TriHardAlan - Tales of an Age Grouper
TriHardAlan - Tales of an Age Grouper

Ticking a box

TriHardAlanby TriHardAlanApr 18th 2021
I started my running (cough)career(cough) racing a marathon. The London Marathon in 1995 was literally my first race of any kind. Since then the majority of the following 17 marathons were run before I started doing Triathlons in 2008 when of course my focus started to shift a little due to training in 3 sports. But I did a few post 2008 and the last of which was Manchester in 2014. But shortly after that everything changed as towards the end of that 2014 season I started to get some hip pain that eventually resulted in Hip Resurfacing surgery in Oct 2015.

The recovery from this I have blogged about several times but it was only really 2020 that I was able to run not only 100% of the time without pain. Before then it was very inconsistent and I wasn't able to identify the triggers so was always in the lap of the gods. Sometimes I would be limping after a hard run and sometimes would feel absolutely nothing. But 2020 saw a vast improvement. I was able to recognise the triggers and make changes to how I ran as a form of prevention. And then I began to think, could I run a marathon again?

So in the last quarter of the year I trained for one. I didn't enter a race, I just did the training. The idea being not to put pressure on myself and if I completed the training with no problems I would enter something last minute. And the training went just fine. Longest run was 30k with no issues and even ran every day in Oct, something I had never done before. But in the end I just didn't do it. I entered one last Duathlon in December instead and whilst it wasn't a direct replacement as such it was mentally my last race of the year.

So come Jan 1st I started again on the marathon training. No race entered and just had a mid to late April day roughly in mind. If races hadn't been operating by then I was going to do a virtual one. Training whilst not strictly marathon specific followed the same pattern of gradually increasing the long runs and again went well and topped out at 31k. On reflection, I should maybe have done more then one of those. But I was happy, picked a race 3 weeks away and then began to taper. Well, I say taper but actually did a (near) Standard distance Duathlon 2 weeks out which in a very small field did manage to be the 1st over 50 across the line. Not ideal tapering probably but good to be back racing!

Race day was 17th April and selected event was the Spring Marathon by the Phoenix Running Group. They regularly hold events along the Thames tow path from Walton to Hampton on a 10.5k loop done 4 times. For this they changed to a 5.25k loop ran 8 times! But I really don't mind that. Makes it easier to break down in chunks and certainly don't find it boring as others do. Each to their own. My target was to run a 5 minutes per k pace. I had done a lot of my long runs at this pace and with my HR in high 130's low 140's generally this felt the right intensity. But I was adamant to myself I would keep to the intensity and not the target pace. If it slipped in the last 10k or so then so be it. I wasn't going to sweat it and was more concentrating on enjoying the occasion and really didn't want to push to my absolute limits.

My start time was 7.40am and as per all events in the UK right now it was a staggered start with 6 runners at a time spaced 2m apart. I quickly settled in to what I felt was the right intensity and clocked 4.56 for the 1st k. After that there was a mixture of sub 5's and just a couple of 5.02 but was trotting along nicely and felt very comfortable. When I first glanced at my HR it was 147. I looked again a bit later and 153. I don't really run to HR but that was about 15 BPM higher than I would have expected. I can only presume the reading was from the watch HR sensor which is wrist based rather then the strap I was wearing as this generally reads higher. I decided to ignore it and carry on and just watch the drift. You run a marathon there will always be some HR drift but was simply looking for a big change.

4 laps done and I went through 21k in 1:44:34 at an average of 4.58 per K. Perfect. But then I simply started to slow down. There was a couple of 5.08's and a 5.11 and then a bit of a reprieve with a 4.58 but then another 4 kilometres around the 5.10 mark. But that was all OK. I thought if I can hold this that will be fine. HR was now sitting 155/156 but hardly a concern. I simply concentrated on keeping the intensity and keeping my cadence the same and doing what I normally do to make sure the hip is pain free. Run nice and upright with general good running form. Well, with what feels like good running form, how it looks maybe another matter.

But all of this didn't halt the slide. In fact it got worse. A few K's at 5.20 ish then became 5.30 and then 5.40. My aim at this point was simply to keep running and not stop and take a walking break. Running a marathon non stop is not to be sneered at and is still an achievement. And mentally I wanted to avoid the downward spiral of oh no I am not going to get my time the world is over which is so easy on long endurance events. By now I was deep in to the race and on my last lap of the 8. Once you start the last lap, mentally, you have done. You are committed running away from the start/finish line. It is going to happen now. As Kilometre 42 started I tried to up the pace a little for a grandstand finish. The result, a 5.39! I didn't bother for the last .2 of a K which kind of turned in to .78 of a K. Was the course long? Who cares. I set out to be pain free and enjoy the day and run to a set effort and had done precisely that. My finish time was 3.42.11 in the end at an average pace of 5.11 per K and being a small field of 33 runners it was good enough to bag me 5th place.

In terms of a box ticking exercise, it was close to perfect.
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