Wow, I forgot I was blogging about my training for the Comrades Marathon. So much has happened since my last post!
While training for my first half-marathon, I was encouraged to increase my longest single run to around 15km. I did this once by running a parkrun and then following it with 2 more parkruns, and then I entered a 15km race. I finished the race in 1:20:31 which boosted my confidence with regard to finishing my first half-marathon in under 2 hours. I also changed the date of my first half-marathon from 27 September 2014 to 16 August 2014. I ran – and finished – my first-half marathon in 1:57:02. To date I have completed 4 half-marathon races, and the distance or more an additional 4 or 5 times.
The next hurdle: Qualifying
With my half-marathon done and dusted, my next goal was to Qualify for the Comrades Marathon. In order to do this, I needed to run and finish a standard marathon in under 5 hours. Again, I increased my longest single run to 30km. This I did once while on holiday in Bela-Bela, and once the day after a tough half-marathon. The second was brutal. My legs and feet hurt from the day before. I felt better after about 7km but at 10km I was in pain again. Needless to say, I finished the 30km and once again my confidence was through the roof. I was going to run and finish a marathon, and I was going to do it in less than 4 hours.
05:30 on a rainy Saturday morning – exactly 6 months after my first run in 20 years – race day arrived. I was psyched. I was excited. I was ready. I was about to run farther than I’ve ever travelled without a motorised vehicle. I had a pace chart but forgot it in my room. Fortunately I had the most important checkpoint splits memorised. I had to hit 5km in 28:30, 10km in 57:00, halfway in 2:00:16, speed up a smidge and finish in 3:59:50. I reached 5km spot-on and felt really good. At 10km, I was a minute fast, but I felt so good that I wasn’t too bothered. Half-way came around and I was 3 minutes fast. I felt good, and did not bother too much about being a bit fast. My plan was to eat a gel at 10km and another at half-way. This should fuel me to the end. I had the first gel at 12km because this is where the water-point was. Second went down at half-way. On my way to the 32km mark, I had a though to eat another gel when I get there. When I reached the 32km mark, I didn’t feel like eating the gel, because they’re not the most delicious item I’ve ever consumed and because it wasn’t part of the plan I didn’t care too much about skipping it. And, despite the pain, I was also still feeling relatively good. This would later prove to have been a mistake. My body was clearly telling me I need fuel. The last 4km of the race consists of a constant climb, and it was consuming energy. At 40km I was slowing down a bit. At this point my average pace was 5:35/km. This was good. My target pace was 5:41/km. I was going to come in under 4 hours!
And then I hit the wall. That damn wall. I had nothing left. No amount of begging, threatening, or bribing could convince my legs to run any more. I strolled, drinking what was left of my ‘on-board’ energy drink, cursing myself for not eating the gel at 32km, and watching runners I passed a few kays back, regain their position in front of me. I eventually crossed the line in 4:07:58, the elation of finishing my first marathon – and qualifying for the Comrades Marathon – drowned out by the disappointment of not reaching my goal which was right there in front of me.
I learned 3 things from this marathon;
- I must update the plan to include the third gel at 32km,
- I must listen to my body, and
- I can finish a marathon in under 4 hours
The next step
So, this is where we are now. I consider myself an athlete, now. Actually, I did that after my first half-marathon. My next goal is to get that marathon under 4 hours. It’s scheduled for 24 January 2015. From there, I’ve got two 50km ultra marathons on the radar before the big C. My ultimate goal (beyond Comrades) is to complete a marathon in less than 3 hours.
I’ve found a training supplement that suggests I can improve my fitness by 28% in 3 weeks. That’s a 54 second improvement on my pace (calculations on request). It means that I can take my 5km from 24:11 to 19:15 or my 10km from 49:26 to 40:20 in just 3 weeks!!! These are best-case scenarios and I don’t foresee an improvement like that in just 3 weeks, but I am going to give it a shot in December and will track my progress, etc. here.