Great Scottish Run, 2016. I was feeling on absolutely top form after a good summer of shorter races but wanting to remain fresh for racing in Amsterdam a couple of weeks later. The weather was perfect, everything was perfect. The first twelve miles were perfect. I was enjoying myself so much that I forgot to have any gels or water.
The last mile of the Great Scottish Run goes alongside the river & it’s very flat. There should be no issues if you’ve paced well and – crucially – taken some nutrition on.
Everyone’s heard of hitting the wall, even if you don’t run. It sounds horrible. It is. I felt literally drained, couldn’t move my legs properly. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as David Wyeth’s 2017 London Marathon finish, but it wasn’t far off. People were passing me on all sides and I genuinely thought I might have to stop. I finished, but it was something like an 8 minute km after averaging about 5:45 min/km for the rest of the race. So disappointing, and something that could have probably been averted if I had kept an eye on my pace and nutrition.
A club mate recently described my 2018 Manchester Marathon finish as ‘cruising past like a fucking Buddha.’ It didn’t feel quite like that, but I tried so hard to keep my pace consistent. Negative splits often elude me, unless I’m really trying hard to keep the pace right down & then go for ‘normal’ pace at the end. For Manchester, I had no particular time in mind other than ‘faster than last time’ and a vaguely negative split. It ended up something like 2 hours 08 for the first half and then slightly under that for the second, but my pacing helped me get a little bit of a speed increase for the last few miles. I’d pulled away from the group I’d been with for most of the race and felt really comfortable for that point in a marathon. Aches and pains that had kicked in at mile 19 had gone.
I’d also been passed by my friend Holly at about mile 23 & was desperate to catch up with her. I wasn’t sure I’d manage it as she is an utter powerhouse of a runner but thankfully I was able to reach her and we were together for the last mile. That photo of us in the blog header is my favourite picture of us together (and we have been friends since 1991 so there’s plenty to choose from.) She paced me through the last mile, repeatedly telling me to slow down & not blow it at this stage; as an ultra-runner she knows more than most about running steady & strong. It was worth it.
This training cycle, I’m practicing good pacing on most of my runs. Tempo parkrun efforts and super-steady easy runs are working out well for me at the moment, and soon I’ll plot some target paces to hit for my intervals and tempo runs so I can measure progress better. Long runs will hopefully end up at a faster pace too, or at least negative splits.
I’m still learning a lot from the #instarunning community – posting stats is not dull, I find it way more inspiring than another running selfie. Lots of people are better at outdoor pacing than me, but it’s interesting to read and reflect on what people are doing & what works for them. It all gets scribbled down in my training journal, or in notes on my phone, or in draft blog posts. I still need to get better at / more committed to tempo/threshold ‘comfortably uncomfortable’ runs, but they’re a nice contrast to long steady runs & are so important to improve pace and speed.