At the back end of 2010 after quitting football, I thought I needed something else to do so decided to go for a run. It seemed so easy in my head. Everyone can run a couple of miles surely! How wrong was I.
I got in the car and mapped out a 2-mile route, parked the car up and off I went. I don’t reckon I made it any further than 800 metres before I had to stop and walk! So, with a huge dent in my pride, I waddled back to the car. That’s where it all started for me. I made it my personal mission to be able to compete that 2-mile course without stopping.
Fast forward 5 years and I’m stood on the start line at the London Marathon targeting sub 2:45. How things change!
My breakthrough year was probably 2014. I’d made steady progress throughout 2011, 2012 & 2013 but it wasn’t until 2014 where the phrase ‘Man-Up’ really hit home. It’s amazing what you can do when you get over that mental block and actually start to appreciate that running quickly is supposed to hurt and is supposed to be hard work. This was really drilled into me during my lunch time runs with Steve Way. We’d agree a pace before the run and he’d stick to that pace and if I fell off the back then it was my fault and he wasn’t going to hang around and wait for me to catch up, I had to put the effort in to close the gap.
I’d made steady progress with my marathon times over the years with Brighton 2011 (4:01), North Dorset 2012 (3:19), London 2013 (3:24) & Manchester 2015 (2:49). Manchester was a short course so that one’s been written off now. I’d put the miles in for 2016 and I knew I was in 2:45 (ish) shape so it was just about making it happen on the day.
I really don’t eat well to be honest and the only time I’m ever remotely strict with my diet is in the last couple of weeks in the build-up to a marathon. I am lucky in the sense that my wife is very aware of the need to eat well so we’ll always have a proper evening meal consisting of meat and veg which wouldn’t be the case if I were left in-charge of dinner!
Without realising it, I do drink over 4 litres of water a day though. That’s not through planning, I'm just never without a bottle of water on my desk at work.
I have a standard routine which I follow for every race and I just tend to change the number of slices of toast based on the length of the race:
- 2-4 slices of toast with Marmite
- 2 slices of Soreen Malt Loaf
- 1 Banana
- I tend to stick to water only until after the race as well.
I used to use High5 energy gels but as they tasted so nice, I came to conclusion that if it tastes too nice it can’t be doing that much for you so decided to change it this year and give something else a go. I ended up going for ISO gels and they definitely don’t taste as nice as the High5 gels, but they seem to work for me. I’ll have 3 gels during a marathon and take them at time intervals rather than distance. I have my first one at 1 hour, my 2nd at 1:40 and my last at 2:20.
I sip water whenever possible throughout the marathon and use the rest of the bottle as a mid-race shower just to keep myself cool.
The less said about my post-race nutrition the better really...
I won’t go into full-on race report mode here but the one thing I didn’t take into account before London was the ‘London Effect’ and the fact that you’re knackered before the race even begins.
I hadn’t prepared for eating breakfast at 6:00am, I hadn’t prepared to be sat in a cold wet field for 3 hours before the race starts and I didn’t realise the ‘quick good for age’ pen would have so many people targeting anything from 3:00 to 3:15. I just assumed everyone in the pen would be 2:45-2:50 level.
The first half went to plan going through halfway in 1:22:06 but it was soon after that the wheels started to come off so had to write-off any chances of sub 2:45 and focus on just getting the thing finished.
Ended up with 2:50:03 which although was outside of my target I was still over the moon with the time seeing as I had to work very hard from about mile 16 onwards which is very early on in a marathon to have to be working hard.
I will be back next year to put this right.
As per above, make sure you practise your race day routine at least once throughout your training block. If you’re doing one of the bigger marathons, it’s unlikely you’ll have the flexibility to do things entirely your own way due to the logistics on the day. For example, it’s no good getting used to eating your breakfast 2 hours before a long run if on race day you have no other option than to eat breakfast 4 hours before the race.