On Sunday September 25th 2011, I became a marathoner. I completed the New Forest Marathon in the abysmal time of five hours and forty minutes. It was one of the most painful experiences in my life and I have informed my wife that she has permission to slap me if I ever suggest I run another!
The idea for running a Marathon has been bubbling under the surface for quite a few years. Mainly thanks to the Pheidipidations podcast from Steve Runner
. I've previously run a ten mile race and a half marathon (January this year).
As with my half marathon, I used a training program from Runkeeper.com
Sadly, unlike the half marathon, this time I slacked off the last two months before the marathon! And that is what did me in!
I had been training like a trooper, keeping to the program, fitting in the scheduled runs. But unfortunately for me, all that great base work was wasted. The way my run went proved the old adage that "Piss poor preparation, leads to piss poor performance".
When I look at the mile times I did, I also suspect I went too fast too soon. I didn't feel like I was running hard, but all of my first 5 miles were run under 9:30 pace. In fact only two of my first 10 miles were over ten minutes per mile.
After about 15 miles it all went horribly wrong. From about 16 miles my leagues were cramping and the going was bad, really bad. I tried to walk some of it off, but I was walking REALLY slow. The alternative was trying to run through the cramps, but that hurt and tended to generate more cramps.
I was hurting and came very VERY close to quitting a bunch of times. It was on reflection, interesting how my mind played tricks on me. At about 19 miles for example; I decided a marathon was only 23 miles long. So I only had 4 miles to go. A couple of miles later, my mind realized that a marathon is 26.2 miles. Weird. Two miles of confusion.
I don't know where it happened, but around the 23 miles mark, the sweeper vehicle caught me up. The sweeper, is a van that comes around and picks up stragglers or hands out disclaimers saying you are outside the end of the race and you are on your own.
Being caught by the sweeper van, spurred me on and I managed to catch up with the van and overtake it and get "back in the race". Shortly afterwards I was overtaken again; then overtook it again with maybe two miles to go. And I stayed ahead till the race finished!
Coming down the final length, I was greeted by my wife and my twin 8 year olds. And they ran with me the last 200 yards or so and the ordeal was over!
I am very happy to have finished the race, it hurt like hell. But I am pleased I finished. One of the little conversations I had with myself, was saying that I had to finish, else I would feel like I had to run another one so I had actually completed one… and there was no way I wanted to go through that again.
The interesting think about running the 26.2 miles that makes a marathon is that you body is not designed to do it. You can't run that distance without training, nutrition, hydration and lots of perspiration.
It is obvious to me that the last two months of training is key to a marathon. I had hoped that the base training I had done would carry me through; but it was no where needed. I needed a lot more miles under my belt and more long runs.
I had good hydration and nutrition, plenty of sweets and carb gel packs. And I drank at every drink station (approx every 4 miles). Which was something i worked on and planned for.
The legs were what gave out. And today I know they gave out bad. I have a sore lower back and also pain around my lower ribs. I am presuming the lower back is form the strain and the ribs from the grunting, groaning, wheezing and swearing and of course gasping for breath as I tried to run.
I should have seen it coming, the last few runs I did managed to fit in that were of reasonable length (8-10 miles) I felt some discomfort/pain in my upper thighs/hips. This was what I felt at about 10-11 miles into the marathon, before it expanded and blew up into full blown cramps shortly after.
It was rather an emotional experience, I was a broken man by the end. I gave it my all, more than I knew I had in me. I managed to finish in a poor time, but I finished just inside the official race period (out running that evil sweeper van).
I don't desire to run another marathon, I am happy to have completed a huge challenge. Even if I didn't get the performance/time I had hoped for.
An ordeal, but the marathon is supposed to be an ordeal, a trial. I made it the full distance and that is enough for me, I feel like I discovered and exceeded a physical/emotional/mental limit within myself. And for that experience the 5 hours and 40 minutes of pain was worth it perhaps.