So. Here we are. The pre-race blog. The calm before the storm. The culmination of months of hard work; of blood, sweat and tears. It’s a strange mixture of feelings with just a couple of days left before I have to run 26.2 miles for the second time in my life. Two and a half years since the last time I put my body through the pain and suffering, running for over three hours on my stupid little feet, this time for no other reason than I want to get the chance to do it all again next year on the streets of London town. It seems like only yesterday I was writing this and worrying that I was halfway to having to do the bloody thing already; now we’re talking hours (60) rather than weeks. WHERE HAS ALL THE TIME GONE.
I’m getting nervous writing this you know. I even felt a few butterflies a fortnight ago just reading the race info booklet and looking over the course and stuff, so God knows what I am going to be like on Sunday morning. I almost always get a few pre-race nerves, mostly as I head towards the start and line up amongst all the other idiots, unless it’s one I’m really really not arsed about such as Standalone 2012 or Port Sunlight 2013 where I’ve hardly trained. It’s normal. Good, even. The big ones though, those where I am aiming for something a bit special and have spent weeks training, blogging and generally being a tedious bore about the whole thing, are the ones where they really kick in. I’m thinking the original marathon in 2011, or the Liverpool Half last year. The Great Manchester Cycle in June attempting a half century on a pushbike for the first time. These are the ones that really stick in the mind, where come 9am I’m a bit of a mess, barely able to stomach any breakfast and constantly worrying about needing the loo. Usually in a slight daze after a sleepless night following a week of overnight restlessness, full of bizarre dreams of failure in weird and unexpected ways. I’ve already had a dream about this one, except it wasn’t really this one because the course was full of water and everyone had to ride the course on a piece of wood, hammering along the rapids like a terrible depressing version of Alton Towers. Someone had already jumped on my piece of wood (a front door) and so I had to stand there like a chump waiting and watching my dreams of a Good For Age time disappear into the distance. What on earth does this all mean? Probably that I have fairly deep-seated mental issues I suppose.
I’m fairly sure it won’t pan out like that anyway, although given the amount of rain we’ve had this year you can never entirely rule anything out. At least I’m pretty used to getting soaked these days, which I might add is (at the time of writing) a very real possibility looking at the weather forecast for Sunday morning. Other than that, it’s impossible to know at this stage how it’s going to go. I know, I know, I always seem to say that before a race, but in this case I genuinely don’t. Sunday will be the first time I’ll attempt to run this fast for this long, nearly half a minute per mile quicker than I went in 2011 and trying to stay under 7:03 per mile for over three hours. Easy as that eh. Shit.
I’ve done a ludicrous amount of preparation anyway, training harder and longer than I ever have for anything else I’ve ever entered before. I’ve sacrificed almost every aspect of my social life since the turn of the year to ensure I hit as many sessions as possible on my training plan and the numbers are dizzying: 18 weeks, 94 runs, 767.4 miles. Three consecutive months running over 200 miles each, something I had never done before heading into 2014 and now it’s happened three in a row, with last month the record month at 216.8 miles from 26 runs. Each and every session tailored towards a finishing time 14 minutes quicker than my previous best. There’s been changes in diet, changes in footwear, changes in race strategy and nutrition. I’ve spent hours thinking about fucking socks for crying out loud. Everything I can think of to do differently that might make a bit of a difference and help me shave off some of that valuable time, no matter how seemingly insignificant it may appear on the surface of it.
Looking at The Dreaded Target, I feel there might actually be an outside chance of hitting it, which is something I never dreamt possible when I first mooted this hairbrained idea all the way back in November. Knowing that a 1:25 half marathon was about right for a sub-3:00 full, I had began to mull over what my 1:28 equated to and stumbled across this little tool which suggested that, unbelievably, I might even be capable of as low as 3:03:28, which would be amazing quite frankly but probably not entirely realistic. In all honesty, I am expecting to be on target for much of the race, until perhaps around miles 18-20 and then probably watch helplessly as the pace begins to creep up while my legs cramp beneath me and it all goes to shit. And that’s assuming perfect conditions, but there’s a lot that can go wrong on the day. Just look at how many attempts at the 10k it took me to get under 40 minutes again, and that was something I had already done once before.
I have a few main worries, the weather for one. An attack of the Paula Radcliffes for another, necessitating a splash and dash visit to one of the portaloos on course. Always a danger on the longer runs. Are my lighter shoes going to give me enough support over a full marathon? Will this head cold turn into something more severe? Will I hit the wall? Will I fall over again? Will I make it to the start on time? Are we all going to be struck down by thick smog anyway? There are so many variables and it’s the waiting, the not knowing, where all the nerves spring from I think.
So now I sit here now writing this, full of nervous energy and just wanting to get the damn thing over with. Since my training began to taper off a couple of weeks ago, the mileage has reduced drastically and now I have just one solitary training run left, a two mile job on Saturday morning to loosen up ahead of the main event 24 hours later. It’s weird, tapering. I feel under prepared. I don’t feel like I’m doing anywhere near enough running, but this is the most important time. Rest, rest and more rest, allowing all the hard work to soak in while smashing as many carbs as I can into my massive face. Putting the final pieces of the jigsaw into place ahead of an attempt at something I don’t even know if I’m capable of achieving. It’s weird to think that come Sunday lunchtime, this will all be over. It’s taken over my life again all this bloody marathon nonsense, and the past few weeks have reminded me exactly why it’s taken me so long to have another bash at the full distance. And then, just like that, it’ll all be gone. But first, the teeny tiny matter of a 26.2 mile run through the Manchester drizzle. I’ll see you on the other side.