Thursday, 17 April 2014

Post Marathon Reflection

All the marathon talk in the last week post London has been around Mo Farah's debut in the event with a 2:08.21.

Just reading the BBC website about Farah...

"Mo Farah finally struggled for answers"
"Farah's 2 hours 8 minutes 21 seconds on his London Marathon debut on this sunny Sunday morning may have seen him finish down in eighth place, not just among the elite also-rans but more than a minute off Steve Jones's 29 year old British record and almost four minutes off winner Wilson Kipsang.

To be fair to the author (Tom Fordyce) he does go onto put the performance into some perspective talking about the hype that was built up around Farah and an admittance that actually he didn't do much wrong.

The early pace in the race meant Farah, running sensibly in the first 6 miles, found himself cut adrift and forced into pushing hard in the second quarter.  The tracking tool (where there is no hiding!) shows the section between 20km and halfway was the quickest section of the race.   Slowest section between 35k and 40k.   I think most marathon runners can relate to those stats!  Oh and he messed up a few drinks stations.....

I'm sure Farah will be disappointed but for many people to write him off then really I think they need to take a reality check....

Only the great Steve Jones has run quicker than Farah from a GB perspective and this performance puts Farah as the fifth quickest performance on the list of British men's marathon times and breaks the English record held by the great Charlie Spedding.  

In reality the field at London was one of the best assembled and Wilson Kipsang is world record holder, course record holder at London and more significantly in his 9th marathon.   His debut in Paris in 2010 shows 3rd place in 2:07.13.   Other than a 3rd place in the 2012 Olympic Games where he ran 2:09.37 Kipsang has an exemplary marathon record which includes the World Record mark set in Berlin in 2013 where he ran 2:03.23.

Let's hold the verdict on Farah as a marathon runner once he has done a second or third marathon.  And for all those people who have a view on Farah but have never run a marathon before put your money where your mouth is.  Lace up your running shoes and go out there and bang some miles out in preparation for a marathon and see how you do in your debut 26.2 miles.  

I've had some time to reflect on my own Marathon in Manchester and definitely feel there were some learning points that will springboard me to a quicker time.

1.   Training and the build up - no major changes needed just more of the same, avoid injury and just tweak the mileage up a little.

2.    The race - again no major changes just quicken the pace by a few seconds a mile and keep the pace consistent.

3.   Final stages - really only struggled in the last two miles.  Mentally I was strong but physically I was on the edge.   A few more long runs in the bank and some specific marathon pace work should help.  I was running from just before half way to about 24 miles with Emily Wicks who went onto record 2:38.21 exactly a minute in front of me.  That's almost 30 seconds a mile taken out of me in the last 2.2 miles.  

4.   Race Nutrition - think this is where I made errors on the day.   I didn't feel in control of my nutrition.  Carried a couple of gels which I used as planned.  I then missed the first official gel stop on the course then relied on the product provided later by the organisers which was shot bloks.  I've never used them before, they were difficult to chew and not something that I would use in future.   That was an area I was complacent with as I have never had a problem with gels affecting me.   That said I don't think it made too much of a difference to me but to make the small gains you need to look at all aspects.

Ultimately I would like to master the marathon distance and whilst as runners we are never happy with our pb (there is always more to come off!) I would be more than satisfied with a marathon pb of under 2:34.   That's a good five and a half minutes away yet so I know I will have to work hard to get there.   

Marathon performance of London for me has to be Steve Way.   Check out his highly entertaining blog here...

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Manchester Marathon - The day I joined the Sub 2:40 club!

You reach a point in your marathon build up when you know the work is done and you cant really do much more.  The miles have been logged and the preparation is done.  The start line cant come soon enough and the taper becomes a drag, every niggle is a race threatening injury, every sniffle is man flu and the doubts convince you that you are losing fitness every day and you just need one more run to be ready! 

Actually I felt some of the above but it wasn't over consuming.  There was an air of calmness in my taper.  The last week's runs were planned out and each run went to plan including a few short runs at marathon pace where I tuned in easily to the intended pace of 6-06 per mile (2:40 marathon pace!).

Manchester is a great marathon to do.  The location at Old Trafford was easy to get to and plenty of parking etc so all those pre race issues were easily dealt with.  To the start line.....

Today...we race!

The legendary Ron Hill started us off.  Ron has run 115 marathons.  112 of which have been under 2:50 and has a best of 2:10.  He is also famous for his long running streak of running every day since December 1964.  He is a true running hero and still looks amzingly fit!

I only came out for a paper!

The first 10km of the race went according to plan.  Holding myself back I completed the early miles in 6-01, 5-59, 5-59, 6-05, 6-02 and 6-02 clocking 37.41 for the first 10km going through in 39th place.  The race was going perfectly at this point and despite a headwind the times were going in my favour.
10 miles in 60-10 I had picked up 8 places into 31st.   It was a case now of keeping this pace going and counting down the miles.  I felt comfortable and had the leading lady in my sights.  Just before halfway I caught the leading lady Emily Wicks and we ran together then for the next 10/11 miles.  I seemed to have found someone who was banging out an even more consistent pace than I could and despite a "quick" 5-50 mile at Mile 14 we set a consistent pace around 6-05 minutes per mile.

20 miles was logged in 2 hours and 23 seconds.  Over a minute ahead of my recent pb over 20 at Locke Park.  Now it was down to the business end.  This is where the doubts can come in and you wonder at what point in the next six miles is it going to go from comfortable to not so comfortable down to downright horrible! 

Mile 21 - a solid 6-02 we were going well still and managed to gain a place or two.
Mile 22 - 6-12 and it was starting to get tough.
Mile 23 - 6-16 this was crunch time.  My running partner of the last 11 miles was pulling away from me.  She went onto win a a solid 2:38.21. 
Mile 24 - 6-21 starting to think about the finish.  This was getting hard!
Mile 25 - 6-24.   Legs were aching.   The stadium was just in sight!
Mile 26 - 6-35 and the slowest, hardest mile of the whole race....

Finish - 24th overall in 2 hours 39 minutes and 21 seconds.   In my pre-race vision I would savour this moment.....its been a long time coming. Ive put the work in now I'm going to enjoy it!     In reality my effort had been a real tightrope job...I wobbled as I crossed the line and spent the next ten minutes emptying the contents of stomach unable even to keep the bottle of water the finish marshall's gave me!   It was certainly the worst I had ever felt at the finish line of any race !

I might look like I'm smiling but I'm not!

Ian Bloomfield - Vet 60, 2-44 and UK Record holder!
Do I want a massage, a coffee or just a lie down!

So that's another marathon done and dusted.  The marathon is more than just a one off race.  The real battle is getting to the start line in one piece and not falling off the tightrope that is the high mileage.   Now the dust has settled I'm over the moon with my result and even more chuffed that at this moment In time my 2:39.21 sits pretty at the top of the UK rankings for Vet 40 to 44.    

Manchester - you were fab!  Highlight of the day was most definitely the youth choir who belted out... "I predict a Riot!....I predict a Riot!" as I ran past.   That was the most surreal and amazing experience of the day!   

I'll sit and enjoy watching Mo run next week at London but I'll be keeping an eye on those vet 40 to 44 times!