The Marathon – 7 days to go

“When you have gone so far that you cannot manage one more step, then you have gone just half the distance that you are capable of” someone once said. He was doubtless at about mile 18 in some marathon or other.

To finish inside 4 hours and so achieve my goal of being inside the Top 10,000 (!) means completing each and every kilometer in less than 5m 40s (roughly 8m 40s a mile). Coming in at 3h 45m requires running only 20 seconds faster for each km. Doesn’t sound too great a leap, does it? But everything I read tells me that running even 15s too fast per km too early will spell doom when I get to that magic 18 mile point. That’s pretty much what happened to me last year in London – I started in row 2 and was carried along by the serious runners, completing the first few miles far quicker than I’d planned. Running each km in 5m would get me a 3 1/2 hour time. That seems unlikely – even though I ran every km in the Reading Half at around 4m 45s. Doing that for 21km is one thing, doing it for double that is a whole other thing.

So my plan is to go out of the gate at 5m 30s a km and keep at that pace until I hit mile 20 (sorry for switching between units; I run in km but London is marked in miles – odd that you can’t buy a gallon of petrol or a pound of carrotts but you can still run a mile, or even 26) and from there see if there is gas left to go faster through the last 6 miles (or, roughly, 10km). If I can hold it together at 5m 30s, I’ll come in at 3h 52m or thereabouts. That gives me a little slack to run up to a minute per km more slowly in the last 8 if I’m struggling (which will be no help if my legs aren’t working, but that’s something I’ll have to deal with when I get there). My pace graph for the Reading Half Marathon looked like this:

Contrary to all my previous training, you’ll see that I ran the back half quite a bit quicker than the front half – about a minute quicker all told. Contrast that with this graph from the Liverpool Half Marathon:

With 35,000 people around me, keeping a steady pace will be challenging. Last year it was made worse by the heat and the incredible stickiness of Lucozade all over the road every few miles. So far, the weather is looking promising for next week – although my Mac weather widget is telling me that it could be 22 degrees by Friday. Cooler than that, but not wet, would be a delight on the 23rd.

They tell me that the degree of discomfort experienced after 30km is the worst that most men ever deal with and is akin to childbirth pain for a women. That’s not an image I want to conjure with for too long but it helps explain why much of the preparation this week is all about getting my mind in shape. My training has tapered to near nothing – 4 mile runs every other day at most, with a bit of stairmaster thrown in. It’s all about being mentally prepared now – just like exam day, all the cramming I do now wouldn’t help, so there’s no point doing it. Just got to eat pasta, drink water and think about it all being over. And there’s a very fine bottle of wine waiting for me for Sunday evening after the post-race party. All that doesn’t seem to be helping me feel any more confident but there’s still time!

Fund raising has gone specatcularly well thanks to some fantastic donations. The JustGiving website has me at a little under £5,000. Some offline donations will take me over that and there are still a few people who are waiting until right to the end to make their donations. To help them, I’ve raised £4,062 before the tax man gives his chunk, so I’m about £1,000 short in online terms. Macmillan are delighted with the donations received to date. They have over 600 runners this year which should put them well over £1,000,000 (and they didn’t even have to do a millionpound homepage).

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