It's been ages since I last blogged. In fact I can't even remember the last time. But on Saturday JK threw down the gauntlet while wishing me luck for the following day's Blackpool Marathon, asking if there was a chance he might read about it on my blog. Why not, I thought? So here goes.
Firstly, the facts. I finished the Blackpool Marathon in 3 hours 38 minutes 43 seconds. It was my first road marathon for well over a year, and now I remember why I haven't done one in all that time. I didn't really enjoy it. The course was unbelievably flat: we started on the promenade, outside the Hilton hotel, headed south for about 4 miles, past the Pleasure Beach, before turning round and coming back north by the same flat boring road. Just after the Blackpool Tower we went on to the pedestrian bit of the prom (taking great care to avoid a huge dog poo) and headed north past the start, then kept going north for another 3 miles, before turning round and came back down to the start. That took us to 13 miles, and the half marathoners (including Sandra) were allowed to stop. The unfortunates (including me) who had chosen the full marathon had to do the whole thing all over again.
I started the race quite well, covering the first 3 miles in about 22 minutes and feeling generally good. Beforehand I had been a bit worried about my left heel which had been causing me a few problems, but it seemed to be fine. By mile 4, however, my legs were starting to feel the effects of the relentness flat pounding, and I was struggling to run with any fluency at all. I stopped after about 8 miles to go to the toilet and that improved things a bit; the break from the constant running clearly did me good, and I managed to pick the pace up a bit. I caught up again with Sandra (she had passed when I stopped for the toilet) and then passed her, she hung on and passed me again with about 2 miles to go (for her) but I overtook and stayed in front of her from there to the half way point. I was through the half way in about 1.42; Sandra finished the half marathon in 1.42.46, which was two (yes, two) seconds outside her PB. Great performance from her, and she finished 10th lady overall and 3rd female vet.
I'm afraid I lost interest after that. By 15 miles I was feeling a bit bored with the whole thing, and by 18 miles I was completely fed up with it. My slowing mile splits reflected this lack of enthusiasm; I noticed one particular mile took me very close to 10 minutes. Not good. My right groin was hurting as well. I continued to shuffle along to the top end of the prom, walking from time to time and watching a depressing number of people go past me, until I got to mile 24 and realised I had only 2 more miles of this tedium to go. Oddly, I seemed to pick up the pace after that and started passing people again; maybe it was the fear of failing to get under 3.40 that kept me going, or maybe I was just desperate to get it finished, who knows? I ran the last 2 miles relatively strongly, beating the 3.40 barrier with more than a minute to spare, and headed across the road to the hotel for a shower. Job done, but not very well.
I've given the race quite a bit of thought throughout today. Less than 5 years ago I was able to go to Zurch and run a marathon in 2.59; yesterday I struggled to get below 3.40. That is quite a deterioration. What has happened?
A few things, I think. I'm nowhere near as fit as I was. For the last year or so I've been unable to get my 5k time below 20 minutes, a time I used to be able to do with some ease. I can't get close at the moment to a 40 minute 10k, or a 1.30 half marathon. So I shouldn't be too surprised by my marathon time yesterday; the signs have been there for a while. For the last 4 years I've been really busy at work, which I'm sure has had an impact on the quality of my training. I'm still getting out there running, but I don't think I'm training at anything like the level of intensity I used to. Perhaps even more importantly, I've not been motivated enough to go out and do the hard work required to get better times. At the moment I finding it more enjoyable to go out running with Sandra, hopefully helping her with her West Highland Way training and improving her times at other distances.
I think I just have to accept that it is not possible to do everything, accept that I'm busy, and focus on enjoying the running I'm able to do. Another good race at some point would be nice, though. I might even blog about it if it ever happens...