28 Oct Abingdon Marathon
I’m sure most runners have asked themselves this question at some stage; “why am I doing this?”. It was certainly something I asked myself throughout most of Chester marathon when I was pathetically ambling along the last 10 miles at a pace slower than many of my training runs home from work with a backpack on. I ploughed on with the misbegotten idea of finishing, which I did in 2hr 32. Within the space of a few days I had gone from being at my very best to being a worse runner than I was prior to starting marathons, despite trying harder than ever before.
At the finish I decided I’d had enough and would focus on 2014, no more tough racing for a good few months. The day after I changed my mind! I was more psychologically damaged than anything else and as I was entered in Abingdon marathon two weeks later, I decided I’d put myself through it all over again. I just couldn’t stand such a poor performance and had to do something about it, however futile that would turn out to be.
I figured at best I could run a 2hr 25 time, but I would only check my watch every 5 miles as I needed to run off feel to stand the best chance of a solid run. It was a depressing thought to go into a marathon targeting a time over six minutes slower than my pb, but sometimes you just have to take what you can. I went to the front in the first mile, but never really opened up a commanding lead. The 5 mile point was covered in 27:19 and 10 in 54:55, it was an okay pace, but not enough to shake off Matt Bennett, who was about 20 seconds behind. I put in a surge at 12 miles and extended my lead, covering 15 miles in 1hr 22:26. The course then turned left into a headwind and I could sense that my lead was being reduced again. After taking a sneaky glance round a bend near 19 miles I could see him about 150 yards back. 20 miles was reached in 1hr 50:52 and I tried forcing the pace again. My lead increased slightly, but at 24 miles I heard the shouting and applause behind me, which was far too close for comfort! I flogged it as if it was the last mile, which thankfully was enough to give me a decent gap to work with in the final mile. Bennett was still running strongly and managed to reduce the gap to less than 10 seconds at the end. I was relieved to win in a more respectable time of 2hr 26:54. Bennett had a great debut and to finish strongly in those conditions suggests that there’ll be a lot more to come from him in the future. Abingdon is a great marathon, it’s fairly flat and even though it’s quite a small race with 1,000 runners, it’s really well supported. Also, in my view, you just can’t beat a race that starts and finishes on an athletics track, top class! The embarrassing moment of the day for me was missing the first few minutes of the presentation, thus missing my cue to collect the trophy, leaving me to apologetically collect my award and TomTom GPS watch at the end of proceedings. I think that’s the first time I have failed to be present when winning an award.
So was it all worth it? Just about, but if running 5,000 miles per year continues to yield a lack of progress then there will come a time when I really do wonder if it’s worth bothering with anymore. 2hr 32 is totally unacceptable and 2hr 26 just isn’t good enough; it is quite literally miles off where I need to be. But until then, try, try and try again!