Sunday, April 28, 2019

London Marathon 2019

London. Sunday 28-April-2019.


I finally completed a marathon on my third attempt. Now it really is never again!!

The remarkable thing is not that I completed a marathon but that I was so determined, stubborn even. After two failures (I include Brighton here even if I did walk over the finish line) I might think this was nature's way of saying "give it a rest" yet I persisted.

I do not know why it was so important for me do this but something made me put in untold hours of training. Possibly pride, maybe vanity, even fear of the Grim Reaper, who knows? For this marathon alone 76 training runs since last August totalling 823 km (511 miles).

When you add in the other two marathons and the half marathon it is a total of 221 runs covering 2340 km. I only started running in January 2016 with the distant goal of a marathon and I still can't tell you why but I know I can stop now. Parkrun is enough for me from now on.

I crossed the finish line in 5:16:05 and I'm happy with that; pretty much my expected time based on the training. My splits were consistent, I maintained a steady pace throughout, no hitting the wall. I drank 500 ml of Lucozade sport and ate two Nakd fruit bars.

I was number 33231 across the line out of 42439 finishers. More importantly for me, I was 210 out of 291 in my age bracket of 65-69 which I was pleased with seeing as how many above me were members of running clubs.

For many people the big milestones on the route are the Cutty Sark or crossing London Bridge. For me the first was passing the spot where I collapsed last year and I was feeling OK. The second was passing the 35 km mark which was where I collapsed in the Brighton marathon and I was still feeling OK. Only 7km to go at that point - just a parkrun and a half - and I was feeling fairly confident I would make it but there was certainly not going to be any sprint finish!

Afterwards no aches or pains in joints or muscles, a blister on one big toe but that was it. Last year I lost the two middle toenails which dropped off a few weeks afterwards, this year all are looking good.

I have to thank Blue Cross animal charity whose Gold Bond allocated places made it possible for me to run in both London Marathons. You can support them by sponsoring me if you so wish:

Run/Walk and pacing.

Last year in the 2018 London Marathon I collapsed at 18 miles and withdrew, caught out by the heat and the pace at the start (the latter an error of judgement on my part). I said never again. I lied! This year I planned a less optimistic target of 5:30 and trying the run/walk technique.

Quite late in the training regimen this time I learned about run/walk. Gave it a try and it worked for me so I switched for the last month of training. That included my first ever 35km training run equalling my previous longest ever run (the failed 2017 Brighton Marathon) and feeling fine at the end. I started with a ratio of Run 1 km / Walk 1 min then tweaked that to walk 0.1 km every km when the watch beeped and then run the rest.

Pace runners can be a good way to avoid the beginner's mistake of starting out too fast. In my naivety I didn't know such people existed before I did my half-marathon. For that and for my first marathon they were metronomic and helped me keep a steady pace.

Last year the slowest pace runner was 5:00 with a run/walk pacer at 5:30. This year they went all the way to 7:00. I cannot but help think this is a response to lessons learned from last year's hottest ever VMLM. A good thing for us slower runners.

In 2018 my chosen pacer set off too fast. She did the first 5 km at 6:41min/km, equivalent to a 4:42 marathon time. Eighteen minutes faster than the target. Same again for the second 5 km that included a couple of individual 6:16 minute kilometres which is a 4:25 marathon - way too fast for me and the heat of the day. I gave them feedback!

So this year I ran as my own pacer with the aid of my trusty Garmin VivoActive. I set it to beep every km and give me a pace so I could adjust my speed accordingly.


From the official photographers, Blue Cross and snagged off the BBC iPlayer:
At the start.

Run/Walk - running 0.92 km every km.

Run/Walk - walking 0.08 km every km.

The Blue Cross cheering point at 30 km.

Running with the crowd as seen on the BBC.

Approaching the end - on the red carpet.

At the finish - crossing the timing mats.

At the finish - and we're done!

Results and places.

My pace was very consistent, slowing down a little as the race went on but really not by much, a pretty good straight line. The final official results show my average pace as 07:27 mins/km with a narrow range from 07:12 to 07:51. Sometimes I impress myself!

Well back in the overall field but I don't care, I finished.

Given the typical gender difference I was further back in the Male category, no surprise.

But the best result was in the age category which is a source of some satisfaction. Better than the above two percentages.

In preparation for last year's marathon I attended a half day seminar which included a session on pacing. The speaker described how many start off too fast and it is like the tide. In the first half you see your fellow runners rushing away from you but by the halfway mark the tide turns as they tire and they all flow back past you. The stats provided really bring this home.

Even in the first half, because I was with the 5:30 plus crowd, I overtook more than I was overtaken.

In the second half the impact of my steady plodding to conserve energy becomes pretty dramatic. I started overtaking many of my fellow runners and very few had the energy to pass me. I love this graphic!

Many rivers to run.

There are only so many times I can run round Wandsworth Common before I start feeling like a hamster in a wheel. So I’ve taken to running out and back along rivers. They are level and it’s difficult to get lost!

Last year I mostly ran the River Wandle down to Beddington Park and back.

This year I switched to the Thames Path.

Even on holiday the training must continue. Last spring I was in New Orleans with our friends Tim and Sarah so I ran along the mighty Mississippi, following the New Orleans half marathon course. Such was my fitness at that time, and thanks to the time shift, I was able to leap out of bed and run a half marathon before breakfast!

This year in February I was in Rome for a three week language course so I ran alongside the River Tiber.

In Puglia there are no rivers (true fact) so I’ve had to improvise. There is a cycle path along the Aquedotto Pugliese which does go up and down but not too badly.

In the long run.

The last long run of the training plan was two weeks before the big day and I was pleased with how it went. Previously I’ve really struggled to get past 25K. This time I ran/walked my way to 35K. My longest *ever* training run including my two previous marathon attempts. So this technique seems to work for me.

Drove to the Pineta Ulmo, parked up and then a run/walk to Locorotondo and back.

Through typical Val D'Itria countryside dotted with trulli.

The nature of out and back is that you get a very symmetrical elevation profile. Although overall it was uphill on the way out and downhill on the way back as aqueducts naturally flow gently down hill but they can cheat by tunnelling through hills while I have to go up and over. As you can see there were some hills which were hard work.


Parkrun is an integral part of the training regimen. As a spin-off from the marathon training I achieved a Personal Best (PB) not once but nine times.

The Salento Parkrun of 06-April-19 was showing support for Autism awareness by asking participants to shave something or wear something blue. A perfect opportunity to wear my Blue Cross running vest (last year’s as the new one was back in the UK). All this marathon training has clearly helped. Not only was it my 50th parkrun, with cake and candles, but I demolished my PB by an astonishing 60 seconds: 25:36, previously 26:36. Not just for Salento but for all locations. I’ve earned that 50 T-shirt.

The Salentino Parkrun is set in a large nature reserve and is a lovely flat course.

My fellow runners on this milestone run.

Running for Cats.

I ran in memory of all my furry companions: Blue, Peaches, Cleo, Oscar, Oliver, Cristal and Spielberg, and on behalf of Blue Cross.

Blue Cross animal hospitals and pet care clinics provide free veterinary treatment to sick and injured pets when their owners can’t afford private veterinary fees.

I have been lucky enough to be able to afford to go to the vets. I cannot imagine what it must be like to have to give away your pet or have it put down because you cannot afford the care needed. Too horrible to contemplate.

Please donate to Blue Cross by sponsoring me if you so wish:

Thank you for reading this far. A bit of a marathon post *groan*.

That's all folks.

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