Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Washington DC - Marathon Corp Marathon Report

Sorry for the long lay off on the blog front, I have been almost as quiet on the running front of late. My first proper injury in 5 years of running scuppered any chance of decent preparation for the Marine Corp Marathon. A grand total of 12 runs in 12 weeks, total running mileage of 56 miles in that period and a longest run of 12.5 miles a week out just to test how stupid an idea running a marathon would be.

The test run went as well as I could have hoped as I was on for a Half Marathon around 2 hours and I felt fresh and strong on the run. The previous injury and on going niggles all seemed ok and so I finished the run knowing I could drag myself round the 26.2 miles some how some way. We were all booked for Washington and so would be enjoying the City regardless, but having travelled all that way I wanted to attempt the race and with the dire amount of training the sole aim was that of completion and with a little luck some enjoyment along the way.

In my previous 8 stand alone Marathons I had achieved 4 sub 4 hour times and 4 in excess of 4 hours with a PB of 3:34 and a slowest of 4:39. My aim was for somewhere between 4:20 and 4:30 with a 4:25 achieved at Manchester earlier this year and the personal worst of 4:39 at Edinburgh both race times I was thinking of as the Marathon approached.

The pre race prep was good, me and Lauren arrived Friday lunchtime, we had some nice trips out on Friday and Saturday, and managed to pick up the number, a nasty looking free shirt and a nice paid for technical T-shirt. We were now ready for Sunday.

Race day was an early start, up at 5am out of the room by half 5, onto the tube at 6am. Even with this early start for the 7:55 race start we were still rushed and having got through the joke security I said goodbye to Lauren and made it into my start pen with about 10minutes to go. Just in time to see the Parachutist with the flag and the helicopter flyby both of which were spectacular. Then off went the gun and within 10 minutes I was over the start line and into my stride.

It was a lovely bright morning and I was enjoying the start of the race, the majority of the climbing was in the first 3 miles but I had seen that on the course profile and so was happy taking it gently. There were a lot of slow moving runners though and I didn't want to lose tonnes of time so picked my way through the crowds as best I could.

Once the climbing was over we went through Georgetown and there were some great crowds here, I particularly liked the Tomato Ketchup Bottle with the sign 'Catch up' and his friend the relish bottle with the sign 'Relish the challenge'. There was great support throughout most of the race and all of it was enthusiastic and there were some brilliant signs that had me chuckling as I ran.

Once through Georgetown we found some more hills to run up and then alongside the river. I watered the plants in the 6th km but I wasn't too worried by the lost 20 seconds or so. I managed to get a shot on the run as we went past a pretty building on the other side of the river. I've not taken pictures on the run before but with enjoyment being the key goal I thought I would try to capture some moments.

The next picture I snapped was of a runner ahead of me with a great quote which I will use to fuel my training for Stratford in 6 months time. "The pain of discipline is far less than the pain of regret." The pain of regret is something I may feel quite acutely if I don't nail my preparation for my 10th Marathon. I'm really keen to apply myself and to do myself justice over this brutal distance.

The run continued alongside the river, and for some reason the crowds seemed to have been banned from this section as there were lots of signs just stuck in the ground. It must have gone on for 2 or 3 miles and I did chuckle to myself as I ran along reading the signs. I was starting to flag a little coming up to halfway and they did lift me. Something else that got my attention was a runner clipping my ankles and nearly tripping me up. I was fuming! It had been busy, but the race was settling down and it was just so unnecessary, if our paces are that different at that stage and I'm running evenly, then it's you that's the prat. He waved an apology and I managed to settle myself back down again. There were still 22km's to go!

I saw Lauren at 11 miles as planned and I felt great, I had my headphones in but she shouted loud enough and I turned right into her smiling face and it was a lovely boost as the temperature rose as did my effort level. Our next meet was at 16 miles and now I was fading, I hadn't meant to slow myself down, but where once I was running 5:30 - 5:50 km's with staying below 6min km's as the backstop. Now the splits were nudging over 6 minutes and I couldn't up the effort any further. I walked through the water station just before 16 miles to make sure I got my Gatorade and water in but was back running again when I saw Lauren at 16 miles. She was smiling but I'm sure she had a worried look on her face, but when we spoke afterwards she said I was still looking good.

We were now running close to the Washington Monument and then right in front of the Capitol building. It was at this point just as we came up to the official 30km point that I crumbled and walked properly for the first time. I had managed the fade from 25-30km. 30km to the finish was the explosion phase. It was warm and my lips were so dry, there is a great shot in the official photos of me touching them.

Initially I thought I could manage the walking and I would get a second wind, but I couldn't bring any structure to the walk breaks and was just running as and when I could. There was then a very desolate part of the race along the motorway and a bridge. There was no support out there and every km and mile were now being ground out so slowly. There was little protection from the sun and even though I had taken water and Gatorade from most of the water stops I was still so thirsty. There was a shady spot on the motorway and I was so tempted just to curl up and have a nap before soldiering on again, I managed to drag myself past the shady spot though and finally made it over and back to the masses of supporters.

With 4 miles to go I managed to kick the base holding a flag in place, I had been walking and running almost in the gutter just trying to stay out of peoples way and when you are that tired bad things can happen. I actually got away pretty lightly from the incident and it didn't effect me on the rare occasions I had energy to run at this late stage. I used the portaloo with 4 km's to go and text Lauren to let her know I had half an hour to go. I then said no to the cookies and doughnuts, an interesting sugary pickup approaching the finish, but I was struggling to stomach the Gatorade let alone that kind of stuff!

I was feeling stronger and running a little more often but I was keen to leave something for the finish I wanted to run over the line and had also read before the race that the finish was uphill. Lauren had text back to let me know she was on the corner at 26 miles and she was just where she said she would be as I smiled and waved before slogging up the steep uphill finish. It keep winding upwards all the way to the line, and it was done 4:40:24!

Official Splits:

5Km - 28:46
10Km - 57:39 (28:53)
15Km - 1:27:45 (30:06)
21.1Km - 2:03:33 (35:48)
25Km - 2:27:40 (24:07)
30Km - 3:00:33 (32:53)
35Km - 3:41:25 (40:52)
40Km - 4:23:20 (41:55)
42.2Km - 4:40:24 (17:04)

The splits to 25km were very satisfying and even to 30km were ok. At the official 30km point I was just over 6min km average which would have translated to something like a 4:12 Marathon so as you can see I lost 30 minutes in that final 12 km slog to the finish.

I wasn't sure of my exact Edinburgh time and I think if I was I may have been able to muster the 42 seconds needed to beat it. In the grand scheme of it though I really did give what I had on the day and my condition immediately after the race and in the days following have let me know that I didn't take it easy. There are ways and ways to do Marathons and no training is not a strategy I would recommend. I'm really pleased that I did it, and the first 3 hours were a useful training run on which I can build. The subsequent 100 minute slog in the sun was definitely less useful but I got it done.

We are now home from our trip and Lauren and I had a lovely time, lots of post Marathon walking/hobbling to keep me on my toes. Billericaey 10km should be interesting this weekend!

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