I decided in the summer to look at an autumn marathon. Last one I ran was Liverpool in May 2017 and an injury later in the summer put a stop to distance running. Early in 2018 I started running again after a few months lay off, but it took a while to get back and I found I had lost a lot of pace. By the summer though I was starting to pick up and I began running long to see what shape I was in.
It was always going to be late for a full training programme but I started with a 10 mile run in Richmond Park on August 19 and built up to a bit over 21 miles on 28th September. Only11 weeks which is a very short programme, but I had a fair bit of background running behind me. The Cabbage Patch 10 was a good opportunity to go out and race on October 14 and I was pleased to finish in under 86 minutes watch time. (The race is gun to chip time so officially recorded as 86.25 as it took 30 seconds to cross the startline) Got an age grading of 67.13. The last long run of 18 miles on October 19 went Ok and so I figured I was in some sort of shape to do the Hermes Meander on Saturday November 3rd.
The Thames Meander is a flat course running alongside the Thames from Kingston to Putney where it turns at the halfway point and heads back to the finish. The running surface is pretty good although some sections of the towpath are a little uneven. Conditions on the day were pretty much perfect, the only downside being a predominantly southerly breeze which sometimes seemed to get into your face. We assembled outside of the Hawker Centre at Ham and a field of around 250 runners set off at 10.00. With a small field there were less runners than usual running at 10 minutes which was my target pace, so I went off a bit quicker than planned, but running comfortably at 09.30. We came up to Richmond and along the Thames Path to Kew, by which time the Half Marathon runners were catching us and coming past. This made the run more interesting and had the effect of keeping the pace up.
I had my first hiccup at the Half Marathon turn point which was also a water station. Trying to grab a drink I ran the wrong side of the station and got onto the grass on the wrong side of a metre high wall. I scrambled over a little further on and landed slightly awkwardly and broke rhythm for a short time, but recovered soon enough.
At Barnes there are sections run on cobbles which get covered at high tide. These were quite slippy and care was needed. The first 7 miles were all under 10.00 pace and then gradually the numbers rose until at 13 miles I recorded 10.18. But feeling good and hit 13.1 miles at about 2hrs 10, so looking good for a sub 4hrs 30 finish. However marathon running does not work like that. Legion are the stories which go “ I was on target to run sub 4 hours up to 20 miles, and then ……”
Miles 14 to 19 went pretty well. The tow path was getting busy and there was a big boat race at Barnes with lots of spectators. Many pedestrians, dogs and cyclists out enjoying the sunny weather. I got badly blocked a couple of times. In reality you lose maybe 5 seconds but it feels like an eternity. I was still running in the 10 minute mile range although getting closer to 11. Just needed to keep focussed and stay at this pace.
Mile 20 saw a marked decline. Perhaps just tiredness and a contributing factor that I was now running on my own with no other marathon runners in sight, but the pace dropped by 2 minutes to 12.46. I tried to respond but could feel I was moving from running to a shuffle and mile 21 was even worse at 15.07. Mile 22 took a very long tome to arrive and when it did I found it had taken 18.33 which is walking pace. Doing the maths I realised that at this rate I would be over 5 hours at the finish, which would be a major disappointment. At that point I gathered my reserves and focussed on getting back into a proper running mode. it was encouraging when I improved to 14.43 for mile 23 and realised that sub 5 hours may still be possible.
The last three miles hurt but I was running again albeit slowly. Mile 24 went in 11.14 and the next two in 12 and 12 40 respectively. A “sprint” finish over the last 0.2 took me over the line with a chip time of 4hrs 51.52. Result!