By Ian Haylock
This is Oxford way and an early start — 0900. I reckon it was roughly 75–90 mins drive from Teddington so allowing for at least an extra half an hour journey time and wanting to be at the venue by 0800 meant leaving home around 0600. That meant getting out my pit, fuelling and hydrating at 0500 — on a Sunday ? I don’t think so. Luckily enough, my Mother in Law lives 30 minutes from Abingdon ( thanks Lynn for your hospitality ) , so the plan was to go there on the Saturday afternoon ( stopping off en route to do a brief recce of the race location at Abingdon ) and use this as my laying up point to rest up. I just bought myself an extra hour in bed. Get up at 0600, fuel and hydrate and leave 0700 ish to be there 0730 to park up and walk to the event for 0800. All went to plan.
When I arrived it was cold — great. Bang on what was needed, 9 degrees. On the downside it was windy. But I’ll take the wind rather than heat any day of the week. The pressure was off for this marathon, as I’d cracked my 3.30 ( only just 3:29 ) target for the year at London. I’d also got a late entry place and so had only 12 weeks to train and my 2 week summer holiday in Thailand was also coming up. In Thailand I tried running along the beach but it was bossed by a pack of stray dogs who ended up chasing me into the sea one morning — it was a warning, the beach is their office in the early hours. After that, I used to get up up at 0700 ( whilst the family were still in their pit ) and hit the treadmill and do about 10k in about 45–8 mins , then 10k on the bike ( holding 35 km/hr ) and 2k on the rower in about 7.20–30 ( 1.50–52 /500m rate ) — collapsing as I got off — quite a session. In the evenings 800m- 1 mile swim whilst the kids had some down time before the evening meal. The pool was huge, 80m long ( and you know about it ) , biggest pool in Thailand.
Fast forward , back to the UK and Abingdon . Only about 10 weeks out I had to build the long run mileage up to about 22 miles in 6–7 weeks ( need a 3 week taper for race day ). I already had a base of about of about 10 miles, so went to 13m, then 16m, then made sure I had 3 runs in training above 20 miles to get my head right and know what the pain felt like. Two of the 21 mile runs were bad — I’d stepped up mileage too quickly: was ok to about 15m but a nagging hamstring injury kept surfacing. Rather than stopping , I just cut the pace 30 secs from 8 min/mile to 8.30/mile and completed those sessions. Confidence was bad. On the final long run it went to plan — I did about 23 miles and held 7.55 pace. In between the key long runs I did 4 sessions a week , mainly 10ks at easy 7.30s pace mixed up with some faster stuff. 3 weeks to go , I tapered the distance but sharpened up on the speed. I did the cabbage Patch 10 mile the week before: 10 miles in 70 mins ( 7 min/mile ) . That week, I rested up and did 3 light sessions ( 3 miles at a time, some strides ).
Back to race day. I was there 0800, milled about for a bit then did a light 5 min warm up and some stretching. 0850 — the bell rang , they called us over. 0900 we were off. The first 400m is the Abingdon race track then out to the roads. I figured my pace would be 7.50/mile based on my training runs. My first mile was 7.35 — touch fast. So I started to hold back. By 3 miles I was sub 23 despite not using energy so I went with it. My natural pace was 7.35–45 ( that was the effect of the taper — training runs of 40 plus miles a week had been done at 8 minute miles but that was then and this was now — I was on fresh legs ). Up till half way, all I thought about was maintaining baseline hydration and fuelling ( took a gel at mile 8 ) for the 2nd half. I got to 13.1m in 1hr 40, not pushing. The locker seemed fine as I’d figured on 1 hr 42. The marshalls handed out cups of water every 3 miles — not great but at some stations they gave out 330 ml bottles — I made sure I drank at least 200 ml of it or so steadily over 1–2 miles. I’d also carried a banana with me till this point as the gels are too sugary and I need real fuel — by this stage as you can imagine it was quite marinated ☺ — ideal. I deployed it steadily from miles 13–16. Things were fine — at this stage it looked that I was on for low 3 20s area but I know the 26.2 mil is a beast and things can change very quickly. You can go from feeling brand spankers to emotional within a mile. I think it was about now that I went from feeling comfortable to less comfortable — a combo of the legacy hamstring niggle starting to tighten up, fighting the wind and fatigue setting in. With 10 miles to go I knew that my break even pace ( to run sub 3 30 ) had widened from 8 min miles to 8 30s as I had done the early miles in 7.40s ish. So I cut the pace to about 8.15 as I wanted to finish it and not collapse in the last 10k — the last 10k of a marathon is a beast and gets so many people. I broke the last 10m into 2 x5m which got me to 21 miles and the immediate action drill was to bang in a gel . Then I started picking off incremental miles. Got to 23 miles and a young lady shouts its just a 5k park run to go. ‘Just !’ , I thought. By this stage, the concentration had gone and fatigue was setting in — I was now down to 8.30 min pace. With 2 miles to go, I was hanging in there breaking it down to 800m units. Arrived at the stadium at 26 miles… 1 last lap of the track — I managed a final effort to get back to an 8 min mile and clocked 3 27:40.
All in all a great day out — Abingdon is a great venue for a marathon and pb course. Less than 1000 runners so not crowded and blocked like the big city marathons. Next couple of weeks, its easystreet for me. No structured training, easy runs at 8 min miles. Next event will be to target a half marathon in the spring — hopefully sub 90 mins. Here the training is totally different vs the marathon. I know what works for me. For the sub 90 half: If I can run 10ks regularly in 42–3 mins and 8miles in sub 55, then I take it to 10 miles at this 6 min 50 pace. You need to be able to do 10 miles in 68–9 for a sub 90 half.
That’s it. Ian, Happy running ☺ ☺ ☺