What a negative title for a race report. This isn’t meant to be a moaning race report at all so it’s safe to read on. I’d like to start by praising the organisers of the Portsmouth Marathon. It’s become tradition for me to run this before Christmas starts. To Rob and the team who make this possible – thank you so much. All the information you need is easy to understand and race day itself always run really smoothly. Volunteers on the day are fantastic and you get to see so many familiar faces from the running community helping everyone get through the event. The reason for my report title is simple. I’ve never gone into a marathon as well trained and prepared as I did before this race, but then ended up with a result so far away from that target. The contrast was hugely disappointing. I don’t usually beat myself up over such things but I must admit I did have a few short lived moments of disappointment after the run. Bugs, underfoot conditions and probably an overly optimistic goal for this course were the reasons for not achieving my goal. However, I still had a mostly enjoyable day out and it was fantastic seeing and speaking to friends and runners on route, before and after the race. Race days are always great fun looking back. Even toughing it out for a hard earned finish doesn’t wipe away the enjoyment of the overall experience.
The Great South Run went so well in October that I decided to head straight into marathon training for the Portsmouth Coastal. It’s been a really tough year hopping from the various distances. Going from 5k fitness to ultra fitness, back to ten mile fitness and then back to marathon pace training. There has been almost no recovery in between. Parts of me know that this will no be sustainable in the long term, however for now I almost mostly feel fresh in my mind. I am enjoying my experiences so much that I just need to ensure the body can keep up. I knew things were going very well after the GSR as I’d managed to complete some unusually fast, long training runs (by fast I mean fast for me!). I started to believe I could try and aim for a 3:05. I should have considered things a bit more then and there, and reminded myself of the course, the conditions, the weather and time of year. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good course (not my favourite though!) but it is not really one that I should have been trying for a ten minute marathon PB really. Saying that, Portsmouth is weirdly where I still hold my marathon PB. I’ve not really ever set my main focus on marathon distances at all. Marathons are always used for training when my focus is set on longer distance races. If I PB, then it is just a bonus.
Damn bugs. I am sure you will relate to this but whenever I’m trying to stay fit and healthy for a race I get overly paranoid about germs. I tend to hear people coughing and sneezing more and paying way too much attention to trying to hold my breath around people who are ill. It becomes really hard and an absolute nightmare. Earlier in the year while training for the Surrey Hills Ultra, a friend at work thought it hilarious coming into work with a terrible cold. He ended up giving it to me too. Definitely been a year of pre-race colds. Relaxing more and just behaving normally is the way to be though. I really must learn not to worry about these things. What will be will be. With that in mind, just under a week before the Portsmouth marathon, I got pretty ill. I had to take a couple of days off of work and running all together. As the weekend drew nearer I considered not taking part as I had set a really hard target, but in the end felt good enough to at least make the start line and just ‘see what happened’. All things considered, at least it happened during taper week!
On race day I did my normal morning routine. I met my friend Colin outside and we had a nice easy walk down to the Pyramids. I managed to get all my final gear ready, including a new Salomon hand held bottle that straps around your hand which a friend had got me for Christmas. I’d not trained with it, but filled it with Tailwind to use instead of having to top up with water at the feed stations. Yes, I know – NEVER change anything on race day! Advice I always give and sometimes never do myself. We met up with some other running friends from work and saw a few familiar faces. Photos – chatting – stories – race discussions. Then it wasn’t long before the crowds in the pyramids centre starting swarming out towards the door. It was time go and run!
I pretty much stuck to my goal race pace along the front from the start, which was to keep at 7:05 per mile. I didn’t speed up or slow down. The training for all those weeks had paid off. A 7:05 pace was comfortable and easy to judge. The first half was pretty much uneventful so I won’t dive into much detail. Those who know the route will recall the muddy beach and various bits of tricky terrain underfoot heading onto Hayling. At the half way point I was doing ok. I came through in 1:31 – ahead of schedule, but allowing for those extra minutes expected in the second half of any marathon. The leader of the marathon was surprisingly ahead of everyone, including the relay leaders! At mile 15 it all went to pot and the wheels started to come off. I lost all energy quite suddenly and was all of a sudden feeling drained and unwell. I’d trained quite a few times to get to 20 miles at this pace, and not had too many problems, but today was very different. I had eaten gels, just like in training. I had drunk some water and a bit of Tailwind to ensure energy supply was good. But everything just halted. I slowed right down and felt like I was crawling along like a snail. And that’s pretty much how the race went until the end. I had definitely over cooked it, however I had trained for this, so what on earth was going on? Just one of those days and not able to perform on race day like I had hoped. About 40 people passed me from there until the rather windy end which put me in position 48 overall I think. Still not a bad result, but definitely my worst Portsmouth result by a long shot. My little boy ran through the finish with me which I always look forward to.
At the finish line I got a waft of beer from the table where loads of pints had been poured. I was nearly sick then and there. I can never stand the smell of such things so soon after a run. Always surprises me how many people can down a pint. We got our medal and headed through to the pyramids to get my bag. Usually we head down to the finish to see friends coming through but I just felt too ill. I think the marathon was too much for my body that day. It took a long hot bath to get me right and even after that I had to lie down for a while. I’ll be back next year for sure, ready to tackle the 50k.
So, to finish, did I learn anything from this race? A few things I will tell myself from now on –
1. Don’t change anything on race day…ever.
2. If you are ill just change your goals and run in yourself. You will not be able to perform as you wanted to.
3. Don’t be disappointed when you fail. Even a little bit. A marathon completed is an awesome thing.
4. Still have belief that you can run faster and do better. Keep chasing your goals.
5. Above all, ALWAYS enjoy your running. Do not let times get you down.
Happy running everyone! See you on the roads and trails…