OK so this was not meant to be my last marathon of the year when I started booking races like crazy in February but things change and if I want to get some good marathon times then my focus has to change. Quality not quantity. Still it was the right thing to do to complete the set of these challenges and have the four season’s of bling in my collection. So while it was still dark last Sunday morning I rose, packed my trail shoes into my race bag, and set out for Kent.
One of the good things about such an early start was that as I arrived the sun was just coming up, and from the car park you could see a bright orange orb rising behind the hills of the Rochester / Chatham area. Well with the sun greeting you in that fashion you know it is going to be a good day. What made my morning complete was that nestled amongst the small and dedicated group of slightly deranged distance runners was my friend from Halstead Mandy. I know I had been at other races where she had been, but somehow we had always missed each other and I had not really had a chance to say hello since she beasted me to my first sub 4:30. Just gave me the warm fuzzies to see her.
When we set off I had a plan and a target, knowing how Bacchus had gone when running purely by feel, walking hills and pacing myself by effort, I thought to myself a sub 5 would be nice. Even though the course is a bit tougher than the wine fueled Dorking epic I figured it was possible. This was confirmed when I looked at my Garmin as I started up the first ‘proper’ hill on my second loop to see I was at about 55mins. Mandy had started ahead of me and we had high 5ed on the out and back at the beginning and end of every lap. I spoke briefly with others as our paces coincided for a while but for the first 3 laps or so I was running on my own. Not something that bothers me too much to be honest. In my own little head space I can just keep on plodding.
Half way through lap 3 I spotted Mandy making her way up the second of the hills that passed through a stretch of woodland and I pushed it a bit harder hoping to reach her before she got to the top. I was successful and spent the next 2 and a half laps catching up with someone who I have a lot of time for. I can’t tell you everything we spoke about, there was just too much, but I did tell her that this was going to be my last Marafun for a while. The only race I have booked for next year is Manchester where I am determined to finally get a sub 4. She acknowledged that cutting down on the amount of marathons was probably a good idea if I wanted to step everything up a gear, and that sometimes we have different targets in life. There is plenty of time to do silly amounts of running once I have finished getting my times in. She confessed that she might be making a move towards ultra’s, something that I have the deepest respect for. 26.2 miles is hard enough.
As we passed from lap 5 into lap 6 I began to pull away, and head down feet plodding I carried on to just squeeze in a sub 5 time 4:56 according to the results. Mandy got back shortly after and with a quick photo op we both made our weary way home.
Once again another enjoyable no pressure run confirming that I can do this. Marathons are never easy but they don’t have to be numb nuttingly hard either. If the aim is to finish in a reasonable time and feel good as you cross the line then I have no problem. What is hard is the training to target something specific, and although it feels a bit odd at the moment with no event on the horizon it is time to start getting my head into that very disciplined space which proper training requires. Until my training plan starts at the end of December I am going to have a little bit of fun with my running, a few more 10k’s and some working on pace. Somewhere inside and not buried too deep I have an appointment with a sub 22 parkrun, but even that might have to wait till after Manchester and my training focus can change once again.