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‘After 26.2 long miles, I was barely able to walk – this was not the London marathon I’d envisaged’



It’s here that the crowds are at their most animated: with their signs, flags, Haribo handouts, and occasional offering of a cold beer, it feels like you’ve got the whole world behind you, willing you forward, assuring you repeatedly that there really isn’t that far to go.

But even this wasn’t enough to boost my efforts on the home straight; the tank was empty, the spring gone from my step.

And yet, despite this, and despite missing out on my original goal, I felt no sense of disappointment as my race concluded at roughly 3.30pm yesterday afternoon, some several hours after Alexander Mutiso Munyao and Peres Jepchirchir claimed victory in the men and women’s elite races, respectively.

In truth, I always knew I was destined for a slow time. 

This is largely because my strict training programme wasn’t so strict after all, my disciplined approach to nutrition was anything but, and the lure of a cold post-work beer ultimately proved too strong over the past 12 weeks.

Let me explain in more detail.

Five years ago, when I set my best time for a marathon, my training consisted of roughly three runs a week: one recovery run, one speed run, and one long run. That was a deliberate decision at the time to minimise overuse injuries that had plagued my very first attempt.

This time around, I thought it would make sense to adopt the same approach, not really taking into account that I didn’t have several years of running experience in my legs as I had had in 2019. (Throughout Covid, I neglected running, taking up cycling instead. Post-Covid, I neglected all sports entirely, having rediscovered the joy of pubs and fine dining.)

I was foolish to overlook the small five or six-mile runs that help add weekly mileage to the tank and prepare the legs for the longer weekend runs.

This meant my repeated attempts to get over 16 miles in training often fell flat, ending in dejection as I trudged to the nearest bus stop to head home early. In total, I managed just one 18-mile run – nowhere near enough for a three-and-a-half-hour race.

Then there was the issue of my ego. Midway through my training programme, frustrated that I was off-track, I started introducing quick segments to my longer runs as I’d read this could help quicken my overall pacing for race day.

Yet I didn’t have the fitness for this. Had I plodded along at a snail’s pace, I may have stood a better chance of getting over 18 miles. Instead, I ended up tiring myself out far too early into each long run.

I partly blame my Garmin for this. Yes, it’s an exceptionally weak excuse, but I’d never run with one before, preferring instead to map out my routes in advance and go off “instinct” and “feeling” to set my pacing.

Five years ago, it seemed to work. This time around, I couldn’t take my eyes off my wrist to check my pacing. Each glance brought with it the temptation to speed up – to 9.15 minutes per mile, then 9.0 minutes per mile, then 8.45 minutes per mile, and on and on it went.

Stupid, I know. I only have myself to blame. But when you’re so fixated on a specific time – one that would also have beaten my partner’s own personal best, a serious bragging right in our household – you find yourself doing whatever you can to make it.

Lastly – and, again, I appreciate this will elicit little sympathy – there was the “inconvenience” of a two-week holiday to Argentina just over a month before the race.

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