Breaking my Marathon PB - February 22nd, 2014
22nd February 2014
Late flight, a greasy burger for dinner and a 3am start. Far from ideal preparation for what was only my 2nd ever timed marathon. Could I beat my marathon PB? Well, that wasn't going to be that hard considering...
My questionable history of marathon running
I have absolutely no idea how many times I have run a marathon distance. Probably not that many, but my guess is about 20-30 (4 of those were back to back when I foolishly ran 24 hours straight). That said, I have only ever run one proper marathon... The London Marathon back in 2009. That was a less than glorious experience.
My preparation for that event was woeful. After suffering shin splints terribly in the build up (I have since learned from experience, I could have dealt with that through a lot of massage!), my longest run before the start line was a rather pathetic 17km. I was quite literally clueless. It was an amazing day and I was swept up with the occasion, cruising through the half marathon point in 1 hour 40 and thinking 'wow, this is the furthest I have ever run!'. It went downhill very quickly from there, I had awful cramp and my second half marathon was just over 2 hours. Far from graceful, but sub 4 hours none the less.
Redemption (and cramp)
The Cango Caves marathon is allegedly one of South Africa's most beautiful... I had to run a marathon before 'Comrades' (South Africa's famous 90km ultra marathon which I also stupidly entered) to qualify. This one was as good as any.
I was running with my good friend and training buddy Lize-Mari, a very experienced ('proper') runner, who as always, was far better prepared than myself (e.g. gel strategy and hydration plan, route awareness etc). Alas, my poor planning came to the fore early on as I needed a shit at 5am and had to join a massive queue at the start line, meaning we started right at the very back.
South African's are quite serious sporting folk. I found out the iPod's are BANNED in official races and you can be disqualified - not an ideal start. They also insist on doing all varities of prayers, rituals and speeches beforehand apparently, but eventually the gun went off.
We went out pretty steady and ran together uphill for the first 8km and came to the big hill of the race. I decided to push a little up the hill and sadly left LM behind (perceived as me unsportingly 'dropping' her). I pushed on a quite a pace and surprised myself when I went through half way in 1.35 and continued at a 4.20km/min pace.
On passing the umpteenth ostrich farm, and as temperatures went above 30c, cramp kicked in... horrific. Just 9km to go and my pace dropped to a shambolic 5.30km and people started passing me. I was on for a 3 hour 15 marathon... yet my broken legs eventually hauled me over the line in 3.23. I claim this time as a 3.21, not least because my GPS read 42.4km but also because it had taken about 2 minutes to cross the line and actually start running.
Like many things in life, this could have been a truly amazing time. As it was, it was 'good' and I am learning, a 'good' performance day to day is often 'good enough'.
Sand running and volcano climbing - November 29th, 2013
Why am I going so slowly? 8kph? Really!? My feet are on fire. There is sand in my shoes. This hurts. There are people staring at me. I am sweating more than I thought was possible. Hmm... This... more »
Intercontinental running - November 3rd 2013
A half marathon in Joburg. Have a shower, get on a plane, 16 hours later, get off the plane, run a half marathon in Washington DC. This style of life is becoming the norm and trust me...... more »
Facing up to the Marathon Des Sables - September 8th 2013
The (other) 'Toughest footrace on Earth', as described by the Discovery Channel. 7 brutal days of running 250km, through soft sand, in temperatures exceeding 50c, whilst carrying about... more »
Altitude, heat and hoodlums - August 25th, 2013
Move aside Thames Path with your variety of interesting historical monuments, your traffic free running lane and your shady tree laden shores. I am moving to Johannesburg, city of gold, hills... more »
Part 2: Cruising to Polaris - April 11th 2013
The weather was amazing as we left Resolute for our epic journey ahead. It was ‘only’ about -17c, no wind and beautiful sunshine. For the next few days, we would be pushing forward... more »
Part 1: Journey to the top of the world - April 6th 2013
The nostril hairs and my eyelashes started to freeze up – something that has only happened a few times in my life – typically at about -25c. The worst part was that I was still a two... more »
'Adventure is just bad planning' - March 31st 2013
It is with Amundsen's quote that I start my final blog before my own attempt to walk to a pole. Whilst I doubt my effort will be as celebrated, I hope it will be as successful. In the final... more »
Counting Down... - March 13th 2013
100s of KGs of kit, hundreds of individual items, food to be purchased in Canada, guns and ammunition to manage and sponsorship/fundraising efforts to sort out - the lead in to the North Pole is... more »
Success on Aconcagua - February 9th 2013
100kph winds, -40c, deep snow... I had it all in my fight to get to the summit of the highest mountain in the Western and Southern Hemisphere's at 6,962m (22,841ft). Whilst telling everyone... more »
How cold is 'cold'? - January 6th 2013
One of the most common questions people ask me is 'how cold will it be at the North Pole?', to which I normally reply 'could be anything from -25c to -55c... and with windchill,... more »
Maps & Tracking
You can explore the full route to the North Pole and follow Paul’s progress with live maps that will plot his position each day as he progresses towards the pole more >
VSO is the world’s leading independent international development organisation that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries (www.vso.org.uk). The Fire and Ice Challenge is aiming to raise £50,000 for VSO’s secure livelihoods programme more >