This weekend I ran the Edinburgh Marathon and somehow came away with a completely unexpected personal best time of 3h27:07.
Going into the race I had talked about a knee injury and how it had stopped me training properly. This is true and the days after the race I really struggled to walk on it. However, through the race it did not really affect me – apart from a small part as I made my way onto the beach section of the course.
Going into it without many expectations meant I had not really thought about what pace to run it at. The previous night I settled on aiming to stay around 7/7.5mph and see how things go. Stood in the start pen I made a last minute and completely unplanned decision to run without music so I wound up my ear phones and put them into my zip pocket. I thought that I should try and enjoy the atmosphere as much as possible and hear my feet so I could focus on my technique and avoid injury. Another last minute idea I had was to tape my name onto my top. After running London without my name, I spent most of the course hearing the name ‘Tony’ shouted to the person behind me. This time it would be my turn. (I only suggest doing this if you are happy to acknowledge the crowd in some way, even if it is a tired glance/wave). This turned out to be a masterstroke and helped get me round.
My GPS was set on my watch before the start buzzer went to avoid any connection problems and it took 2 minutes before I made my way across the line. As I relaxed into my pace I felt comfortable and the few glances down at my watch told me I was going at around 7.6mph which was pleasing. At the 1 mile marker we approached Hollywood park and saw the front runners heading off out into the distance and then it was time to tackle a roundabout to come back on ourselves and follow them. I managed to find a bit of space so managed to avoid being cut up by other runners who were deciding to cut across rapidly.
Miles 1 to 8 are slightly blurred because I didn’t see any mile markers but was probably because I was too busy soaking up the atmosphere and it meant I was not clock watching. Without my music and lots of people on the streets I was really enjoying myself and running at a comfortable pace. About mile 8 I decided to have my first gel, estimating I had been running for over an hour.
I had planned to see Dani at mile 9 so towards this point I began to edge across to the left – like we had planned. It was a great boost to see her in the distance and because I was feeling alright I think it is the first time I have tried to have any dialogue with her when I’ve run past. Normally I’m struggling for breath!
My race changed from mile 11/12ish. From here it got really hard and I was really feeling my lack of training. As we moved through a really busy area for the crowds, it soon became quiet as we went off to do our long out leg before returning to the finish. I was having to try really hard to motivate myself and at 1h50 from the gun starting, the lead runners were coming back past us, which only made me realise how much longer I would be running for. I was trying to set targets to reach before I even considered a walk but I couldn’t always make them, I had to walk and I hated myself for doing so. On the undulating hills I had to slow down too because I didn’t want to push my knee.
By mile 14 I realised I was going to need a distraction so took out my music. I only had it on quiet but it was something else for me to think about and I was hoping the shuffle would be good for me. The next 4 or 5 miles were tough and interspersed with some small walks. Mostly when taking on water or gels.
At about 4 miles from the finish line I decided to check my clock and see what sort of time I was on for. Here I realised that somehow, a PB might actually be possible. I kept telling myself it was only 5K – At best 22 minutes. At worse 30minutes. I still had 40 minutes to play with so I had to go for it.
Just as I began to feel comfortable with my stride I felt a very painful ‘pop’ at the top of my left calf like a ball of muscle had been pushed out. Disaster! Forget the PB I didn’t know if I could even finish. Pulling to the side with some colourful language I just tried to stretch it off. The pain eased and I got moving again – awkwardly, but moving. Then not long after it went again so I stretched and continued. This happened a couple of times and I found that if I kept my calf tighter it felt safer. I had to just focus on getting to the next mile and I told myself I could have a walk.
At about 25.5 miles Dani was there again cheering me on which helped. Although her shouts of ‘run faster’ were not helpful. The crowds lining the approach to the finish were great and I felt like an idiot when I had to stop before the final bend. Turning into the home straight I decided for some crazy adrenaline filed reason to pick my speed up. My right hamstring immediately told me no – as did my calf!
The main clock was approaching 3:29 and I tried to get under it but missed that by 9 seconds but I knew it was still a PB so that was okay. When I got my text with my actual time it was an even better PB.
Once home, I had a chance to look at the medal and reflect on the fact I got a PB and also that if I trained better and stayed injury free I could go even faster.