NDW50 Wk 17: Thames Meander Marathon (wc 06.03.17)

The most spectacular positive split…

26.2 miles, 4:17:34, 9:49 min/mile, 0ft elevation gain (ha ha ha ha ha!)

When you discover a London based marathon organised by the excellent Hermes Races that is on your actual birthday the temptation to enter is just too great… Originally I entered telling myself that it would be a good training run, albeit one with aid stations & a medal at the end!

But the closer we got to race day the more I began thinking about racing it rather than just running it. I’d had some pretty pacy long flat runs & in my mind with this marathon nine weeks before NDW50 it was better timing for a flat out effort than Brighton four weeks later.

So, after last weekends 12 miles at 8:20 pace I decided that I was going to go for the 3:45 I’d been dreaming of. True, that’s not what my training had been geared towards but sometimes I believe it’s worth taking a risk, challenging yourself & stepping outside your comfort zone.

Thames Meander Marathon run in 4:17.

So not the time I was aiming for, far from it. I went out at 3:45 pace (8:30 min miles) & was impressively bang on until 16 miles when my legs simply stopped working. Energy wise I had it, legs had other ideas. I know I am capable of 3:45 but I now know I’m not there just yet.

© R&R Photography Limited

Am I disappointed? No.

I set myself a very challenging target, I wasn’t sure if I was quite ready for it so I took a risk & decided to just go for it in the belief that you’ll never know what your capable of if you always play it safe. I ran another marathon, how can I be disappointed?

Failure? Most definitely not.

There are more positives than negatives from this race.

I got my pacing for the first 16 miles virtuously bang on, all within seconds of each other & the 8:30 target. This is a skill I have been working hard on on my flatter training runs (impossible on the hills!) & have been trying to master for many years!

At 16 miles as my legs stopped & pace slowed I wanted to stop. I was done, every step was an effort & the thought of another ten miles was tortuous. But somehow I dug in & sheer determination & stubbornness got me through. This is a mental strength I didn’t know I had. I learnt that I usually give up too easily.

You can see the relief on my face as I approach the finishing line in the left hand photo! © R&R Photography Limited

I’m proud that I took the risk. I now see that I wasn’t ready & looking back I can see gaps in my training (two 18 mile runs, one 21 mile, not enough of the long stuff). My training has not been geared towards a fast 26.2, it’s been focused on a slow 50 miles & my recent faster times over shorter distances have distorted my perception of what I am currently capable of.

So, Brighton Marathon in 4 weeks. Am I going to go for 3:45 again? No. I know that I’m not ready & I know I need to focus 100% on the NDW50 in just nine short weeks. I’m going to revise my target for Brighton, mid-race today I’d almost convinced myself to pull out completely but I think if I have a realistic & manageable target it could be a beneficial training run.

So the Thames Meander Marathon as a race? Highly, highly recommend. Well organised by Hermes as usual. A beautiful route along the Thames (although TBH during some of the painful miles I could have been running anywhere…!). Well signed, fantastic aid stations (first time I’ve ever stopped at an aid station to indulge in the snacks, I usually just run through!) & great marshals including one who stood at a pedestrian crossing (on a small section that was rerouted due to the Thanes Path being closed) purely to press the button on the crossing as runners approached to stop the traffic!

And a great group of runners! Lots of friendly chat before & during the race. It was lovely to bump into Emma from Twitter just before the start & she kept me going at about mile 22 when I was falling to pieces! There is a completely different atmosphere at smaller races compared to the big city marathons & I’m enjoying these more & more. I think after Brighton I’m not going to do any more of the ‘big’ races.

Emma & Matt both kept me going during the last five miles…!

I now have a few demons with this race, I will be back to settle them!

So, not the day I’d planned but still a fantastic way to spend my birthday!

© R&R Photography Limited

I took a mini taper the week prior to the marathon so just two other runs, an easy five mile recovery session on Monday following last weekends LSR & a very gentle stretching of the legs Friday morning ahead of Saturday’s race.

Chasing sunrise Friday morning!

I’m really focused on recovery after this marathon as I want to be back in my running shoes on Monday to carry on with my NDW50 training. I remember after my first few marathons I would sit down & not move for the rest of race day, I’d also be in pain for most of the following week!

I had a lovely sports massage at the finish line, pain yes, but good pain! And then kept moving. Walked back to the train station, walked home, stretched, foam rolled, had a hot bath. Wore compression tights & then on Sunday more of the same (minus the actual running a marathon bit!).

Week Seventeen: 34.6 miles in total with 285 ft elevation gain.

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