Sunday 30th September was the 11th Loch Ness Marathon and the second time I have raced this course.
My aim for this course was to get my first sub 3 hour marathon, mentally I felt prepared and physically I had put in the training. Pre-race prep went well, drank plenty water the day before, didn't do much so my legs would be rested and had enjoyed my oatcakes, Soreen and pasta during the day.
I had thought about running the Inverness parkrun on Saturday morning but thought better of it, or should I say, Mandy convinced me it wouldn't be a good idea. She knows me better than I know myself! If I had gone and been in a good position, I may have turned the run in to a race - not a good move the day before a marathon.
Alarm goes off at 6am, this is it, race day!
Breakfast, my usual, 3 weetabix, a spoonful of honey, milk, dried fruit and 2 slices of Banana Soreen, all washed down with a strong black coffee and a hay fever tablet! What a breakfast!!
7am, headed to the buses which ferry all the runners out to the start line, now, for some reason I had thought it was an one hour bus journey, so my iPod was preloaded with a marathon playlist, I soon found out that once we were rolling, it was approx an hour and a half from leaving the pickup area until we got to the start location - glad I didn't need the toilet until about 2 miles away from the start, unlike the poor fella who had to get off about 10 miles away, he didn't get back on our bus, hope he got to the start OK!
30mins to go before the start, have a High5 gel followed by another bit of Soreen and some water. Changed my trainers and pulled on my plastic poncho then headed down towards the start line. I found it quite funny in some ways but also, reality hit me at the same time. After wishing my fellow Pitreavie AAC runners a good race, I walked through thousands of people, all standing in their time zones, 5 hours, sub 5 but over 4, sub 4 but over 3, sub 3...this was my time zone and there were only maybe 30 or 40 people here, I could stretch my arms out and not touch anyone, looking back up the road, in to the crowds, that is when it hit me, sub 3 is a big ask, a handful of us in the pen but thousands of people behind me, all chasing their own goals!
The plan at that point was to run 6:40min / mi pace. That would get me comfortably under the 3 hour marker. 2:54 to be exact.
The horn went and we were off, the first mile is always fast, I learnt this the last time, its a steep decent so I kept an eye on my watch to ensure I didn't do something stupid and blow my chances. A number of people got carried away and at mile 4 where there is the first small climb, some people were walking already.
Miles 1 to 17 all went to plan but I knew there was a hill at mile 18.
As you will see in my splits below, my plan for 6:40min/mi pace was going well, right up to 17 miles, after that the course starts to climb up 2 long sections, miles 18, 19, 20 were tough, 21 was better but I knew there was still another hill to get over, which was mile 22, 23 better again but now my legs were really hurting and my pace was getting dangerously close to the point of no return, over the 6:50 average!
My splits for the race were:
- 7:33.5 (This hill really started to kick in here!)
- 7:32.1 (The second hill!)
- 7:21.5 (lactate well and truly in my legs now!)
- 7:09.3 (Got a cheer from Mandy and a mental kick up the bum!)
- 6:29.0 (Final 0.20!)
Finish time: 2:58.49
Finished: 41st / 2551
It was close and I have to admit I didn't think I was going to make it, not 2 miles from the finish line anyway.
What have I learnt?
Physically I was ready but maybe not ready enough for the hills, although my training had taken me up round Arthurs Seat - I should have maybe ran it in the opposite direction to have a long climb up the seat rather than a short sharp climb.
Mentally I need to man up a bit! The last four miles were horrific, this is my 6th marathon and I thought I was prepared but again I was surprised at how easy the body/mind wants to give up, even with a goal of sub 3 in sight. Going to need to work on this. I did learn a new mantra while plodding up the hills though - 'Pain is only temporary!', it did help but even in the last 2 miles, with the sickness in my stomach and legs like lead, this didn't help.
As part of the marathon they take a video of your finish, I've just watched mine and I look tired, my core strength needs improving but I am already working on that with gym sessions.
Some people have told me not to be so hard on myself, please, don't get me wrong I am over the moon with my time and I honestly could not have gone any faster on that course, but, I still believe I can run a marathon faster than 2:58.49 and training starts as soon as I can walk again!
Where from here?
Well, my next marathon is now Virgin London Marathon in April but before then I have the Cross Country season and another half marathon before the end of the year. Do I have a target for London, yip, 2:35 is a good starting point!