2:45 was the magic number, 6.17 min/mile average pace. This meant Championship time. I had missed this target by 2 minutes last year and it was not going to happen again. To achieve this, while I needed to heed Allan’s advice (don’t go off too fast x 3) I wanted to feel settled at 6.13/min mile pace until halfway to then relax for the remainder of the run. I had my nutrition strategy sorted – my normal gels at 1 hour, 1.5 hours and 2 hours + five sips of water. Oh and I had remembered my Strider vest and the ubiquitous yellow hat!!
We had managed to stay at the same hotel as last year which was close to Stephen meaning we could travel to our separate start lines together. This calmed my nerves greatly. At the actual start line, my body wasn’t playing the game – cramp in both calves and spasms in piriformis and hamstring. Trying to complete flexor stretches next to the Elites on a full start line was fun!! Even more fun was the toilet etiquette when I was not allowed to leave the start line to visit the facilities and was forced to use a bottle instead!! Time to then put my music on, have a little dance (a little bit of Cypruss Hill) and get my head in the game.
0 – 6.2mile
The first 10k was a dream, I felt photo fresh and cramp free. My pace was bang on time and I had a massive smile on my face. I even managed to work the crowd a bit and enjoy some of the sights.
6.2 – 13.1
Still smiling and running well. I was concerned about taking the gel, although I had practised with this, I only had a 50/50 success rate meaning that on occasion it upsets my stomach. Not this time!
The absolute highlight was spotting Oscar, Lewis and Wendy as I ran off Tower Bridge. The first time in 3 years that I have noticed them in the crowd. It really gave me a massive boost and I actually had to slow myself down a bit in order not to excitedly increase my pace!
Now this was the first tricky bit. The route is a little dull coupled with the run getting harder. I needed to increase my effort to maintain my pace. I can’t say that I was struggling but my legs were definitely feeling more tired and just not as fresh – a bit of an anti-climax after the exhilaration of getting to the half way point.
18 – 23 miles
Mile 18 was my slowest mile at 6.30/min but I did not feel like I had slowed down. This worried me. I responded with a 5.53 at 19 miles which was maybe a mistake because miles 20 and 21 were really hard. I was not going to let it slip now though. I spotted a runner in front of me with ‘Training Oscar’ on his back – he was my focus. My pace stayed at 6.12 and 6.18 – still on track. This bit me on the backside at mile 22 and 23, pace was now 6.27 and 6.28. Could this really be slipping away??
The Decider – 24
Mile 24 was the biggest mile of my running life. I came out of the tunnel, up the hill and onto the Embankment, I had real negative thoughts. I wanted to give up, 2:45 seemed certainly out of range, I knew Striders were expecting me to succeed and I felt a failure, I had let them down. I had to kick my own arse and I looked at my hand which reminded me of Wendy and the boys who love me and really spur me on.
The attack began. The pain was incredible, the tops of my hamstrings were on fire, calves were screaming and my eyesight was beginning to blur but I was passing people left and right. I spotted a Crook runner about 50 metres ahead and I was catching him which gave me strength. Mile 24 was the quickest of the race – 5.47min/mile.
I had caught the Crook runner Rob Teasdale. This was North East team mentality in a nutshell! He said ‘Let’s do this!! Let’s get that Championship time!!’ This encouragement and teamwork was just what I needed, I was gone by then and really struggling, the impact of mile 24 meant I was even tasting a metallic taste in my mouth, the blood vessels at the back of my throat were bursting.
Mile 26 – finish line.
I came around the last corner with Rob and noted that I only had 40 seconds left, I was not sure I was going to make it. I told myself to light this one up!! I visualised myself in the morning looking back on the race and knowing that I had accomplished it. I don’t really remember much about that last 200 metres but I crossed the finish line with 9 seconds to spare!!
I could not believe what I had done, I stood still and was then quickly ushered forward although I did need some assistance with the first few steps.
The Championship Finishers – Stephen Jackson and Michael Littlewood
Final thoughts. (Warning – the soppy bit!!)
I would like to say a massive thank you to the purple army who I know had my back. I simply could not do this without your support. Allan Seheult as my coach and friend, thank you for all the time and care you give. My training partners Gareth, Tamsin, Matty and Stephen. It really is a privilege to run with you and most importantly, great fun! Stephen, Vics and Allan also get special mention for putting up with my drunken ramblings on that long train ride back home!!
To Wendy, Oscar and Lewis. I love you, thank you for all you do. Can’t wait to cheer you across the London Marathon finish line in 2018 Wendy!!