On Saturday morning, I woke up incredibly excited as I was going to start the weekend celebrating Colchester Castle parkrun's first birthday, and filming 2 of my friends attempting to break the world record running a 5k dressed as a camel. The previous record was 30 minutes.
They completed it in 25:30
After the fun of the Parkrun birthday, it was a quick turnaround at home before the long drive north and west to Manchester. During the car ride, as well as falling asleep several times whilst cuddling my elephant, I also remembered this time 2 years ago, and having spent dad's last weekend at home surrounded by family and watching the boat race on what was quite an eventful boat race as a chap jumped in the water, and later the bow man from the Oxford crew collapsed with exhaustion.
We arrived at our hotel around 5:30pm, and so plenty of time to get a decent dinner before watching run fat boy run, my usual pre race prep, however, we spent almost an hour trying to get toa restaurant, as the trams were not in service we couldn't work out the busses and taxis lied about being at our pick up point when we were standing there the whole time. Eventually we made it into the city centre and were looking for a Jamie's Italian, when we happend upon another Italian restaurant called Avalanche.
Avalanche was amazing, and highly recommend it, if I'm ever in Manchester again, I will certainly return, the wine was delicious and reasonably priced, as was the food. Although the place wasn't cheap, I didn't think we were overpaying because the decor was so nice. Our bill would easily have been £25-£50 more expensive had this restaurant been in Colchester or London respectively.
Back to the hotel, and an old friend from high school, who now lives in Manchester, met us in the bar, and we had a good old catch up. Amazing that it's been over 10 years since we've seen each other! She wished me luck, and we got back to our hotel room just before 10pm. Having slept in the car, I figured I would still be able to catch some of the film, but got properly ready for bed just in case. I managed about half of it, before deciding to go to sleep.
I shouldn't have bothered. I was tossing and turning all night. Excitement? Nerves? The room turning from sauna temp to ice cold in a matter of seconds? Who knows. By the time my alarm went off at 6, I just wanted a nice relaxed getting ready, which I managed. Didn't even leave the room as I managed to use instant porridge. Very little appetite though.
I woke David to take a picture of me before I set off for the start:
You can tell from the lack of light coming through it was a fairly grey day. I was worried about rain, but thankful, as this would be my first marathon run in relatively cool conditions.
At the race village, I bumped into a couple of people I knew, including Jonathon who had been marshalling at the camel WR attempt Parkrun. He had come up on the train, and was looking forward to a sub 3:30 finish. We were in start pens B and C, so we walked to the start line together, and separated to go in th pens. I was nervous right until I had passed 3 miles. It took me a long time to relax into pace, and I kept having to control myself but also not push too hard for at Least the first half. I was so focused on getting the pacing right, that I barely spoke to anyone. A few people spoke to me, but in my aim to stay focused, I made sure I dropped back or pushed on so that I could continue to run my own race.
Unfortunately I don't remember that much of the course, but I do remember the following.
At mile 7 @tinyrunner85 ringing her bell and cheering as I went past.
At halfway lots of crowds and cheering, which made me pick up my pace a bit too much!
At mile 16, elite runner June Allen massively cheering me on
At mile 17 @tinyrunner85 again cheering me on
After this I could hear my friend David S who will be running London marathon next week for his 50th birthday reminding me to keep steady at this point even if I felt great. I felt good, but I wouldn't say great, so I just kept steady. I did notice the pace starting to drop off but I could pull it back again. At 18.5 miles I saw David (my fiancé, who is not 50!!!) with the camera, and that gave me another much needed boost. I held on strong pacing until 20 miles, the real halfway point.
I was looking forward to passing Isherwood road at 20.5 miles to give me another boost:
But it didn't quite work like that and I didn't see the sign.
From here, my legs started to complain, I had to tell myself to keep going. I looked down at my wristband:
If I could hold on to 22, I would be able to finish the last 4 in 10mm and still hit my target, but I had to remind myself that my maths might be off, due to race brain frazzle and that I should just keep it steady. I would allow myself a little fade in the next few miles, and made a deal that I could relax a bit as long as I didn't stop to walk. Turns out my relaxing a bit pace was 8:45ish, which made me think that 'holding on' pace may be 9mm... Notwithstanding poor mental arithmetic, I could possibly make 3:40... If I could pick it up, I could have finished 3:38:31, which would have been a whole hour faster than my first marathon. But I had in mind that I was on the edge of cramping in my left calf and hamstrings and that it could end up painful. I just kept running.
At 24.5, I allowed a smile to creep in. As long as the cramp held off, I had this. I was grinning inside, whilst gritting my teeth. I'm sure I let out a fair few grunts and groans at this point. In the last mile I wanted to push on. This was the mile that above all the others I was dedicating to my dad. I would fight and fight as he had taught me too. There was no sprint finish, but I reckoned I could get under 3:42 which is what my pacing plan would have resulted in. I could see the finish clock at 3:41: something and pushed and pushed to the finish line, when I stopped my garmin, I was overwhelmed and amazed to find I had actually run under 3:40! Even if London changes the GFA requirements by another 5 minutes as they did last year, I still have it!
I have only now looked at the splits, and am really happy with them:
I will no doubt post more later with a bit more chance to reflect, but wow, 38 minute pb! I don't feel like anything went wrong. I had paced intending for a 6 mile drop off of pace in the latter stages but only really had the drop for 4 miles. I smashed my target by 5 minutes and definitely feel a hellova lot closer to qualifying for Boston.
Thanks to all who have supported, helped and encouraged me along the way. Knowing that you would be looking at my Facebook wall or Reading this blog to see the result really made me keep going in those final few miles.