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Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Flirting with a sub 3

My marathon day experience started at pre-dawn as I elected to remain in Aberystwyth rather than do the usual pan-weekend stay when it comes to the bigger events. Aber AC's annual dinner was on the saturday evening and after a fair few years of making up the numbers, I'd actually won an award this time around and so felt obliged to show my face.

Mr Burgess was also in the hunt for a trail league award and so despite his early Sunday morning start at the Harlech triathlon, he also threw the preperation book out of the window and made his way to the Black Lion for what was a great nights entertainment.

Despite the clubs best efforts to practically force alcohol down our throats, with a champagne reception followed by two precariously placed bottles of red within easy reach of our cutlery, the first time in memory that free grog had been on the menu, we lamented in our misfortune and temporarily toyed with the idea of one or two not being 'that bad' but ended up heading to the bar for rounds of lemonade and orange juice.

The evening finished up with an award as club male runner of the year, my first male award of 2012 after my dubious First Female Vet >35 win at the Rhayader 5k back in June, and so this one was more gladly received. Having stepped up my training since London, a few PB's came my way in some tough races. I thoroughly enjoyed the year and to win an award which was voted for by club members was truly unexpected and overwhelming.

After the festivities I made an early exit and was in bed by 11 for a 4.45 wake up call and on the road by 5, flask of microwaved porridge in hand.

Chester Services car park was utilized to eat/drink the aforementioned oats and it was on to Old Trafford by 7.45 for the 9am start at Longford Park.

Some dodgy characters were collecting £6 at a small car park that I had driven into. By the time I had changed and was ready to pay, they had disappeared with their takings from most of the other runners.... I half expected a clamp on my return but it was raining hard, i was getting late and decided to risk it.

A long walk to the start, and there was little signage to the main arena. All i could find were some portaloos, but given a choice, they were probably the most important thing to find at that point in time. I couldn't quite remember the entire array at the previous nights Aber AC buffet, but i wished it well in its new home in the outskirts of Manchester....

The weather, like everywhere that weekend, was awful. I'd packed well and was warm enough when the gun went off, keeping a woolly hat on for the first few miles. I'd decided to run in the usual summer outfit but the clouds were ominous. It was almost May though, surely the temperature would hold up?

As sole Aber AC competitor (to my knowledge) there was little support compared to the previous years London Marathon, although a spattering of Welsh flags were a welcome sight. My plan was to run at 6.45 pace for the first half and then 'see how it went'.

I soon stumbled across a gang of 3 hour pacers and decided to hang with them. Soon enough we'd done 5 miles through towns I'd never been to before, in fact I'd never really been to Manchester before so it was all new. There was a hairpin bend, and counting back, we were pretty high up in the standings.

The weather was cool, almost cold and it was raining. The brass bands played as we went through suburb after suburb. Fair play to them, they must have been colder than us! In fact, i was getting pretty cold and couldnt believe the amount of volunteers at the feed stops, handing our water sacks, gels and Gatorade every three miles or so.

I utilized their services every time due to the conditions and remained in a good state. Our little group formed a type of non--verbal commaradery, sharing water and forming cycling type echelons in the hedgerow-less rural plains that we came across from time to time, to help against the cruel sidewinds.

Throw in some off-road and barely 'C' road standard roads and this was no easy standard marathon, thanks to the weather.

We turned into a block headwind at around 16 miles after posting a 1.27 first half. Still feeling good, we visibly slowed but were still 7 minute miling and so the target time was still well within grasp.

The training seemed to have paid off. In London I was flagging at 17 miles, we were now at 19 and i was still keeping pace. 20, 21,22 and despite the odd 'weird' low sugar feeling, i shortened my stride to combat fatigue, and still managed to keep a decent pace. I decided that the 3 hour pacer guy, the only one remaining must be on the ball and so I dispensed with the one thing that i religiously follow during almost every other race i do, my clock watching calculation of splits.

I still gave it the odd glance but this wasted energy and I was wasted myself and so I kept Mr 3 hour in sight and at 25 miles I glanced down at a 2.51. Easy I thought, but this setting was not showing seconds. just minutes. 2.51 soon became 2.52 and I had 8 minutes to do 1.2 miles....

After being ahead of pace all race, i now found myself border line. I still trusted Mr 3 hour but the weather had taken its toll, there were refugees everywhere but i still felt ok (ish).

The odd feeling of iminent collapse was replaced with new found determination but the last mile was a series of twisted disable access ramps and underpasses. The finish never came, just crowds and distant PA announcements. I scanned the Garmin, 2.59....
I passed Mr 3 hour at a sprint as the gantry came into view. With no glasses on I could see the big clock, 2.59.XX, 2.59.XY, 3.00.00, 30.00.01   damn damn, no, what about chip time? Keep running...

Final time 3.00.10. I couldn't beleive it and reflected on the legendary footage of Laurent Fignon losing the 1989 Tour de France on the Champs Elyses by 8 seconds in a final time trial show down whilst in the yellow jersey.

The chip time came through eventually...3.00.02. What a disaster coupled with a feeling of contentment at taking over 12 minutes off my PB.

Only one thing for it, I'm going to have to go again, this time looking after my own pace in the last few miles!!!


  1. Brilliant Shell. You just seem to throw out the form book everytime. To improve so much so relatively quickly is amazing and there's a lot more from you to come. You are right my old son - you've got to go again!! Bash.

  2. There's nothing else for it Shell, get yourself on another start list pronto while still in form.

  3. Snowdon Marathon end of the year?

  4. Chester in October and London 2013 is already entered!