Valencia Marathon - and more importantly what’s next?!?

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I’m not sure exactly why I entered this race, either beforehand or looking back now reflecting on it.. but it was probably just an excuse to swap the cold, dark and damp of England for the warmth and sun emblazoned skies of Spain!

We flew out on the Thursday evening from Gatwick and did that thing that I’m sure all runners do when racing abroad. Causally sitting at the gate and playing spot the Garmin and running shoes! By my reckoning there were at least 15 other runners on the flight, a few of which I’d get to know later on..

Flights have started all blending into one, but I’m sure it was great in the usual easyJet way and before we knew it we were outside the air BnB trying to explain to the taxi driver that I wanted to pay via card. A concept we quickly learnt was pretty alien to all Valencia taxi drivers, so it was off to find a cash point, which seemed to take forever..but his meter was still running, so it was all smiles his end!

The next day it was time to register. Expos are usually rubbish and I get so annoyed at having to go and have all these weird stands try and sell you stuff, but this one was was actually pretty good. And you got a huge free goodie bag, with enough snacks to last the day, so double win win there!

Included in the race entry was a ticket to the Paella Party, which was again, way better than expected. Decent veggie options and some entertainment as well! Carb loading had commenced... Valencia Marathon you were doing yourself proud.

Before I knew it race day arrived and I was on auto pilot. With so much racing recently, I could do all this prep blindfolded, walking backwards and well.. you get my point! Spain doesn’t do bagels, well not that I could find, so out the window went my usual pre race food, to be replaced with chocolate croissants, ha!

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With the quite ridiculous race build up, it was never going to be fast race.. I was standing on the start actually yawning, legs aching, thinking why are you even here!

So made the decision to go out fast-ish, then come off the gas and chill a bit in the second half. There was no chance of beating the 2:47 from the weekend before, so couldn’t see the point in destroying myself for what would always be a slower time.

The atmosphere on the start line was very buzzy, lots of nerves, probably from runners for whom this was the main event of the year. A fast, flat course and the pressure was on. A couple of Brits from the flight came over for a chat and before we know it, the mayor had fired the starting gun! We were off!

Like most marathons with 20,000+ runners in, the start was all elbows and legs flying everywhere, but after 250m I already needed to stop for a loo break.. such a pro! But no gels got wet this time, I’m learning! Haha..

5k in and I my legs were burning already, my HR was through the roof, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and I’d knew this was still better than running in London! I actually made half way in 1:21:30, but knew that would be impossible to keep up, so kept myself hydrated and just ran on feel and easy while maintaining a respectable pace.

I didn’t really look at my watch in the second half, there were markers every KM, so knew where I was and just tried to chill out and enjoy it.

Of course runners were flying past and good on them, it was great to see so many sub 3 runners achieving their goal.

So in crossing the line in 2:56:13, how do I feel? Well all things considered I’m pretty happy with that. Just a few months ago I was benched and on crutches, now I’ve just ran 5 races in 6 weeks, all in very respectable times and I’d have given ANYTHING for that a few months ago when I was down and out. Everything about the race was spot on and the city was stunning, can’t recommend it enough for a trip away to run!

So what’s next? Well I have two options..

1. Carry on running 2:40-3 hour marathons, multiple times a year, with ultras mixed in and generally use the bit of natural talent I’ve got to get through and not take things too seriously..

Or, 2. Give myself 20 weeks to do completely structured training, monitor everything, diet, weight, strength, kit, tests, lab stuff and try and dedicate my life to do something very special at the Manchester Marathon 2018.

For me, right here, right now I’ve just got to see what my body is ultimately capable of. I can withstand some seriously tough training and recover faster than anyone I know. I’ve got a bit of a gift for running and get the feeling I’ve only tapped into the surface of what’s possible. I need to do this now, while at 34 I still can!! There are no ‘what ifs’ in my world!

It was Steve Prefontaine who said ‘to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.’

That’s resonating with me now so so much. So for the next 20ish weeks I’m going to dedicate every part of my life to running. I’m going to push this body of mine to the very limit, to extract every last second and get myself in the shape I never knew possible.

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It’s going to be tough, painful and no doubt take me to the absolute breaking point, but having everyone here along for the ride will certainly help and all the knowledge I gain I’ll try and pass on in any way I can. So here’s to the next chapter.. two hours, twenty...something in Manchester! Let the training begin!