Okay – so first of all that title.
I (probably) don’t mean “one last marathon”. Let’s be honest, you all know me by now. I think I’ve said “no more marathons” after almost every single one and yet here I am, building up to number seven. And I swore I meant it after number five.
No, I mean one last chance to see what I’m still capable of.
Back in the second half of 2018, I went all in on the half distance and duly smashed my PB to smithereens during the most successful month of running of my entire life. PBs at 10k and 5k also tumbled during that little purple patch but as I set myself the challenge a few months beforehand I remember planning everything and ruling out a PB attempt at 26.2 miles, even literally saying “OK – so I’ll never run a marathon close to that 3:02 again”.
It was a mammoth commitment to achieve that 2016 PB, the culmination of six months of the hardest training I’ve ever done and backed up by years of planning, including a failed attempt at the same time target at the same event a couple of years beforehand.
But now, for whatever reason, I’ve decided to try again and see how close I can get. Why? I’m not sure. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have even been planning to run a marathon at all this year had my entry not rolled over twice now from the original entry date of last April, but these things happen and now here I am, staring down the barrel of the Manchester Marathon on 10th October, should it go ahead of course.
I’ve not properly pushed myself at the full distance since that massive 2016 effort, with Londons 2017 & 18 all being about savouring the day – although 2018’s hottest on record was actually more about just making it to the finish – and I was never going to attempt anything mad for my virtual one last October.
So this time – let’s see what I’ve still got in me. A real race with real people for the first time since late 2019, on the flattest marathon course in the country, an opportunity to aim for that PB and see what happens. But first, a few caveats:
Not gonna drone on about this too much cos, y’know. We all know the score by now. But will the race actually go ahead? It’s looking marginally more positive than this time last year but who knows what’s around the corner. And even if it does, what happens if I catch the bloody virus and it messes up my training, or the race itself? Or what if I get told to self-isolate again and can’t run for a bit? It’s all so uncertain.
This could be the big one. Do I actually have the time to commit to training? The nature of working in education means August and September are silly season, which isn’t ideal as this’ll fall during the peak 60 mile weeks, with some weekday runs hitting double figure mileages. Can I fit that in around work, and then family and social time on top?
Also training though the summer: I’m not built for it. I can just about cope with a few plods here and there, but if we get another run of days in the high 20s I have no idea how I’ll manage my speeds sessions. My two marathon PBs were spring races, with winter training meaning I was more comfortable pushing the pace where and when I needed to. Not so lucky this time around. It could get really messy, but at least there’s a fairly reasonable chance of the race itself being a bit cooler than my last official marathon I guess.
There’s no hiding it – I’m getting on a bit. Assuming the race does go ahead, it’ll be a couple of weeks before I hit the landmark of 40 years old and can start looking forward to buying my first sports car, quitting my job to finally get my band into the big time, or just going travelling for a couple of years and living on a beach in Thailand. Or whatever crisis awaits me as I roll into my middle ages anyway. But what does it all mean for my running? Dunno, quite frankly. But it’s probably not good news.
Probably related to the above. I’ve been managing a tight hamstring for a few weeks now, and my enforced lockdown last month actually gave me a bit of time off running. A chance to rest and relax a bit, I duly spent the week just working on stretching, yoga and so on to try and get myself recovered a bit after nearly 18 months of almost daily running. Then on the last day of self-isolation I did a bit of gardening and completely wrecked my legs again. The pain lasted for days and now my hamstring is bothering me again. Isn’t getting old great.
So that’s the negatives, but I guess when I actually think about it, it’s not all bad news. Yes I’m ten years older than I was on my first marathon, but I’m also (supposedly) ten years wiser. I know more about pacing, about nutrition, about how to manage the training and the race itself. I’m a lot less likely to go on a two-day bender in the midst of my training and write half a week off recovering, put it that way.
I also have my new training plan which I’ve not tried at any sort of significant pace yet but seemed to work well for October’s virtual effort in terms of how I felt in the latter stages of the race. And I’ve also finally decided to splash out on my first ever pair of Vaporfly, which if nothing else will give me the mental boost you always get with a new pair of shoes that look fast and lairy.
So here we are. Almost exactly a decade on from my debut marathon, literally almost to the day, I’ll be hoping to run my seventh. Could it be my fastest? Probably not. But it’s going to be interesting having a go.
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