4 months of training, a good bump in mileage and some excellent race results in build up but on the big day a race of two halves and a big disappointment crossing the line in the end.
- What? London Marathon 2017
- When? April 23, 2017
- How far? 26.2 miles
- Where? London, UK
- Strava activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/955510411
I only had one goal – Sub 2:45 or bust!
I had high hopes for London and I’d had a good block of training starting with some good base going back to last Autumn and then a solid 4 months broadly following Pfitz 18/70 which included some solid training sessions including 9 long runs of 18+ miles, a 3rd place in a 50k running 3:47, a solid 20 mile track session at overall MP and then 3 weeks ago, a 16:50 5k PR.
Until 3 weeks ago, I’d had a good block of weekly mileage over most of the training block around 65mpw so although my 2:45 goal was a big one – I didn’t feel it was out of reach. (My previous PR was London 2015 of 2:54 but I was most certainly in better shape this year).
The last 3 weeks had been a little disrupted with a trip to Paris (supporting my wife who ran in that marathon) and then a family holiday the weekend after so I ended up having an enforced taper which I normally wouldn’t bother with beyond and easier week pre-race.
I did end up having to take a trip to the physio 4 days before the race though, I had a sharp pain in my glute on a short run and my right leg just lost all power but the physio was confident it was just a minor hip flexor issue and by the next day it felt better and after two days of rehab stretches felt fine and a final test run before heading to London including a couple of miles at sub MP which felt fine.
Heading down to London the day before on the train and across to the expo to pick up my number all went well and an early night combined with a light breakfast the next morning of a little porridge and a coffee before jumping on the train to the start.
Thanks to my time in 2015, I had a place in the Fast Good For Age pen just ahead of the open category but there seemed to be a lot of runners in a small area and setting off it was massively congested with people running around 3 hour pace out of the gate – I’d expected to be one of the slower ones in that pen going at 2:45 pace so it was immediately difficult to get into any rhythm and maintain a steady pace for the first 2 miles.
I managed to hit my mile splits roughly but was aware I shouldn’t over-compensate and work too hard early on and to avoid getting tripped – a few seconds here and there could be made up later but a fall in heavy traffic would be a disaster.
Miles  to [13.1]
I’d worked out my miles and went for an easy to work out 6:15/mile goal and for the first few miles negotiating thousands of other runners I was pretty close and I’d written my goal splits on my arm (the expo inexplicably ran out of 2:30 and 2:45 split wristbands!) so I went a bit old-school and knew I needed to hit the following first half splits for an overall high 2:43:
- 5k – 19:25 / 19:23 (goal/actual)
- 10k – 38:50 / 38:29 (goal/actual)
- 10 miles – 1:02:30 / 1:01:56 (goal/actual)
- Half marathon – 1:21:50 / 1:22:15 (goal/actual)
I’d gone through my splits feeling OK to about 10 miles but I was sweating a lot in the heat which was warmer than I’d expected but nothing too extreme and I was taking on a few sips of water at each aid station and had a Torq gel around 10k.
After 10 miles though it felt like someone had flipped a switch and I went from feeling pretty comfortable (but definitely working) to feeling an impending trip to the pain cave and so happened around 11-12 miles that my pace dropped off 10-15 seconds a mile and I started to feel my goal dropping away already.
I should have been way more comfortable if my goal was going to happen.
The half marathon point came in 1:22:15 which didn’t really leave me any slack and I knew at that stage I wasn’t going to even split the race let alone get faster and that realisation seemed to turn my legs to lead and my mind to jelly. I could literally feel months of training just evaporate and any leg strength I though I had just disappear.
It’s quite a weird feeling – it wasn’t hitting the wall as I still felt alright generally but the realisation that my pre-race goal was gone so early was painful.
Miles [13.1] to [Finish]
So a classic race of two-halves it is then ….
It totally fell apart at half way, I managed to maintain a modest pace through the next couple of miles and stayed under 7/mile pace until nearly 20 but I was toast. Totally done.
I was going backwards fast and I honestly could have taken a few walking breaks as early as 15 miles I was so spent from the first half which was massively disappointing. My last training long run 4 weeks ago was a solid 20 miles 10 @ 6:30 / 5 @ 5:50-5:35 and 5 @ 6:15 so while my first half was hard work it shouldn’t have been beyond me to at least make it to 20 miles on target and then see how it went.
I got to 20 and by that point my quads were all over the place, my right calf was doing some wacky spasm thing that didn’t hurt but meant I had to adopt a slightly different stride to ease it off but I was well in the pain cave at this point anyway so it didn’t really matter and my pace continued to slide.
Finally getting to the last few miles I’d worked out that if I stuck under 8:00/miles I should at least finish under 3 hours (3:05 would still be a good for age) so I just kept my eyes forward and legs moving as best I could but it was grim.
At about 23 miles I got a whiff and a reminder that no matter how bad my day was, the guy who I was rapidly gaining on was having a way worse day having full-on sh*t himself with it running down the back of his legs. I’ve run many ultras where I know how quickly you sometimes have to get to a toilet if your guts go south (luckily there’s usually a bush nearby in ultras) so that put my day in context at least.
Ultimately I was just about able to keep my legs moving to cross the line in 2:57:45 and in more pain (quads and calves) than I’ve been in after longer races.
Can’t help but be massively disappointed and I don’t know exactly what went wrong.
I had a solid 4 months of training, some good and relevant workouts including finally going sub 17 at 5k which has been a longstanding goal. I know Sub 3 is a good time and 2 years ago I was happy to achieve that but I’ve worked hard with 2:45 in mind for the last 4 months so it’s hard to take any solace from 2:57 on this occasion.
It was quite a lot hotter than I’d expected in the second half but I don’t think that really was the issue that caused me to blow up so early. Although I use Strava, I enjoyed keeping an old school paper log of my training too so I’m going to take a look over that and see if there’s anything I can gleam from it.
The two things that jump out from my training is that potentially I’d not fully recovered from the 50k race a month ago even though I felt I had and that I’ve also just not trained enough at marathon pace in my long runs (only done one long run with any MP) so I look forward to digging into my training a little more but as for London – I aimed high and fell well short but I’ll be back.
It’s a wonderful race, the crowds are sensational from start to finish and I’m lucky enough to have still run a good for age so I’ll be back again but for the remainder of the year I’m moving back to ultras.
Next up is the Round Sheffield half which thanks to it’s stage format with rest sections I think I could run close to 1:15, then it’s onto the longer stuff with the 73 mile Kirklees Way Ultra and then in September my other A-Race for the year the 24 hour Self Transcendence Race where I’m hoping to run 100 miles in under 18 hours and targetting 130 for the 24 hours.
Thanks for reading! I bet plenty of you did London, hope you had a better race than I did :)