I see her at the roadside then I hear her ….“GO ON NYMAC! … whatever that means”
“NORTH YORK MOORS!!” I shout back over my shoulder.
“Oh well this should be a doddle for you then!”
Yes of course … running 26 miles on the road is a piece of pi**. I don’t know why I spent the best part of 4 months training for it to be honest pet.
A bit of background…
I ran this race last year aiming for 3:20. It was my first road marathon and it quickly became apparent at around mile 15 that my training had been somewhat lacking and I learnt a valuable lesson – YOU. CAN’T. WING. A. MARATHON. When your legs are in bits and you’ve lost your head – you’re done for.
I struggled to the end having to walk some sections from mile 21 and finished in 3:40. I was disappointed with the time but I was more disappointed with my performance. In a way I’d have been happier with a slower time if I’d ran better throughout.
In the last few miles I remember thinking ‘this is too far, it’s stupid. I’m never doing it again’ (along with a few thousand others I imagine).
Much like childbirth where they say you kind of forget how bad it was (I had a Costa, read some magazines, played on my phone – honestly, I didn’t find it that bad ) I signed back up for the 2018 marathon in January. I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to run it but I wanted the option before it sold out.
Before I knew it, I had drawn up a 16 week training plan which started on 25th June and that was that – game on.
I was determined to put the time and the miles into the training this time.
I based my plan on ‘Hal Higdon’s marathon Advanced 1’ program which involves running 6 days a week with 20 miles being the longest run. I tweaked it to suit me to build the weekly mileage up and added some 22 mile (5-4-3-2-1) runs in and as I started running more I did add extra miles on some days.
I chose this plan for two reasons…
- The Monday and Thursday runs were a max of 5 miles – I can do those in my lunch break, keeping the evenings free.
- I wanted to make sure I did some marathon pace runs and this plan had M/P runs on a Saturday building up to a max of 12 miles. These are followed by the long slower runs on a Sunday so two good long runs back to back – surely a good thing for marathon training.
The 16 week plan started on Monday 25th June.
The basics of the plan were:
Monday 4 mile lunch time run. Tuesday the NYMAC session for speed work. Wednesday a longer run after work up to 10 miles, Thursday 4 mile lunch time run. Friday was always the rest day. Saturday M/P run and Sunday the long slower run.
I really got into the training. I loved having a plan – knowing exactly what I needed to do and ticking it off. I can’t believe I’m saying it but I will genuinely miss it. At the same time, I had to accept that I couldn’t hit every run, i needed some flexibility and I needed to make sure I didn’t fret over the lost runs.
Aside from the usual family commitments there was Thunder Run, 5 days camping when I didn’t even unpack my running gear, an issue with my Achilles that made me rest – this really reduced a week’s running and stopped me doing my last 20 mile run before the taper started and I had a few extra rest days when my legs were sore. All things that play on your mind but I tried to remain sensible.
The training was paying off early on – I got a 5k PB at Marske, 4th in the Uphill Mile and I almost got the sub 90 minute half marathon I wanted at the Vale of York (missed it by 7 measly seconds!) A bit gutted about that but still a big 3 minute PB for me and it really boosted my confidence that my training was going well.
Long runs 15 miles and over: 15, 15, 15, 16, 17, 20 and 2x 22 (54321) runs.
In total I ran 556 miles over the 16 weeks with a couple of weeks peaking at 53 miles.
My plan was based on a 3 week taper. I ran a 15 mile run at the start of the taper because I’d missed my planned 20 miler the week before … I felt ok and I was still 3 weeks from the marathon. Following that I continued running and just started to reduce the mileage. In the second week I clocked 25 miles and in the week leading up to the race I ran 10 miles over 3 very easy runs.
“Carb loading” is a phrase you can’t avoid so it was pasta Friday, chicken curry and rice Saturday (not spicy – too risky!) and plenty of water!
I really rate Mountain Fuel but I had no desire to carry any drinks on the run with me so I took that with me for the drive to York.
The clear, dry day that was forecast for race day on the Thursday and Friday soon gave way to heavy rain. The only saving grace was that the 50mph gusts we had on the Saturday would not be joining the rain. I’ll take rain over wind every time.
Race day morning was no different to last year. 5am alarm. Check my gear over. Bags packed (dry clothes this time – a wise decision I’d be glad of later). Breakfast. A bagel to eat on the park n’ ride bus. I was on my way just after 6am.
I’d opted to use the park n’ ride again as I did last year. It worked quite well and only costs £7. Better to be there a little early otherwise you might caught in the queue to get in when all of the 10 mile entrants start turning up. I like minimal stress before a race.
My race plan was straight-forward. Get in between the 3:15 and 3:30 pacer before the start .. run the first 4/5 miles around 7:30 pace if comfortable and take it from there. Ideally try to keep the 3:15 pacer in sight ahead of me. Get to the half way point in 1:38. Whatever happens DON’T let the 3:30 pacer past.
If everything went to plan this would see me come in under 3:20.
I planned to take on a little water at each water station (situated every 3 miles – the ‘Reduce Plastic Foundation’ would have kittens), start using my gels early on and absolutely avoid the horrid Asda energy drink they were offering.
The forecast was for heavy rain so I was going for comfort on this race – no HR strap … no earphones (I’d weaned myself off them during training and quickly came to prefer running without them). No phone or car key (I left them with Catherine who had her bag with her – she was running in the 10 mile event).
All I was carrying was my Flipbelt with 4 gels (which, incidentally were taken at mile 6, 12, 17 and 22).
I was waiting in Zone 1 for the pacers to turn up, chatting to Ian Latimer who was also running when the pacers all came in at the last minute and set themselves up much closer to the start than I was.
There wasn’t any time to push through the crowd at this point as they’d all bunched up ready for the off so my first job, without busting a gut, was to get past the 3:30 pacer. Great start Stocksy!!
Running @ 7:20 – 7:30/mi pace was comfortable enough so I caught the 3:30 pacer up within a few miles and pressed on to make some time up on him.
I got settled in and found I was running @ 7:30 pace really comfortably so I decided to make that my aim pace. If I could continue with that I could be looking at a 3:16 finish but I was also aware that at some point it was likely to get much more difficult to stick to.
I was really enjoying the run. Such a difference to last year. Just ticking off the miles nicely without stressing over the pace or the distance remaining.
There are two out and back sections on this marathon with a 4 mile straight between them. It accounts for miles 14-20 so it’s a pretty notable section. It’s probably the best section as the crowds gather at each end and the support is wonderful but this is where I struggled last year and my memories of these miles were not good! I knew it was key for me to get through this in good shape. Thankfully I was still going well (mile 14 @ 7:23, mile 18 @ 7:21) – far, far better than I could ever have imagined. I caught sight of Brian Roberts on the opposite side of the road and the 3:15 pacer who I guessed was less than 5 minutes ahead of me. I had a couple of lads on my coat tails heading down to the next out and back section where I gave Brian a shout and I said hi to Ian not long before I turned off before the 20 mile marker. Mile 21 came and went in 7:27 (who was I!) and I started to believe that it couldn’t have gone any better for me and maybe the wheels weren’t going to come off after all. If you were watching the tracker you may have thought differently as at one point it had me going backwards with an estimated finishing time of 18:30hrs. Just the last few miles to go through Murton and Osbaldwick. I kept pushing on, passing people … into mile 23 and my pace was dropping slightly by about 20 seconds a mile but I still felt good.
I’d done the sums and knew I was on for the 3:20 target if I continued as I was. I had no idea how I was still running so well at this point but I wasn’t complaining!
Up the hill near the finish and the downhill sprint to the line (I knew Anne and Jim would be there!) and it was job done. 3:18:12.
Over the line. Stop the Garmin. A quick hug off Anne and a handshake off Jim who are waiting for their daughter to finish. Collect my goody bag (another medal I don’t need!) as Catherine comes round to meet me and off to the baggage tent to get my dry clothes. I’m soaked. Freezing cold and my legs were killing me now I’ve stopped running. Find a loo to get changed in and realise my nipples have come out of this the worst. Bleeding and very sore! Feet seem ok considering how wet it’s been. No other issues to report!
There are definitely more marathons to come. I think there’s more in me to improve on that time now I know where I need to be with the training. Not York though .. I loved it (this time!) but I’ll be looking for a different one next time.
I’d just like to say well done to the other NYMAC’ers who ran – Brian L, Brian R, Ian L, Ian H and Phil HN.
If you’ve made it this far (and I’d understand if you didn’t), a quick thanks to everyone @ NYMAC who has helped me this year, the advice and encouragement I’ve been given has been much appreciated and a big thanks to those who joined me on some of my training runs. I hope to repay the favour.