On the 22nd of April 2108 I took part in the VLM. This was my first big event of the year and a debut for me at this distance. What an event to do it at!
They say it is the best supported marathon in the world, and you can appreciate why when running it. I don’t remember one part of the course being without supporters. A truly fantastic crowd that do their uttermost to help push you through the pain and find a few more miles for every runner.
I had been building to this event all winter with official training beginning in January. Many of you know of the trials and tribulations I went through with injury to get to the start line. Was it worth it – Hell yeh!
So it all started like this…Once upon a time…lol
It was an early start for me and I had my usual porridge breakfast with an added banana before heading out and making my way to Greenwich. I arrived earlier to meet some of the other fundraisers and then on to the starting area. My current fundraising total stands at over £2400 so very pleased with that.
The VLM is a well oiled machine and everything is superbly organised. Bag drop, toilets, starting pens – I couldn’t fault any of it. Upon arrival there was an air of excitement but also nerves. To be honest I had been thinking about this event for the last couple of days leading up to it. I think at the expo everything became very real.
Edginess had certainly set in on Saturday. I slept surprisingly well the night before which is not normal for me. Being able to sleep in your own bed makes a big difference here I believe. Usually I am in some hotel the night before a race.
What were my honest thoughts prior to the event? Well I contemplated many things. What pace to run at? Should I go harder to put some time in the bank? Is Sub 4 still possible? What about the weather? What kit shall I race in? What would my hydration and fuelling plan be? Many many questions and I could add more! I’ll try to answer these as I go through the post.
I had managed three weeks of running post injury prior to the event. I believed I could complete the distance, although I wasn’t sure about the sub 4 bit. I knew 4:10 / 4:15 would be achievable even not fully fit. I didn’t give in to it though. Once I arrived and saw the 3:45 pacers, I instantly knew I would go with them and stay with them for as long as I could. My idea of putting time in the bank goes against a lot of what people tell you to do…and I agree to an extent. Negative splitting is the way to race any event particularly endurance events. This however depends on your fitness. I knew full well I could not run the last half of 26 miles quicker than the first!
I knew I could complete 12/13 miles at the pace the 3:45 pacers were going at and possibly a few more. I also knew that if I could keep with the 3:45 pacers for a fair distance then it would leave me enough time to run 9/9:30 miles and get under 4 hours towards the end. I didn’t expect to stay with them the whole way. My plan worked. My splits were pretty even for the first 17 miles. I felt great for the first 13 and I could tell things were starting to get a little tougher after this point. In fact it was just about the 16 mile mark that the 3:45 pacers were starting to forge a gap between myself and my close friend who was also running it.
I think the splits show you where I hit the wall – somewhere around mile 19. Those last miles were tough to say the least. At the 20 mile point I was at 2:55 and knew I had over an hour to run the last 10k. My race plan had worked, and certainly running with my close friend helped those last few miles. We went through some world of pain I can tell you.
Back to those crowds – amazing…simply amazing. I give a big shout out also to my purple running family the East End Road Runners. What a club! Based on the highway at the 13 and 22 mile point. A massive cheer going out and boy was I so looking forward to seeing them on the return part. They certainly give you something to look forward to and if you want a lesson in cheering (and running) this is the club. They’re also a friendly bunch! My family and friends were also based at this point.
I can’t thank all those people on course shouting words of encouragement and singing football songs with your name in. A wonderful experience. Remarkable.
Those last few miles were really tough and the onset of cramp didn’t make things easier. This happened around mile 16. My nutrition plan was great, my hydration plan however, a different story. This went well out the window at mile 6. Why? Well I stupidly took my salt pills out of their blister pack and left them in my back pocket thinking they’d be easier to get out and take. Because of all the water and sweat, they dissolved! I managed to take one at mile 6 and then my other 4 were gone within the next two miles. This I knew from experience is not good for me particularly when it is warm. I have a high sodium loss rate which you read about here. Cramps were due and so they began from mile 16. I battled with them right until the end.
It was great running with Chris; a close friend who I have known since we were 2 years old. I have no idea how he managed to find me as we were in different coloured waves but met just as the waves came together at the 5K point. It certainly helps running with someone. You hit peaks and troughs at different times and help to get each other through. We have run a few races together now – I certainly enjoy it.
Along the embankment is great. You know you are on the home straight but those last few miles are some of the toughest you will run. The crowd push you home though.
Coming through the mall and past the palace is truly iconic. The London Marathon was epic and one event I will not forget. My finish time – 3:53 – Get in! Somehow with 4 weeks of missed run training at the most critical point (only getting up to 17 miles) I managed the original goal. Just think – What could have been achieved with those extra few weeks training eh?
It was great to finish. I received my medal and collected my bags. I spoke to one guy who had run the course twice and had been up since 11pm the previous night. He did it in reverse first of all and then with everyone else for charity. Simply amazing and crazy! I also spoke to a lady who had completed the marathon majors. What a medal that is!
It was also great seeing my family and totally unexpected seeing a few of them. I felt a little emotional at the end and have to say I have a wonderful wife who puts up with the moaning when I’m injured and supports me through it all. To the friends that came out…thank you also. All the support means so much.
So what now? Will I do another? Was this the hardest thing I have ever done?
Well the triathlon season is upon me now and that will be my primary focus over the next few months. I consider myself a triathlete firstly, but running has certainly made me a better triathlete. If I do another marathon, ok when I do another marathon, it would need to be a big one. Funnily enough I looked at Berlin this morning, and my wife will be pleased to know that I have missed the boat on that one this year. So keep posted on this one. No plans yet and my body is so broken I need some time to rest.
The next big event is a half ironman in June with a warm up sprint in four weeks time. When I compare the marathon to anything else I have done, I would say this:
Mentally it is a tough thing to do. Completing one discipline for that length of time is draining especially in tough conditions. My half ironman last summer I would say was on a par with the marathon, although the ability to break disciplines up through swim, bike and run helps with the metal aspect. It doesn’t feel like you are out there longer although you are. My body today is broken from the waist down. My legs in pieces and feet battered! You tend to ache all over a little more from an ironman – certainly the back and arms. The weather did not bother me too much yesterday. It was hot, and too hot to run, but nothing like the 32c Ironman last year. I take my hat off to anyone who attempts a marathon. Completing it and not even considering time is an amazing feat. All finishers should be hugely proud of themselves.
I do hope you enjoy the write up. The blog is becoming more and more popular so I am pleased. Do feel free to comment, like and follow. Until next time! Let those aching legs and feet heal.