Monday, April 15, 2013

A shiny new PB!

The story of marathon number 30 (and that's a title I never dreamt that I would use!)

Given that I was full of nerves the day before it was no surprise that I didn't sleep well although I felt well rested when the alarm went off at 4:30am.  I'd organised my kit etc. the night before so there wasn't too much to worry about; just feed the horses and Tinker then have a bowl of porridge and a cup of coffee.

Mike got up just before left at 6am so that he could do a final check to see I got everything and then to wave me off.  As I drove out of the gate I had a sudden panic because I hadn't put mum's ring on and I always wear it for my marathons so that she runs it with me.  Silly, I know, but it's one of my little pre-race things.  Then I got a bit teary when Mike gave me a hug then I was on my way.  As it was Sunday morning there was a program with a religious theme and I sang along to lots of the hymns until they played 'Abide with me', which reminds me of my dad, which made me teary again.  

None of this teariness is unusual as going off and running marathons is jolly tough and I'm focussing on what happened to mum which brings back sad memories.

I arrived at the car park at just after 7am and met up with a running chum, Kaz, who's recently completed her 100th marathon which makes me seem like a lightweight!  We caught the bus to the start together and chatted all the way which helped to calm my nerves a bit.  It was cold and drizzly and the grass in the park where the marathon starts was very muddy and slippery.

The first thing we did was head off to the toilets whilst it was still quiet as later on the queues are horrendous.  Then we just huddled by a pavilion until it was time to head to the start.  As it was so dreary I didn't take any photos but I loved these 2 men in their pink tutus and tights!

2 ballerinas
Before I talk about the race I must show my naughty water bottle.  It might look clean here as I wiped it before I thought to take the photo but it decided to leak right from the start.  As it was full of my own equivalent of a 'sports drink', beetroot and sour cherry juice, it looked as if I'd had a horrible accident as my hands were covered in bright red stains!

Beetroot and sour cherry juice
At the start I had a dilemma about what to wear because the forecast was for the weather to be warmer later in the day but at the start it was cold and we were running into the wind for several miles.  I was wearing 3/4 length tights and a light long-sleeved top with my ARUK vest over it and I decided to stick with that combo which felt just right for the first couple of hours.

Immediately after the start there is a short, sharp incline and so you can't really settle into your pace for a while.  Plus, as you're in a massive crowd of other runners, all jostling for position, the first mile is either faster or slower than your intended pace.

This photo gives an idea of what the start of a race with around 10,000 runners looks like!

Preston Park Avenue
But later on, this is the sort of view the slower runners can expect:

The donkey costume at the halfway mark
What an amazing costume to carry around for 26.2 miles!  There were several runners in costumes and I saw a rhino, tiger, clown, superman, supergirl and a gang of firemen carrying some massive ladders.  I take my hat off to them all.

Anyway, I digress.

When we started we were running into the wind for several miles but it didn't seem to trouble me. Then I realised that I was not only maintaining my chosen pace (10.5 minute miling) but I was enjoying it and feeling strong.  I got to the 10k mark in 1:05 and it was at that point that I made the decision to up my pace a bit to compensate for slowing down when it got hotter a bit later later.  It's always a fine line between setting a good pace and going to fast in the early stages but for once I seemed to get it right and I was feeling really good when I reached halfway in 2:17.

By that time the sun was out and it was getting warmer and I knew that I should slow down or risk suffering in the latter stages and so I took my pace down to 11.5 minute miling which felt really comfortable even though I was getting hot.

I saw lots of people I knew en-route, Tracey, Sharon, David, Green Fairy, the man in the rhino suit and I've forgotten who else so apologies for missing you off if you read this!  Petal and Fat Buddha (aka Claire and Dick) passed me quite early on.  They were doing it together as Dick has just turned 60 and Claire will be 60 in June.  They looked fab!  I didn't see them again until around mile 17 when I plodded past and it looked as if they might have been struggling a bit.

I reached mile 17 in 3 hours but I was starting to feel the heat and I noticed that I'd slowed to 11:45 - 12 minute miling so I told myself that if I managed to maintain 11- 11.5 minute miling then I would get to mile 20 in 3:33ish and that would give me a good crack at my course record of 4:55 even if I slowed down for the last 6.2 miles.

I got to mile 20 in 3:35 and at that point I just knew I had to go for it!  I was a bit cautious about pushing too hard, bearing in mind I've got the London marathon just a week later where I'll be knitting and running much slower, but I could see that if I just managed to keep my pace below 12 minute miling that I would beat my course pb of 4:55.

Oh my it was hot by then and it was one of the low points of the course for me - not much crowd support, blazing sun, uneven concrete surface and horrible speed humps to contend with which are a killer for tired legs as you risk tripping if you don't lift your feet high enough.  I forgot to mention that my breathing was fine throughout which, given the problems I had last year, was a massive relief.

Although I was hot, I still felt OK and I remembered what John, my favourite Coach and excellent runner, had said to me - that a lot of people treat the marathon as just a long training run and don't push hard enough.  Then all of a sudden I was at mile 24; I can't remember what time it was and I'd been drifting around the 12 minute mile mark for a while, but I knew that if I could push a bit harder then not only would I beat my Brighton pb, but I would also beat my all-time marathon pb.  I also realised that I wanted it so much that I was going to do it, so I went for it!

I saw Ruth (aka Plodding Hippo) up ahead and she was running a few paces then walking but as I ran past her I tried to speak but couldn't as I was concentrating so hard.  She later remarked that she'd seen me but didn't call out as I looked so focussed!  

My last 2 miles were 10:40 and 9:50 respectively and I had the biggest smile on my face as I ran towards the finish line.

My finish time?

4:48:34 by my watch - 4:48:29 official chip time.

So, not only did I beat my previous course best of 4:55, I've finally beaten my pesky all-time marathon pb which has been 4:50:21 set at the London marathon in 2006.


As I crossed the finish line I just moved to one side, sat down and had a jolly good cry.  That often happens after a marathon - it's the grit and determination and then the sheer relief of having finished.  I phoned Mike and he was over the moon.

Then I collected my marathon medal, tee shirt, banana and some water and headed off to the baggage lorry to get my stuff before catching the shuttle bus back to the car park

This is the sort of scene you see at the end of a marathon!

The aftermath
Tin foil blankets
Rows of baggage lorries
When I arrived home it was straight into the bath for me and then we cracked open a bottle of wine to celebrate.  I am so happy that I managed it and now I've got a week to recover before I have a crack at another pb - my GWR for knitting whilst running the London marathon!


DianaD said...

Great blog Susie, and congratulations on the PB! Diana

Susie Hewer said...

Thanks Diana!

Iona said...

Brilliant, Susie, just brilliant! - And the very best of luck for next week.

Susie Hewer said...

Thanks Iona!

Shan said...

So happy about the personal best! Congratulations Susie!

Susie Hewer said...

Thanks Shan!

Cuthbert the Camel said...

Well done girl and all the best for London

Susie Hewer said...

Thank you Cuthbert!