I had a thought this morning that I actually had to double-check on my own blog to make sure that it was true and that I wasn’t just imagining things. It goes as follows:
My last triathlon was Ironman UK.
I had to view my own blog to double-check, but it is indeed true – the last triathlon that I did was Ironman UK in 2016. That was about 16 months, 30,000 PhD words, two jobs and one newborn son ago. In my defence, I had made a conscious decision in 2017 to step back from multi-sport (in order to do more PhD and to be more Dad) and chose running to focus on. As a result, I ran three half-marathons and two marathons this year; which I would argue is not too shabby an effort. Here is the thing though – I do enjoy doing triathlons. I had reached a stage late last year when I was probably starting to burn out a little, and the thought of heading down the swimming pool for a time trial filled me with dread (on second thoughts, that has not changed at all).
Now, every time I see a big hill when I am on a train or driving by, my first thought is ‘I wonder if there is a paved road up that hill that I could cycle?’. I’m moving to Glasgow in a couple of weeks, and in amongst all of the many, many, many emotions that I am feeling at the moment – I’ve enjoyed using Google Maps to scour local areas and find some beautiful cycling spots to explore over the upcoming Scottish winter. Long story short – my head is telling me that it is time to look back to triathlon.
This is not to say that everything else will fall by the wayside. I have children whom I adore spending time with and they (along with my immensely tolerant and loving partner) will always be my number one priority. I also still have a PhD to research and write. And I have a new job managing the training for the upcoming European Games in Glasgow taking place in August that I want to excel at. So the ever-present need to balance everything will be there – in fact in 2018 it will be harder as I am re-introducing triathlon. Fingers crossed I can pull it off.
My current first race of the year will be Ironman Edinburgh 70.3 in July. I am immediately nervous about the prospect of a bumpy swim, but the opportunity to do an M-Dot race an hour’s drive down the road was just far too tempting for me. The deal was sealed when I realised that I could drive to drop my kit off on Saturday and then come home to sleep in my own bed, before waking early on Sunday and driving back again to race. #win
I am a bit concerned that I will struggle to get cycling training in, given that it is the most time intensive of the three disciplines (and also, I’ve barely cycled in a year), but I have about seven months to get up to speed on this – and hopefully getting in with Glasgow Triathlon Club will help on that front.
The other race I have planned is Ironman Dún Laoghaire 70.3 – the race formerly known as Ironman Dublin 70.3 . So I’m targeting half ironmans for 2018, as I really do think its the ideal distance for me; its a distance I find challenging but without completely turning your life upside-down in terms of time commitments. I’ve never been to Ireland before, and I’d love to go – so that is pretty much it for the rationale behind that one! It looks like a hoot, and it also gives me a bit of a celtic vibe for the year, which will be fun.
I’m hoping to volunteer at some club races during the year, and perhaps even race in some shorter distance events to build towards the two ‘A’ races. The shortest triathlon I’ve ever done is Olympic distance, so perhaps in 2018 I can try my hand at some sprints or super-sprints – we’ll see what comes up over the summer depending on other priorities.
So there we are. 2018 feels a bit locked in at the moment, but I just can’t really see how I’m going to fit it all in. Short term goals are to get my running shoes on and get out and about – particularly when I start exploring my local neighbourhood once I move. I haven’t mentioned it, but I’m around 30km shy of having run 1000 miles for 2017…
*cue The Proclaimers music*
Listening To: ‘Bang Bang’ by Green Day
I passed the course marker ’36km’ and my eyes began to roll toward the sky once again. This was not necessarily a voluntary action, but rather a desperate bid for relief from the pain enveloping my body and my mind. As if I could simply scream up to the heavens and the difficulties of the previous hour would simply melt away. I felt myself looking forward in an unfocused manner, my mind in a constant conflict between two warring entities – one screaming ‘STOP!’ and the other screaming ‘KEEP GOING!’. I still had 6km to go, and it felt like it was going to be the longest 6km of my life. Except I had been here before. It wasn’t going to be the longest 6km of my life. Just bloody hard.
At the start of 2017 I set myself some goals for the upcoming year on the athletic front. These were supposed to meld with other things going on in my life – namely, the birth of my son in the summer, and a renewed focus on my PhD to a point where completion wasn’t quite so questionable (I’m not convinced that I won that particular battle). I decided that the area of triathlon that I could do that would retain the most base fitness while still generating a time saving was running, so I set about bettering my running marks across my main distances – 5km, 10km, half marathon and marathon. With this in mind, I signed myself up for the flattest marathons I could find. I balloted for Berlin and London, and when I was unsuccessful for those – signed up for Rotterdam and Frankfurt. Rotterdam didn’t go so well, owing to a lack of training (I was more focused on my PhD back then) so after bashing out a great personal best at the Ealing Half Marathon in September, I was optimistic that Frankfurt would be my time. If I could run a half marathon in 1:30, then surely a marathon in under 3:45 or even 3:30 was manageable.
If there is one thing I have learned in my journey through triathlon and distance running it is this – preparation matters. I am living proof that the approach of doing the bare minimum and then hoping to succeed is folly. Sometimes this failure is due to factors in my control; I am not motivated, or I feel lazy or whatever. Sometimes, as was the case with this marathon – there are other factors at play. At the risk of making excuses early on – I have a lot on my plate at the moment, and I don’t usually admit that. Some people use exercise as a release from stress and anxiety in their lives, and (I believe) there is science to back this up as a legitimate method. I find that I am able to turn virtually anything into a source of stress and anxiety, and running and triathlon are no different. For example, I worry that I am not running enough, and then because I’m so worried about it – get exhausted from the stress and worry and then…wait for it…don’t run enough, thus fuelling the cycle evermore. Throw on top of all of this stress and anxiety about other things in my life (ie. work, relationships, PhD) and while I need running to keep myself on an even keel, sometimes I just don’t have the space physically or mentally to make it happen.
And this is what happened with my training for the Frankfurt Marathon. I did some long runs (ie. 35km in Manchester two weeks prior to the race) and quite a bit of speed work (ref : Ealing Half Marathon), but my recurring issue tends to be muscular endurance, and I didn’t do enough long runs here to remedy that issue.
So when we hopped on our flight to Frankfurt from Heathrow at the absolutely ungodly hour of 7am on Saturday morning, it was more out of hope that I would run a good race than anything else. I had this thought ringing through my head again and again – I was able to run a 1:30 at Ealing Half a month and a bit ago; surely this means I can do this? Luckily for me, I had my cheer squad of Anna and my son coming along to watch the race, and we were pleasantly surprised to find one of the quietest flights I have ever seen in my life on the way over. It was spectacular, and it meant that my son could basically make as much noise as he wanted and it wouldn’t make a difference. He didn’t though – he saved that up for the full flight on the return home on Monday night…
So we landed in Frankfurt. Ahhh Frankfurt. Home of…banks. And…erm…it’s an airport hub for Europe. Look, what I’m trying to say here is that it isn’t exactly a tourist mecca. It’s no Paris, Rome or Bolton – ok? We did have a little wander around the red-light district though, which was perfectly delightful in the fading light of a Saturday night for your first evening in a country where you don’t speak the language. I did make my way to the marathon expo though, to go through the traditional ‘picking up of race numbers’ and ‘people trying to sell you shit you don’t need’. This was also my first opportunity to see if my periodic use of the word ‘danke’ would be enough to bluff the locals into thinking I wasn’t a tourist (spoiler : it wasn’t).
What it did give me the chance to do was the check out the amazing finish line that I had heard a little about – but hadn’t really considered when I was doing all of my pre-race preparation.
It looks like this:
What I did notice was the immense volume of triathlon club shirts that people were rocking at the pre-race expo. I had heard that triathlon was big in Germany, but I wasn’t prepared for the amount of tri-club kit. And Ironman branded bags! They were everywhere, and I have to admit the tiny pang of a blow to my ego as I realised how many people have done Ironman races. It was great to see though, and really made me want to come back to Germany to do a triathlon one day to experience what that local passion for the sport translates into event-wise.
With my race chip and number collected, shopping avoided (I never need anything at these things) and weather checked (it was going to be cold – my choice of singlet only was mitigated by receiving a long sleeved race top) I was off to the hotel to rest, feed and sleep. Thankfully for me, my son obliged by sleeping the whole night through (win!) and allowing me to get pre-race rest.
On race morning, the wind was whipping between the massive office
buildings and the rain was teeming down – which was a relative first for me, as I’ve not run an event in truly awful conditions before. I nervously ate my waffle with fruit salad for breakfast (nutrition = fail) with one eye at the leaves outside battering everything their respective paths. Thankfully the weather broke about 30 minutes before the race start, so we made our way down to the start line so that I could make my way to my pen and set about getting into the right head-space for my seventh marathon.
In the pen there were massive puddles of water from the aforementioned storm, so we all huddled together in the drier parts of the pavement, listening to 90s dance music and occasionally tuning into conversations from groups that I could understand the language of. I was nervous because I knew I wasn’t particularly well prepared, but I figured if I paced myself well I could make a good fist of it. I know I was nervous, because I heard a shout from the front of the race and started my Garmin to try and start to take off running. It took me a few minutes to realise that the pro runners had started, and that I was going nowhere fast. This is important information for later on. Eventually though, after lots of chilly jogging on the spot, the people in front of me started to move and I was able to re-start my Garmin and head out on to the streets of Frankfurt for yet another marathon adventure.
A great piece of advice that I have been following in races is to run at a pace slightly above what feels comfortable and try to hold that middling pace for as long as possible. In training runs, this is usually around the 4:50 per kilometre pace, which would result in a 3:23 marathon. I started out at a comfortable pace, and after a slow first kilometre, started knocking over approximately 5:00 kilometres. If I held that pace for the race, I would do a 3:30, which I felt was unrealistic, but I wanted to run to feel rather than to try and hold a pace (a mistake I had made at Rotterdam).
Two kilometres in I also managed to catch my Fan Club(TM) who I stopped in front of and gave a quick kiss to. This required me to then re-enter a big city marathon race on the run, which earned me a polite shove in the back to notify me that someone was behind me and was going fast(er than me). The first few kilometres wound their way through the shopping district (I think) which were nice enough, but not particularly picturesque. I went through the 5km mark in 25:19, feeling good and managing a comfortable pace.
Kilometres 5 to 10 also took in a lot of the north side of the river Main and the business districts around there. With little to look at in the way of scenery (except a dinosaur statue wearing a t-shirt – true story), I instead focused on my pacing and my race, which was probably not such a bad thing. I was probably at my strongest during these sections of the race, effortlessly ticking over those 5:00 kilometres, and my brain allowed me the opportunity to daydream about going under 3:30 for the race. At this point, a personal best seemed pretty assured – I mean – I felt good at this stage! I do tend to do this, getting ahead of myself when I still had 30 kilometres to go! I went through the 10km split in 50:17 – pretty much bang on target for a 3:30 and nicely ahead of the 5:20 pace that I needed for a personal best.
Kilometres 10 to 15 took us to the ‘south side’ where I thought things might look a little different, but in reality they didn’t really. It was just more of the same, though perhaps a little more residential this time. Frankfurt is a rather green city it must be said, with some lovely little forests and whatnot – as well as a guy randomly on a street corner with an air raid siren blaring. I can only assume that this is always the case, but then again, I have a small statistical sample to draw from. I started to feel a bit rubbish at this stage, which was when I knew things might be a bit troublesome for me down the line. I was telling myself an old marathon mantra of mine, which is words along the lines of ‘you do not have my permission to give up, legs, until at least kilometre 35’. How true this would turn out to be. The clock says I was strong though, even if the effort was starting to catch up with me, and I went through in 1:15:40 – 5:02 per kilometre and ticking over nicely, if a little sluggish.
Kilometres 15 to 20 were all along the south side, and things started to drift here as my stomach started to feel a bit nauseous and the fact that I was running a marathon started to catch up a little bit. I was still running good splits for my personal best chances, but as the pace started to nudge towards 5:15 per kilometre, the 3:30 marathon slipped away once again – early on in the piece though. The difference in mindset this time – as compared to Rotterdam – was in Rotterdam I doubled down and pushed the pace to try to get to 3:30. This time I relaxed a bit and tried to just run as fast as I could; trying to ensure the best result I could have. I went through the half marathon point in around 1:47:07 – a really good split for trying to knock over my personal best, if I could hold on.
Kilometres 20 to 25 were me telling myself to hold on for dear life, and this is the point in the race where I start to break things down, 5 kilometres at a time. That is usually a tell-tale sign that I am starting to struggle, and in this case it was my stomach that went first. I just didn’t feel well; I felt a mild nausea and started to dry reach a bit, which usually made me feel a bit better when it happened. My pace started to move towards the 5:25 area per kilometre, which at least I held consistently. I also made the same mistake at this point that I made in my first ever race – and I would have to deal with it for the remaining 20 kilometres I had to run. I poured energy drink all over my head! To be honest, I gave it a smell before tipping it on my head, and I swear it was water. Then again, in the state that I was in, I’m not surprised I got it wrong. So as it happened, I got to run the rest of the race sticky, but smelling rather citrus-y.
Kilometres 25 to 30 were not too bad, but I could feel everything start to get a bit blurry on the edges of my vision, and the voice that was telling me in whispers to stop and walk early on started to get a bit louder. The organisation of the race was fantastic though, and the consistent aid stations made for great targets to aim for. I didn’t walk at any of the aid stations, but rather kept an eye on my watch and aimed to keep ticking the kilometres over one-by-one, with a view to reassessing how I felt at the major 5km landmarks. I went through kilometre 30 in 2:36:44 – at 5:13 pace, I was still comfortably ahead of the pace needed for a personal best – but with 12 kilometres to go, I knew I was in trouble because of the way I felt.
Kilometres 30 to 35 – oh my word, the pain. The wheels really started to come off at this point, as my stomach felt awful, my calves were screaming at me (this is a flat course, mind you) and the desire to walk became close to overwhelming. The 5:00 kilometres were long a thing of the past, as they were replaced by 6:00 kilometres – and I watched my race pace figure creep ever upwards on my watch, bringing me down with every upwards tick. At this point my main focus was on getting to the finish, preferably without walking. These are usually the moments during marathons in which I most question why I sign up for these things, and the voices of the crowd saying things like ‘keep going’ become strangely irritating. I went through kilometre 35 in 3:06:18, and knowing that I would see the Fan Club (TM) in a couple of kilometres, I really grit my teeth and tried to hold on.
Kilometres 35 to 40 were where I relented, and sadly, started to walk/run. I started walking from kilometre 37, after I had seen Anna at the hotel, and she remarked later that seeing me in the state I was in made her reconsider coming to see me do these races. I may struggle to finish races and have to walk the latter stages, but you best believe that it’s not out of a sense of laziness or anything like that. I leave everything out on the course, every time. I took to walking 500m and running 500m to get through this incredibly tough period, even though these are the times that I
most want to crawl into a hole, lie down and sleep for a while. My splits started going northwards of 8:00 per kilometre here, as my personal best hopes went down the tubes, and I started reflecting back on my Rotterdam experience and how I had replicated it. All that was left now was to make it to the finish and to the sweet relief of lying down on the ground.
The last two kilometres were pretty horrible, as rain began to fall fairly heavily and was accompanied by a wind whipping between the buildings and pushing against all of the runners. I finished the 42.2km by my watch in 4:01:12, and managed to be happy enough with that to manage a smile.
It meant that I was able to walk the last 500 metres or so (once I hit 42.2km on my watch – I’m not running any more!) and video the finish line. Sadly, WordPress won’t let me upload the video, but the 90s dance music and the hall ambience was fantastic – and experience I won’t forget any time soon on what was otherwise a disappointing race day.
So 4:01:12 in the books – a disappointing result from a time perspective both for the day and for the season. It was my last race of 2017, so I immediately went into reflection mode and swiftly moved from there to thinking about what races to do next. Such is the life of a distance junkie – there is always another race to do.
After heading back to the hotel and sinking into one of the nicest warm baths I can remember having in some time – we relaxed downstairs in the hotel bar with a big hamburger dinner (Germany!) and tried to get off to bed early. Sadly, my son had other ideas, and instead he screamed for a few hours while I tried to distract him with the Mexican Grand Prix (with German commentary) on the television. Eventually he tired himself out and fell asleep, which was my prompt to do the same.
The next day, we went exploring a bit in Frankfurt – checking out the botanical gardens and wandering the north side shops. The highlight was amusing myself with puerile phrases taken from German that might be questionable if directly used in English. I am a child. I also tried to eat my body weight in meat, though it was a bit of a half-arsed attempt because I just couldn’t really do it. I’m a lightweight.
And thoughts turned quickly to 2018! I have a lot to do on a number of fronts before thinking about races, but initial thoughts are of more European races (Athens, Copenhagen are early thoughts) based on places to go and fun, rather than flat races chasing personal bests. If it is meant to be, then I will prepare properly and run a good race. If not – then I’m feeling that a good strategy is to have alternative goals in your back pocket.
I’m also pondering a return to the multi-sport world. My first thoughts are to go Celtic, and run through Ironman 70.3 Edinburgh and Dublin. This would result in 2018 being ‘the year I conquered my sea swimming fears’, but that might be something worth doing as well. At the moment I have many other priorities in life, so I’m not giving too much thought to it.
Today though is about resting from the race, and the seemingly insurmountable amount of admin I need to do to start moving house to Scotland!
Listening To: ‘Settle’ by Vera Blue
I’m still here. I’m still actually running, though not nearly as much as I would like to. My new road bike still lies in pieces on my balcony at home. I have the Frankfurt Marathon in just over a week – but to be honest, it is not really at the forefront of my mind at the moment. I have gotten some training in – in the last couple of weeks I’ve managed runs to both the red and sky blue sides of Manchester – which has been quite a lot of fun, even if I have found myself at 5:15am screaming at my Google Maps for sending me down roads that no longer exist in my quest to find the respective clubs. I’ve visited 2 Premier League club grounds – just 18 to go.
Oftentimes, training and racing has the opportunity to be a key focus of my life and I am able to come here and ruminate on the mental strategies for overcoming race failure, or to rattle off a half-marathon race report and bemoan going out too hard (again). None of these things are on my mind at the moment.
This is because I am planning a move, and it is a relatively big one. After months of thinking and planning, I will be moving to Glasgow in the next few weeks. It is an exciting opportunity for a number of reasons, but it comes with a lot of pain emotionally and I have invested a lot of energy – particularly over the last few days – in trying to manage that pain and to consider ways of overcoming it. If you’ve ever made a choice you knew was right in the long term, but came attached with downsides – you’ll know what I’m going through at the moment. All of the energy that I might have dedicated to the physical pursuits of running have been instead channeled into the mental exercise of dealing with these decisions.
This is not the forum for getting into the detail of it – but I know in my heart that it is the right move for the long term, and that on balance it is the right decision for my family and for me.
It means that my short and incredibly sporadic stint at Clapham Chasers is coming to an end, and I will make my swansong appearance for the club in Frankfurt. All I can say is that everyone I have met that is associated with the club has been phenomenal – particularly Messrs Bright and Spraggins who continue to be a source of inspiration for this mediocre runner and wannabe half-decent triathlete. I will report back to let everyone know if the Glasgow Triathlon Club can live up to the standards established.
So that’s where we are. It’s scary but I think it’s right. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. A long winter awaits me – full of fields of green and white, rolling hills and breath-seizing cold waters. Eyes wide open, from behind a rain speckled jacket – I hope to make the most of this new opportunity life has given me. Wish me luck.
Listening To: ‘How We Operate’ by Gomez thanks to my friend Nick who reminded me of how great this album is.
TLDR; version – hurt myself pre-race, ran a PB anyway. Happy.
So, seemingly I am now only popping up here to write race reports – which is probably for the best, because everything else running wise is a bit monotonous at the moment. There are only so many times I can write the words ‘I didn’t quite do as many miles this week as I had hoped’ before I become responsible for the first ‘death by boredom’ recorded on the internet. At that is saying something. I apologise in advance for the rambly nature of this race report though – my mind is a mess at the moment as there is loads going on, so that may result in a bit of word vomit in this report. Sorry.
I ran the Ealing Half Marathon for the 5th time yesterday, and signed up about two weeks ago I think. I originally had thought I had a slot through the school the Tin Girl goes to, but it turned out I didn’t. I wasn’t 100% committed to it, but after falling short at Aberdeen I figured it was worth a crack. Not to get a PB or anything, but just as a good training run between now and the Frankfurt Marathon. Also – the start line is 10 minutes from my house, so why the hell not?! Also, I’ve run the thing every year except one, so I have something of a streak to keep up. And as Anna pointed out to me yesterday, I’ve run personal bests for the last two years in a row at the race, so there must be something about that course that agrees with me.
All this being said, I didn’t train specifically for the race. It was meant to be a training run, so I continued on with my marathon preparation – presuming I would include the race as part of that. I did a 30km long run the weekend before that went really well, and had a couple of tempo runs planned for the week prior to the race. One of these runs was a 14km light run into work on Wednesday morning, which had followed a tempo 14km run home on the Tuesday night. I was feeling pretty good on the Tuesday, but very sluggish on the Wednesday into work. I was struggling a bit in the last couple of kilometres, and clearly mustn’t have been picking my feet up, because I tripped over a piece of pavement close to work and went tumbling over. As is usually the case, I managed a rather graceful battle-roll in front of stopped traffic; so I expected that the biggest injury I would suffer was that of my pride. I was somewhat incorrect.
As the day went on, my left big-toe began to hurt more and more. I figured I had just stubbed it on the pavement, and that it would get better. Thursday morning I was still walking with a limp and started to wonder if I had actually done some damage. I knew it wasn’t broken, but it still wasn’t in a state to be running on – so I shelved running before Sunday’s race – frustratingly. What was not helping things was that because I was walking with a limp, I had now also managed to strain something in my ankle in my left foot – which was now also looking an impediment to my running. This was getting seriously annoying. Here I was, two days out from a race and I could barely walk properly.
Of course – all it needed was time and rest, and by not running on it I had given it the rest it needed. It was still a bit tender through Saturday, even though I was able to manage some one-person basketball at a gym while the Tin Girl attended a birthday party. I wasn’t taking my recovery that seriously. When I woke on race morning, it was still a little bit tender, but I took the approach that I would try running normally on it, and if it hurt then I would back right off and not risk long term injury. If it felt fine, then the strategy was simply to try not and go out like a maniac. Too many times I have run too hard, too early in half-marathons; burying myself for the latter parts of the race. I wanted a more even pacing strategy. Luckily for me in this race, we had pacers for 1:25, 1:30 and 1:35 – so I could accurately judge where I was. After picking up my race number (hooray! I remembered my race belt this time!), I placed myself between the 1:25 and 1:30 pacers at the start line and reminded myself repeatedly not to go out too hard. Its just a training run – take it easy.
The Ealing race starts off with some fairly flat sections in the opening 5km, before hills at around 7km and then probably the biggest one at around 13km. Other than that, it is pretty flat. I sorta stuck to my plan for the first 5km, going out in 20:55. In fact – now that I look at it, I didn’t stick to the plan at all! I had meant to go out slower than I had in Aberdeen, and instead went 26 seconds faster for the first 5km. So again, my first 5km was within my 5/10 fastest 5km times. I’ll never learn. Anyway, the key thing here was that I didn’t feel too bad – I was running within myself but at the limit. I was sticking nicely between the 1:25 and 1:30 pacers. I figured that if I could hang with the 1:30 pacers until the 16km mark – I would be well set up for a PB. Notice how quickly my mind had changed from ‘training run’ to ‘PB’? Yep – in the first 200 metres.
I was super happy to have my two-person cheer squad on course for Ealing as well – Anna had brought the Tin Baby (and a coffee for the first viewing) along to the course. The poor little boy must’ve been quite confused by all of the music and noise – but watching his Dad run is something that sadly for him, he’ll just have to get used to. It always gives me a boost to see them on the side of the road, even when (especially when) I am feeling horrid. This day was no exception.
As I started to come through the 10km mark I was deliberately trying to pull back my pace, as I could feel myself going too hard. Once again, I suspect I failed – as Strava tells me that I ran a PB for the 10km distance in 41:58. I wasn’t leaving myself much wiggle room for not exploding in the back end of the course (on a side note – how is it that I can run 41:58 for 10km, but can’t run a sub 20 minute 5km? What the hell?). At around the 12km mark, I got picked up by the 1:30 pacing bus, who I followed up the aforementioned ‘big hill’ and then I was subsequently dropped at a great rate of knots. I stayed with that pacer for all of 1km – so at this stage I was hoping to hold on and not get caught by the 1:35 bus. It was particularly difficult, as during this section of the course the support dwindles slightly, and I found myself effectively running by myself and falling backwards. This was when the voice in my head was telling me alternatively to stop and walk, or to just jog to the finish and call it a training run. That voice in my head sucks.
As always, I ignored that voice and pressed on, even managing a 4:08 kilometre split for the 14th kilometre. I don’t know what happened there, because I don’t remember getting on a motorbike or anything – but clearly something spurred me on. Perhaps it was that I had an energy block and it just really, really worked. Anyway, through 15km I was at 1:03:33, and had 30 minutes to run 6km in order to secure a PB. If I could tick over 5 minute kilometres, I would make it. It was going to be close though.
And what a long, long 6km it was. I was in a hurt that did cause me to wonder at one point why I bother doing these things. I considered the conversation I had had with George Bright about the arbitrary nature of endurance sport. I considered how much my legs were hurting and what benefit I was gaining. I considered stopping and sitting down. Somehow I managed to keep one foot in front of the other, and as every kilometre ticked over I glanced at my watch in shock at how far under my 5 minute per kilometre goal I was. 4:36, 4:21, 4:29 – even a 4:14 for kilometre 19. It was only at kilometre 20 though that I admitted to myself that a personal best was likely unless I absolutely exploded. I picked some targets amongst the other runners and refused to allow my legs to stop until I reached that finish line. I had struggled in the last 3-4 kilometres in Ealing before – I didn’t want to do it again.
My head lolled backwards as I tried to keep myself together for the last mile or so. My breathing began to suffer and I gritted my teeth to try and focus on something other than how much my legs were straining. I entered Lammas Park towards the finish line, and the final 500 metres seemed an age away – even with a personal best assured. I closed my eyes (never a good feeling – everything spins) and made one final push towards the finish line. My watch beeped to indicate 21 kilometres completed, and I sprinted for the last 100 metres before hitting stop on my watch. It was faster than I had ever imagined I would have run that day.
For the third year in a row I ran a personal best at Ealing and defied my own expectations of how fast I can run. A couple of people have mentioned that I must be disappointed at how close I got to running under 1:30 – but I think rather I have the satisfaction of knowing that I really could not have gone any faster. I knocked 3 minutes from my personal best on a course that is still hillier than one that should have PB written on it. Not bad for a training run.
In the context of this season, this was a most welcome boost. There was every chance that I would have finished the year with the 5km personal best I ran in January (?) and nothing else – but now I have something to hang my hat on. If I can do the business in Frankfurt, I could end the year with PBs in 5km, 10km, half marathon and full marathon – which was sorta the aim of my year. I could argue that I haven’t gone under 20 minutes for 5km, nor 1:30 for the half-marathon – but I’m starting to think of how arbitrary those goals are. I’m improving, I’m running – things are well. I remember being super excited at being in the top 20% of participants in the London Triathlon, and how crazy that seemed. It’s now a strange regulation type feeling at being in the top 5% at half marathons. I finished 207th out of 4171 runners yesterday – not bad.
Now to Frankfurt though – with the confidence that I am running as well, if not better than I ever have. Will it translate into a marathon PB? Who knows.