“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”

There’s a well-known ultra-runner called Karl Meltzer, whom I’ve heard say “100 miles is not that far”.

I disagree; if you’ve not done the training 26.2 miles IS that far.

It’s far enough to kick one’s ass.

It certainly kicked mine.

What went wrong with the training? Well, it never really got started; the weather this winter has been, frankly, shit. Additionally I struggled to get motivated for the marathon, I don’t know why, but I didn’t get “the fear” about the event until it was too late.

"4 WEEKS TO MARATHON GLORY"

The optimistically titled “4 WEEKS TO MARATHON GLORY”

4 weeks out I Googled “28 day marathon training plans” and sketched one out; it started with a 10 mile run that included some intervals at the end and I came out of my first session with an oh too familiar pain in my lower legs. I gave it a week to get better… 21 days to train for a marathon.

In desperation I quit drinking and bought some new shoes, it’s always good to go back to one’s triathlon roots – got a problem? Try throwing money on it. And while this hasn’t always worked in the past, this time it seemed to. Sure the shoes had that “special” look about them, and caused a great deal of amusement around the office, but my Hoka-One-One trainers meant I could run pain-free.

The Hoka-One-One. Ridiculous? Yes. Effective? Seems to be!

The Hoka-One-One. Ridiculous? Yes. Effective? Seems to be!

My training started to go well. Relative to doing almost no training 39 miles is a HUGE week, but one week out from the marathon – past the time when there’s any physiological gain from a long run – I went for a “long” run.

At 13 miles things started to be uncomfortable. At 16 miles I was walking and heading home… this was a good indication of how things would go the following week.

Race morning and I was feeling pretty chilled; I’ve done enough races now that the prospect of racing doesn’t cause me anxiety, the only anxiety comes from pressure I place on myself to do “well” but since I’d done so little training, I didn’t have any expectations and so I didn’t have any nerves. This works surprisingly well, in a twisted sort of way.

Once at the start I was excited to be there and looking forward to the event (fool!), I got myself all sorted out, bags dropped and joined the nervous masses in the starting pen.

It was a warm day, a lot warmer than I expected, and from the outset my heart-rate was about 10 bpm higher than I’d have liked but the crowd support was amazing and I felt like I was jogging along with the 3:45 pacer without any problems. Maybe I was wrong? Maybe I am fit enough to run a 3:45 marathon with very little training…

No. No I am not. Ooops.

At 13 miles I took my first walk, heart rate stubbornly elevated I knew if I carried on I was getting deeper and deeper into trouble so the walking strategy was to power walk from each mile marker until it was back in control, and then to run comfortably to the next marker and repeat. Each mile it got harder to get going again, and my legs got heavier. At 19 miles there was the only part of the course that wasn’t brilliantly supported and I started walking more than I was running.

Coming along the Embankment next to the River Thames the crowds are amazing, and when I’ve watched in the past I wondered how anyone could walk when there’s such support, but I did.

Even seeing my sister who came out to cheer me on didn’t get me running, it just made me feel like I was wasting her Sunday. As close as 800m to go I took walking breaks, legs just empty, unable to draw on any reserves. Empty.

I crossed the line in 4 hours 16 minutes and 26 seconds, 22 second faster than my only other stand-alone marathon in Cardiff in 2005 – and that hurt a lot less. Post-race I had a couple of beers with a friend and headed home. And by headed I really mean hobbled.

15,589th place of 35,881 finishers; apparently over the final 7.2km I passed 227 runners, and 898 passed me. Those 227 must have been in trouble!

The ballot opened for next year’s race. I thought about it for about 30 seconds, about how I’d had no motivation for training this year and why would next year be any different? How if I got a place and didn’t train well for it again, I was denying someone else that place. Just how much it hurt as I passed through Canary Wharf, and how ridiculous my tan lines were from my visor.

And then I got my credit card out and entered. Will I never learn?

64 days out from the Ice Trail Tarentaise and I’ve not run more than for a bus since the marathon. A friend commented that “2 months doesn’t seem like a lot of time to get into that sort of shape, perhaps you should focus on finding your mojo and trying next year”.

That sounds like good advice, but not fun and exciting advice; I’ve not decided what I’m going to do about that yet, but since it’s finally stopped raining here I should go and get a run in… wish me luck, this is going to hurt!