Sub 3 Marathon attempts
Brighton 2014- 3.12
London 2015 - 3.08
Paris 2016 -3.05
Brighton 2017 - 3.16
Milton Keynes 2017 - 3.04
Brighton Marathon 2014
My first attempt was at the Brighton marathon in April 2014, going into this race my current personal best was around 3.13 from the Amsterdam marathon in 2010. I trained moderately, I didn't do any speed work which is something you have to do but I wasn't aware at the time. I ended up going out pretty hard and blowing up at around mile 16 - I didn't just blow up I actually struggled to finish the race but managed to jog/walk in but then collapsed on the line and ended up on a drip. The inexperienced marathon runner!
2nd attempt, trained a bit harder but still no proper speed work. I ran the Rocky Racoon 100 miler at the end of January in 17 hours 51 mins so had a good endurance fitness level going into the race. I ran the North London Half marathon in 1.24 - this is where I thought I could have a chance as put this race in and a big half marathon P.B. This was my first London Marathon and what a race it is, people cheering the whole way and an electric atmosphere. I ran pretty good to start with but blew up at around mile 19 and struggled in with a time of 3.08 - a 4 minute P.B so not a bad result but still way off the sub 3 target.
At a friends wedding I met Steve Hobbs a great runner (Marathon time of around 2.35ish through memory). He offers running coaching through his company http://www.themilestonepursuit.com. I decided to work with him in the run up to Paris and try something different. He set me a detailed training programme Jan-April over around 11 weeks with detailed training sessions running 6 days a week including an interval session, threshold session and a long run including marathon paced miles. This probably got me to the fittest I had ever been at the time and including the speed work, marathon paced miles definitely makes sense. You need to train harder/faster than you're going to run in a marathon and also train at the race pace on the longer runs to make it feel comfortable when it comes to race day. Steve doesn't just offer a training programme, the programme is adapted week in week out based on your needs but constant communication around how you're feeling and advice, etc. He also offers advice in terms of nutrition, mental and general preparation for a marathon which is all essential when going into a race. I trained pretty well for Paris hitting all the sessions and we thought this would be the sub 3. I started off well and ran an evenly paced race - unfortunately some stomach problems occurred (An aggressive stitch) at around mile 22 and ended up having to walk for a bit and struggled in with a time of 3.05.45 just missing out on the ''London Good for Age''. Again another PB but another disappointment. There is a massive difference in running a marathon for pleasure and putting yourself under pressure for a time as you put so much into training in the 3 months leading up to the race, it all comes down to that one day and if you miss that goal you set you have to pick yourself up again and decide whether you want to do it again. I ran the Autumn 100 in October that year so trained over the end of the summer/autumn mainly logging slower miles.
I decided to work with Steve again. Trained really well, better than the year before and a few races acted as great confidence boosters such as the Finchley 20 (A 20 mile race in Spring used as a training run in race conditions for Spring marathons) which I ran in 2.17.15 - spot on marathon pace. Brighton came and unfortunately for me the weather was ridiculously hot (Into the 20s) and my head went at about half way - it was just way too hot and I wasn't going to do it. I think I could have probably put in a better performance but the heat killed me physically and mentally. Ended up jogging and walking for a 3.16. I was absolutely gutted!
Milton Keynes 2017
After chatting to Steve he said whilst you have the fitness you should enter another marathon. It made sense, I had a stag do mid May so the best option was the Milton Keynes marathon 4 weeks after the Brighton marathon early May. My mate Paul Rowlinson was also running this so would be good to catch up with him. The plan with Steve was to try and recover quickly from Brighton and keep the fitness going into Milton Keynes. Race day came and ran a good race - paced well, unfortunately I threw up at mile 19 after consuming too many gels and I think the mix with gatorade pushed it. I ended up finishing with a time of 3.04.21 and had to work hard for that over the last 5 miles. Again not a sub 3 but a P.B and more importantly London GFA for 2 years guaranteed.
Post Milton Keynes I took a bit of time off and went to Italy on holiday had some fun throughout the summer. I was still running but not training for anything and keeping it simple. I started putting in a few more miles towards the end of July running a marathon for fun on Saturday morning with a mate. I started building up to 50 miles a week over August and starting to add in the Threshold and Interval sessions. On August 20th I decided to enter the Amsterdam Marathon with only just under 2 months to go. At the time I just wanted a race and having run Amsterdam before I thought it could be a good one and Sam (My fiancée) had never been so we thought we would make a weekend out of it with her running the half marathon. So having put in around 5 x weeks of 50 miles and some good sessions I started to wonder whether I could have a crack at the sub 3. I started putting in the long runs with the marathon paced miles and started to up the mileage. For 4 weeks I banked 70 miles a week, I have never done that before in any training.
Mileage in the run up to Amsterdam
W/C - 24th July - 53.7
W/C - 31st July - 50.1
W/C - 7th August - 50
W/C - 14th August - 52.1
W/C - 28th August - 70.1
W/C - 4th September - 70
W/C - 11th September - 70.2
W/C - 18th September - 70.2
W/C - 25th September - 51.9
W/C - 2nd October - 44
W/C - 9th October (RACE WEEK) - 39.5
Total - 621.8 miles (11 Weeks)
Strava data - https://www.strava.com/athletes/7003533
With about a month to go I thought I'm going to have another crack here. I ran the Southend 10k in 37.56 - a massive PB and a good confidence boost with 2 weeks to go. Race day came and we started in the Olympic Stadium. My race plan was to run slightly faster than race pace (6.51 min miles) - every marathon I have run I have slowed up in the last 10k so I wanted to run at 6.45 min miles for a 20 mile time of 2.15 giving me 45 minutes to run the last 10k. As we started in the stadium it was quite congested, so it took a while to get going but managed to thread myself through and helped with a slower mile first mile. I had to stop after mile 2 for a quick wee annoyingly but then settled into my race pace. After about 10 miles I was spot on where I needed to be, it was starting to get hot and a few negative thoughts did enter my mind but managed to block them out and carry on. The first 10 is in the city and then you go out to the river for about 10 miles which isn't the best part but there were crowds out supporting and music plus plenty of runners around. My nutrition plan was to stick to one gel every 25 mins and take on the Isostar energy drink every 5-6 miles. This worked really well and I didn't get any nauseas feelings. Once I got to 20 miles I hit the time in 2.15 and I was thinking in my head I have now got this. I was starting to struggle naturally but kept thinking in my head all I need to do is run the last 10k in 45 mins and keep the pace going. I just kept going and knocking off the miles moving into a 6.50/6.55 pace. I have was ruined that I don't really remember the last few miles, all I remember thinking was it was going to be close. When I got to mile 25 I was in a world of pain but had to keep pushing - I thought there is no way I am going to run 3.00 something - I ran the last mile in 7.12 (The only mile in the 7s), I crossed the line in the stadium and knew I had done it but collapsed and went straight into the medical tent. I had overheated so they just cooled me down with sponges. I knew I had done it but I didn't know my time (2.59.20) until I switched on my phone when I picked up my bag 45 minutes after I had crossed the line. It was such a relief, I felt so happy and still do now.
Race stats - https://www.strava.com/activities/1231215546
Why did I do it this time?
A few pointers on why I think I did it this time.
1) New Nike Vapour Fly 4% trainers - without a doubt the best trainers I have ever run in.
2) I didn't have any ultra marathons in my legs, hadn't run an ultra for over a year so felt stronger.
3) Upped my mileage slightly but still stuck to similar sessions Steve had set me in the past.
4) I ran Amsterdam 8 years ago and broke 3.15 for the first time so mentally I knew it was a good race for me.
5) I took on a lot of beetroot juice in the 2 weeks running up to the race.
6) 10k P.B
7) Mentally stronger - It was bloody tough but didn't give up at any stage, even at mile 25 when I felt terrible.
8) Started doing core work 1-2 times a week.
8) Started doing core work 1-2 times a week.
9) Every failure has made me stronger.
I would like to do a few cross country races over the winter, I have the Country to Capital 45 miler in Jan, Big London Half in March then the London Marathon in April. Time goal for London hasn't been decided yet, it will depend what I can fit in training wise.
Anyone out there who has tried for a time and has failed, if you want it you will get there. You just need to keep going, adapt and you will get there.