History suggests that I am quite good at racing marathons. I have run 2 marathons (what I would deem) 'properly' - Berlin 2016, and Boston 2018, and both times I have run faster than my training might have suggested.
For Berlin I did Pfitzinger 18/70. I got through the plan, but I vaguely recall coming into the race with some hip niggles. It was certainly a good thing the race was when it was.
I remember being on the train with my brother watching the temperature forecast rising stating that I had to hit sub-3 because I couldn't do that training regime again. A lady on the train stated that she was adjusting her goals for the weather and would attempt her target at a different marathon. That seemed absolutely ridiculous to me.
I crushed sub-3, running a 2:52:18 and immediately upon finishing thought 'I'll never beat that'. Not because I doubt myself but rather because I had exceeded even my own expectations by such a large margin.
For Boston 2018 I did Hal Higdon's Advanced Marathon 2. I had tried the plan for my first marathon (Manchester 2016) but due to illness missed significant parts at the end. On paper it seemed 'easier' and so I went for it.
Again, the last few weeks were not good. I had some pretty serious back issues which led to an inability to sleep or run. I didn't finish the plan. Again, race day came and the weather looked bad. It was bad. Arguably the worst in Boston history. My back was still giving me issues, but it was Boston - a target that realistically I don't think I had ever thought I would achieve when I started running.
I sat in silence in a tent in Hopkington for 2 hours in the pouring rain wearing about 460 layers and still freezing cold. The people from Clif took some photos that I have never been able to track down. If anyone could help me reach someone at Clif who might be able to find them I'd appreciate that endlessly.
I ran Boston in 2:58:18 and remember crossing the finish line and being unable to stop - my quads were gone. It wasn't a PB, but it felt like one.
Why do I run?
I started running marathons because my brother ran London and I wanted to too. I didn't get in and ended up doing Manchester instead.
The week after Boston I was persuaded by said brother to run London too (I had a Good for age place) so I foolishly did. It was super hot (for the UK) and my body was destroyed anyway. I finished, but didn't enjoy it. It was worthwhile though because it made me remember why I run. I saw this quote on Instagram in relation to yoga, but hey.. it resonated:
"getting into my body to get out of my mind"
Sometimes I find life pretty tough and running helps me chill. I also like that it is one of a few athletic pursuits where anyone can be really good if they are prepared to work hard.
The plan was always to run London in 2019 after Boston as a final marathon. Marathons are hard but training for them has without a doubt been the hardest thing I have ever done each time. At this point in a training cycle it is very easy to say 'I can't do that again'.
It is 7 days out from London and I went out and did my last 'long' run - 8 miles (which unsurprisingly, I did too fast). I did a final tempo session yesterday and things are now at the point where it is very much 'I really can't be arsed'.
If I didn't have marathon experience I'd be adjusting my goals left, right, and center because properly tapering now, I just feel super fatigued and have very little mental/physical energy. I can't remember how I felt before the last ones so no easy comparisons but I do know that I have nailed myself into the ground training for this one.
I did my own marathon training plan heavily inspired by the Advanced Marathon 2 training plan that I have never successfully completed. I took things a bit too seriously and built an app - Run 48 to monitor my training. The plus side is I can show you exactly what I did and when. Take a look here.
It feels like I am much better trained than I have ever been before. Whilst I absolutely would not recommend this, I have run a lot of runs too fast or too long. My 'marathon pace' runs have been much tougher than they should have been because I want to run much faster than my body (in training mode) tells me that I can. I did a lot of Parkrun's as tempo runs simply because running very fast on your own is very hard. My mental capacity to do that wavered early on.
The most important runs in my mind were the 3 x 20 milers and the 2 x 10 miles marathon pace. For Boston I only got in one of those 10 miles MP. This time I got them both in. In fact, I got everything in. I completed every run in my plan and because I'd given myself an extra week of injury leeway I also ended up doing some extra easy runs and throwing in some extra rest days (by feel) as I felt necessary.
I dropped out of Chicago 2018 because I was having ongoing issues with my right leg. My right leg is still weird but whilst tough at the time it was certainly the right decision (as demonstrated by me completing this plan in its entirety). Not only did I drop out of Chicago but I didn't defer it until 2019. I knew that putting in the miles for London I would not be able to appropriately train for a marathon later in the year as well. I am learning.
On paper, this training block has gone as well as it could have.
Probably don't have an eating disorder
The other big unknown in my training/targets (see below) is my weight.
People don't like talking about weight because it's taboo or uncouth or something. I historically have. Edit: Oh wait, apparently a lot of the things I wrote about my issues with eating I never published - awkward.
The TL;DR version is that coming up to Berlin I had Binge Eating Disorder (BED). I lost a lot of weight, and eating/food was basically the only thing I ever thought about. The problem is that I really like food. Like.. I enjoy the taste of good food and I can eat an enormous amount. After Berlin I went the other way and got fat.
Two and a half years on, I probably don't have an eating disorder. I don't drink alcohol and I basically avoid sugar at all costs. Binges are very few and far between.
The result.. I weight more. For Berlin I weighed 62kg carb loaded. I weighed myself this morning after my run and came in at 66kg. Carb loaded you're looking around 69 - 70kg. So 12.5% heavier.
There is a high prevalence of eating disorders amongst runners (sadly) and one of the main reasons is that weight does actually (sadly) make a difference. Some say that 1lb is equivalent to 1 second per mile over the marathon. That sounds about right to me.
That said, it is a balancing act in that starving yourself and losing muscular weight is probably going to lose you more time than having less weight..
My body seems to be stable where it is but relative to what I see/perceive others to eat, I eat insanely healthily. Theres the whole 'eat anything in moderation' approach to eating but I'm not so sure I agree with it - even in obscenely small quantities some things that I want are insanely awful. Pizza is the big one for me.
Anyhow, I am getting sidetracked on diet. I am heavier than I was in Berlin but i don't care.
So.. I can run 10 miles at 6:30 pace in training, but it felt insanely tough. 26 miles is a lot further than 10 miles. It would be very easy to adjust downwards and just target a sub-3 (6:53 min/mile) - that seems a lot more achievable.
The problem is I feel better trained than Boston and (assuming the weather plays ball) think it would be ridiculous not to attempt to beat Boston. But.. on more consideration.. I think I might be better trained than Berlin too.
I've done a significantly lower mileage training plan than Berlin but I feel like I've done a lot more hard workouts. If I am inherently an endurance athlete but I have my speed on point too then surely I am well placed?
I mentioned the weather above. I think If it does turn out to be hot my decision will be made for me. I will simply target sub-3. I do not work well in hot weather and pushing it any more would be silly.
If the weather does play ball (14 degrees celcius, light drizzle, no wind) I think I have to go for the PB. In Berlin, I got a massive negative split because I went out for sub-3 but felt great at half way. The problem with that is that making up time is really hard. I 'think' that to PB I have to go out at PB pace which poses the potential problem of a blowup.
Acknowledging a respect for the distance I think sub-3 will not be hard at my fitness level. I could arguably go out and run a sub-3 and enjoy myself but I think if it turned out to be easy I'd feel like I put in all this effort training and left with 'what-ifs'. I have a historically good track record (across elements of my life) for having success with a 'Go big or go home' attitude. I think failing and having a shit time is more attractive to me than knowing I had more to give.
So that is it really. If the weather is good, I am going for a PB.