In the weeks leading up the marathon, I was wary of saying (even though I said it on several occasions) that the build-up had been ‘perfect’, because the judge of that would be the race itself. Additionally, I did not assume that I would have a ‘perfect’ race (even with a ‘perfect’ build up), because a lot can happen during 26.2x miles and I am not one for underestimating the distance.
From the start (5th January 2015) of the marathon training, until I finshed the marathon, I amassed over 1,020 miles and 132 hours of training. I consistently ran long slow runs between 14 – 26.5 miles. I varied the long runs as well – some were at a slow pace, some were at a steady pace, some finished with a decent chunk of projected marathon pace miles, etc.
Throughout the training, I regularly wore my heart rate monitor to ensure I was not over exerting myself. Approximately, 75% of my training was done at a steady – easy pace as calculated my by heart zones. The correct pace is essential for my slow twitch muscle fibres where endurance running is concerned.
Early on in my training plan, I identified 4 key races that I would run (against predetermined times) to make sure I was on target for my time goal. The four key races were: Worthing 4, Brighton Half, parkrun & the BM10k – all of these went to plan. Additionally, the last few weeks of training went really well too, so I knew I was in decent shape and my confidence had grown week on week.
After a straightforward two week taper, I was rested, feeling fresh and ready and raring to attack the planned sub-2:55.
Race morning and race morning ritual arrive – awake at 5:45am, foam roll, massage stick, porridge, water, stretch and a few toilet sit downs later, I feel ready to go. Set on our way by Ron Hill and Mara Yamauchi, the plan was to set off at 6:30(ish) pace. After a couple of kms, I looked at my GPS and noticed the average pace was, 6:21 – I consciously tried to slow down, but it wasn’t happening, so I decided to abandon the sub-2:55 attempt and see how long I could hold the 6:21 pace for…
There was a group around me, so I decided to tuck in with them, stick to the new plan and concentrate on my own race. The first 10k was 40:08. The miles were ticking by and I was feeling relaxed and confident, but I was unsure if the revised plan was realistic or not – no doubt, time would be the judge of this. In no time at all, I went through both the 10 mile and half marathon markers in 1:03:26 & 1:23:03 respectively – the former being a 10 mile PB by 4+ minutes.
I would soon be entering unknown territory in that I had never run low 6:20 pace much beyond a half marathon distance before now. I was solely focussed on reaching the 20 mile point (the business end of the race) with a low 6:20 average. 20 miles passed in 2:06:11, which would represent a negative split for the second 10 miles, a 20 mile PB by 6+ minutes and confirmation that the new plan was going surprisingly well.
Looking at my progress from the half marathon – 20 mile section, I had gained 25 places. My progress in the race up until that point was – through 7k in 167th, 10k in 162nd, 10 mile in 147th, HM in 139th and 20 mile in 114th
During the half marathon – 20 mile section, I started overtaking more and more people. It was during this part of the race, on another out and back section that I spotted David Kemp and we shared a hi and a wave – it is always a pleasure to see a friendly face.
So, it was down to the business of the race now and I knew that unless something drastic happened, I was on for something quite decent relative to my initial goal. I calculated in my head – in the worst case scenario, 7 minute mile pace from here to the finish would still result in a sub-2:50 – “lovely jubbly” I told myself. The body was still feeling good and the mind was in a great place as well – however, I knew it would get tough at some point over the finishing stretch.
Around mile 22, the body was tiring and the pace started to feel tougher than it had for any of the previous miles – here is where that mental strength was needed. I caught up with the third place female who was being drafted by two male runners into the wind – I decided to tuck in and run with them for a while. Gone was the relaxed McKivett face – it was now all about the race face.
I felt as if I was doing myself a disservice by sitting in with the group of three, so I pushed on and over the last few miles, I overtook growing numbers of people. As I turned the corner, on to Sir Matt Busby Way, with Old Trafford right next to me and with just a few hundred metres to go, I knew I was about to massively exceed the sub-2:55 I initially planned. I could see the race clock in the distance ticking along in the 2:46’s, so I surged to finish and finished 86th (gained 28 places in the last 10k) with a chip time of 2:46:34.