The time has arrived…….the time that all marathon runners look forward to…the time when the weekly mileage finally starts heading in reverse. That said, its also the time that tells you that you are just weeks away from your marathon challenge and regardless if its your first or like me your seventh marathon, you start to get butterflies. You are at the business end of your training and there isn’t much you can do over the next three weeks that will greatly improve you as a runner. Everything you have done up to now, will be what dictates your marathon day performance…….well unless you go completely off the rails or get a major injury in the next few weeks or perhaps even opt to take a load of performance enhancing drugs. Soooo, the training you have completed up to this point will have the greatest influence on your race day performance. The next three weeks are all about ensuring you arrive at the start line rested and ready to give your best performance over 26.2 miles that you can, at this point in time.
Last Sunday (March 20th 2016), was the big best, the dress rehearsal, the practice run. Call it what you want, i was running my traditional spring 20 mile race in Lancaster, the Trimepll 20. I have completed this race three times before. Having first used it to see what running a marathon would feel like in 2009 and returning in 2014 ahead of the Wales marathon and again in 2015 ahead of Manchester. Its fairly local to me, well organised, the course is 99% traffic free and its a fairly flat route, which makes it ideal to sneak into your training plan.
Well that’s what i thought…..the race has actually relocated to Lancaster castle this year. So gone was the fast track finish that i used to love and in its place a steep climb all the way up into the Castle itself. A nasty way to finish a 20 mile race, but great practice for heart break hill i thought (There’s always a silver lining). The race also wasn’t quite well organised as in past years either, as there was some confusion over where the start line was and there wasn’t enough toilets. Although to be fair, there were more toilets than in previous years, there was just over 200 more runners than last years! A big turn out and i wonder if that’s the impact of the newly returned Manchester Marathon. Either way, its still an idea marathon practice race and that’s what i was here to do. With a plan of running the race in 2:10 achieving an average pace of 6:30. If i could do that, i could set myself quite a tough target for Boston as i seek a seventh marathon PB in a row.
Annoyingly it didn’t start well…..as the new course start involved fairly narrow section of running and this contributed to me reaching the first mile marker in 6:37, so i was seven seconds down, but no need to panic as there were another 19 miles to go. It may also have not helped that i got into conversation with another Harrier as we ran the first mile together…….
Mile 2 was completed in 6:33, better but I was still behind schedule. By mile 3 i had latched onto another runner and he was clearly also aiming for 6:30 pace (The constant watch checking gives a runner with a plan away) and together we passed the third mile point bang on 6:30. Better.
Mile four (6:32) was off pace, but i close enough, then five went in 6:25 pace and 6 in 6:24 so things were going much better and i was gaining time back. At this point my companion shot off down the road, but i stayed on course knowing i was happy with what i was currently doing and that i didn’t want to over cook it, there was a long way to go after all.
The miles ticked by fairly uneventfully, as i stuck to my task we great determination :
7 – 6:31
8 – 6:28
9 – 6:29
The around mile 10 another runner had caught up to me, although he stayed on my shoulder and every so often fell back only to return. I could hear his heavy breathing and foot pounding, he was struggling and had another ten miles to go. I was feeling in control and relaxed, hearing his other chap struggling added to that to my confidence.
Not long after mile 10, I came to one of the only hill of note in the race, which we would run twice of the course of the race. In past years i have had no problem getting up and over this hill the first time around, but struggled on the return. The toll of having run around 17 mile at that point usually hits me. So per previously years i was up and over this incline, i think its only around +58 and there is actually a worse climb, which you also do twice a little further on.
10 – 6:33
It was at this point, that i could see my companion from earlier in the race. I tried pacing his movement for a while, which was hard from a distance, but i soon (Thanks to Garmin) found him to be running off pace. So i abandoned that plan i stuck to my task. Mile 12 – 6:30
I decided to as i was near the turn around point, that i wanted to catch him up, for whatever reason so i pushed on. Mile 13 – 6:22
Having caught him, we reached the hilly sections again, Mile 14 – 6:35, Mile 15 – 6.38.
But this time on the hill climb that had caused me some issue in the past, i found myself feeling strong. I then found myself drawing level with my former companion and passing him by, beating him to the stop and using the drop to speed up and push away. For the first time in the race i had gone by him. It was a good moment.
I have thought about, why for the first time, did I not find that hill any trouble as i haven’t been doing hill repeat sessions. But what i have been doing, is runs with stairs in them and treadmill runs of between 4 & 8 miles on a constant uphill climb of between 4% and 5%. So i think a combination of these two training tools, had clearly increased my leg strength. it was a great confidence booster, to pass him on that damn hill and onward i pushed. Mile 16 – 6:26
The next runner ahead of me, was maybe 600 metres up the road, it was a big gap. So big i ruled out catching him, but i could see him passing other runners. So i targeted them instead. Mile 17 – 6:20, Mile 18 – 6:22. I was on him!
I hadn’t expected to catch him, but now i had and i was still feeling strong whereas i could tell he was slowing, so i decided to pass him when we reached mile 19 (6:23) and thats what i did.
Pushing on for the last mile i passed one runner as we reached the turn that took us back onto the narrow start. I knew the steep climb was coming, as i had walked up it ahead of the race to see how tough it was and to ensure i knew what to expect.
I passed two runners at the bottom of the hill walking up it and for some reason, i powered on. This could of been due to high fiving a man in a superman outfit holding a sign saying touch me for power….i am not sure, further research would be required to prove or disprove that……maybe….. Either way, i powered up the hill passing another runner on my way up the steep climb. Reaching the end of the steep climb and the up hill cobble section into the castle (its a tough finish!!) i caught up with another runner. He tried to hold me off as we turned to head into the Castle but i had too much left for him and pushed passed him and headed to the finish.
2:10:41, i run the last mile in 6:27 pace and i run the final section in 6:06 pace……a great finish and a great race time.
So i got the time i wanted and things are still looking good, another marathon PB could be on the cards. There’s a few weeks to go and you never know how the race will go, but despite the stress fracture i am where i wanted to be be. Incidentally this performance also represents a 20 mile PB of 6 minutes 17 seconds with an average pace of 6:29 so a timely confidence booster. I dont know if i could hold this pace for another six miles, but i am starting to think about trying too……
Back to Boston, and its now taper time. My weekly mileage will drop to 70, then 54 and then finally 36 miles. But this this comes on the back of twice breaking my monthly mileage total (February 301 miles, March (to date) 312 miles) and running more long runs (14 miles +) during the run up (Jan-March) to a marathon than ever before (22). I have continued with my cycling gym sessions, my Harriers training and my core strength work. So i am feeling fitter than ever before, although right now I am a bit stiff after running a tough 22 miler.
Interesting find alert!!
I found this great pace calculator that it designed for the Boston marathon factoring in all the hill climbs and drops. If you are doing or planning on doing Boston i recommend it.