Musings about Jo's Marathon - Jo Meek
Jo's First Race of 2021.
Those pre-race nerves had been long forgotten but this time were welcomed. I get horribly sweaty palms even after 20 years of racing! The old routine fell into line as I got up at 5. Had a coffee and then left home to travel 2 hours to the race which started at 9. We all queued up to get our bib numbers 2m apart. It felt great to pin on a bib number again.
It felt even better to see fellow runners - old friends and meet new ones.
Smiles, chat, and a sunny day too! The race vibe was there; people were warming up and queuing for the toilets as usual. On arrival, we were told we could start anytime between 9-10 so previous allocated times seemed to have been revoked. I stripped off to vest and shorts, applied Premax anti-chafe balm in the appropriate places, wrapped my dodgy ankle in Rocktape, approached the start line and then the starter said go!
I started my watch and the timing chip and that was it; no jostling, no going off too fast because others around you are, no chat; just me and my pace. It stayed that way for the whole 26.2 miles.
I had a target pace in my head. I had no proof I could sustain it, however, I had done 13 miles at it with a friend in training and I wanted to see if I could hang on.
I realise I probably should have done more sessions at marathon pace!
At the start of the year with no specific races to aim for I thought I would concentrate on marathon training. It’s good for targeting speed and pace, however, it also has room for those long runs which is my natural leaning. I lined up a 12 week block and hoped by April there would be a race to enter.
If I’m honest I lost my way a bit in training with reality versus expectations. Up until a month before the race I constantly thought I should be able to run faster than I was. I had randomly pulled a time/pace out of the air based on what I thought I should be able to do. I have run faster (marathon PB is 2 hours 46), I follow some very talented runners on social media who make it look effortlessly possible and I train with some local legends; all of these and the fact I don’t have much natural speed, so constantly work at it, fed into this narrative. I was setting my pace on the treadmill or road and if I wasn’t meeting it thought something was wrong rather than see that I’d set myself up to fail from the offset.
My mileage throughout was fairly constant but I was training too hard/too fast. Friends were running or cycling with me and I was finding it hard to elevate my heart rate. I felt awful asking people to join me and then not being able to keep up! I addressed these feelings of over-cooking it, some developing niggles and my covid jab response, with about 4-5 weeks to go, and paused for a week. I also changed my eating and fuelling habits with regards to eating more carbohydrate pre - and during training because I was wondering if my heart rate was a result of not utilising carbohydrate enough being such an efficient fat burner.
On returning to training I made my slow runs slow, I only did 2 hard sessions a week and I set realistic pace goals. What a difference this all made! I has satisfaction from completing my sessions and I was looking forward to the race as a positive challenge with an achievable goal.
I set off at 6.40min/mile pace and maintained it for 21 miles. I fuelled every 40 mins with a 32Gi gel and grabbed water from the aid stations which were about every 5miles.
I then turned to run the homeward stretch.
At the same time as my stomach acid was rising, the wind was more persistent and there were a few lumps to climb in the road so my pace dropped slightly. I managed to average 6.43min/mile pace and finished in 2:56:13; 1st female.
“That will do squirrel, that will do!”
Now back to the trails!
Thanks to, The event organisers for the opportunity to race again; Jon for looking after Puppy Wilfred on the day and the nights before; Andy Valance for running with me on the Granite Way; Siân for the Exe Estuary escapades; and Clare for being that cycling pacer and travel companion and all my sponsors.