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'.
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