22 October 2017
I was disciplined from the start. I let runners pass me as I kept to my strategic pace.
I smiled as I soon passed my supporters in the crowd.
I fought off a slight stitch and maintained a comfortable rhythm.
I sipped my homemade electrolyte drink every mile. Then I alternated my caloric intake with energy balls and dried mango.
I approached the halfway mark on schedule. But I reminded myself that the work had only just begun.
As I continued along the long, winding country lanes I adjusted my foot placement and effort level to deal with the strong side winds.
I began passing runners that were breathing hard, slumped forward or shuffling.
I reached the twenty-mile mark and knew this was the time to speed up. Only slightly, but enough to ensure that a new personal best would be mine.
Even though I ran out of fluids two miles from the end I had the fuel to push on and overtake more runners.
I felt greater strength as I continued on the path through the parks I had run many times.
I did not look back as I reached the spectators.
Then I turned into the final straight and sprinted to the line, overtaking a runner by a second.
Even as I crossed the line I knew I had not finished.
I continued to walk in circles in the park for ten minutes as I consumed a post-run homemade pea-protein shake, two bananas and plenty of fluid. I also stretched. I did not want a repeat of my post-race leg pain at last year’s event.
I also spoke to a runner named Alex, who told me I had inadvertently paced him for the first two hours, before he sped up. We had mutual respect for one another, and I know that he is the standard I must attain if I am to qualify for the London Marathon.
Despite the favourable cloudy and dry conditions I had to concentrate so that my energy was not sapped combating the wind.
I dedicated the race to my grandparents, who are sadly no longer with me. They taught me that hard work offers rich rewards.
There were many reasons I achieved my best marathon to date.
- I carried my own fluid, which contained carbohydrate (in the form of orange squash) and sodium. I drank a litre of this homemade electrolyte drink, plus half a litre of water from the aid stations. This kept me hydrated and energised without needing to slow.
- I also carried enough calories, packed with sugars and proteins to ensure that my stomach was constantly filled with fuel to use. I balanced my intake well so that I did not feel bloated or suffer from excessive stitches.
- I kept a steady heart rate throughout the race, which meant that I could focus on my caloric intake without having to panic about an unsustainable breathing pattern.
I executed the race so well there were few mistakes.
- I carried three energy bars and several handfuls of dried fruit that I did not need. Although not heavy they were an unnecessary energy supply that I could have better calculated in training. This can easily be rectified for future races.
- I suffered slight niggles in my lower legs, ankles and feet throughout the race. Although they were not enough to prevent me from achieving my goal I could have supported my lower body better by wearing newer ‘barefoot shoes’.
- More importantly I felt I had more to give. This notion is always difficult to judge as the marathon requires many decisions, which are impossible to analysis individually. Still, in hindsight I ran the first half too cautiously.
The race was a success because unlike my previous six marathons I passed runners in the second half of the race, feeling stronger and faster than ever before. Perhaps I could run much further at 7:20 – 7:30 per mile…