Paul Mcgough’s marathon journey

Please see attached Paul’s London marathon report……grab a cup of tea and a packet of biscuits!

Thanks Goffy

London Marathon 2023.
You know how I like to write a long report. I do it for me as much as you so I can look back at it and know what I did right and what I did wrong. If anyone wants I can do a podcast so you can listen to it while your running a marathon 😉
The weekend started early Saturday morning with a drive to Northallerton for the 9.11 train to London baby. This would get us into Kings Cross with plenty of time to go to the excel centre to collect our numbers.
This marathon was a long time coming for a few of us as it was from a 2018 spring marathon where we got a GFA (good for age) time which was used to enter the 2020 London marathon. As you know that was cancelled and the only option we were offered as our GFA entries had ran out was a guaranteed entry to the 2023 race in the green start.
I was able to post another GFA time in late 2021 which moved me to the blue wave 1 start.
Knowing I was going to be running London I started training well before Christmas and all was going well until I picked up an Achilles injury towards the end of November. 5 weeks off running put me back quite a bit but I felt I’d kept a lot of my endurance from the York marathon and could go into long runs fairly quickly. I put a good block of uninterrupted training in but unfortunately the achilles problem came back again.
It wasn’t as bad as before, more of a niggle than an injury and I could get away with running as long as I managed it.
I just did everything you probably shouldn’t but I had to plough on through it knowing the marathon wasn’t going to wait for me.
I did though have to reassess my marathon target time changing it from a sub 3 attempt, 6:45 pace to a more realistic 7:15 pace for a 3:10 finish.
Anyway back to the weekend. After dropping our bags we went over to the expo on the Saturday afternoon to collect our numbers and walk round the different stalls. On the evening a group of us – myself, Catherine, Jo, Jenny, Jack and Alan – went for pizzas at Happy Face pizza which was near Granary Square, a nice trend area of Kings Cross. (It’s not like the Kings Cross of 30 years ago)
Then it was early to bed before the big day.
The premier inn hub i stayed in at kings cross was really nice, the staff very friendly and the rooms small but very smart.
The others stayed in the normal premier inn down the road and by what I saw of the lobby and their accounts that was really nice too.
It was up at 7 for some porridge and beetroot juice and then on to meet the others at 8. We made our way to the station where we split to go to our different starts.
Jack and I went to the blue start at blackheath arriving at about 9.30.
This gave me just enough time to use the toilets, getting changed in the queue, drop my bag off and get to wave 1.
Just after the elites and championship runners had set off we were given the go ahead to go to the start line but I held back towards the back of my wave so I didn’t get carried away with other peoples paces.
I also looked behind me to see the 3 hour and 3:05 pacers in wave 2 backing up behind us knowing I had to let them pass me at some time.
I rolled up to the start wondering whether to walk or jog, I crossed the start line and got straight into an easy pace. I had a few goals I wanted to achieve if all went to plan.
Run it all. This was my 5th London marathon and I’d only fully ran the 1st one I did in 2006.
Try and enjoy it. I’ve never enjoyed it before and there’s certain bits on the route I can only remember for the wrong reasons. Canary Wharf at 18 miles, approx 21.5 miles just before meeting up with the oncoming runners again, the Embankment with it being quite long. I don’t even like Cutty Sark and that’s only at 6 miles.
Last as long as I could at my goal pace of 7:15. The more I could take it towards the finish line the better it would be. Easy to say but tough in reality. It was all about damage limitation.
Try and get under 3:10 and get a GFA time.
As with my training runs I was going to do splits every 3 miles. I did 3 miles but didn’t see 6 miles so did 7 miles instead. It turned out easier to do every 4 miles as 29 minutes was an easy number to work out.
In the first 5 miles quite a few runners were passing me from waves 2 and 3 but I was sticking to my plan.
I was also aware of the marathon tracker app everyone would be watching and I didn’t want to be a casualty of going off too fast. That kept me well grounded when the 3:10 (Green start) pacer and the blue start 3:05 pacer passed me at about 6 and 8 miles respectively.
To be honest you do have some crazy thoughts, can I go with that 3:05 pacer, shall I up my pace at half way, shall I treat it like a 10k race at 20 miles. You have to stay focussed and stick with plan A. It’s a marathon and it can all go to ratsh!t at any time.
Cruising along nicely I knew I had a few friends out on the course at 14 miles so when I crossed Tower bridge and headed towards the halfway mat I was looking out for them which took my mind off the running for a while. Thankfully at 14.5 miles they spotted me at the last second and it gave me a boost. I enjoyed Canary Wharf for the first time and at 21.5 miles I saw my friends again where one of them got some good photos. It was nice to pass them still running and feeling good.
Doing the splits every 4 miles from 3 miles onwards was working out well as I was going approx 25 seconds faster than my 29 minute goal. Also I was going to split at 21 miles and then finally at 25 miles. It was a nice thought knowing when I did my last split I only had one mile or so to go.
(I would suggest doing that)
I’d already decided earlier that if I was still going well at 25 miles or 40k I was going to go for it.
I’d got my inspiration from watching the Eliud Kipchoge 1:59 attempt on Friday evening. I’ve had it on the Sky box since he’d done it and I’d use it for race like this.
When I say I was going to go for it i mean I was going to up my pace from 7:10 to 7:00!
Increasing my pace was difficult as I was now getting tired and starting to cramp in my calf muscles. I gritted my teeth down birdcage walk and the Mall to get it over the line with my arms raised in relief.
I’d finally nailed a London marathon and when the lady put a medal round my neck and said well done it meant so much to me I nearly cried.
A few of us met up at letter N for nymac to share our experiences and stories. All the club members did really well and I was so pleased for them as a few of them, like me didn’t really want to do it.
Jack on the other hand was excited from the moment his name was drawn out the club ballot before Christmas and is probably still buzzing now. To be honest I still am as I achieved all my goals and a negative split too.
The marathon was very similar to when I did Manchester in 2018 when I got everything right that day – plenty of gels, plenty of liquid and salt tablets before needing them rather than when needing them.
The marathon was fantastic but it was just part of a great weekend with some great company. Thanks for that company and well done on your runs.
Extra notes:
It rained slightly before starting and heavily in the first half with big puddles to run through. It cleared up in the 2nd half and only rained after I’d finished and had got changed.
Nymac vest, normal short shorts. No compression shorts or calf guards which I’ve worn in the past to stave off cramp. 2019 Nike Vaporfly which are still in good nick.
Gels and nutrition.
During the race I had a total of 6 gels, 2 salt tablets and drank from pretty much every water station and Lucazade station.
I carried 4 SIS gels (with caffeine) on me. 3 in my back pocket and one in the side of my shorts. I also took a cheap gel before the race that I bought at the expo. The nutritional value was rubbish so I don’t count that one.
I knew there were two gel stations on the course and at what mileage so I planned to use them.
I took the gels at approximately these miles 4.5, 9.25, 14(Lucazade course gel), 17, 19.5(course gel) and 22.
I used them all and getting 2 gels in my system before 10 miles was keeping my energy levels topped up. Better to take them early rather than too late after you need them.
As previously mentioned I drank at pretty much every water station. A couple of mouthfuls and then threw the bottle. I drank at all 3 Lucazade stations too but that was from cups that didn’t hold much and most of it would go down my vest. I drank so much I was nearly needing to pee but it would wear off just as I got to the next water station. I was essentially topped up for the full race and I think this was the main reason I ran well throughout the marathon.
(On training runs I can quite easily not be bothered to take a gel and feel worse for it towards the end of a run)
As I tend to suffer from cramp on long runs and marathons I took 4 salt tablets. One on the evening, one pre-race, one at about 8 miles and one at about 14 miles.
I took them earlier than usual in the race while I was feeling good enough to take them out my pocket and out of the little packet. It worked.
Marathon kit list
Undies – 2 pairs
Gareth’s envelope
Id driving licence
Phone & Charger
Watch and charger
Headphones (charged)
Wash kit – Soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, wet wipes, towel, etc
Running shorts – one pair
T-shirts – 2.
Long sleeved t-shirt. Dump it.
Black Bin bags
Waterproof jacket
Nymac vest
Nike race trainers
Running socks – 2 pairs
Gels – 5
Drink Tabs in bag
Salt tablets in bag
Energy tabs in bag
Bottle (disposable?) with juice
Bag with toilet paper
Porridge oats x 2
1 litre of Beetroot juice
Twix bars
Munch bars
Wearing :
Jogging btms
Jogging top
General trainers
T shirt
I travelled light and I now have some concentrated Beet it so will travel lighter next year.
Achilles injury
The right Achilles was giving me problems 3 to 6 weeks before the marathon and was hampering my training. In the 2 week taper period I was only running every other day and that helped it mend.
The Achilles was fine during the race and I didn’t think of it once. If anything my left thigh felt tight right from the off but thankfully that was it. My Achilles only hurt a little when arriving back in Northallerton on Sunday evening. Physio session have been booked in sort it out.
Marathon training
General my week would look like this
Monday – rest / Yoga
Tuesday – nymac session
Wednesday – lunchtime swim, evening easy 8 mile run
Thursday – MP session
Friday – whatever the body needed, sometimes a run, sometimes a swim but mostly a rest.
Saturday – parkrun but usually 6 to 8 miles
Sunday – long run in morning, weights session on afternoon.
I didn’t do any 3 mile Tuesday and Thursday morning runs which I’ve done in every marathon training plan in the past.
I went to the Tuesday evening nymac sessions every week but swapped the Thursday evening nymac sessions to a marathon paced (6min45) run. This I would do with a couple of others and we would build the runs up to nearly 9 miles. With a warm up and cool down I’d do over 12 miles. These were a good session but what I felt I missed was some hill training which was being done at the Thursday nymac sessions. Maybe alternate them next time – hill session and MP session. In previous training plans I’d do both the Tuesdays and Thursday session which would sandwich a MP run on the Wednesday. I felt I was getting too old to continue doing 3 tough days on the bounce.
I felt my long runs went well enough where I could increase my pace in the 2nd half. Although I did attempt two 22 mile 5-4-3-2-1 runs but failed to complete them. Short by 1 mile on the 1st efforts and just the 5-4-3 on the final one. Also I dropped out of the Locke park 20 at 13 miles.
Getting toward the marathon date I didn’t feel sharp at all as I’d missed quite a bit of speed work training. I’d also only done one road race, snakelane 10 but it did go quite well.
All in all it doesn’t read very well leading up to the marathon and I certainly wasn’t feeling confident about it. Therefore all I can think is I was still carrying a lot of endurance over from the York marathon from October. It’s the first time I’ve ran 2 marathons within 6 months of each other.
Thanks for reading if you’ve got this far and I hope you can pick up a few tips from it.
Thanks Paul.