What a week! So many running related activities. And the London Marathon is done!
Back in London after a weekend in Suffolk, work was super busy as the world of parkrun stops for nobody. I was also super busy EATING EVERYTHING. I eat a no/low-carb diet, so it's been a weird week consuming enough pasta, bread and Lucozade to fuel a small army. To be honest I've felt really bloated and sluggish as a result, so I'm looking forward to ditching the beige foods and sugar again now the marathon is over.
On Thursday the team headed east to Canary Wharf and the O2 for the Running Awards. This year we opted out of our category (best event series) so we were there simply in a supportive and team bonding capacity.
Me and Rowan headed to the expo where I single-handedly destroyed the selection of Cliff Bar samples. I'm pretty sure they have banned me from returning next year...
It's always incredibly exciting picking up your number before the marathon. London do a great job of making you feel incredibly important, despite the fact you are just one of over 40,000 runners.
On the way to the awards I had a good chat with Chrissie. On my birthday last week I got a text from an unknown number saying "Happy birthday Superstar!" which I thought was weird, so I didn't reply... The first thing Chrissie said to me was "Why did you ignore my birthday text" 😂
Chrissie is one of the greatest female athletes of all-time so I always feel a bit embarrassed talking about my training in comparison. But after telling her how the hardest part of my lengthy comeback has been regaining confidence in my body and not worrying about getting injured again, I woke up on Friday to this message on Slack... truly a good egg!
Nothing to report here. Although I might go swimming next week. Watch this space!
Lots of spinning this week to save my legs so no cycling other than commuting to the office. Working on a island poses some unique challenges, particularly when it's prone to flood A LOT. Not for the first time we managed to escape by carrying our bikes and wading through the river.
Now we're talking! Marathon week always gets the juices flowing, and even more so with the sun shining, so on Tuesday I headed out for my first "session" since May last year. Now looking back, picking the Tuesday before the biggest race in the world to inject speed was not the most sensible idea, but it actually went really well. So I cross-trained Wednesday and did another one Thursday!
My right calf felt funny that afternoon, so naturally being an anxious wreck, I panicked and had massages at the expo on both Thursday and Friday! It felt okay when I woke up yesterday, so I nursed my way around the spectacular Osterley parkrun and then retreated to the flat for a series of hot and cold baths, foam rolling, more carbs and Gillette Soccer Saturday.
RACE DAY! Oh yes. I woke up at 5:00am, went for a mile jog around the block - my calf felt perfect which was a massive confidence boost. I had breakfast consisting of two toasted white bagels with strawberry jam, two bottles of Lucozade, two Eat Natural bars and a cup of tea.
I know some people like to graze throughout the morning, but as I'm used to training on empty, I like to eat a big breakfast a long way in advance, usually around 4-5 hours before, so I have time to digest everything, and then just fluids between then and the start.
I caught the tube, then train to Blackheath and made my way to the Championship start area. It sounds super fancy, but realistically it just has a few extra toilets, and big marquee and some free Lucozade. The main perk is having a road to warm-up on, although it's about 0.1 miles up a hill. However as you can see, it was good enough for the race winner Kipchoge!
It gave me time to finalise my race plan and I definitely felt like I was capable of sub 3:00. My longest run was 18 miles, but I felt my recent cycling training would supplement that. So the plan was to go off at 2:59 pace and then try to push on at halfway if I felt good. Or if I was suffering, hang on for dear life!
At 10am The Queen set us on our way and I settled into a nice pace. Around mile 5 I felt my quads starting to cramp up, which was strange so early in the race, but I tried to ignore it. Annoyingly the 3 hour pacer had gone off way too quickly and was just ahead of me, which meant the road was really congested with people hanging on to him. He was definitely running at around 6:40 pace (as opposed to 6:52 for sub 3) but I wanted to get ahead of them, so overtook and built a gap.
I was running in a cap for the first time and at each water station I was soaking it with water to keep me cool and the heat actually wasn't too bad. The Cutty Sark was a blur of screaming and noise and I pushed on keeping the pace even. But my quads were beginning to become hard to ignore and it was quite painful at that point.
With 18 miles still to go, I had to weigh up my options. I was going along nicely at 2:58 pace, so I could afford to slow down a little bit, but I was conscious of the crowd and the pacer just behind. I also felt if I slowed too much it might be hard to push again if I had to later in the race. But the reality was I had a bloody long way to go and the cramp was getting worse!
The marathon is as much a mental challenge as it is physical and it's constantly throwing questions at you, which you have to answer with split-second decisions. In hindsight I probably should've backed off, consolidated for a few miles, and then reassess. But instead I ploughed on regardless, and if anything picked up the pace.
Tower Bridge was incredible and gave me goosebumps, and then by my watch I got to halfway in 1:28:48, so on for a 2:57-58 finish time. It helped massively knowing Coralie was going to be cheering with my Mum and Step-Dad at mile 15, and it was so good to see them!
Just after seeing them we headed down into the tunnel underground and that was definitely the final nail in my sub 3 coffin. The downhill was excruciating and the climb out completely killed my pace. I really did contemplate stopping at that point. I knew sub 3 was gone, I was in a lot of pain, it was getting hotter and I still had anywhere between 70-90 minutes of running ahead of me. I spent the next mile wrestling with it. I knew if I stopped I would regret it immediately. But I knew if I carried on it was not going to be pretty!
What saved me was knowing Coralie and co were waiting for me around mile 20. I didn't want to worry them so I thought let's just get to 20. It was grim and I can't tell you anything about those miles. It was just so relentless - every time I put my foot on the ground I was wincing as my quads were screaming, and my pace slipped to 7:30 min/mile as my stride got shorter and shorter.
When I saw them I just shouted "my legs are gone" as I didn't want them to worry my slowing was due to the heat or illness. I felt like I had loads of energy and I definitely wasn't bonking, I just couldn't move my legs!
The high of seeing them again was soon replaced with the utter dread of six long miles to go into a headwind. I tried to break it down into chunks, but even still I found myself watch-checking every 30 seconds. Eventually the pain got so much and I had to stop and walk. I've never walked in a marathon before and I knew it would be fatal as trying to run again would be so hard, but enough was enough.
I had the luxury of knowing my time was now completely irrelevant so that took a lot of pressure off and it was just all about getting to the finish. I ran as much as I could, but any slope up or down was savage and my previously metronomic pace was now out to around 9:00 min/mile. I saw the parkrun crew at mile 23.1 aka "parkrun to go" (where else?) and it gave me a massive boost. But I still had to walk / run the last 3 miles.
Crossing the finish line was a huge feeling of relief and also pride. Proud of the way I was able to dig deep and just say "I'm getting that medal even if I have to walk" because previously I'd have probably flaked out, stopped and made my excuses (too hot, surgery, not trained etc). I'd have been too "big time" or embarrassed to walk.
But spending so much time injured over the past 18 months has definitely changed my outlook. I keep saying this to people and I can tell they don't believe me, and I probably didn't either for a while, but now I'm definitely able to appreciate how fortunate I am to do what I love - running.
I spent the whole of Christmas with my foot totally numb, hobbling on crutches, and I'd have done anything to be able to run a mile, let alone a marathon. So I will be looking back on my second slowest marathon ever with immense satisfaction.
I'm not entirely sure why my quads cramped up so bad, especially so early on in the race, and because my pace was relatively sensible? I did a couple of hard, long cycle rides last week, but I'd had plenty of time to recover. It was hot and when you sweat lots that can lead to cramping, but that was the same for everyone. I haven't done any downhill run training, so that might be a factor too as the first few miles were downhill. But most likely it was just due to a lack of miles in the legs, so it's just one of those things that I'm not going to overthink.
It was really special meeting up with everyone afterwards, despite a policeman taking a bottle of water off me (because they were for police officers only...). After stuffing my face with burger and chips, with extra chips (obviously) and a large McDonalds milkshake (classy), the highlight of the day came post-race...
Whilst on the tube back home, I was wearing my medal (has to be done) and a guy saw me, then asked Coralie what her time was.
Coralie replied with "3:52" - her time at Manchester Marathon.
Yes that's right, Coralie pretended she had run the marathon! Unbelievable.
Anyway, focus now turns to the Ironman! I'm pretty sure I'll be in bits tomorrow and most of next week, so realistically training will begin a week on Monday. My goal is to hopefully complete it in around 12 hours, so I'm excited for the next few weeks ahead.
Thanks for reading. Tom.