Sunday, November 4, 2012

A well earned Guinness!

Clapham Runners' excellent 2012 achievements have included marathons completed in London, Edinburgh, Cork and Berlin.  Last Monday (29/10), Dublin was the latest venue in our international series.

In a moment of pre-Olympic madness I’d entered with my friend Angelina, figuring it had good PB potential given its likely temperature range and largely flat course.  I also thought training mainly in the summer would make a pleasant change from the VLM and it wouldn’t require me to tap up my friends and family for sponsorship yet again!

My marathon training proper started during the Olympics and then averaged c.50-60km a week, with more emphasis on interval training than longer runs compared to my previous build ups.  This built on a reasonable base from training fairly consistently this year with many of you at club sessions and doing several parkruns, etc.
My rough race plan was to keep at a little under 5 min/km pace for as long as possible and then hang on in there such that the time I'd “bank” below 5 min/km would not all be eroded in the latter stages.

Conditions on the day proved ideal; around 80c, overcast and little wind.  As I was just about to cross the start line my concern for my race plan not being thwarted by my temperamental Garmin, was quickly overtaken by a realisation that my gel belt was heading south (schoolboy error in not compensating enough for the weight of my extra gels!) - so a hastily improvised knot in the belt and I was off.

I felt pretty good early on and was on plan as I negotiated the attractive Phoenix Park (4-8 miles) where I was first cheered on by our resourceful support crew, Annie and Peter.  They'd hired Dublin's equivalent of Boris bikes which enabled Annie to see me at an impressive five different points on the course loop!

Although this was my first marathon in an anonymous T-shirt, on several occasions the crowd were nevertheless shouting my name.  I soon realised that I'd been running close to my namesakes at various stages..... the Irish must be keen on their Steves!

I was still going strong in the middle of the race, completing the 1st half in 1:38:40 (av. 4:41 m/km) - giving me c.6.5 mins “in the bank"- possibly a bit too fast in hindsight…  The next phase is where I'd struggled most in previous marathons but this time an improved carb-loading and gel strategy seemed to help me better maintain my form.  So for the next 10k or so I managed to keep on track by averaging just on 5m/km.

As I reached the top of the hill around the edge of University College’s grounds at c.21 miles I knew a decent time was within reach as it was mainly downhill or flat from there.  However, this last stretch proved far from plain sailing - I really had to dig deep to keep some sort of rhythm going in the last few miles and whilst I was obviously slowing up it was a question of whether I had enough in the bank and in my tank to still reach my goal.  Rather than looking ahead longingly for the last few mile markers to come and go, I was now head down “in the zone” counting up repeatedly to 400 as my estimate for each mile, with far too many runners now passing me…

Having been enthusiastically screamed on yet again by Annie at both 24 and 25 miles, I took one final look at my watch at the 25 mile flag and with almost 3:16 gone I knew a final effort to hang on in there would now be enough join the sub 3.30 club.  I was mightily relieved to manage this and crossed the finish in 3:28:41 (averaging 5.27 m/km for the last 10k) – thankfully my Garmin did behave but unfortunately not for long enough for me to retrieve my km splits afterwards.

So a PB by some 18 mins, which I was very chuffed with and subsequently celebrated with a most welcome cold pint of Guinness followed by a fun slap up boozy meal with my much appreciated support crew and the unfortunately injured Angelina.  All in all a great day and I’d thoroughly recommend others to have a crack at the Dublin marathon, not least for the craic!

Cheers, Steve.

PS My efforts, however, were not a patch on the chap who propelled his son around in his buggy in 3.05!  So, with Krysia’s permission, therein may lie a challenge for Martin and Clapham Runners’ latest recruit Seth!

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