April landed with an injury filled bump, however after a test run on my own I declared myself fit to continue training for the greatest race on earth – the London Marathon! My first long run of April was with Coach Lambert (Alton Sports’ boss – Toby Lambert) and he took me for a half marathon around the location of the Four Marks store. It’s out in the farmland of Hampshire, this means it’s very hilly and rural – we completed this run in 2 hours and 2 minutes and I was very tired, however Coach Lambert looked fresh and ready to start running.
The weekend brought a text message asking me to do some speed work, this meant a 7 mile run with a fast 5K in the middle. The weekend also included my final distance run of the training cycle, I did a 20 mile run on the Sunday, this was not about speed but time on my feet and seeing how I coped with that kind of distance, I completed the distance in 3 hours 43 minutes, this was slower than my marathon pace but I needed to do the distance to remind my body of what was coming soon. So that’s a midweek half marathon and over a marathon run in a weekend – I am an athlete after all.
The following weekend bought my final race before the marathon, the Salisbury 10 mile race. Amazingly after following instructions from Coach Lambert not to look at my watch and just run on feeling alone. I managed to complete this race in 83 minutes, this is another personal best for me and I knocked 3 minutes off my best time. My average pace was 8 minutes and 20 seconds per mile, when I think about it I can’t help wondering if that was me! The week following was a simple recovery run of five miles and then a 6 mile run two days later, both were way quicker than I could imagine I could have done a year ago.
With Easter upon us I was tasked with a further parkrun Sandwich. The run to and from Parkrun was steady and I was to run hard for parkrun, I did this without question and got another parkrun PB of 24:28! This coaching stuff was really starting to pay off. My training was starting to wind down and the big day was getting closer, I had two training runs left that week, this was a simple 5 mile run and a fast and hard 4 mile run two days later. My training was over but I was not a Jedi yet.
I still had the Expo to contend with and the marathon itself. The Expo or Running show as they called it was amazing, not only was I going there to pick up my number but I was also working for Alton Sports on the stand for a day. After collecting my number & taking some souvenir photos I reported to the Alton Sports stand in my Alton Sports Uniform (a really cool ON t-shirt) ready to help the general public with their purchases.
I was put on the Nutrition stand, my job was to help my fellow runners with gels. I was working on the SIS & High 5 stand, I did this for the whole day, my goal was to help as many people as I could get the right gel strategy for the race, I know if you get that wrong it can have an impact on your whole race, I was quite passionate with dishing out advice and I hope I educated as many people as possible I also got interviewed by LBC Radio that was really exciting. I was almost sad when Coach Lambert came up to me and said I needed to go home and rest, talking about running is nearly as good as running itself. As I left London that evening I realised that the next time I would be doing this was Marathon day, I could not believe how quick the time had gone.
Fun fact for my first marathon in 2016 (the BMO Vancouver Marathon) I did 398 miles in that training cycle, this training cycle I also clocked up 398 miles !! How did that happen? I do believe the planets are starting to align and something good was going to happen. Marathon day is here! How can you rest the night before a marathon? I still don’t know the answer. My day started at 5:00 AM I dragged myself into the spare bedroom where I had laid out my gear. I got dressed as quietly as I could and made my breakfast, 2 slices of jam on toast, I am not a big eater on race day and this is the most I could possible manage. I needed to be on the 06:30 AM train so I left the house in good time and amazingly the carpark at the train station was empty!
We waited patiently for the clock to tick over to 10:48, I was actually shivering I was really getting quite cold, then we heard the air horn and the race had started, 4 months of hard training and now was the time to prove my metal to not only Coach Lambert and Alton Sports but myself. The support for this event was off the charts, from mile 1 – 26 the support and cheering was incredible and very loud, I had my inspiring music on but I did not hear one beat due to the noise of the crowd. As per my training I did not look at my watch and just ran on feeling and what I was comfortable with, I did my first 5K in 26:21 and the 10K in 54:19, I was not lighting up the tarmac but I was consistent. I did the halfway (13.1 miles) in 2:00.16 I still felt good and although I was taking in the sites I was very focused on getting the job done, I have to give credit to the crowd because they really helped during the low points of the race.
I have to confess it was not all plain sailing, I stuck to my gel strategy, I found one Maurten every other 5 miles and then a caffeine SIS Gel every other 5 miles worked for me to give me both energy and a boost when I started to lag, the plan worked up until mile 15 when I accidentally picked up a Lucozade Sport instead of water, I didn’t realise until I started drinking it, this did not sit too well in my stomach, however I slowed down and just let my body settle down. I was getting very pleased with myself because I had got to the 30K mark at 3:00:20 I was totally in control, so I thought, I then hit a bit of a wall I cannot explain it I just started to hurt and the more I pushed the more my hips, shoulders and legs hurt.
I did start to run-walk a bit…. A lot in fact, I let myself recover and then I tried again to get back up to speed, at this point the version of Coach Lambert that lives in my head had turned into a drill sergeant & I was totally shouting at myself, my final 5K took me 38 minutes, this was not my most proudest moment but that was all forgotten once I crossed the line. I don’t really remember much about getting my medal and retrieving my bag . You will note I look a bit pale, I just needed a sit down and something to eat, I did feel better about 20 minutes later. By the time I had found the train home I was back to normal and was looking like a normal person, however I had acquired a London Marathon medal.
I have many people to thank for this journey, I did not do this alone, all the people who have helped me along the way were with me for the whole 26 miles & will not be forgotten
My thanks go to :
My Long suffering wife Claire who has watched me suffer and push myself.
My children for not making too much fun of the old man!
My Parents and the rest of my family for supporting me.
Nurse May for her medical advice
The Management team at Urbis-Schreder for letting me take so many extended lunch breaks to do the lunchtime runs.
The Alton Sports team of Ambassadors for their ongoing support
The Alton Sports management team for help with equipment and general advice.
And finally to Coach Lambert for getting me through this and showing me what a 45 year old Hobbit can actually achieve & it is to him I dedicate this blog
1st May 2016 BMO Vancouver Marathon 4:45.43
23rd April 2017 ABP Southampton Marathon 4:37.31
7th May 2017 Mississauga Marathon 4:31.05
7th January 2018 Walt Disney world Marathon 4:49.00
28th April Virgin Money London Marathon 4:28.03