I've left it a few days to let the dust settle after finishing what was meant to be my last marathon on Sunday in London but more about that later!
Running is addictive, marathon running is no different. You finish one, you want to go quicker. I've not finished one marathon without learning something new and what to do better next time. My preparation for Manchester was poor to say the least, for London it was significantly better. Better sleep (going to bed at 8pm!!), better rest, better carb loading, better hydration, and a better mindset. We'd even been lucky enough to have Madelaine's parents offer to look after the boys for four days so we could travel to London on Friday morning and make our way home on Monday!
After breaking the 2:30 barrier at Manchester the pressure was off. It was far from ideal having such a short period of time between marathons but I was feeling confident for London. With the pressure off it meant I could try something new. The race plan for Manchester didn't work so a different approach was taken for London. Start conservatively, and gradually wind the pace up every 5 miles leading to a fast finish.
Early on everything was pretty much bang on target pace, the first 5 miles ticked by followed by the next. I went through halfway in 1:14:37, the target was 1:14:30. I told myself, "that's ok I can claw that back, get to 15 miles in 1:25". I actually went through 15 miles in 1:25:18. This time I told myself, "don't panic, this is where my race really starts". It was always going to get tough from this point, but it was time to start pushing on. I was feeling comfortable and started to push, no response from my legs but I was starting to pass people, and gaining confidence. I'd stopped focusing on my watch and concentrated on the vest in front, one at a time. I actually felt like I was running faster than I was in reality, still picking off the vests in front.
The final part of the race plan was to get to the 40km marker and then "empty the tank". Still feeling strong I thought I pushed on and continued to pass some more vests before hitting the 800m to go, 600m, 385 yards... It was when I saw the finish line clock from the final corner 2:29:55, WTF???? I was sure I'd ran close to 2:28!! One last push to eventually cross the line in 2:30:25 and a chip time of 2:30:12. This was swiftly followed by my legs giving way and me being helped to my feet by the guys from St John's Ambulance to collect my medal.
Despite the finish time, this was by far my best marathon performance. I couldn't have given it anymore and it's by far the one I'm happiest with. The race plan definitely suited me, and who know's if I'd not ran at Manchester then I might just have been able to pull it off and hit my target time of 2:25!
Running is also good for your health, both physically and mentally. My wife Madelaine is fine example of that after completing her first ever marathon in a time of 4:11:11 and raised in excess of £2k for the mental health charity MIND! After starting running to manage her own mental health she's done fantastically well along her journey from non-runner to a marathon runner. I couldn't be more proud of what she's achieved in a under two years of running. I’m obviously biased but she’s been amazing! More importantly she ran and finished it with a smile on her face. She's now hooked and after having used the old line of "never again" on Sunday afternoon, her name was added to the ballot for next year on the train journey home! Since returning home we've also booked a surprise holiday for the boys to Majorca now that the months of marathon training are over!
Leading up to London I'd said this was my last marathon, it wasn't any different afterwards either. On Monday I met with Mark, my Coach, and we agreed we'd always be left wondering, "what if" but it was accepted that it is what it is. By early on Wednesday morning the text's had started...
Me: "Would it be a shame not to have one last crack at a marathon"
Coach: "What do you have in mind"
Me: "Run the time I should have ran...."
A few more messages were exchanged and it was agreed to maybe look at either racing at the Chester or the Yorkshire marathon. What happened next though was completely unexpected.
Having already accepted I hadn't made the England Masters marathon team it was an amazing surprise to receive an email on Wednesday informing me otherwise and my England Masters selection was confirmed for the Yorkshire marathon!!!! That was the decision made and on October 20th I will be racing one more marathon at least, this time in an England vest.