   Steve and I ran together for a few miles and found ourselves clear of the group.   I decided after about 7 miles that I would push on a bit as it seemed the lead two were coming back in particular early leader Atlee.   Miles of 5-59, 5-59, 5-55, 5-56 pulled me clear in third and then it was a case of watching Atlee come back to me.  He did after 12 miles and despite a surge from him in response I pulled clear and found myself in 2nd.   The next few miles I was steadily running miles of 6-07, 6-05, 6-04, 6-07, 6-03, 6-08, 6-02, 6-07, 6-09, and 6-11 saw me go through 20 miles in 2-01.41.  At one point the leader (Paul Wilson of Hartlepool BR) was about 45 seconds clear and the feedback I got from a few locals were that I was catching him.  

The next few miles once we passed the Stadium again became tough.    Losing a bit of concentration I managed to miss the turn into the University area and had to double back for a short while before coming to a couple of points where without marshalls I was trying to work out which way to go...not ideal when you are tired and on your own but I am sure the organisers will address this in future years.   Miles 21 to 23 were hard work and my mile times reflect both the toughness of the course and the start of the tiredness coming into my legs.  6-18, 6-17 and 6-41 meant a tough last three miles was coming.   The road and beach path up to the turn at Seaburn felt like it was going on for ever and I was relieved to get to the turn.   What happened after that was simply a case of my body running out of energy but thankfully being clear in 2nd I resigned myself to the fact that a sub 2-45 was becoming less likely.   The last three miles were the toughest miles I have run for a long time and finished with 7-13, 7-18 and 7-39.  

People often make comments after such races that the garmin distance was much longer.  I know from conversations about race measuring that the measurement is taken on the running line and often the course can become over or under distance because runners stray from the running line.  In the end my Garmin showed 26.5 miles a good 400m+ over distance.  One of the reasons I think for this was that as you were running on closed roads and lots of twists and turns you often were not aware until you were almost on the junction which way you were heading so it was difficult to take an effective running line.   This is not a criticism but an observation from someone who was running completely on my own from 7 miles out except for a brief encounter with the 2nd place runner as I overtook was a lonely run so all in all am happy with the time in the end which on a flatter, faster course with a bit of company would be worth a sub 2-45 or quicker.

I think it is worth congratulating Steve Cram and the event team for bringing this marathon into the race calender and it is definitely worth doing.  I'm sure they will learn a lot from the event and will make it even better next year.  Well done Sunderland!

It was super exciting (once I had some energy inside me and had a massage) to meet marathon legend Charlie Spedding at the presentation.   Charlie is a 2-08.33 marathon runner and the current English Record Holder.   It was a proud moment to be on the stage being presented with 2nd place in a big marathon and 1st Veteran.  

Paul Wilson Hartlepool Burn Road ran a great race to win in 2-43.30 and Ian Bloomfield (59 year old ex 2-17 Marathon legend) finished 3rd in 2-51.25.

I have learned a huge amount yesterday about the marathon and will make some changes to my build up for October...nothing drastic more tweaks.   The sub 2-45 still eludes me but it is getting closer.

Recovery time for me now and then tackle some shorter races before the next big one!

Pictures to follow......