Since getting injured in July, I’d had to withdraw from the North Downs Way 100, Ultravasan 90k, Skiddaw 54, Ladywell 10k. Great North Run, Chilten Wonderland 50, Ealing Half and the Bournemouth Marathon. Eight brilliant events, that were all temporarily labelled ‘my comeback race’.. only for that date to pass, spirits to drop, sadness to kick in and the rehab continue...
So it was with huge excitement and trepidation that I was actually boarding a plane at city airport, to travel to Amsterdam, for what was my ninth attempt at a ‘comeback race’! The Shoreditch 10k the week before had shown that I was slowly getting into some sort of shape, but it was only a 10k, the marathon is a whole different game… could I still run a sub 3?
I’d actually ran the race back in 2015, just as I was starting out in running and battled round in 3:37 something, in the pouring rain, which was luckily hiding my tears at the pain I was in! So here I was two years later, still none the wiser about what was possible. But over the second pizza of the day on Saturday I’d made a calculated decision to go off at 4:00-4:05/kms (6:35/miles) hang in there and see what happened.
Race day morning came and the usual thoughts of ‘why am I doing this?’, ‘I just want to stay in bed where it’s safe’ and ‘what if it all goes wrong?’ were passing through my head. I do put myself out there on Strava and Instagram as love sharing the journey and enjoy helping newer runners get into the sport. But I’d never failed at anything on social media, it was all so positive, great results, strong times and now here I was potentially setting myself up for being laughed at? I know the running community is far better than that, but these thoughts are always passing through my head. God only knows how proper GB athletes can deal with the pressure, with a whole nation is on their back. Serious respect goes out to them!
But I took a big gulp of man up juice, booked the uber and got myself down to the Olympic stadium and the start line for the race. When I entered the marathon I’d targeted this as a sub 2:30 attempt, so had some seriously quick runners around my on the start line, but for me it was simply head down, trust the watch and stick at the pacing.
5k came up in 19:38, about 30 seconds too fast, but we can live with that. 10k in 38:56, so getting a bit quicker still, but I was feeling ok and getting into a decent rhythm. As we approached half way I could tell things were quickly becoming far tougher than they should be though. I took the gel that was planned for 24k at half way, as I was fading fast, but that only left me with one for the rest of the race.
I was now in no doubt I was in for the toughest section of a race I’d ever been in. The pace I’d started out at had obviously been too ambitious and I was now paying the price, other runners were coming past me and the heat of the day was kicking in. Get me out of here I was thinking, why oh why do I do this!!
I gave myself a stern talking to and actually managed to get the 25 to 30k stint done in 21:04, but we were now entering the dreaded last 12k and I was in for an almighty ride. I’ve never had to implement a ‘walking through water stations’ policy, but now was that time. Three cups of water at each one, quick recovery and crack on. It really helped and with the last gel at 32k, I felt I should be able to get home in 2:55.
It was now over 20 degrees and I could feel myself drifting a bit all over the road. The sponges were a great help in cooling down, but ultimately I was running on empty. Absolutely nothing left to give, but to drag by rapidly failing legs to the finish. As I entered the stadium, the clock said 2:56:55, so I knew I’d still be coming in under 3 and was immensely proud of that fact.
I crossed the line in 2:57:38 and a huge wave of emotion came over me. I’d managed a respectable time, given it my absolute all and was not in any pain, just completely and utterly shattered.
A big thank you to Brin, for putting up with my tiredness and general grumpiness on Saturday, plus awesome job on your new PB of 3:22!
It’s so important to never lose sight of how far you’ve come, Sunday was 40 minutes quicker than 2015, of course it’s not where I want to be, but we’re fully back on the train to destination sub 2:30. Next stop Abingdon on Sunday! Lets go!