My first marathon was a little over 20 years ago and was London in April 1997. I finished that day in 4hrs 20minutes. I really don’t remember much about it at all, I don’t remember finishing or how I felt that day or indeed the day after. The next time I ran a marathon was something like 15 years later, in Gloucester, where I did my PB in 3:15:00 flat. I am very proud of that time. While I always dreamed of running sub-3 I don’t think I ever really had the drive to do the training that would take, I feel I’d be susceptible to injury and with each passing year I obviously am a year older.
Yesterday morning I ran a marathon and it struck me last night that I had run a personal worst, a PW if you like.
I thought this would really bother me but it doesn’t because it’s all about the context of the run. The first thing is that I am proud that I finished it not least of all because while I am always training I had done no specific training for this. No long runs, no taper, no structure.
For the last few months I have been ticking along at an average of around 35-40 miles a week, sometimes I have hit 50miles but rarely. It’s the long runs in marathon training that you need and I hadn’t done any. I felt really strong up to around mile 20/21 and, while not running fast, felt smooth and in a rhythm. I felt that I could keep that going. It was then that I started to slow down and throw in the odd walk break. I was fine for energy, I hadn’t hit the wall I had just run out of strength.
This is where experience and a certain amount of knowing how to suffer comes in. I would say I know how to suffer, the experience I had at the Wendover Woods 50mile taught me many things including how to do just that. More than that though it was how to suffer without being reckless. I was struggling but I wasn’t injured, there was no lasting damage being done, it was just muscle aches which is something you’d expect. With that in mind it becomes just about completing the distance. Mentally this takes the pressure off; I know I can do that, I know I can cover the distance I know how my body feels and reacts and so I just got it done.
There’s ego here too. It felt good to be able to run that distance almost off the couch. Miles in the legs and experience essentially got me through.
A little over 20 years from my first marathon I ran a personal worst – best of all I don’t even care.