Off I set on my final 20 mile run, somewhat distracted initially by the sight of a red crescent moon. This was it. Come through this run and it would be the donkey’s work of marathon training complete. Well, it would be once I’d gotten off the riverbank and stopped obsessing with taking a rubbish picture of the moon with my phone that was never going to live up to the vision I could see before my eyes.

The run was almost a mirror image of the other 20 miles two weeks previous. A steady first 12 or 13 miles, the final 6 or 7 miles of my run turned out almost the same as two weeks before. After turning back from Hebble Brook, near Halifax, for a second time, I set about exacting my target marathon pace for a second time as I began to head back towards home. Shortly after consuming another thick Roctane gel, I established my rhythm, and ran the remaining miles in and around 6:40-6:45 pace. And even as I slowed down to finish mile 20, I recorded a 6:59. My overall time on the run? 2:26:41. Just 5 seconds quicker than my 20 mile run from two weeks before.

The fact that I managed to run two times for 20 miles in training and so close together appears to bode well. It also gives me plenty to ponder about my race strategy for Blackpool, at this point just 4 weeks away. The consistency between the two runs confirms that I can run well in what will be the midsection, and would appear to confirm that the nutrition I used is working and agreeable with me. Furthermore, I came through without too many aches or grumbles. True, I was a bit fatigued, but that was to be expected. I felt ready for the marathon.

I’d now arrived at the taper phase.

I’m skipping quite a bit here because it’s now less than a week to the marathon and indeed, much has happened since I last posted. Stuff like, successfully applying for a new job closer to home. Kids getting ill, and other stuff in between, I’ve not had so much time to focus on blog writing and have largely just got on with progressing through the taper phase, with no hiccups along the way.

One thing to note though is that I did notice how easily I began to cramp at the end of a 16 mile run I did the week after that 20 miler. A relatively flat 16 miles with not too many hills. I did that 16 miles with much less in the way of nutrition and it showed towards the end of the run. Which gives me all the more reason to look back at the harder aspects of my marathon preparation and look forward to Sunday with confidence, and to believe in the fuel that I’ve tested in training to allow me to deliver my best on race day.

Huddersfield Narrow Canal, towards Paddock and Milnsbridge, 07/04/19
The Huddersfield Broad Canal, 07/04/19

I recognise that my goal of sub 3 is slightly lofty given that it has been three years since I ran my marathon PB at London in 2016 – 3:02:39. The two marathon races I’ve done since were either too hilly (Snowdonia) or too hot (London 2018). But Blackpool is pancake flat, and the forecast for this weekend is currently looking optimal. The consistency at which I ran my two 20 miles, completing both only five seconds apart. I recognise that anything can happen in a marathon. Yet I feel like I’ve found a nutritional strategy that works, doesn’t bother me and may just allow me to get through the 26.2 in the time I seek. Of course, I have to trust that my body will cope with the demands I place upon it on race day. But I’ve had over a week off work to rest and not worry about the presently stressful commute, so I’m absolutely in the best place mentally and physically to be going for this.

Last, but not least of all, I’ve got to wake myself up at such an early hour (3:30am) on race day, in order to ensure I begin the total three hour commute it will take for me to get to Blackpool. I must not oversleep on this day!

Sunday will not represent the end of this journey, however it ends. It may well decide what I focus on for the remainder of the year. But the signs are looking good, and fingers crossed, if everything goes right on Sunday…I will have broken 3.