“When you run the marathon, you run against the distance, not against the other runners and not against the time.”
-1 days till the 2016 Virgin Money London marathon
Anyone following my journey so far as a runner knows I’ve strived many years over 6 previous Marathons to achieve that elusive of targets, the sub 3hr marathon. To be able to say my marathon PB is 2hr blah de blah not 3hr blah de blah. Be it naivety (white peak 2011), plain bad luck (Blackpool 2013 & 2014) or undertrained (vmlm2015) I just never made it past the finish line after 26.2miles in under 3hr. An itch I just couldn’t scratch.
That is why despite saying last year’s London would be my last I then decided to have one more go. Obviously as previously mentioned 2015 was an horrible year of running for me and the reason I found myself starting in January 2016 from nearly scratch. Building base fitness, then mileage before trying to put speed in my battered old legs. Not the ideal build up to a marathon but you work with what you have and persevere. I’ve been pretty lucky really as I have had a mainly unaffected year and I found myself arriving in London in fairly good shape and very, very, determined to finally cracking that God damn 3hr.
After leaving Emma in the blue start I made my way in the GFA pen of the red start. After a pee, chat with John Hackleton, John Doherty and Chris tighe it was time to drop my bag on the truck and get into the start area. A few nervous jokes while waiting and Tim Peake came through the tanner from the international space station to start us off.
Quickly trying to find space to get into my groove through the streets of Greenwich, I was trying to stay on 6.40pace and not any quicker. The first mile ticked by in 6.39. So far so good, John D came past after 1.5miles complaining about the start then dropping his gel out of his belt. I scooped it back up, put in a little spurt to hand it back and dropped the pace again only to see another drop out and go behind me. The 2nd mile including a couple of descents went past at 6.31 but this was ok. No over exertion was used because of the downs. At 3miles approx we joined the Blue & green start crowds which is tricky as you’re not sure what pace they are going at. Mile 3 past in 6.28. Choice here was drop pace or keep at this pace knowing either way I would slow near the end of the race so I kept at the pace but concious not to exert any more effort. Mile 4 past in 6.26.
I was following a plan to drink little but often be it water or Lucozade and a gel at 7, 14 & 21 miles. Miles 5 & 6 were passed in 6.37 & 6.43 but I could feel the tell tale feeling I was getting close to needing a wee. I knew we were approaching the Cutty Sark at mile 7ish and the crowd here is one of the places that can make you surge so I had planned to slow purposely so I wouldn’t get carried away. Sank a gel and around I went successfully keeping a lid on it. 7 miles achieved in 6.42.
I was running in a good group of people including a guy dressed as a flower trying for a world record. I had a thought that I needed to get away from this guy soon or every photo would have this bloody flowerman in it. I needed a wee at exactly the same place of mile 8 as last year hence a 7.11 split. I came out of the portaloos and before u knew it was back with the flower. Arghhhhh!!!!
I pushed on away from him and I admit it was all working well. I was feeling strong and drinking right. On we went and miles 9, 10 & 11 ticked by nicely with splits of 6.38, 6.34 & 6.38. I knew carry on like this and I would be nicely on target come the sprint down the mall. I also knew we were getting near to Tower Bridge which is another insane place where the crowd can make you cock up any pacing strategy so 12 miles in 6.48. Over the bridge where the wind whipped across you off the river Thames and on to mile 13 in 6.47 and halfway in 1 hr 28min.
I wasn’t feeling as fresh now as I was a couple of miles earlier, probably due to going quicker than target pace early on and the glute was playing up a little. Mile 14 in 6.43, take gel and through 15 & 16 in 6.41 & 6.53. Mile 17 and into 18 and we were through more resendential areas with a little climbing in 6.55 & 6.38 then into the fish markets. I was still feeling the glutes and feeling tired by now but I also realised I was also feeling strong. Still within target and still going. Mile 19 which is pretty grim really passed in 6.46 and it was into Canary wharf which is again insanely supported. This time instead of slowing I went with it smashing through in 6.17!!!! for mile 20.
Ok, maybe I went with it a little too much. Lol. Carrying on through canary wharf and under the long tunnel through mile 21 in 6.56 but in the knowledge I was hanging on here now and it was time to dig in. I was still under 3hr target comfortably. Took my last gel. Could I keep it up? The next 5miles would tell me. I went through mile 22 in 6.52. Keep it up Gareth and you’re there. Along the embankment with big Ben and the houses of parliament looming large in the far distance. Mile 23 in 6.54. “Keep pushing.” Mile 24 pushing hard in 6.44. I had 2.2miles to do in 17min. OMG, still on pace. ” Cmon mate keep going”. Mile 25 came but I had had to suddenly go to the other side of the road as they closed one side to let people cross. “Oh no, not now”. 6.54.
A quick look at the watch. 11min to cover 1.2miles. Surely, this time I was going to go sub 3hr. Around the houses of parliament and onto birdcage walk. “Cmon, Cmon, Cmon” I was suffering but using every bit of determination. “Keep a lid on it, just keep going”
past the 800m to go sign. “Keep pushing, just keep pushing” then “this is the longest 200m ever” saw craige and Claire Spencer supporting
Past the 600m to go sign “yes keep going”
Under the supporters bridge and 385m to go then bang “go, go, go”
Saw 2:57.## on the clock.
“I’ve done it, I’ve done it I’ve only bloody done it” across the line single finger in the air in…….
Drum roll please……
2hr 58min 6sec. Mile 26 was passed in 6.45
medal around my neck, finishing photo, goody bag and collect my stuff.
Finally. I’m a sub 3hr marathon runner
Will I do another? Not for a while till I’m at least a vet 40 and it will be London marathon again.
Emma finished in 6hr 51min 59sec, got herself on TV and was still smiling with 800m to go.
Anyway Bye for now
You can still donate to my Justgiving page HERE in aid of MIND the mental health charity
“What I think a lot of great marathon runners do is envision crossing that finish line. Visualization is critical. But for me, I set a lot of little goals along the way to get my mind off that overwhelming goal of 26.2 miles. I know I’ve got to get to 5, and 12, and 16, and then I celebrate those little victories along the way.”