Waiting for more write-ups – message me to add your words, thanks!
Katherine Challen at Greater Manchester Marathon
Having thought that with the combination of two young children and a part time nursing job, attempting a marathon,well even the training, would not be possible due to time and sheer energy required- I jumped at the chance of having a go when a spare place came up, I was not on shift and childcare was no issue. I run frequently although not more than half marathon distance and cross train with HIIT and TaeKwon Do when I get the chance. I decided that what will be on marathon day will be- it was a chance to be out on my own for a good few hours to myself of mindful repetitive movement, if I didn’t make it round I had my tram ticket home at least! The sun shone and the support from the crowds was great. I completed the marathon with a few walking breaks after mile 19 and in a not so terrible time of 4: 53 too! It was good to chat to other runners about why they ran and random people talking about veganism. One lady told me about watching ‘Carnage’ and another man said that he had been to a great new vegan cafe in Sheffield though he wasn’t veggie or vegan himself but really was considering making the change. It shows that wearing the VR vest does get people thinking and really, that’s why I’m a member of Vegan Runners.
Martin Ciderspiller at Greater Manchester Marathon
Kevin Dempsey at Greater Manchester Marathon
Manchester was my second marathon and one I’d hoped to do after witnessing my brother cross the line the previous year. My first was a far from enjoyable race as I was on the very edge of managing an injury the whole way ’round. Crossing the line was the main goal for York, to simply get it done and have a first marathon under the belt exactly a year after first going out for a tracked run, but every step was a battle vs. injury and under-trained noobishness. My knee fully gave way under me no less than 4 times – the camber on one side of the road had to be avoided at all costs. An extra goal of averaging 8-minute miles for a 3:30 finish made things overly difficult at times and had me questioning if a finish would even happen, but 15 seconds over the goal time was close enough to call it a success. Manchester had pressure in the form of a self-imposed challenge to obtain a good-for-age sub-3:15 London 2018 qualifying time (assuming that stays the same this year). 15 minutes quicker didn’t seem impossible given the fact that I’d be better prepared, fit and more confident, but thinking and doing, they’re not the same thing.
Training plans just don’t seem to suit me. I find them too restricting, difficult to work life around and adapt to, and therefore frustrating. I also don’t particularly like how so many marathon plans seem to have you run up to just 18 or 20 miles and taper down, that feels like being set up to hit the wall hard and have a bad day out. So my own plan was to simply bump up the miles from a good way out and see how I got on. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run 40 and 50 mile weeks without risking injury again, I just don’t have the experience in my legs, so I decided to concentrate on length of time of activities over intensity and distance. I posted on the local Vegan Runners facebook group and a few of us started running the local trails on a Monday, so Mondays became a great excuse to get in some more relaxed efforts as I stretched the runs out to 3 hours or so with solo efforts either side. Riding my single-speed mountain bike on the same trails was good to break things up, as was occasional virtual 5 and 10k efforts on the rowing machine. But my secret weapon would be my 10 year old little doge. Instead of 20 or 30 minutes in a local field, I took her on long, undulating walks, with a few little efforts mixed in here and there and plenty of steep little climbs. These allowed me to get plenty of additional easier miles in, but more importantly useful hours out and about raising the heart rate a bit. So a typical “40+ mile” training week was more a combination of long slow trails, parkruns, bike rides, virtual 5 and 10ks on the rowing machine, maybe a 10k race and a little commuting and a lot of doge miles. Not really standard marathon training I suppose.
At one point during training I questioned what I really enjoyed about running – the VR trails were a great excuse to chat and catch up, but away from that I wasn’t doing much of the fun running I enjoyed to support the hard parkruns and 10k races – the speedier weekly miles that work towards them. I eased back on the marathon training and switched over to hill sprints and pacey laps. Luckily, someone put me right, got me to trust the pacier stuff would come easier after the marathon and to get back on track. It wasn’t just a kick up the backside, it came bundled with good advice and a bit of a plan. He looked at my running history and said to aim for 3:10 and have a 5 minute buffer running 7:15 miles. A 20 mile trail race in filthy conditions a month before race day suggested I was on track with an average under 7:10 minute miles – but a complete failure fuelling-wise saw the last few miles being the hardest I’ve ever run and suffering a bit for a short time afterwards (at least it’s better to make those mistakes 4 weeks out than on race day).
The marathon itself was mostly uneventful – I think that’s a good thing! The hardest part initially was having to hold back as people rushed off from pen B. For 8 miles or so I was consistently passed by other runners, but with my TomTom on mile laps I was reassured as each sub-7:15 mile ticked by as I knew it was at least another 10 seconds in the bank, and the real race wasn’t to begin for another 10 miles or so.
At half marathon distance my pace was almost exactly 7-minute miles in total. Faster than required but coming very easily, so nothing to be concerned about. The course was flat and easy, far easier than anything I’d been running in training. The support was great and the sun shining. I stuck to the same kind of effort and kept an eye on the mile splits. As more miles passed, the splits increased a little but not significantly and I knew I had wiggle room so continued at a similar rate. It felt very much like a solo training run in terms of effort – fairly pleasant so far. The last 8 miles are where the wall can show itself but I’d been fuelling well, alternating between medjool dates and SiS gels. Only the water bottles had been a challenge so far – opening them to insert HIGH5 tablets! ( I resorted to letting them fizz in my mouth and chugging the water asap, no doubt wasting time as I faffed around, but I kept my cool despite failing in the simple task of twisting open a plastic lid – hah!). The race would have benefitted from offering sports drinks, not just water.
By now I was beginning to pass more and more runners, with some pulled up cramped, limping and some strolling. I still felt surprisingly good but a couple of slightly slower miles hovering around 7:25s convinced me it was time to pick up the effort, keep the right side of the splits and get some work in to try to match those earlier again. This went OK for a while. It was harder work, but nothing to get concerned about until a little climb over a bridge on a bend that seemed a lot harder than it should have… maybe with such a flat course anything at all hilly seems a bigger deal than it should, or maybe being knocked out of rhythm is more difficult to cope with when you’re 20-odd miles in. Whatever it was, this marked a real change.
Lots of people around were suffering now, pace right down and some staggering around dehydrated – it was quite hot. With about 4 miles left, a quick bit of maths said I was still well on course for beating even the safety buffer time of 3:10. Now it was going to be about managing the difficulty and not doing anything silly. Pretty much knowing it was going to happen brought a new problem as it made things mentally tough – it felt hard to justify increased effort when there was nothing to be gained other than a slightly faster time – why try too hard and make your PB difficult to beat next time out?! Why even think this way? I think the mind has some great tricks to convince you to look after yourself! Maybe it was just physical and mental fatigue, but keeping a good rhythm was no longer easy. Nothing was flowing, it all felt hard work. Well OK, I’d had it too easy up to now and this is more like what I was expecting miles back. The last 2 miles were a real effort. A woman shouted “only 1 more mile” with around a mile and a half to go – urgh, unintended but very difficult to deal with. You can see the finish line from a long way back. Seeing the finish line doing Hitchock/dolly zoom effects feeling further and further away the closer you get is apparently not uncommon. I think the effort I was putting in here was showing as a race marshal/angel accompanied me to the line. I believe I thought it was someone attempting to take my place from me and sprinted harder hoping to leave them behind. Oops! Strava has me running 6:40 over the line when I was down at 8:00/mile pace in the straight. I don’t know why I did this, I was well inside the required time and had nothing to gain and plenty to lose. Messy. He passed me over two 2 marshals and said “keep an eye on him” – I thought I felt OK, but as I turned to say this the world went quite wobbly and my words came out kind of drunken and slurred.
The next few minutes recovering saw me stagger and wobble my way to the goodies, dropping dates and stuff out of my pouch and struggling to bend over to fetch them… obviously the race had been harder on me than I’d realised. But 5 minutes, 2 bananas and a litre of water later I was back in the room.
Meeting other VRs as they finished was the best part of the day, the hype levels were so high and pretty much everyone seemed to be equally all fired up and buzzing. And the bag collect took literally seconds vs the 3 hours+ last year’s runners faced, bonus! I’d crossed the finish line not far from the same position I’d crossed the start line despite being around 170 places down at half way, with a time under 3:10 – result. Two hilly/trail marathons and a solo 24 hour race to look forward to later in the year, none of those will be trained for, just run as fun experiences. Training will begin for London 2018, assuming the qualification time for V40 remains the same, in December! My Doge is ready.