A long post but well worth the read….from David Pallister..
Back in the mists of time (April 2003) I completed the London Marathon in a time of 4 hrs 15 mins. While that was perfectly respectable, I was disappointed personally as I knew I hadn’t run to my own potential. For a variety of reasons I then stopped running other than short moments of “try and get fit again”.
In April 2013, I realised it was 10 years since my marathon and if I didn’t do it soon I might never do it. So I finally decided to start running again, hit the gym, then the pavement and to try again, but this time, really go for it. I signed up to the Amsterdam Marathon, the Great South Run and the Brighton Marathon. I built some basic fitness and then joined Waverley Harriers in June after my trial weeks. I gradually adjusted my target from beating 4 hours to going for 3 hrs 30 but following a time of 1hr 30 at the Maidenhead Half, began to believe I could take an hour off my previous time. I revised the target to sub 3hrs 15, but kept it to myself.
In October, after 800 miles of training, I ran 3 hrs 14 min 23 seconds at the Amsterdam Marathon, just over an hour quicker than ten years before and with the luxury of 37 seconds to spare.
The next question was what could I do in 2014 to follow that? I was already signed up to the Brighton Marathon and decided to train to break three hours. When asked though, I just said I would try to get as close to three hours as possible.
The Surrey Half Marathon was my first “green light” event to decide what pace to target for the Brighton Marathon. The Surrey Half was well run, had some of the best marshalling ever (you know who you are), and had more toilets than you could ever hope for (more on that later.) I’ve travelled to some events on my own before, but there is something far more rewarding about travelling as a group, warming up with your club mates, talking things through before the start and hearing the encouraging shouts from other Harriers running or marshalling the event. The course was great practice for Brighton with gradual hills but nothing too significant, and I set a new PB of 1:25:59. It was after the Surrey Half that I really felt a sub-3 marathon for Brighton was achievable.
The Surrey Spitfire is reasonably hilly and was being run just three weeks prior to Brighton so I felt it would be too much to race it flat out. It came at the end of my highest mileage week (66 miles) so I set myself the goal of running the last 5 miles (effectively miles 61-66 of the week) at target marathon pace despite the fatigue. Again we arrived as a group, which made the pre-event nerves disappear, it was a warm day with bright sunshine and the double loop course was excellent. I ran the first 15 miles at just over 7 min mile pace and then picked up to manage 6’46 for the last five; my final “green light” for Brighton.
In addition to taking his own toilet to the Brighton Marathon (if you aren’t on Facebook that will mean nothing to you!) Steve “The Chairman” Rogers was also kind enough to drive me to the event together with my friend Rob.
After the expo, a light jog and chips on the pier, we met Ruth Lyon and her friend Stephanie for a late pasta dinner. We then met up again in the morning for our walk to the start lines. Thanks to my Amsterdam time I was starting in the elite start just behind the invitation elite runners. An interesting experience only slightly ruined by there being hardly any loos and those that they did have being placed in long wet grass. The course was great, with a run through the city joining the coast road just after 5 miles, looping out and back from Ovingdean and then back along the seafront. Everything went very smoothly until just after 21 miles when cramp (calf) hit for the first time. Thankfully I had read about dealing with it, didn’t panic, stopped, stretched and got going again. I then had the fine balance of pushing to get back on track, and being hit by cramp again. It hit twice more, but luckily the third time I was by some metal railings. I can thoroughly recommend Brighton for metal railings that you can slam your feet into, grab the top of the railing, heave, scream and then start running again.
The 3 hour pacer had passed me just before the railings, so I knew I was behind. The last mile or so was an all or nothing gamble with a sprint peaking at sub 6 minute mile pace to get over the line in time. I won’t be buying my video clip, which shows me hopping over the line as cramp hit again for a fourth and final time and shows me telling the medics to get off me (politely) so I can stretch. It was worth it though.
After 1800 miles (enough to get to the Kremlin), 750 of them since Jan 14, I now have a marathon time that starts with a 2, with an overall position of 100th and a time of 2:59:56. I still had four seconds to spare!
As for Steve, he calmly said he was aiming for 3hrs 50 and did 3 hrs 49 which is just showing off. Ruth Lyon had a superb result with a fantastic 22 minutes PB dropping from 4 hrs 13 to 3 hrs 51.
As a (long) footnote, I’ve been asked by a couple of people how I think I managed to achieve a sub 3 marathon. A couple of my answers such as “I did 15% more miles of training” were true but only told part of the story.
My better half puts it down to sheer bloody mindedness and obsessive behaviour. A very brief summary from me would be to put it down to the following:
Training – 700 miles training in 13 weeks (15% up on same period for Amsterdam), 6 sessions a week with none missed, every run having a specific plan for pace, distance, recovery period and purpose, Tuesday track sessions, planned weight loss, green light events to build confidence and define the target, practising exact pacing, practice events, carbohydrate loading, a later taper than for Amsterdam and finally the chips on the pier the day before.
The race – pace management, one gel every 25 minutes, breaking the distance up into sections, mental mantras, associative pain management (including the phrase “good form” in Sarah’s voice), belief in the “green lights” and the training, self persuasion (“keep the pace up and it’s only 20 minutes to go’), turning everything into a positive and then when it came to the cramps, not panicking and refusing to accept defeat.
Which is all a very long way of saying my wife was right.