Tuesday 12 April 2016

First Marathon Win!

As I write this I still can't quite believe I won the Manchester Marathon at the weekend!  I had this marathon planned since almost a year ago with my aims being to run a fast time.  I had a great race at the La Rochelle Marathon in November finishing 2nd and just outside of my pb in very windy conditions so this gave me confidence.  I started my Manchester Marathon build after Christmas but for the first time since I've focussed on marathons my build was far from perfect.  

I came down with flu at the end of January whilst in Florida where my plan was to make the most of the warm weather and get some good training in.  This knocked out 2 weeks of training at a crucial time.  I then just felt flat in training all the time.  I probably over did it as I was slightly panicked about getting the miles and sessions in.  So many times I would wake in the morning with a stuffy head and have to force myself out the door to run.  Usually I'd start feeling better after 10 minutes of running but generally my steady run paces were much slower than normal.  I had several weeks of just feeling like I was on the brink of coming down with a cold.  

I chatted with my coach regularly about my options.  I could back off my training but in my mind I might as well not bother with the marathon if I did.  Or I just carry on pushing through and if I get ill then I won't be going anyway but if I don't and come out the other side then I will go.  

About 10 days before I saw the start list for the women and thought there were about 4/5 of us that could finish in the top 3.  Another chat with my coach and I decided that I wasn't in "the shape of my life" and to run the race competitively but smartly and for the first time not worry about my time.  

So race day morning comes around and I'm quite nervous.  Nervous because I'm not sure about my fitness, in the last week of taper my hamstring/glute feels tight and also it being a fairly local race for me I know lots of people who will be there running or supporting and I don't want to look stupid if things go wrong!  

The race gets going and it feels so easy, like I'm jogging.  I time check my first 1km split and its slightly quick so I make myself slow down.  There is a dead turn just after 1km and I realise I'm in 2nd but the 1st girl (Sam) seems to have gone off very quick and I'm hoping its too quick!  As the field thins out a bit I can see a good 100m up the road and I can't see her so I think she has definitely gone off too fast.  I ran with a couple of guys for about another 2km and chat to a few of them.  One is aiming for 2hr 39 another for a sub 2hr 45.  This is about my aim but I think we're still going a bit too quick so I let them go.  The thing that surprised me about this race was that no one seemed to form into groups.  Maybe I've just been a bit lucky when I've done La Rochelle but I've always found myself in group with about 10-20 men until around half way.  

During marathons you always go through good patches and bad patches.  This time it was a mental game from start to finish.  I never went through a bad patch as such with feeling tired as I felt really strong and relaxed the whole time.  I just had to keep telling myself to keep going and stay focussed.  My hamstring started to hurt around 10km which had me worried and it did take a lot of effort to put that to the back of my mind. 

I really badly wanted to win this race and I was a bit worried that although Sam had gone off too fast there was a chance I wouldn't be able to catch her.  I kept telling myself that if I hold 2nd that's still a good result.  I was also quite worried that someone might be chasing me down and I had no idea.

I think it was around 33km I realised that Sam was in my sights.  I was still feeling good in my body (apart from my hamstring) and felt really within myself on my effort.  I caught up to her quicker than I expected and went past her somewhere around 34-35km.  I had a big smile now being in 1st place but that feeling soon turned to worry.  7km is still a long way to go in a marathon and anything could happen.  I tried to push my pace on a bit as I was still worrying about someone coming through stronger than me.  That last 5km was the hardest - I still felt good but my legs were starting to feel it now.  

Around 800m to go and we bear slightly right then its dead straight to the finish.  I can see the finish line now and I can't stop smiling!  There's also a big crowd and its such an amazing feeling.  I was so relieved when I crossed the line.  I can't believe I've done it!  My first marathon win and the best moment of my racing life!!