London Marathon 2016 – Preamble

Its almost here.

Its almost here

On Sunday 24th April, 2016, I will do what I’ve be counting down to what seems an eternity. On the morning of Sunday April 24th, 2016, I will…drink tea!

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Yes, I’ve been abstaining from caffeine, following an experiment to see whether you truly do get a greater boost from the wonder stuff if you abstain from it for about a week. I’ve been gradually weening myself off the stuff. I don’t drink coffee, but I love a good old English brew. Or a nice spicy chai. Or an Earl Grey. I digress. But lately its been green tea, herbal tea, rooibos, and now decaffeinated green tea, and man, it feels torturous. I’ve been struggling to keep my energy levels afloat through the day and as you read this I will be on my seventh and final day (for now?) without caffeine. How I’ve made it so far, I don’t know. Every day sees a tired spell in the afternoon, a slump in concentration levels, a little more desperation for a proper brew. But I’ve made it. I’ve struggled on, seen it through, and I’m making it all the way. All the way to London.

That same adage applies as much to my ruptured training programme as it does my caffeine rejection, because there’s been plenty of times since I first entered the London Marathon that I’ve wondered if I’ll be ready. Ready to train. Ready to take on serious mileage again. Ready to face up to the marathon distance again. Ready to put my body through trials. Ready to put my mind to the test. Ready to overcome the struggles of the past 10 months. I’ve always had the belief I would make it. Occasionally I’ve waivered over sore knees and lack of training, but I used that belief to power through the business end of my training and come through with enough in the bank. Whether its enough on the day remains to be seen, but I’m keen to learn from the experience I had back in Manchester last April.

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I don’t regret anything about my tactics that day. I set off aiming for maybe a 3:15:00, more or less just to finish. That I stuck with the three hour pacer for 22 miles told me I could live with that pace over that distance. Where I fell was possibly the nutritional aspect, as I don’t remember taking huge quantities of gels, sweets or other carbs that my body, at that point, seemed to need. I really want to avoid the proverbial wall this time! Yet at no point do I regard that race a failure of my plan. Inexperience, yes. A learning curve, definitely. A success? Absolutely. After all, the doors of the VMLM’s ballot system are notoriously hard to unlock, and recording a Good For Age time at my first crack at the distance will always be a high point when I look back over my progress in time. Especially given I ran 380 metres less than I though, ey Manchester?!?

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This time, I feel as though if I can execute an effective nutritional plan through the race, there’s no reason why I can’t aim for 3 hours. Make no mistake, the priority is still to finish, and with a greater challenge looming later in the year I want to be able to complete the course without grinding to a slow trudge near the end. At Manchester, trying to go sub-3 hours was never in the plan, yet almost happened because I comfortably lived with the pace in the first 22 miles. I realise it’s now an achievable goal, so long as I stick to what I’ve done in training, keep calm and stay focused. Running a marathon isn’t shits and giggles. I can confidently aim for a sub-3 hour marathon, but ultimately I don’t want to get caught up in pursuing an end goal if I’m realistically not going to succeed on the day. I’m reasonably well rested, having in the last two weeks missed my two final Sundays of long runs due to family and friends’ occasions, and the occasional drink. Yes, tapering isn’t all lower mileage and embedding ourselves in cotton!

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The Yorkshire Blackout. Guinness meets chocolate and White Russian. Oh yes.

I’ve run three times this week, with a ‘long’ run of 4.6 miles which was a little too quick for my liking, and a couple of lunchtime jaunts around Leeds and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, and that last run – a mile yesterday – felt like a closure of sorts.

Its almost here.

I don’t think I’ve anticipated a race like this since I did the Great North Run in 2013. I guess its that big race feeling. These major events, televised, bringing in the world’s elite, charity runners, club runners, the Good For Age runners, the masses of fancy dress, the people in their thousands. The sights of a city, the crowds on the streets. I can’t deny I love these big city events, as much as I love the smaller local races. Maybe you just know when you’re a part of something. But come race time, it’ll be the same routine as always before, getting in that zone, and when the gun, klaxon or whatever goes off, it’ll be time to push myself, go steady, go hard, occasionally ask myself ‘why?’ and maybe curse that decision to enter Snowdonia later in the year – but ultimately, focusing on the job and enjoying this thing we do called running. I must be mad.

Good luck to anyone reading this taking part and thank you for your continued support. Full weekend report next – it’ll be a biggie!

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