So after three months build up race week was finally here and I was excited to head out to Berlin to run my second marathon of the year having ran 2:13:26 in London earlier in the year. My best ahead of that was 2:12:57 set in Berlin in 2017.
Training ahead of the race had gone well, after a few issues post London I managed to string together some consistent weeks of training including a 4-week stint of altitude training in St Moritz in the Swiss Alps – what a place! During the month of August I ran 499 miles, which really wicked me off (if you’re a runner you’ll know why!) but equally it was pleasing as I’d also got some good sessions in too.
Upon returning home I had my usual wobble a few weeks out, a mixture of accumulation of hard training but also the realisation race day was getting close.
In the final week ahead of race day it’s all about staying off your feet and recovering physically and mentally. I did a final session on Wednesday of 2×1-mile and 4x400ms which went to plan with no issues to report.
I headed out to Berlin on the Friday and the following day was spent mostly in bed but also attending the pre race technical meeting and putting our race bottles in. Runners in the elite field are fortunate enough to be able to place bottles out on the course normally at every 5km. I was using OTE Super Carbs and aiming to drink around 200ml at each station. During my past two marathons (London and New York) I’d suffered a stitch with 10k to go during each event so I needed to make sure I got it right this time and was planning on really taking my time at each drink station.
I made sure I ate plenty in the day(s) before the race, even if it meant feeling a bit sluggish in the first half of the race. I wanted to make sure I had optimised my glycogen stores to get the most out of myself the following day. I treated my self to a couple of jam donuts (keeping it simple!) and had a healthy serving of pasta the night before.
I went to bed around 10:30 feeling confident and excited to race. I’d done everything I could and now all was left was to give it my all and leave nothing out there.
The race started at 9:15 so I woke just before 6 for breakfast and had porridge. I always take porridge pots with me to races as you can’t always get porridge when you’re away and often on race day there’s a queue of runners waiting for it! Instead of getting the bus to the start, Steve (my coach) and myself hired some Uber e bikes and rode to the start! Brilliant by the way! I warmed up for 10mins or so did my drills and strides and then got into my racing shoes (New Balance 1400) and applied excessive amounts of vaseline.
I was hoping to run in the 2:11:30 pace group, which was going through half way in 65:40 so quickly settled into a large group with pace makers helping to ensure we ran at the right pace.
As it was such a large group the drinks stations were carnage but I managed to successfully get all my bottles during the race. It’s amazing how hard it actually is grabbing a bottle off a table when you’re running at speed and also trying do it with 15 other runners! Before the race you’re designated a specific table and at each table your bottle is in the same pace so you always know where it is but it’s still tricky. I was the first bottle on table 8 of 11 for the elite men.
During the first part of the race my plan was to conserve energy and just run controlled for as long as possible. We passed 5k and 10k on pace and then half way a tiny bit ahead of schedule in 65:33 ish.
At this stage I went through a bit of a rough patch but got back on and around 30k as we turned to have the wind behind. At this point I was one of a few runners who started to move on. I knew there was still a long way to go but I felt good and I knew I was right around the Olympic standard of 2:11:30.
Around 35k my stomach started cramping and I developed the dreaded stitch. I tried to run through it but every time I pushed it got worse. Annoyingly at this stage I felt good in myself and apart from a few warning lights on the dashboard I was doing ok.
With 5k to go I was suffering. The group by this point had disintegrated and I was running solo with a couple of the guys running off ahead. I knew then that time was slipping away but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I took a quick sip of drink at 40k and turned a few corners looking for the famous Brandenburg Gate. Thankfully it came into view and I know from there I had about 400m to go.
I could see the clock and knew a PB was there but wanted to get inside 2:12:30 which I just about managed by the skin of my teeth for a 28 second personal best and 16th place out of 40k + runners. Happy, but deflated wondering what could of been.
It always seems a bit of an anticlimax at the end of a marathon you put so much in to it for one race and to come so close, yet so far it’s frustrating!
The marathon can be a brutal sport at times but do you know what I bloody love it and can’t wait for my next one already….
First up I have the small matter of my wedding and honeymoon. In a real backwards move and to make sure I recover post Berlin we’re going away before the wedding so I can’t wait to switch off physically and mentally.
Thanks as always to the team at Run North West for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dreams and spend time away travelling and attending camps. It’s not always easy but I have a good balance of work and training giving me opportunity to get the miles in but allow for rest and recovery between training and for that I am always grateful.
I must also say a big thanks to my coach Steve Vernon and team mates at Team New Balance Manchester for all their support and of course to my wife to be Sophie, who has had a bad knee injury resulting in surgery, which has put her out of running action for a while now but still remains positive and helps me out by coming out on the bike for some of my training runs. Hopefully some day I can return the favour!!
Congratulations to everyone else running Berlin and best of luck with all those running Autumn Marathons.
Photo credit – Dan Vernon