I don’t think you’d find many training manuals that say it’s a great idea to run back to back marathons as part of a return to running programme, but I’m so cheap that I didn’t want to waste the money on the Abingdon race entry!
In 2016 the race was a bit of a breakthrough for me, I managed a 2:53:46, which felt a decent chunk inside 3 hours and that we were now closing in on breaking the 2:50 barrier. Coming back in 2017 I had mixed emotions, yes it was great to be back at such a classy race, but I was worried about potentially running slower than 2016. Given my 2:57 at Amsterdam only the week before, I had to accept this was the most likely outcome.
Still, you have to take a step back and think that only a couple of months before I was limping round in the Aircast boot and now I was running my second marathon in 8 days, life was pretty good right now and who was I to be complaining about not running a perfect race.
Luckily for me my Dad lives about 10 minutes from the start line, so Sarah and me checked into the spare room on the Saturday night, had a cracking dinner and retired to bed for some pre marathon sleep.
My morning routine has barely changed over the years. 1L of SiS energy drink, 2 bananas, 2 bagels and an energy bar. All sipped and nibbled on over the 3 hours before the gun goes off. Oh and not forgetting the all-important Imodium tablets as a gingerbread man is my worst fear ever in a race!!
My tactics were the same for Amsterdam, I was feeling a bit fitter so thought it best to set out at 4:02/kms (6:30mm) which would get me home in just over 2:50.
OF COURSE I set out too quick, AGAIN! But only slightly and there was a lady in the race who looked to be aiming for around a 2:50, so wanted to try and keep on her shoulders. The first 5k came up in 19:18 and the second in 19:22, so the first 10k was lovely and even.
If you haven’t race Abingdon before then there is a couple of quirky things. The roads are open to cars and there is a section of the course you loop twice. Both of which can’t ignore, but strangely they are no bother whatsoever! Half way came up as we approached the end of the first loop in 1:24ish, so we were still tracking very well.. but like in Amsterdam the week before I could feel things were about to get seriously tough.
From 23 to 30 the KM splits were all getting progressively slower. 4:06/4:02/4:12/4:08/4:15/4:08/4:19/4:12.. The only thing that was flying, was my 2:50 time out the window.. but still, we now had to knuckle down and ensure the 2016 time was beaten.
I knew I still had a lot in the bag if I could just steady things and was counting down the steps to the Lucozade station, as knew this would give me a real boost. NOOOO! Where was the Lucozade SPORT?! I guess someone had got confused and purchased the fizzy barley version… and what good was that? Absolute none! With no gels left this was going to be a head down, hold on and a real grind it out to the end.
I was surprised as I was actually overtaking a few people, despite noticeably slowing myself. In these type of races people really do put it all on the line, sometimes it works and I was now making up places against all those where it hadn’t.
During 35-40k I really was running on fumes, legs screaming and I was just adopting Paula’s counting to 100 technique to take my mind off the pain. That 5k stint was actually 22:09, way faster than it felt and in no small part down to an angel I saw coming out the underpass.
At about 38k you have to go down under a road and the climb out the other side.. it’s absolute torture. Then at the top there was a young girl, probably about 8 or 9 years old handing out some SiS gels. I’ve never actually taken food from the crowd support before, but was in dire need and so a big thank you came out and down the hatch the gel went!
I don’t know what effect that black current gel had, but in my mind it was going to carry me home and back to Tisley park track and the finish.
As I came into the stadium my watch was showing 2:51 something, so I knew it was going to be tight to beat 2016’s time, but just said to myself I wouldn’t look at my watch until the finish and it was simply head down and drive.
As I crossed the line the clock said 2:53:01, so the course PB was in the bag and I could happily collapse on the inside of the track while the lovely St Johns Ambulance lady kindly got me a shirt and juice.
The chip time came in at 2:52:58. Nearly five minutes quicker than Amsterdam, just 7 days before and a minute quicker than I’d been in 2016. I was beyond happy and proud of all the hard work and effort that I’d put in to get in shape for the race.
A big thank you to my Dad and girlfriend Sarah and their encouragement throughout the race and generally being amazing in their support, love you guys!
So where to next? No race this weekend, just some training on the trails, then we’re off to the Peak District for the White Rose 100 Mile Ultra the weekend after. It will hopefully be a chance to get those last remaining 6 UTMB points that I need to get my entry in for 2018! Oh 100 miles… I can’t wait!