Chelmsford Marathon 2019 Race Report

Race Report: 20 October 2019

Before the race, I wasn’t sure what performance I was capable of.
It would be the last race of a long running season. I had hoped before the year that I could set a new personal best. But that felt impossible.
The weather was ideal; cool and dry. As I set off from the start line, I had the 3:30 pacer in my sights.
I began conservatively, holding back and ignoring the adrenaline.
I saw my family at the five-kilometre mark then soon took a cup of water from an aid station. Most of it I spilt on the floor.
Still, my mile splits were all under eight minutes. I wasn’t gaining on the pacer and group of runners around him.
Just past the five-mile mark I used a portaloo. I was less than 30 seconds inside and soon came upon the second aid station. I grabbed my special drinks bottle and gradually made up the time I had lost. I didn’t panic.
I enjoyed a Nakd bar as I sipped my homemade sports drink over the next miles.
At eight miles I was still behind the pacemaker even though I was still running quicker than a projected 3:30 finish time.
I increased my pace so that miles eight and nine were 7:30 each.
I passed runners who were falling off the back of the pacer group. This gave me confidence.
I could ease off the pace a little over the next few miles as I steadily reached the group. At 12 ¼ miles I was part of the group. It contained seventeen runners including me and the pacer.
I felt relatively fresh. Only my left knee ached a little. I ignored it.
We passed halfway in around 1:42:00. This meant that at the current pace we would finish the marathon in 3:24:00. I was more than happy with this.
I retrieved my second special drinks bottle and drew energy from the group. Most of the time there was no talking; just the pattern of footsteps pounding the rural roads. The support was sparse but noisy.
At times I was hugging the curb, other times I ran just behind the lead pacer in the centre of the road, other times I kept on the outside. The positions moved when we passed another aid station. I tried to get out of the way of everyone else as they frantically grabbed their drinks.
I felt good, but I reminded myself that I needed to wait. We continued clocking up the miles at around 7:40 pace. The undulations didn’t affect me as the group continued with almost fifteen runners.
We soon passed runners in front, others hung onto us.
At the 19-mile mark I grabbed my last special drinks bottle. I didn’t need much from it but I kept it in my hands just in case.
There was a sharp incline and I held myself back from passing the pacer. We were less than 10 kilometres from the finish and I wanted to push on.
But I waited another mile before I surged.
I thanked the group and found a pace I felt I could maintain. That pace was 45 seconds faster per mile; 6:45. It was challenging but within my limits.
I was alone for long sections, then I passed more runners.
I sped up for miles 24 and 25. I ran 6:30 per mile pace.
The last mile I surged again and finished the 26th mile in 6:22.
I gave all I had over the final 320 metres. I sprinted to the finish line, overtaking an older runner moments before crossing the line in 3:16:35.
I was genuinely pleased, exceeding my expectations pre-race.

Relatively Huge Success

My ninth marathon was a huge success. I managed my second negative-split marathon, and enjoyed a race with relatively little discomfort. It was my third-fastest marathon and was the first race for which I purposefully used a pace group to support me. It undoubtedly helped me reduce my perception of effort, and was a unique experience. I also finished in the top 50 runners. This was the 16th race in which I achieved this feat.

2019 had already seen me produce a new 10-mile and half marathon personal best, and complete my first ever ultramarathon. Although I felt fully recovered after my ultramarathon, it had only been 15 days prior. I didn’t know what to expect from my legs. I only hoped that a sub 3:30 marathon would be possible. I knew the pacemaker would help me along.

At the start of the year I had wanted to break my previous personal best, set in the same race in 2017. I was only 3:16 away from accomplishing this goal. If I had not run such a conservative first half of the race, I perhaps could have got very close to my ambition. The difference between the two halves was about 7 ½ minutes. Still, my sixth consecutive Chelmsford Marathon was a fantastic way to finish an injury-free running season. Also, the medal is my first to spin. I am now motivated more than ever to realise my full potential at the 26.2-mile distance.

Fought off Injury to Finish 5th Marathon in Row

I started near the middle of the pack. I wasn’t used to being amongst runners who chatted and laughed. Space became tight and a runner almost tripped me up as we funnelled from the start line.
I kept a comfortable running pace. The early miles dragged as the markers didn’t start until the third mile. I ignored my watch as I focused on not flaring up my shin injury.
I modified my foot strike so I didn’t land primarily on my forefoot.
I soon passed my family and told them twice “I’m alright so far”. I was nervous but determined in getting through the first quarter of the race.
By mile eight I knew I would complete the race. My shins hadn’t caused me any pain and my anxiety about not finishing suddenly disappeared. Instead I needed to keep my muscle soreness to a minimum.
When I reached tenth mile my stomach began to rumble, so I ate several handfuls of dried fruit I carried on me. I enjoyed the sticky, sugary dates, apricots and mango pieces.
By half way my quads, hamstrings and adductors were extremely tight.
I reminded myself that this was natural as my training had been extremely limited and as long as I kept moving forward I would finish.
I passed cheering spectators, faced frequent undulations, and even runners that were walking or sitting at the side of the road.
The terrain was sapping my energy, and once I had drunk my second bottle of juice I knew a run-walk strategy was inevitable.
So I waited until the next aid station, located at approximately 19.3 miles, where I took advantage of the water the volunteers were offering. As I walked, I found that the pain was not discernibly different from when I was running. So I took a sensible approach and ran on the flatter sections of road, and walked the uphill and downhill sections.
I soon became obsessed with drinking, even though I wasn’t particularly sweaty or thirsty.
The next aid station was my only concern. I had plenty of company, with many runners around me showing signs of fatigue.
The final miles didn’t feel too slow, despite my pace of 9:30-10:20 per mile.
Spectators inspired me at the end to sprint passed a runner before stopping my watch at 3:52:35.


After once again suffering from pain in both my shins in early September, I knew my journey to my eighth marathon would be a challenge. Despite not running for 40 days I became paranoid that my shin bones were weak and tender. Even starting the race was in doubt up until Sunday.

My training during the seven weeks leading to the marathon consisted of walking a minimum of 14,500 steps each day, and cycling on my turbo trainer three to six times each week. Although I maintained a reasonable level of fitness, due to a variety of endurance and speed cycling workouts, I never believed they replicated the demands of running.

However, I was so fixated on whether I would experience shin pain that I neglected the impact on my muscles. On a positive note, it took 2 hours and 43 minutes of running before I succumbed to walking breaks. My mental strength proved once again that I could tackle a rather incredible feat (relative to my recent preparations).

My only goal was to finish, in order to maintain my record of running my local marathon each year since its inception in October 2014. I ignored position and pace, and only until the last few miles did I consider the 4 hour predicted finish time, and want to beat it.

The race was brutal on my body, akin to the first marathon I ever ran five years ago. Although my muscle soreness consumed my attention, I enjoyed the experience mostly as confirmation that my body is better at healing itself than I give it credit for.