Looking back at it, it is almost unbelievable. I only started running in 2011. Before then I was a relatively non-athletic person who knew nothing about running, and like most other novice runners started from humble beginnings of the run walk training. Running my first marathon in 2011 of just under four hours, and now onto my seventh marathon in 2015: a sub three hour marathon runner. Almost unbelievable.
There have been a lot of people who have helped me acheive this goal, one that has gathered increasing importance over the years.
Firstly, all of my friends and family. The first thanks has to go to my number one other half, who puts up with the increasingly demanding training schedules I put myself through. She is an amazing help, in feeding me and doing more than her fair share of house stuff when I’m worn out and pushed for time outside of training. My parents have also been incredibly supportive, from taking me to races and training, to trailing around supporting me at some of my marathons. Many other friends have also helped me giving me a place to sleep at races – too many to count, and (to my shame) to remember.
Another big thank you must go to the Anthony Nolan events team. Like many novice runners, I chose to run my first half marathons and marathons in support of a charity that my family has a strong connection to. The Anthony Nolan team were amazing – very encouraging, very professional and supportive, and very friendly. If it wasn’t for them, I may not have enjoyed my first major running and marathon experience, and may not have wanted to keep going and build on it.
My next set of thanks goes to all of my running clubs. First of all, whatever standard of runner you are, my advice is to join a running club, as all of the following have helped to stretch me and give me new ideas for individual training sessions, as well as helping me enjoy the social side of running. My first club, North Herts Roadrunners, really helped me to get into running and improve quickly. Two major thanks must go to one of my Dad’s friends, Duncan Hooker, who encouraged me to come along, and one of my many inspirational coaches, Karen Dodsworth, who was always amazingly generous with her time and enthusiasm in coaching all of the runners. At university I ran with another great running club, St Andrews Cross Country, and was coached by the legendary Ron and Don. Two coaches who really had no business coaching someone of my level – Don in particular, who finished seventh in the marathon at the 1972 Olympics, narrowly behind Ron Hill. At my current club, Hyde Park Harriers, I now run with a super strong group, and running with them has led to an amazing recent improvement, as we all push each other further and further.
Reflections and Looking Ahead
Am I happy with my performance? Hell yes.
With my goal in mind, I paced my race perfectly. Could I have run faster on the day? Probably, yes. When I got to 23 miles and put the hammer down to go as hard as I could, I flew and started to 6 minute mile. The day after the race I was walking with no problems at all. It suggests my form could probably have sustained a faster pace, but I wouldn’t go back and risk the potential for it to go wrong and not go under three hours. Being able to fly past everyone in the final three miles, chasing down the time, knowing I was going to acheive the goal I had been aiming at for so long was a brilliant feeling.
Looking ahead I thought that I would know exactly what I wanted to do next when I finished. Part of me thought that once I had acheived the three hour marathon it would be a box ticked. I thought that breaking three hours would be a ceiling. Before the race I couldn’t imagine that I could improve on that much further, and that I would want to switch my horizons. I was tempted to think about thinking about improving my cycling, riding a lot of miles through the winter and riding all of the Reli rides, and trying my hand at racing.
However the truth is that going under three hours (and closer to two fifty than three) whetted my appetite for more. I enjoy cycling, challenging myself, enjoying the great Yorkshire countryside, and the great social side. But this tweet made me think:
— Xempo Running (@xempouk) April 20, 2015
What more is possible? If Paul can go from 2h59m down to 2h32m, how much more potential do I have? This year was the best training block that I’ve been through, and if I could do that again (maybe with a little bit more discipline around my nutrition) I’m starting to think how much further I can go. From dreaming of sub three, maybe something with a two hour thirty at the start is possible in my running career.
I am now fairly certain that I will enter London with my good for age time – just to say that I am running London ‘because I qualified’. I have been talked into running another half marathon, where would like to get under 1h15m and qualify for a London ‘championship start’ – something that is probably possible having run 1h19m at a very hilly Liversedge.
This sounds pretty ridiculous thinking back to the first post I wrote about my running, but I’m already excited about looking forward to my next marathon training block – something I definitely wasn’t after Milton Keynes last year.
For the rest of this year: on Sunday I’m pacing 4h15m at the London Marathon, I may then enter a 10K I might have a good chance of winning followed by the half marathon I mentioned, then I have the Calderdale Way Relay with my club and a few big cycling events – the 200m+ Etape Xtrem, Coast to Coast in a day, and the Etape de Yorkshire.
And then onwards…