What I Learnt from Running a Marathon
I ran my first London Marathon in 2016. It was an amazing occasion but I was left with mixed feelings after suffering in the second half of the race and just holding on for a very slim personal best. After completing the Boston Marathon the following year I decided I wanted to take part in the London Marathon again and enjoy it, as well as try and run a significant PB. As many of you will know this is an incredibly tough balancing act. I have always found it really beneficial to assess each marathon and think about what went well and what I could improve on. l learnt a lot from my second time round the iconic London course.
Decide what you want out of the marathon
In contrast to my first London Marathon build-up I felt really relaxed. I knew it was going to be a hot day and that unfortunately it wouldn't be the time to attempt a PB. After struggling badly in the final 5K in 2016 I promised myself that I would pace sensibly and be in a condition to appreciate the atmosphere. Over the last few years I have enjoyed most of my marathons but through chasing times I haven't always soaked up the atmosphere and have regretted it afterwards on occasion.
Take on enough water especially if it's warm
With the temperature rising to 23.2 degrees celsius I knew I needed to keep hydrated. I thought back to struggling in my first marathon due to a terrible fuelling strategy. I made sure to sip water at almost every station and run under the shower points provided. Looking back I have achieved some good results in the heat as it has made me prioritise my fluid intake. In 2015 I ran the Brighton Marathon finishing in 3:03 achieving the GFA qualification for London for the first time.
Plan your nutrition
Over the last few years I have experimented with my nutrition strategy. I previously took four SIS (Science in Sport) gels, one every 8K or so. In 2017 I ran the Lisbon Marathon (again in hot conditions) and opted for five gels with the last one including caffeine to give me a boost. As I rarely drink coffee I found the caffeine really beneficial and managed to sprint finish to a sub 3 hour time. It was the best I had felt in the final kilometre of a marathon so I decided I would carry six gels in London and make use of the caffeine boost again. I also made sure the other gels had electrolytes in them.
Readjust your planned pace if necessary
Training went well in the lead up to the London Marathon. I opted not to race too much but banked consistently high mileage from November. I completed some tough track and tempo sessions and was feeling good after running 74:10 (a course PB) in the Colchester Half Marathon four weeks before the marathon. Ideally I would have like to target a personal best but due to the weather I decided to take a cautious approach. I started the race at PB pace (2:54) but found myself working hard in the early stages so eased up to sub 3 hour pace, hoping I would be able to maintain it.
Don't get carried away too early
The crowds on Tower Bridge were great again but I remembered to hold my pace and not get carried away with half the race still to go. Throughout the first 21 kilometres I felt a little claustrophobic as I was surrounded by runners and it was hard to find room to pick up drinks at water stations. Thankfully approaching Canary Wharf I found some space and felt more comfortable. I was keeping an eye out for family and luckily spotted them a couple of times which lifted my spirits.
Expect the closing miles to be tough
With 6K to go I downed my final gel with caffeine and said to myself " this is where the hard work begins." In 2016 I was shuffling along the Embankment as I aimed for a big PB but this time I felt comfortable and could fully appreciate the crowds. Many of the London running clubs were out if full force lining the river. As I neared Big Ben I realised I was going to clock over the marathon distance and so needed to increase my pace considerably. I opened up my stride and despite an angry left calf and tight right hamstring I managed to complete the final kilometre in 3:35. Unfortunately it wasn't quite enough to finish in under 3 hours (official time 3:00:09) but I enjoyed the challenge and appreciated the support from my manager in the hospitality stand.
Learn from your race for next time
Despite running 5+ minutes slower than my PB I am really happy with my performance. In tough conditions I adjusted my race plan well and got to enjoy one of the biggest races in the world. I learnt a lot from completing the London Marathon for a second time and am really excited to focus on the shorter distances for a while. I am going to target a marathon next year with more specific training.
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