Thank yous, reflections and looking ahead

Two hours fifty three twenty three.

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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.

Thank Yous
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:

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…

Philip Goose

MCR Marathon Blog W20/20: Manchester Marathon race report

The final instalment of this blog series. It’s a day which I’ve been building up to for a long time, through all the previous attempts at going under three hours, since I sat down and wrote up my training plan back in November, through the cold, dark, wet winter hours as I knuckled down to training at the start of December last year. So how did it go?

The race weekend got off to an inauspicious start. We were staying in Manchester the night before, and when on arriving at Manchester Piccadilly, my other half and I found that the Altrincham line was suspended due to an overhead line issue. This was a problem as we were staying in Altrincham. An excrutiatingly slow bus meant that it took longer to get from Piccadilly to Altrincham than it took to get from Leeds to Manchester, and a very stressful evening checking for updates on the tram and trying to work out alternatives.

However, a check of my phone at 2:00am told me the line was back up and running, so my morning was relatively chilled out. After going for dinner the evening before at a family friend’s of the other half I prepared all of my race day kit and then got a good nights sleep. In the morning all there was to do was to eat some porridge, sip on some sports drink, and then head off to the tram station.

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The weather forecast was for an overcast day, but not cold and not wet – perfect marathon running weather, and fortunately the weather report was correct. I wasn’t too cold waiting for the start at 9:00am in just shorts and vest, and was eager to get going. My race strategy was conservative – people had told me I could aim higher, but only wanting to guarantee a sub three hour race, my plan was to go at just under 6:50 a mile pace, making sure not to go faster than 6:40 for the first twenty three miles. 6:50 should have given me a minute in hand over three hours.

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As with any marathon, the first few miles of the race were very congested. At three miles I decided to overtake the three hour pacer, as the large crowd of runners following the pacer was causing a lot of congestion. I wanted to just start running at a consistent pace without having to worry about tripping up over the feet ahead of me.

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Once I was running in relatively open space, the pace felt very comfortable. The training had obviously paid off, as I was ocassionally reining the pace back. I knew that going at a slower pace here would give me a lot in the tank to be able to go hard at the end.

My fuelling strategy was fairly simple – taking on board an energy gel at 5, 10, 15 and 20 miles, and trying to take on board some water around those points as well. I did take on board a little bit too much fluid before the start and was, to be honest, a little bit overhydrated, and had to take some ‘natural breaks’ during the race.

The race ran down through Stretford towards Sale, and then on to Timperley. The route from Sale to Timperley is the start of a lollipop that loops around Altrincham, so I started to see runners coming back the other way. At the end of the loop I went through the half marathon mark. I was roughly a minute up on 6:50 pace here – I remember thinking that the pace was very easy, very relaxed.

Mentally my next checkpoint was meeting my supporters at mile 19 as the race went through the outskirts of the other side of Sale, before looping out to Carrington, then through Urmston before heading back to Stretford. My ‘support team’ were standing on the island of a mini roundabout that the race went around – I was told that I was around 5 minutes ahead of when they expected me, perhaps a combination of being ahead of schedule and my poor estimate of when to expect me. The other half then rushed off to the tram to try and catch me again at the finish.

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At this point I was thinking that I was going to go under three hours unless something went seriously wrong – something beyond hitting the wall, I would have to suffer a serious muscle injury not to do it. This was the thought that kept me holding the pace back from 19 miles through to 23. The legs were starting to feel a bit rough, general heaviness in the quads, but I was still able to keep the pace fairly consistent.

At 23 miles, I was still on pace, still feeling relatively good, so I went for it. I put the effort in not knowing what really to expect. It very easily could have been the case that I tried to push and then found that actually there was nothing left in reserve. However when I started to push I started to run at 6:00 miles, and was able to keep it up. At this pace a time in the low two hour fifties was on the cards. It felt great to be struggling at the end of the marathon not because my body was giving up but because I was hammering the pace. Mile 24 – 6:25, passing and passing runners in front of me, mile 25 – 6:04, whizzing past marshals exclaiming ‘he’s going at some lick!’, mile 26 – 6:04, grimacing and pushing and pushing and pushing.

Coming towards Old Trafford I could just about see the point where the runners were turning off left to the final straight. I was going to finish in the low 2:50s, and although it is very clichéd, I felt tears in my eyes – maybe from the effort I was putting in to go for the fast finish, but also as I’d been aiming for this acheivement for so long, and it meant so much. I turned on to the finish straight, continuing to pass runners – finishing in under three hours, an official time of 2:53:23.

I was ecstatic – very emotional at the finish of the race, and before heading through to pick up my race bag, medal and t-shirt, I stopped to have a quiet moment to myself, dry my eyes and think about the acheivement. I’m not really sure exactly how to explain that – I may have to write about it at a later date.

I met a couple of my fellow Hyde Park Harriers at the end of the race – both of who had gone under three hours as well. There were lots of hugs all round, and some non alcoholic recovery drink.

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I met up with the other half – I’d actually managed to get to the finish sooner than she had, meaning that she thought I had failed to go under three hours. We made a move back to Leeds straight away, and I was back to relax post marathon just after lunchtime.

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So what comes next? Who knows.

Philip Goose.

MCR Marathon Blog W19/20: the final countdown

So yes this blog is pretty late, normally posting on Sundays at the end of the week. It is now the final countdown to the Manchester marathon on Sunday 18th April.

My goal? Yet again to try and run under three hours. Going into Milton Keynes last year it was more of a hopeful attempt than a serious effort with a few niggling injuries and soreness in the run up to the event. This year I am a lot more confident – probably a 70% chance, with strong PBs at the Huddersfield 10K and the Liversedge Half Marathon.

Based on performances in recent races, some of my friends at Hyde Park Harriers have suggested that I try and go for a more ambitious time, to try and go under 2h50m. But as I dicussed in my blog about the perils of overconfidence, my desire to go under three hours is such a big goal I want to run (relatively) conservatively to make sure I don’t blow up. So the race strategy is a flat 6:50 a mile, which would get me in under three hours. If I’m able to put down the hammer from mile twenty three that would be a bonus, and if I bring my PB of 3h07m33s down below 3h05m I think that would bring me a good for age for London 2016.

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For the past few weeks I felt as though I just wanted to get going – I’ve been fairly confident in my form and want to put it into practice. Writing today on Thursday I’m beginning to get a few last minute nerves – to shake off some last minute nerves I ran my last Sunday run of 10 miles at 6:40 pace, and then on Tuesday went out and ran a 5K faster than my PB at 5:40 pace. I find the taper is always difficult as you get the most confidence in your form from long runs and from running very hard in target preparation races – and long and hard runs are the two things you shouldn’t do in training.

So I’m probably going to spend tonight looking back over my race performances in the last few months and my long runs on Strava. Then I just want to get going, get in a groove, chew up the miles and hopefully be at twenty three miles on 6:50 pace with power to add.

Philip Goose