Virgin Money London Marathon 2015

It has been five months since I successfully completed my first marathon.

I learnt some valuable lessons along the way which I feel may benefit others in preparing for their first marathon. My time was 4:33:51.

In the lead up to the marathon, I read that it helps having several times to aim for so that you don’t get too demoralised if things don’t go according to plan on the day and gives you an incentive to keep going. I set myself gold (sub 4), silver (sub 4:15) and bronze (sub 4:30) finish times.

I started with a sub 4 hour pacer and found the pace quite comfortable. My struggles began from the 25k mark and from here I was forced into a very slow jog. At some point I started suffering from my right hamstring tightening which forced me into a walk. By now, I felt that even a sub 5 hour was off the cards! However I managed to get some treatment for the cramp at one of the medic stations and I was able to resume my very slow jog.

I was disappointed with my time but I knew where I went wrong in my preparation so I don’t have too many complaints.

Mistakes/Where I went wrong

  • Long run pace
    I ran my long runs too fast in training. I realised this when I had to abort the longest training run (a 22 miler/35km) 3-4 weeks before the marathon. I just couldn’t continue past the 25km mark. I tried in vain to run 35km the following Sunday but had to give up at a similar point.
  • Fuel and hydration
    I didn’t have a consistent breakfast before my long runs – it varied between weeks and on race day I found that I couldn’t finish my breakfast. I relied on High 5 ISO gels during my long runs but had them on a adhoc basis.
  • Misjudging the weather conditions
    On race day, the grey overcast conditions fooled me into wearing a base layer beneath my t-shirt and so in the middle of the run, I had to stop to get rid of it and in turn I lost the sub 4 hour pacer (not that it made a massive difference but would’ve saved me a minute or two).

What I should have done

  • Long run pace
    I should’ve paid more attention to the pace by limiting how much of the long run I did at marathon pace or faster. All of my training runs were done at marathon pace or faster.
  • Fuel and hydration
    After much trial and error, I now know what works for me in a pre run breakfast and what doesn’t. However I neglected this aspect until I started struggling with the long runs. After doing one run with hydration bladder pack in which I struggled (one of the early signs I was doing the long runs too fast) due to the extra weight, I stopped taking the bladder and just relied on having gels on an adhoc basis. Looking back now, I should’ve persevered with the bladder as I think the hamstring tightness/cramp during the marathon was probably down to not hydrating properly.
  • Weather conditions
    A base layer was evidently OTT, at most I should’ve worn some arm warmers which I would’ve been able to remove without having to stop.

Final Thoughts

Although it was a learning process of sorts, I thoroughly enjoyed the London Marathon. The atmosphere was brilliant. Whenever I slowed down, spectators would cheer me on and encourage me to continue. I think I would’ve taken significantly longer to get around the course if it wasn’t for the crowds and their support. I have entered the ballot for the London marathon next year and hope to do it again!

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