Friday, August 11, 2006

On this day 15 years ago (11 August 1991)..

..I ran my first sub 3 hour marathon at Inverclyde. I finished in 2.59.00. Forgive me for the unusually sentimental nature of today's blog, but on this anniversary I'm going to tell the sub 3 hour story in all its glorious detail.

After running a couple of Glasgow marathons in 1984 and 1985, I had given up running (and every other form of exercise) and allowed myself to turn into a VFP - a very fat person. In 1990 we moved to Troon from Houston (the one in in Renfrewshire, Scotland rather than the one in Texas, USA). I was playing 5-a-side football a few days after our move and about 20 minutes into the game I became stranded in the middle of the pitch. I was unable to breath, let alone run. This was quite a shock to me and I resolved there and then to sort myself out and get fit. I went out a run the very next night. Although it was excruciatingly painful I didn't give up, ran a lot more throughout the summer, lost 3 stone in 2 months, then joined Troon Tortoises in October. I trained hard through the winter and improved from a 1.28 half marathon in October (Falkirk) to 1.23 in March (Alloa). In April I felt ready for a full marathon and entered Lochaber. Unfortunately I made all the usual beginner's mistakes: I went off too fast at the start; I didn't eat enough beforehand, and I didn't take on adequate fluids throughout the race. I arrived at the finish beside Fort William railway station in the back of a police car, having been found staggering all over the road at the 19 mile point and then being sick on the pavement. I was distraught at my failure.

Despite this setback I was determined to finish a marathon, and went to Dundee 3 weeks later. I set off really easily. I didn't even wear a watch, to make sure I wouldn't push too hard. I finished in 3.17 and felt ok. A few weeks later I adopted the same tactics on a very hot day at Loch Rannoch, and finished in 3.18. These were not particularly impressive times, but they gave me the confidence that I could finish a marathon in relative comfort.

The Inverclyde Marathon was on 11 August. I had been running well in events like the Irvine Beach Run, and was ready to go for a sub 3 hour time. From what I remember it was a good day for marathon running, not too hot and not too windy, and I ran very steadily at 6.45 pace. The last few miles back from Gourock were hard, particularly the last mile down Greenock Esplanade, but it was one of the best feelings of my life when I crossed the line with the clock at 2.59.00.

After the race I remember thinking that I had cracked it, and there would be a lot more sub 3 hour marathons to follow. The reality was that, despite numerous attempts, I couldn't manage it again until 1996 at Crossmichael, when I ran 2.56.56. I only ever managed it 4 times in total, the other 2 being at Nottingham in 1997 when I ran 2.57 and Inverclyde again in 1998 when I ran my PB of 2.56.19. Not surprisingly these 4 runs are amongst my most treasured running memories. It is such a fantastic feeling to cross the line of a marathon in under 3 hours. I do sometimes wonder why I wasn't able to do it more often, however - 4 sub 3 hour marathons out of 41 in total is not a very impressive percentage, particularly at a time when my half marathon times were normally around 1.20 to 1.23. But perhaps, as usual, I'm being too hard on myself, and I should just appreciate the fact that I achieved it at all.

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