After a good ten minutes clearing the clods of mud off my trainers from yesterday’s parkrun, I was ready.
It was cold, but not unbearably so. Numbers were handed out and pinned (hard to do with cold fingers – worry being you’ll pin it to your fingers or your own stomach). The start was a couple of km from registration, so we jogged down slowly. Mrs came too and grabbed a pre-start snap.
The marathon start list L-R: Sam Blanshard from Blackline London (who went on to win - can you spot why? :), (unsure), Liz Pinches, (unsure), (unsure), Chris King, me, Tarsh Wendt
With a good old fashioned “Three, two, one, go!” we were off. I let the fast bunnies all disappear into the distance, and started off at a sedate pace with my good friend Chris. Aiming for 6:00/km I was there or there-abouts. A little slower on the hills, a little faster on the flat, all good. I lost Chris about 5km in as he went for a pit-stop, and I pushed on.
First of the four laps was the short one, and I dispatched that well – feeling good, pacing well, walked up the steepest hill (as planned) but jogged up the others. Mrs met me at the first turn point with a bottle, I took a swig and went off for lap two.
Hydration action shot - turn-point is the yellow cone by the cyclist
The second lap passed without incident apart from a pit stop of my own where Chris overtook me back while I was indisposed. Finishing lap two Chris had just set off down the sharp finishing hill as I was at the top, so we were still much-for-muchness pace-wise.
I was on target for the first 24km!
It started to feel a bit harder as lap three opened up, and then as I turned left to cut across the long road in the park to Sawyer’s Hill, the wind hit. It was a real blower, not so gusty but consistent and strong. A km further on and my knee started complaining. Where it’s done that before I’ve pushed on through and it’s cleared, but this felt different. Shortly after my right knee started making itself known.
I ran/walked across to Richmond Gate, and was grateful to get out of the wind, but it had become clear that I wasn’t going to finish. I gave Mrs a call to let her know I was run/walking my way round lap three and was going to pull up at the turn-around.
It's quite clear where it fell apart - note the ever decreasing pace, no way I could have done lap four
The remainder of the third lap got harder and harder, I could only run for a minute or two before needing to walk again, regardless of terrain. Stopping was the right thing to do, I can’t take another injury and the resulting recuperation – not when I need to spend winter focusing on my running.
Major decline as I dropped to walk/run
I completed a shade under 32km (20 miles), in around 3:20 (not sure of exact time, forgot to stop my watch!).
Chris did really well - he was feeling physically fine but lacked energy when I saw him just before I pulled out. I joked we should have combined my energy with his legs and we'd be OK. He went on to finish the fourth and final lap, and come in at around 4:08 (for last place - seriously, what the hell kind of marathon gets you last place in 4:08?! :)
Well done, Chris - great run!
All in all it was very frustrating. I was feeling strong mentally, I had no loss of energy, I was breathing easily – by rights I should have been able to hold that pace for the whole event – but my knees had other ideas.
My mother-in-law got it right on twitter afterwards with some wise words: “He who runs and stops half-way, is fit to race another day”. As true as that might be, this is the first event I’ve ever DNF’d (Did Not Finish) in my life – and that’s not the day I was looking for.
Thanks to my wife for cheering me on, it means so much to me to share things like this with you (the events, that is, not when I fail :), and thanks to Thames Turbo Triathlon club, and in particular Tarsh, club social secretary and general all-round source of fun and energy, for organising the day.
No races for a while, time to buckle down, run, keep in the gym, and come out stronger and faster and ready to go the full distance in Rotterdam - and maybe then I'll finally get a marathon time on the board!