It’s been a while since I’ve sat down to write a blog post.
Since January my life has been consumed by the journey to Chester Marathon and on Sunday 1st October I completed it for the third time.
Going into August I started a really heavy period of my training and I decided that I was going to knock blog writing on the head for a little bit until I came out of the other end of Chester. It was time to stop writing about what I was going to do and start doing it.
The goal at the start of the year was to beat my PB of 3:49.22.
It was going to be hard work. I’d been in decent shape going into a couple of marathons (Manchester and Dublin) and each time I’d fallen short of even getting close to my PB.
Having sat down with my personal trainer Harky early on in the year we started to assess what was possible. My initial thought was that I would be happy with sub 3:45 but niggling in the back of my mind was the goal of 3:35. I put it out there as a possibility and suddenly it became a reality. That was the goal and everything we were going to do for the next few months was going to build towards that goal.
My training would see a lot of core work and focus on my nutrition which would see me knock soft drinks on the head and lessen my carbs which has been a huge catalyst in dropping over a stone in weight.
In the build-up I would turn up to Manchester Marathon and do a Marathon relay leg in the Lakesman iron-distance triathlon. The training for both of these would effectively be my base training for the real push from July onwards for Chester.
It would also see me take in a few half marathons along the way.
The first of these would be the Windmill Half Marathon in Lytham St-Annes. I’ve already written about this but this was where my half marathon PB fell from 1:43.11 to 1:39.37.
The next half marathon I turned up to was the Lancaster Riverside Half Marathon on 21st August.
Again, my half marathon PB would fall to 1:39.06.
My final pre-Chester half marathon was to be The English Half Marathon in Warrington on 18th September. I’ve always been a big fan of The EHM and have attended since 2012. The course has changed a couple of times since then but the change last year has certainly been the best course they’ve had and remained again for this year.
My plan was to run on feel and not look at the watch. I’d managed to latch on to another runner who was running the same pace as me and I felt comfortable at the pace we were running at. It was only at mile 10 that I realised that I was having a storming run when I checked the watch to see I was passing 10 miles at 1 hour 12 minutes. 3 miles later and my half marathon PB had fallen for the third time in as many months as I crossed the line in 1:35.39.
A week later I would take down my 5k PB at parkrun by over a minute when I finished in 22:07.
I was in great form. I’d already taken down my 10k PB by dipping under 45 minutes with a 44:57 finish at the Moorclose 10k in May.
I couldn’t have gone into Chester more prepared than I ever have been for a race and a PB attempt.
And so it was that Harky and myself set off for Chester on the Saturday of 1st October with my goal of a 3:35 finish and his goal of a sub 3hr finish whirling around in conversation on the way down.
After a very good night of sleep I woke up refreshed and ready to take on the marathon distance for the seventh time and for the third time at Chester.
Chester has been good to me.
It was my first ever marathon in 2013 with a finish of 4:20.47
A year later, in 2014, I turned up again to complete in a time of 3:49.22
And in 2016 I would toe the start line for the third time in an attempt to take down my PB.
The day started off a little chilly but once the sun came out, just before the start of the race, conditions were great. There was no wind, the heat would pick up and it was all leading up to pretty decent (if not perfect) racing conditions.
Again, I was going to try to run on feel as much as possible and my aim was to run with the 3:30 pacers for as long as possible but as soon as we set off I got stuck in a pack which took me away from the 3:30 pacers almost immediately.
I knew that I’d crossed halfway too fast in 1:35.58 and I just needed to gut out the next half and see what was possible. I was also conscious of the fact that there were a few hills in the second half that, on previous occasions, I had suffered on.
I started to hit a bit of a wall around 20 miles. But I managed to give myself a bit of a talking to and pulled myself back around.
On hitting the hill at 24 mile I started to struggle a bit. I was still running but I had slowed down a bit at this point. But I knew that once I was on the top of the hill that my pace would come back down.
Once over the hill the next two miles seemed to drag on forever. I knew that I was close to the finish and all I needed to do was keep my legs and arms moving and it would soon be over.
I entered the racecourse for the final 400 metres to the finish line and I found a little drive to propel me forward. My legs started moving quicker…the finish line was in sight.
And so it was that I crossed the finish line in 3:31.55.
I had taken down my marathon PB and was well within my 3:35.00 goal.
It’s been a fantastic year for me in terms of what I’ve managed to achieve.
I never for one minute thought that I was capable of doing the things I’ve been doing. But thanks to the support of family, friends and a great personal trainer, who have all been amazing, I’ve managed to do things that I previously thought were beyond me. Training was tough, I’ve been tired and I’ve been emotional. I’ve ran early morning and I’ve ran late at night. After a run in with some of the kids toys I broke a toe mid training and ended up having to strap it to its neighbour. I’ve had hip issues and psoas issues which have been eased by a solid stretching regime and there were days where I didn’t feel like running but once I was out there (and once I was finished) I was always glad that I’d gone out and done it.
Since lacing up my running shoes in 2009 I’ve come way further than I ever thought I would and I’ve met some amazing (and supportive) people along the way.
I don’t know where I go from here. But I now have the belief in myself to push for more.
Anyway, there’s still at least one more PB that needs to fall this year…The Mile.