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Reykjavík Marathon 2015

The obligatory medal and tourist attraction photo. In the end the clock read 2:49:12 after going through halfway in 1:23:46. The lofty goal of sub 2:45 wasn’t on this time. I settled into 4 mins a km but with such a small field I was pretty much running alone for the last 15k, staying motivated wasn’t easy and my pace dipped to finish with a 2 minute positive split. Very happy putting another marker down and with the experience overall. The scattering of supporters were fantastic, no zombies here. The course was mostly flat and we got lucky with the wind calming overnight. Parts of the course near the end on the coast were very exposed and even the light headwind felt hard. This was also the most scenic part of the course but I did struggle to appreciate it!

Time for some beer. And then on to Frankfurt!

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Liverpool marathon 2015

So in just 9 weeks I’ve gone from 3:02 to 2:59 to 2:53 in the marathon, from 1:24 to 1:21 in the half marathon, from 39:28 to 36:04 in the 10k and from 19:07 to 18:47 to 17:32 in the 5k. I think my legs have deserved a few days rest, maybe even a week!

As for the Liverpool marathon itself, I’ll give that a pass in the future! Despite the shiny new PB the course was very wriggly with too few marshals around –Axel and I had to call out to spectators to ask directions near some corners! My left hamstring also gave out on me with about 1500m to go – probably too much racing recently with too little taper. Anyway, it was quite an experience running to that sort of time and will help a lot for the coming marathons. Looking forward to recovering so I can push on for Reykjavik in August – anyone interested in coming along?!

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My first sub 3 hour marathon! Paris 2015

I have run Paris before in 2008 and remember the course as being great but the race overcrowded with a distinct lack of support along the route. Well this time round I can’t fault it in any way. The starting areas

were phased generously (possibly too generously for those further back setting off at 10am) and the support beyond half way was very good! In general the conditions were good with the temperature being 8 degrees at 8am rising to about 15 at noon and very sunny (the C&C vest is firmly imprinted into my pale Scottish skin). Now to the blow-by-blow part of the report…

Setting off over the start line down the Champs-Élysées is quite an experience. The boulevard is so wide it easily absorbs the several thousand in the starting area. With the glorious stretch of open road leading to Place de la Concorde it’s hard to keep the pace in check. The route barely kinks around the Place and you won’t see a serious corner until the 10k mark; plenty of time to get into a rhythm and spread out a bit. At 11k you cruise past Château de Vincennes and curl around Bois de Vincenne (the largest public park in the city) before striding out towards the Seine. I crossed the half marathon mark in 1:30:15 – a little faster than I intended but my heart rate was lower than expected and the pace felt right. I was now committed to a negative split, something I’ve never achieved before. A few km down the road and you join the river, just before Notre-Dame. It’s not long until you are back skirting the edge of Place de la Concorde and curving with the river towards the Eiffel Tower at almost 30k. The river section has a few long tunnels that added some welcome and unwelcome undulations (those planning to run this make sure you have manual splits on your watch as the tunnel will play havoc with your GPS pace). Up until 30k I had been running by the numbers, keeping my heart rate in the low –mid 170s and keeping the pace close to 4:16 min/km. I was feeling a bit sore but not tired, wondering when I could start to feel that the sub-3 was as good as done. Doing mental arithmetic in the last 10k of a marathon is never easy but having juggled the numbers several times I realised I had around a 30 second margin – inside the 3 hours if I kept my pace but a bit close for comfort! Still I kept my pace in check, I didn’t dare speed up until I felt I was in striking distance. 33k, 34k… nope… 35k, 36k, and then 37k came… only 5 to go! Just a Parkrun right… literally a Parkrun, as after peeling away from the Seine the route turns into Bois De Boulogne, the second largest park in Paris. With just that 5k to go it was time to throw the kitchen sink at it. Pushing the pace down to near 4 min/kms I inflated that 30 second margin to a whole minute, and jumped up 600 places in the process! With the 41km sign in view I checked the clock… almost 5 minutes to cover 1.2km. At this point I was feeling pretty battered and seeing the time I eased off a fraction and cruised out of the park, I’d done it. The finish line on Avenue Foch awaited me a few 100ms ahead, a pure formality. 2:59:00 dead with a -1:30 minute split.

The rest of the organisation, funnelling out to get medals and t-shirts was very well done, using the whole of the avenue leading up to the Arc de Triomphe.

I know Paris is not best timed for all those London fans out there but I would definitely recommend giving it a shot one year.

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Next time…

So… the marathon was a disaster. I was unfortunate enough to pick up a mild knee injury two weeks before the big day. It looked bleak until I went for a few sports massages to loosen things up.

On the day my knee was feeling fine(ish) but I was very worried. Standing next to the colosseum, a few dozen rows back from the elite runners, I was thinking, “I’m not ready, I’m not ready”.

The crowd began a countdown from ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Graham and I wished eachother good luck. Four. Three. Oh shit. Go! The crowd moves hurriedly in a solid block. The three hour pace balloons shoot off into the distance as Graham and I keep pace with the 3:15 balloon.

10K goes by in 43:52 with no complaints from my knee. I’m thinking, “Holy crap, I have to keep going for another two and a half hours!”. We head past the Vatican and out towards the northern parts of the City. Graham has left me and went on ahead, I ‘decide’ to keep my pace constant – there’s a long way to go. Towards half way I see a Yellow ‘G’ getting closer and closer to me. It’s Graham! Paying for his earlier speed.

We both cross the half marathon in 1:34:51. I’m feeling okay at this point. A few miles down the road and I’m feeling shit. Lost in the running depression of, “why am I doing this to myself? I could just stop. I feel horrible. I could make it all go away so easily”.

At 25K, while I’m feeling pretty low, my left hip yelps out in pain. I stop and pull over to the side of the road. Graham stops and heads towards me, “keep going Graham, just leave me” I shout out, as if I’m in a war movie. He heads off as I stretch my leg. After a few seconds I get going again, pain-free. Weird, I think. It only took another kilometre to almost put me out the race.

At 26K my knee injury reared its ugly face. I’m passing by a first aid/water station so I stop and ask for an ice pack. Sitting on the pavement watching thousands of runners go past I feel as miserable as I’ve ever felt before (2nd place to break-up of a long relationship I’d say). After 50 minutes (that’s right FIFTY), I thought the Quitters bus would never come and get me so I began to slowly jog down to the next water station 4K away. When I get there my legs have loosened up a bit so I keep going. It’s only a teensy tiny 12.2K left to go! So I kept on going. Even at a jog I was streaming past everyone (later it turned out I’d past nearly 2000 runners on my way to the end).

At 40K the end was near and I stopped to take on some water. It was hard to get my legs going again and my knee was feeling a bit worse for wear. I revved up with a fast walk and started to run slowly. The Colosseum, at last! I crossed the line and thought, “for fuck’s sake, what was the point in that”. Three and a half months of training to achieve a pear shaped marathon. Brilliant. My final time was 4:19:31. I don’t feel like I’ve run a marathon. I’ve raced 26K, taken a large siesta, then jogged 16K. Two entirely separate runs linked by the fact that I wore the same sweaty gear and did them on the same day.

In the muster/exit area after I’d received my medal and thermal tinfoil blanket I found a flatbed truck to sit on the back of. By ‘sit’ I mean ‘collapse backwards onto’. My legs had ceased to function. After fifteen minutes I shuffled slowly back to my hotel to meet the more successful of my marathon companions. Oh well, next time…