London Marathon 2012 was my first 'A' race of the season. I had two main goals - first: to get a PR, and second: to go sub-4. I have only run one stand alone marathon before and that was London Marathon in 2007. I ran it in 4 hours and 28 mins so I knew that going sub-4 was going to be tough but doable. I started training properly for it at the beginning of the year and my training has been going really well. Those of you who have followed my blog will know that, in the process I have bagged some PRs in 5 km, 10 miles and half-marathon. So I knew that, barring an injury, I could do this.
But not everything was going to be plain sailing. Two weeks before the race I was due to do my last long run - 20 miles. I set out very early on a Saturday morning and about an hour into the run I could feel pain in my knee. I ran on it for few minutes but it wasn't going away. So I decided to call it a day and not risk getting any real injury. I have had already done three 20 milers this year so I knew that all the hard work has already been done. Then the following week (around 10 days before the marathon) I started experiencing some pain in my right leg. After some googling I discovered that it was most likely posterior shin splints. Needless to say, at this point, I have started to panic a bit. My training up to then has been going well and and I don't think I missed any sessions until then. And now I was ten days out of the marathon and I could hardly walk. Jen and I decided that I should rest it and do some cycling/swimming instead just to keep moving. So I did no running in the last 10 days before the marathon, other than a short jog on Saturday, the day before the race. To make things worse, Shaun got home to London on Friday night and he wasn't feeling very well. I woke up on Saturday not feeling 100% either. But at this point it was too late to do anything about it so, other than Shaun, I didn't tell anyone about it, not even Jen. I knew that, it wouldn't make any difference. I was ready to go out there and run and run hard, regardless of how I felt.
The weather in the UK has been rubbish the last couple of weeks with rain every day. The same weather was forecasted for Sunday. Fortunately, I woke up to glorious blue skies and I am happy to say that, during my run, there was no rain. Things did turn for worse later on but by then I was nicely at home.
So, the race.... As far as I know and have seen, London Marathon is by far the best race in terms of supporters and crowds. There are spectators literally along the whole 26.2 mile long course and sometimes even ten deep. It is incredible. If you have never raced a race like this before you have to do it. Judging by Sunday, Olympic marathon will be amazing and the British runners got a real taste of what the home crowd will be like this summer. But at the same time, for us mortals and not so fast runners, it is crowded!!!! There were over 36,000 runners running that day and our British roads are not very wide. There was no moment during that race when I did not have to look for people and feet around me and adjust the pace accordingly. After a while that becomes really tiring and especially after 20 miles when you are fatigued and your body is not very alert. Around 13 miles the knee pain came back and it was now coupled by hip pain. Great :((( For about 5 miles I was in a lot of pain but then the things eased up.
I was right on the pace up until 18 miles - I started off conservatively and built my pace from there. But I didn't feel great. The pace that felt ok during my long runs didn't feel as easy as it should have been and I knew that I would have to work very hard to get that sub-4 today. From about 19 miles I started to loose 10 seconds per mile, then 20 seconds, then back to 10. I found dodging people and weaving around them too much hard work. By mile 23 I knew that, unless I run last 3 miles at 8 mins per mile pace, I was not going to do it. Deep down I knew that there was no way I could do it but at the same time I was not going to give up that easily. I remembered all the hard workouts I've done and the hard work I've put in and I was not going to go down without a fight. So I ran as quickly as I could. I hurt like I never hurt before. My legs were in bits. Before the race I made a wrist band and I wrote the following words on it "FOCUS. WORK HARD. NEVER GIVE UP". Some of those words come from facebook posts that Bethany and Caroline posted on my wall (thank you so so much), the others from Chrissie W's book. When things got really tough, I looked at the band and kept repeating those words in my head.
In the end it was just not meant to be. I crossed the finish line in 4:04:25. Not a sub-4 I wanted but it was a 24 minute PR. That is almost a minute per mile faster. It was a bitter-sweet feeling. I really wanted to see 3:xx:xx. Well, maybe not today, but it will happen some time soon.
Shaun and I are running Abingdon marathon in October which is a much lower-key marathon here in the UK with just 1000 people racing on some pretty fast course. I am now more motivated than ever. I know what I need to do. And I WILL do it.