Thursday, April 12, 2018


Another year, another PB.

This year the marathon was scheduled for the Sunday immediately before the EGU. However we weren't committed to that so I entered anyway when they sent me an early bird discount offer. The Vienna marathon was also a week too late for a combined work/run trip.

Later on we started to think about the EGU trip, and realised that it was actually possible to run the marathon, go straight to the airport, and hop on a plane to Vienna. The marathon is on the south side of Manchester and really very close to the airport. Parking the van in the city centre can be difficult due to height barriers so rather than a hotel we found an airbnb in a residential area a couple of miles south of the race start which proved to be very convenient. There was even a fabulous pizza just down the road. Probably the best we've had this side of the Japan Sea, in fact. A proper soft chewy crust with a few crispy bits and plenty of topping.

Under usual circumstances, one between two would have been reasonable, but these were not usual circumstances! We staggered back and collapsed into bed.

Sunday morning dawned cold, cloudy and still. It would be hard to imagine a better day for a marathon. I forced down a bit more breakfast before packing up and heading off to the start. Didn't see anyone I recognised, but I hadn't really expected to. There was a club-mate somewhere a bit further back in the field but as I had last time I hopped the barrier close to the front and tried to position myself among other people aiming for a similar time. After a good winter of training I'd been starting to dream of the magic 2:45 (the threshold at which I could enter the Championship race at London and line up alongside people such as Bekele and Mo Farah etc) but didn't think it was that likely. 2:50, on the other hand, I was confident of beating, having come reasonably close to it last year. During training I had beaten my half marathon PB by about 100 seconds, which logically should be worth comfortably than 3 mins over a marathon. However, while the running had been going well, there had been a lot of other stuff happening that had meant I hadn't been sleeping well for a while. You never quite know what's going to happen on the day either.

So I set off around 2:47 pace, feeling ridiculously comfortable as you do when your legs are fresh after a gentle couple of weeks tapering. Settled into a comfortable pace, trying to stay in groups of similar speed. Seemed to be going well, I had dreams of a fast second half but made sure not to try too hard too early. I't do 20 miles or so, then sprint past everyone with a fast last 10k.

Around half-way there's a section where the course doubles back on itself and we saw the leaders coming back. Two Kenyans glided effortlessly past.

and then after what seemed like an age but was probably less than 30 seconds, a bunch of brits appeared. One of the Kenyans appears to have dropped out later but the other won by a few minutes. Only 2:21, the best runners aim for London of course.

Somewhere around this point I caught up with one of the elite female runners, and we ran together for a few miles. I later discovered that she had a best time of 2:37 and ran in both the Commonwealth Games and European Champs back in 2010. Not bad company to be keeping. Up to mile 20 and even a little beyond I was doing fine, but gradually things started to hurt - especially my left hip and leg which have been the weak spot before, so either I'm slightly weak on that side or slightly lopsided in running. The planned fast last 10k became a fast 4 miles then a fast 5k and although I did try pushing on the pace just a little bit at that point ("it's just a parkrun!"), I soon reverted to damage limitation and decided to just keep on plodding on in the hope that I wouldn't fall apart too badly. This worked pretty much ok, I did lose a minute over this section to Holly who kept on at a steady speed but that's not too bad in the great scheme of things. The two halves were 1:23:28 and 1:25:16 which is only a positive split of 1:48, a touch higher than ideal but hardly shameful. Despite this slowdown I did move up over 40 places in the second half.

Food and water worked fine again with my own bag of jelly babies and kendal mint cake washed down by the supplied bottles. I really wasn't hungry or under fuelled at all after the pizza though. Perhaps with hindsight I could have splashed on a bit more water towards the end of the race when I wasn't interested in drinking. Fixing the left leg problem might have the biggest impact. It isn't causing a problem now three days later so there isn't a real injury problem, it's just not quite as good as the other one. Oh, and a pair of magic nike sub-2 shoes though even finding a pair would be a bit of a miracle. A 3 min PB is a pretty big improvement at this stage in my running career and at this age, but one disappointment with my result is that I didn't get quite as much as half-way to 2:45. That still seems like it may be a step too far for me. We'll see...

Anyway, here is my official result and here it is on Strava:

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