I started out this training block with the aim of fulfilling my first big marathon related goal of running sub 2:45 (The loftier long term goals will take years of hard work and dedication and lots of marathons and lots of learning).
After an injury forced me to miss Manchester marathon in the spring I was cautious with my mileage and in a 12 week block I only missed one planned run due to a niggle and other than a couple of niggles in the last few weeks which caused immense panic (which were aided by a couple of massages, massive thanks to Stu here) but managed to train through, all went about as well as it could. I wasn’t sure what shape I was in as I backed off racing after summer league finished so I only had my sessions which had all gone well and a Parkrun PB to give me confidence.
Waking up on race day I knew sub 2:45 was going to be hard to achieve as we were facing a hot and humid day and a headwind for most of the course. Added to the twisty-turny nature of the course it wasn’t an ideal day for a super fast time.
After going through the first 10k a minute too quick on my debut marathon last year and paying big time come mile 20 another goal was to ensure I paced very sensibly early on and to run as even as possible all the way through. To hit 2:45 I needed to average 6:18 pace. The plan is to run by effort for the first 4 mile or so over the bridge and then see what pace this gives me when we hit the flat.
The gun goes and 10-15 runners go off ahead but let them go and focus on my own race. I start with a 6:35 up over the bridge then a 6:10 coming back down and then turn around with a 6:30 and a 6:08 (rough splits. I never fully trust my watch and GPS so I take these with a pinch of salt. I prefer to use the course mile markers). A downhill 6:05 mile follows before a 6:16 for a flat mile 6 according to the watch. The first real marker is 10k which I go through in 38:50 (10 seconds quicker than planned but happy with that). I catch Lee Alcock who’s running the 2 man relay at this point and run around Costello and the park with him for a few minutes which other than a brief couple of minutes with Shaun Barley in the second half is the only company I have for the full run! (Congrats on the win by the way fellas).
The next marker for me to judge my pace by is the 10 mile which I hit pretty much bang on pace in 1 hour 3 mins. I catch up to Paul Wray at this point who is looking strong and also bagged a great result. My legs feel a bit sluggish at this point but breathing is absolutely fine and I feel like there’s plenty in the tank so I aren’t too worried. We head over to West Park which feels like a maze and the first sign of the shortage of marshalls as a spectator has to tell me where to turn.
I go through halfway in a little over 1:22:30 so still on target but aware I have pick it up a little. Passing a relay changeover point here gives a lift. Next up is Albert Dock and a ridiculous headwind for a mile or two where I catch a couple more runners before heading into another maze in town. The support picks up again and allows me to push on. I panic after I cross the road at Princes Quay and cant see any runners in front or any Marshall’s anywhere but breathe a sigh of relief as I spot a Marshall at BHS.
I head over to the Deep next and the first sign of things going wrong. I go down a back street and there is no sight of any Marshall’s or signage so I head straight forward. I realise straight away this isn’t right but manage to get back on course as I knew the course was heading towards Victoria Dock and Siemens. I pass the 18 mile mark and clock I’m around 40 seconds off target pace so I know the A goal had gone but still feel good so the plan turns to making sure I finish strong, don’t lose too much time from here and settle for a PB.
Another wrong turn at a roundabout on Victoria Dock (saved by Shaun Barley shouting at me) follows. Over to Siemens and a long lonely out and back. I pass mile 21 and have a disgusting double espresso caffeine gel which briefly gets some life back in the legs. My fastest mile since mile 5 follows (6:11) as I decide to kick on and empty the tank of whatever is left now the end is in sight. It bites at mile 23 but It’s great to see the fellow Harriers here cheering as I pass and this gives me another lift. My quads are heavy now but I know East Park is a mile away and it’s homeward bound from there and I finish in 4th place in 2:46:44 for a 3 minute PB. After the race I check my splits and realise my last 3 miles were 6:37, 6:35 and 6:23 and a positive split of just over a minute. Very happy with that and definitely feel that I got it right with regards to pacing which is a massive plus.
A nice little bonus of first local runner and the team prize plus lots of relay wins for the Harriers topped the day off. The sub 2:45 can wait until London next year.
I enjoyed the race from start to finish, especially the start on the bridge and it’s great to finish a mara