Race Report: 20 October 2019
Before the race, I wasn’t sure what performance I was capable of.
It would be the last race of a long running season. I had hoped before the year that I could set a new personal best. But that felt impossible.
The weather was ideal; cool and dry. As I set off from the start line, I had the 3:30 pacer in my sights.
I began conservatively, holding back and ignoring the adrenaline.
I saw my family at the five-kilometre mark then soon took a cup of water from an aid station. Most of it I spilt on the floor.
Still, my mile splits were all under eight minutes. I wasn’t gaining on the pacer and group of runners around him.
Just past the five-mile mark I used a portaloo. I was less than 30 seconds inside and soon came upon the second aid station. I grabbed my special drinks bottle and gradually made up the time I had lost. I didn’t panic.
I enjoyed a Nakd bar as I sipped my homemade sports drink over the next miles.
At eight miles I was still behind the pacemaker even though I was still running quicker than a projected 3:30 finish time.
I increased my pace so that miles eight and nine were 7:30 each.
I passed runners who were falling off the back of the pacer group. This gave me confidence.
I could ease off the pace a little over the next few miles as I steadily reached the group. At 12 ¼ miles I was part of the group. It contained seventeen runners including me and the pacer.
I felt relatively fresh. Only my left knee ached a little. I ignored it.
We passed halfway in around 1:42:00. This meant that at the current pace we would finish the marathon in 3:24:00. I was more than happy with this.
I retrieved my second special drinks bottle and drew energy from the group. Most of the time there was no talking; just the pattern of footsteps pounding the rural roads. The support was sparse but noisy.
At times I was hugging the curb, other times I ran just behind the lead pacer in the centre of the road, other times I kept on the outside. The positions moved when we passed another aid station. I tried to get out of the way of everyone else as they frantically grabbed their drinks.
I felt good, but I reminded myself that I needed to wait. We continued clocking up the miles at around 7:40 pace. The undulations didn’t affect me as the group continued with almost fifteen runners.
We soon passed runners in front, others hung onto us.
At the 19-mile mark I grabbed my last special drinks bottle. I didn’t need much from it but I kept it in my hands just in case.
There was a sharp incline and I held myself back from passing the pacer. We were less than 10 kilometres from the finish and I wanted to push on.
But I waited another mile before I surged.
I thanked the group and found a pace I felt I could maintain. That pace was 45 seconds faster per mile; 6:45. It was challenging but within my limits.
I was alone for long sections, then I passed more runners.
I sped up for miles 24 and 25. I ran 6:30 per mile pace.
The last mile I surged again and finished the 26th mile in 6:22.
I gave all I had over the final 320 metres. I sprinted to the finish line, overtaking an older runner moments before crossing the line in 3:16:35.
I was genuinely pleased, exceeding my expectations pre-race.
Relatively Huge Success
My ninth marathon was a huge success. I managed my second negative-split marathon, and enjoyed a race with relatively little discomfort. It was my third-fastest marathon and was the first race for which I purposefully used a pace group to support me. It undoubtedly helped me reduce my perception of effort, and was a unique experience. I also finished in the top 50 runners. This was the 16th race in which I achieved this feat.
2019 had already seen me produce a new 10-mile and half marathon personal best, and complete my first ever ultramarathon. Although I felt fully recovered after my ultramarathon, it had only been 15 days prior. I didn’t know what to expect from my legs. I only hoped that a sub 3:30 marathon would be possible. I knew the pacemaker would help me along.
At the start of the year I had wanted to break my previous personal best, set in the same race in 2017. I was only 3:16 away from accomplishing this goal. If I had not run such a conservative first half of the race, I perhaps could have got very close to my ambition. The difference between the two halves was about 7 ½ minutes. Still, my sixth consecutive Chelmsford Marathon was a fantastic way to finish an injury-free running season. Also, the medal is my first to spin. I am now motivated more than ever to realise my full potential at the 26.2-mile distance.