It goes without saying that I’ve fallen in love with Chester Marathon.
After all, it was my marathon debut in 2013 and I’ve been back a few times since.
My finish times for the event are as follows:
2013 (Marathon debut) – 4:20.47. The wheels fell off around 18 miles and I didn’t, yet, have any marathon experience…having said that I was just happy to finish.
2014 – 3:49.22. This was the race where I started to believe that I was capable of a bit more.
2016 – 3:31.55. I hit it hard training wise from the start of 2016 and reaped the rewards by bagging a marathon PB two years and a few attempts at different marathons later.
I started 2017 by bagging another, and surprising, marathon PB at Manchester of 3:24.45.
This got me thinking that suddenly a lot more was possible. A marathon finish of between 3:15 and 3:20 was definitely within grasp. I sat down with my PT, Harky, and he devised me a plan to get me to Chester. All I had to do was follow it to the letter. He brought my weekly mileage down a bit and added a bit more speed work than I was used to and at paces I hadn’t pushed to before but all in all it was achievable if I wanted it to be. There were a few goals for race day with my first goal being a sub 3:20 finish, my second goal of a finish around 3:18 and my dream goal of a finish of 3:15.
Training went well and there were no issues throughout other than a little bit of fatigue and the odd niggle. We discussed pacing strategy and my aim was to stick with the 3:15 pacer. I’d found sticking with the pacer at the English Half in Warrington definitely helped so I was keen to try it again.
I’d bagged myself the hotel right next to the racecourse in Chester so I could literally stay in my room until the last possible moment before heading to the start. There had been a lot of rain over the weekend and the racecourse was a little flooded so the organisers had made the decision to move the start line and close the area off to cars parking which was definitely the right decision given the conditions.
I briefly met up with the rest of the DH Runners taking part before heading off five minutes before the start to find the 3:15 pacer.
Soon all the participants were gathered at the start and I was a little perturbed as to how close I was to the front than in previous years but this was where the pacer was so I was confident that he knew what he was doing.
And then we were off. I’d turned my head for a second to acknowledge a shout from behind and then, when I turned back, the pacer was gone. I couldn’t for the life of me work out where he’d gone. He didn’t seem to be behind me, beside me or in front. The key was not to panic I’d done the training and my race wasn’t going to fall apart on the reliance of a pacer. I could definitely do this on my own and if the pacer reappeared I’d pick him back up then.
The first six/seven miles has a lot of downhill in which I always find hard to pace. I’m a quick downhill runner so the legs kind of just go when I hit a descent. It’s hard to pull back but I was trying. I was definitely too quick for the first 16 miles. I should have been aiming for around 7:25 pace but my pace was bouncing around from 7:00 – 7:23 for at least the first 12 miles. It was only when I hit mile 21 that I knew I was starting to struggle. My pace dropped from 7:25 to 7:54 and then into the 8’s over the next few miles this was mostly in part to going too fast early on and having a bit of a hip twinge. The last hill between mile 24 and 25 was going to hurt but I was nearly there and I knew that if I dug in I was definitely going to get a sub 3:20 finish.
I was in a bit of pain with my left hip over the last mile but a final push to the finish saw me cross the line in 3:18.20 in position 389.
I’d officially knocked over an hour off since my first Chester marathon back in 2013 and over 13 minutes since the same event the previous year. I was definitely chuffed to bits but I was kicking myself a little that I didn’t pace it properly from the start as I could have been a lot closer to a 3:15 finish than I was. Whether I got a little too excited or a little too cocky I don’t know but it’ll be interesting to see how it goes at the same event in 2018. I wasn’t too downhearted though, 3:18 was a brilliant time and if you’d told me a couple of years ago that I was capable of it I wouldn’t have believed you.
I’m edging ever closer to a goal that I always thought was out of reach and that’s qualifying for the London Marathon via good for age. I’ve entered the ballot on numerous occasions and always missed out so it seems the only way I’ll get in is via qualification. I’m definitely a lot closer to 3:05 than I ever was. Whether I’m capable of it is another thing…but I’ll never know until I try.