Autumn marathon part 1 – Eindhoven
To make up for my traditional short reports, you can have 2 long reports in one! For those with my attention span, just skip to the 3rd from last paragraph.
After the weather ruined my attempts at London (too hot) and Edinburgh (too windy) I was fairly determined to get the sub 3 hour marathon done this autumn. After much deliberation I decided that Eindhoven would be good: a completely flat course, inland to minimise against wind, easy drive from the UK, should be relatively cool in October and cheap accommodation. I did keep this plan largely quiet as I wanted to remove as much pressure on myself as possible, hence the delay to this report.
However the run up to this was not great, I caught a cold which ruined my half marathon PB attempt at Folkestone (which was also hot). The Monday before I still felt terrible and the forecast was looking hot at potentially 26 degrees (not good for confidence).
After my experience in London I was keen to not repeat and I tried to find an alternative race. With work commitments and sold out races there really were few options to change to. However Eindhoven also has a half, the trip had been paid for and I didn’t want to ruin a family weekend. We decided that if it was hot I would just drop down to that; you could do so at number collection. I would then pick the training up and go for Florence again in November which was really my only realistic option. The forecast kept changing however and on the Saturday it was meant to be cloudy and 20 degrees, I thought as long as not sunny and 20 degrees this would be ok, so I gambled with the marathon. However by the start time at 10am it was hot with not a sign of any clouds!
First 10km I felt ok , but when you are pouring water over yourself to stay cool you know it will come back and bite you. I decided to keep marathon pace until half way and then just jog around and treat it at as a long run (i’d been doing training runs up to 22 miles anyway). Plan pretty much worked but last few kms were still hard, nothing like London though (not as many people passed out but still a lot of people were getting medical assistance, including one of the elites). Finishing time was 3:22:45, which given the temperature at the finish was 26 degrees and I jogged half of it I was fairly happy with.
Apart from the temperature (which really was very unusual for the time of year) it was a really good race. All the logistics were really easy, the course was pleasant, wide and open roads and defiantly one for a PB. It is also a proper city marathon and loops back and through the city several times to ensure good support, there are also lots of bars for post race celebration. In short it would make a great destination for an autumn tour!
Autumn marathon part 2 – Florence
Whilst not being disappointed with Eindhoven in terms of performance I was a little concerned as to getting race ready again in only 6 weeks. Whilst this was clearly far from ideal, I decided that I had not taken too much out of myself, but I knew I wasn’t going to be in the same shape (I also had a few work trips which would affect my training) so I decided to just drop my goal from 2:55 to 2:59.
I tried as much as possible to reduce the controllable factors which might affect me this time. Again I kept the race quiet, lost weight, went on my own (sorry family), read up on controlling the mental side and even stopped drinking for 8 days (was meant to be 4 weeks but try doing work trips without drinking!). Must admit this and the favourable weather forecast meant that I went into the race completely relaxed and having set a new 10K PB the week before I knew the form was there.
So by favourable weather forecast I mean it was raining all day, but at least it wasn’t freezing cold like last year! My plan was to stick around 4:10 to 4:12 km to have something left in reserve for when the pain kicked in from 20 miles. I always find about 22km to 30km quite mentally hard, but I found that setting goals for just the next 2 km and to just keep pace until the next 2km as quite an effective strategy. I also quite like the Jens Voigt mantra of “shut up legs” (for those of you who don’t know Jens, he was basically the Chuck Norris of cycling), although he is also famous for saying “Beyond pain there is a whole new universe of more pain”. However the energy gels were making me feel sick and I was starting to hit the pain barrier as I went through 32km. I decided that to get the sub 3 I needed to enter this new universe and to be honest I don’t recommend going there, it hurts!
The last 8km in Florence are not quick with many turns making it really hard to stay on pace. However the support is great and with the prospect of a sub 3 still in site I just had to dig deep. As I approached the 40km to go marker I knew it was in the bag as I had about a minute to spare. As I rounded the last corner I could see the official clock still saying 2:58 and I sprinted as fast as I could to finish in 2:59:06 and 313 place (out of 7604 finishers) I was also 10th Brit which was quite pleasing. I then proceeded to sit in a puddle and watch very annoyed runners come in who had just missed out on 3 hours by a few seconds.
A big thank you must go to Sonja who has been nothing but supportive and realised that getting this sub 3 marathon off my chest was just something I needed to do. Also a big thank you to all the coaches (John especially for his plans) and everyone else who have passed on their advice over the years, it’s amazing how valuable these bits of feedback are from the experienced runners, so please keep them coming!
p.s As a thought I have learnt quite a lot from my various marathon experiences and I’m sure many others have pearls of wisdom to share as well. Thoughts on holding a post club run pizza and marathon discussion session in the New Year?