I always like to write my race reports in the early moments after the race, and the bulk of this was written on the flight on the way home whilst still wearing my sweaty compression shorts. I find that writing them days or weeks after leads to a lack of emotion, good or ill, that lends itself to the report becoming a boring blow-by-blow account of nothingness. Instead, I try to write now in a blow-by-blow account of somethingness.
London Marathon has been aspiration of mine for quite some years now and I realised that the ballot was as likely an avenue to entry as finding a Tory with a conscience, so in 2014 I did the Edinburgh marathon with the singular aim of doing it in under 3:05 to qualify for London under the ‘good for age’ rules. I did that with a minute or to spare, and that was my last marathon before this weekend.
In December I started training for London and made a call that would change my running perspective. I brought Paul Giblin on board as a coach. At first we were like a middle-aged couple who’d met on a dating site, or were friends of friends, you know the fattish guy and the not so pretty girl with the great personality. Two really great people just needing to find that soul mate. Davie Gow suggested the ‘date’. Paul and I are now in running love. No need for hankies people. That’s just how life rolls.
Paul set me on a training journey that has been killer in terms of pace. I destroyed PBs at Kirkintilloch 12.5k and Alloa Half. I didn’t scrape through. I destroyed them. And I didn’t even taper for these races. I was regularly doing 80-100 mile weeks. I worked my arse of, in short. All for London.
At this point, as in all good dramas, I would talk about the conflict and the moments of angst, tears and self-doubt. There were and have been none. I flipped into a very nice rhythm from day one and it works for me. I run most mornings around 5am and generally only one night per week when me and my amazing friends in Cumbernauld do speed sessions at The Lab, an old ash running track in Kilsyth. The people who do this with me are just the best running buddies you can have. They know who they are and they know what they mean to me.
After 18 weeks of the most intense training I found myself winging my way to London. I went down on the day of The Fling, a race I had the option to do instead, and if you cannot take inspiration from the performances of so many heroes in that spectacular event, then you need to visit the Wizard in Oz to get a heart. And maybe a brain too.
I’d tapered awfully. I hated the downtime. It was patently shite. I was like a junkie missing my fix. At one point on our family holiday in North Berwick Louise threatened to phone Pyllon (that’s how she knows him being a Twitter babe) to tell him I was going out running. At this juncture I should really thank Louise. She is amazing in so many ways, but more so in how supportive she is of my foibles, and I have many. She lets me get on with it. Sure, I could run at night but if that meant missing the kids it just ain’t happening. Some things are more important.
However, the taper worked. I did a tune up run on the Friday before London and I was cracking out amazing intervals at low effort. So this is what it feels to be fresh? I thought as I burnt up the canal at Auchinstarry. Wow!
This particular session gave me confidence to go a tad harder in London than I initially planned to. To put into perspective I had wanted anything with 2:xx:xx in it. When I booked London I would have taken 2:59:59 that day. But, after working with Paul, we had been playing with 2:55, and at that speed, 5 mins in a marathon is a monumental difference.
I knew I could do it. I didn’t hope I could. I just knew. All the indicators were there, be it how I was physically, how my training had gone or the times I had done in shorter races.
I won’t go into race organisation and all that. Suffice to say there are many things I would do differently. But once at the start I was ready to go. Armed with one cereal bar and one gel for the journey off I went.
The first 2 miles were awful. I imagine this is what the zombie apocalypse is going to be like. Too many people of differing abilities in a too small an area. There were bin bags, old t-shirts and bottles flying all over the place; left-right and ocassionaly back the way. It was like an Old Firm game where only the cleansing department casuals were allowed in.
I did more dodging than the UK’s British Bulldog’s champion. There were people who clearly weren’t fit at the front of the field, some running 3, 4 abreast. Good on you but hello! I was hating it at this point. Why bother?
Big city marathons are always too busy but this was carnage. I kept telling myself to chill it would thin out like John Travolta’s hair. Then just as things settled around 5k we joined the other pens and it got mega busy again. Gah!
I kept my cool by thinking of George Osborne getting shafted by his accountant in some sort of karmic retribution. His accountant would then give his money to poor immigrants who’d voted Green. I was liking his accountant at this stage.
Anyway, 5k came and went I was settling in. I list my 5k splits now for the record:
- 0-5k: 20:26
- 5-10k: 20:16
- 10-15k: 20:23
- 15-20k: 20:10
- 20-25k: 20:06
- 25-30k: 20:03
- 30-35k: 20:04
- 35-40k: 20:16
- Last 2k: 7:52 (19:40 5k pace)
Here is a slimmed down 5k by 5k summary of how things went for me.
5k: I was in cruise control here. I never felt under pressure. I was slow for the first few k anyway due to the congestion that probably has Boris the Mad looking to introduce a new charge. I was jostling for position. 20:26 for 5k and this would be my slowest 5k of the race.
5k-10k: I opened up a tiny bit but I was starting to think I could go well under 2:55 for the first time as I was striding well. My mindset at this stage turned to get to half way around 1:26 and take it from there. 20:16 for 5k
10k-15k: I had to be quite disciplined here and not get carried away. I tried not too hard to push beyond my limit here. I was feeling realllllllllly good though. 20:23 for 5k and my three slowest 5k segments were the first 15k of the race
15k-20k: This goes over Tower Bridge and is the greatest noise I have ever experience and it was here I appreciated what London is about. The crowds were unlike everything I have ever experienced. Cries of Scotland (for me!!) and a deafening crescendo of goodwill. I drew on this. All the while I was starting to thing about 6:30 /mi pace instead of 6:40 /mi… 20:10 for 5k
Halfway: Officially through halfway in 1:25:40 – my watch was under 1:25. But I knew the ducking and diving early in the race had added 40s+…
20k-25k: I aimed to pick the pace a wee bit here but it was a shite bit of the course and a stupid long tunnel cocked my watch up and meant I could no longer rely on it for pacing for a few miles. At one point it said 5:33 /mi for a mile. But, either way I was 20:06 for 5k and I was still feeling ok, but my mind was starting to think. HOLY F*CK!!
25-30k: Fastest 5k of the race and I was nailing it. But as I came to end of this section I, for the first time, was starting to feel the effects of the race. I was doing ok and wasn’t worried but my quads were saying ‘Yo, Jimbo, this running lark is a wee bit sore you know…’ That said, a 20:03 5k was rather pleasing (after the event….)
35-40k: This is the 5k section where I worked my hardest. I had to dig in. My quads were saying ‘hey you, remember we talked 10k ago???, well it is time to protest.’ Everything else was a-ok. I dug in, pushed the pain to the side and hammered on. I slowed a wee tiny bit, not much, but a tiny wee bit. At 39k I met David Cole – next door neighbour to my folks – who also happened to be running, we helped each other. I started talking in time left to go terms, no longer distance. At the end of this section I knew it was only 10 mins max to go.
40-42.2k: Running down the last 2k in London is some experience. The Mall is amazing. It’s how I would imagine Celtic Park would feel on a European night. No wonder the ordinary amongst us can rise to be legends in such an arena. We (David & I ran in together) annihilated the last 2k in about 7:52, my 2k before that would have been 8:06 or the likes. We skittled people out of the way and we won our medals. We really did. It was over and I beat Jenson Button with a time of 2:50:21.
And here is a video of David and I finishing LIVE ON NATIONAL TV. Thanks to Tom for capturing.
It’s not yet long enough in the past to heavily reflect on this run. It was a great experience. The amount of well wishing before and after the race was immense and incredible. I really found it hard to keep up with it all and I am not sure I responded to all the messages. If I didn’t respond to yours please don’t take offence. I was thankful for so many people caring about how I did and it genuinely did spur me on.
A few people to congratulate too: David Cole & James Murray Jnr, we are sub 3’ers now chaps and mega-kudos to you both; but biggest congrats to Joe Doyle who I have gotten to know over the winter. His progress from 4:18 runner to 3:41 at the weekend has been amazing to watch and should inspire others who think ‘they can’t’. As genial a big fella as you could hope to meet.
I won’t mention my double dash at Heathrow after a few pints with Gerry Craig, save to say a delayed train a full bladder and a closing gate made that last hour of my trip the one I ran fastest in!
That closes the first segment of this year’s racing. Now a wee bit of rest before getting set for the challenges ahead!