Virgin London Marathon 2018

On the 22nd of April 2108 I took part in the VLM. This was my first big event of the year and a debut for me at this distance. What an event to do it at!

They say it is the best supported marathon in the world, and you can appreciate why when running it. I don’t remember one part of the course being without supporters. A truly fantastic crowd that do their uttermost to help push you through the pain and find a few more miles for every runner.

I had been building to this event all winter with official training beginning in January. Many of you know of the trials and tribulations I went through with injury to get to the start line. Was it worth it – Hell yeh!

So it all started like this…Once upon a time…lol

It was an early start for me and I had my usual porridge breakfast with an added banana before heading out and making my way to Greenwich. I arrived earlier to meet some of the other fundraisers and then on to the starting area. My current fundraising total stands at over £2400 so very pleased with that.

The VLM is a well oiled machine and everything is superbly organised. Bag drop, toilets, starting pens – I couldn’t fault any of it. Upon arrival there was an air of excitement but also nerves. To be honest I had been thinking about this event for the last couple of days leading up to it. I think at the expo everything became very real.

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Edginess had certainly set in on Saturday. I slept surprisingly well the night before which is not normal for me. Being able to sleep in your own bed makes a big difference here I believe. Usually I am in some hotel the night before a race.

What were my honest thoughts prior to the event? Well I contemplated many things. What pace to run at? Should I go harder to put some time in the bank? Is Sub 4 still possible? What about the weather? What kit shall I race in? What would my hydration and fuelling plan be? Many many questions and I could add more! I’ll try to answer these as I go through the post.

I had managed three weeks of running post injury prior to the event. I believed I could complete the distance, although I wasn’t sure about the sub 4 bit. I knew 4:10 / 4:15 would be achievable even not fully fit. I didn’t give in to it though. Once I arrived and saw the 3:45 pacers, I instantly knew I would go with them and stay with them for as long as I could. My idea of putting time in the bank goes against a lot of what people tell you to do…and I agree to an extent. Negative splitting is the way to race any event particularly endurance events. This however depends on your fitness. I knew full well I could not run the last half of 26 miles quicker than the first!

I knew I could complete 12/13 miles at the pace the 3:45 pacers were going at and possibly a few more. I also knew that if I could keep with the 3:45 pacers for a fair distance then it would leave me enough time to run 9/9:30 miles and get under 4 hours towards the end. I didn’t expect to stay with them the whole way. My plan worked. My splits were pretty even for the first 17 miles. I felt great for the first 13 and I could tell things were starting to get a little tougher after this point. In fact it was just about the 16 mile mark that the 3:45 pacers were starting to forge a gap between myself and my close friend who was also running it.

I think the splits show you where I hit the wall – somewhere around mile 19. Those last miles were tough to say the least. At the 20 mile point I was at 2:55 and knew I had over an hour to run the last 10k. My race plan had worked, and certainly running with my close friend helped those last few miles. We went through some world of pain I can tell you.

Back to those crowds – amazing…simply amazing. I give a big shout out also to my purple running family the East End Road Runners. What a club! Based on the highway at the 13 and 22 mile point. A massive cheer going out and boy was I so looking forward to seeing them on the return part. They certainly give you something to look forward to and if you want a lesson in cheering (and running) this is the club. They’re also a friendly bunch! My family and friends were also based at this point.

I can’t thank all those people on course shouting words of encouragement and singing football songs with your name in. A wonderful experience. Remarkable.

Those last few miles were really tough and the onset of cramp didn’t make things easier. This happened around mile 16. My nutrition plan was great, my hydration plan however, a different story. This went well out the window at mile 6. Why? Well I stupidly took my salt pills out of their blister pack and left them in my back pocket thinking they’d be easier to get out and take. Because of all the water and sweat, they dissolved! I managed to take one at mile 6 and then my other 4 were gone within the next two miles. This I knew from experience is not good for me particularly when it is warm. I have a high sodium loss rate which you read about here. Cramps were due and so they began from mile 16. I battled with them right until the end.

It was great running with Chris; a close friend who I have known since we were 2 years old. I have no idea how he managed to find me as we were in different coloured waves but met just as the waves came together at the 5K point. It certainly helps running with someone. You hit peaks and troughs at different times and help to get each other through. We have run a few races together now – I certainly enjoy it.

Along the embankment is great. You know you are on the home straight but those last few miles are some of the toughest you will run. The crowd push you home though.

Coming through the mall and past the palace is truly iconic. The London Marathon was epic and one event I will not forget. My finish time – 3:53 – Get in! Somehow with 4 weeks of missed run training at the most critical point (only getting up to 17 miles) I managed the original goal. Just think – What could have been achieved with those extra few weeks training eh?

It was great to finish. I received my medal and collected my bags. I spoke to one guy who had run the course twice and had been up since 11pm the previous night. He did it in reverse first of all and then with everyone else for charity. Simply amazing and crazy! I also spoke to a lady who had completed the marathon majors. What a medal that is!

It was also great seeing my family and totally unexpected seeing a few of them. I felt a little emotional at the end and have to say I have a wonderful wife who puts up with the moaning when I’m injured and supports me through it all. To the friends that came out…thank you also. All the support means so much.

So what now? Will I do another? Was this the hardest thing I have ever done?

Well the triathlon season is upon me now and that will be my primary focus over the next few months. I consider myself a triathlete firstly, but running has certainly made me a better triathlete. If I do another marathon, ok when I do another marathon, it would need to be a big one. Funnily enough I looked at Berlin this morning, and my wife will be pleased to know that I have missed the boat on that one this year. So keep posted on this one. No plans yet and my body is so broken I need some time to rest.

The next big event is a half ironman in June with a warm up sprint in four weeks time. When I compare the marathon to anything else I have done, I would say this:

Mentally it is a tough thing to do. Completing one discipline for that length of time is draining especially in tough conditions. My half ironman last summer I would say was on a par with the marathon, although the ability to break disciplines up through swim, bike and run helps with the metal aspect. It doesn’t feel like you are out there longer although you are. My body today is broken from the waist down. My legs in pieces and feet battered! You tend to ache all over a little more from an ironman – certainly the back and arms. The weather did not bother me too much yesterday. It was hot, and too hot to run, but nothing like the 32c Ironman last year. I take my hat off to anyone who attempts a marathon. Completing it and not even considering time is an amazing feat. All finishers should be hugely proud of themselves.

I do hope you enjoy the write up. The blog is becoming more and more popular so I am pleased. Do feel free to comment, like and follow. Until next time! Let those aching legs and feet heal.

 

4 Weeks and Counting…

Not long now until the big one…around four weeks or so and I shall be standing on that start line regardless of injury or not.

If I’m honest, it’s been a frustrating few weeks. Not being able to run when you have one of the biggest events coming up is not ideal. You see friends and running club associates hitting the miles and achieving longest runs they have never done before, and all you can do is watch the Strava feeds grow. Four weeks ago I was in fantastic shape running wise and really looking on track to go sub 4 fairly comfortably. That is probably not likely now, which means re-adjusting my focus to just enjoying the event and experience. I am hoping I will still be able to get in a few runs before the event. The injury is certainly on the mend, but could probably do with another two weeks. A groin pull is not something I have had before.

Not once have I thought of pulling out though. The fundraising has continued and the target almost achieved. Last Friday saw the staff at Curwen Primary School take part in a quiz night to raise money for the charity run. A superb £587 was raised. I really am thankful to everyone who donated and took part. The £2K target is almost achieved. It was a great evening and one I should have taken some photos of, although I completely forgot! Big thanks go to all team that helped out especially the wife!

I’ve managed to keep cycling and swimming so I’m hoping I haven’t lost too much in terms of fitness – just run specific fitness really. This week also sees another test run take place to see where I am with the injury. I sure am desperate I can tell you that much! Rehab has started and continues with the exercises as well as massage. I’m also using a tens machine – Does that show how desperate I am?

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Upon reflection, I think in hindsight I have probably run too many races. Two half marathons and five 10Ks. It was in a 10K on a cold and wet night that this occurred. Running quickly definitely increases your risk of injury and puts a lot of stress through the muscles. If only I hadn’t taken part in that race eh!

Anyway, there is no point dwelling on it. I plan to bike as much as I can over the Easter as I head to France on the house hunt again and will be taking the bike and my running trainers (just incase) with me.

Next blog will hopefully be from France and there will be some runs in the bag…I pray!!!

 

London Marathon Update Feb

With just under 10 weeks to go now until the event and so far everything is going pretty well. Fundraising = Big tick! Training = Big tick! Support = Big tick!

I’m on track to achieve a personal goal and also support the work of Place2Be, my chosen charity. I want to say a massive thank you to all those who have sponsored me and supported the fundraising events. I also know there are a lot of friends and family who are intending to do the same in the coming weeks so your help along the way will not go unrecognised.

Someone did ask me last month what I get out of doing these crazy endurance events. I’ve often thought about this and written about it in previous blog a few years back. Arguably some people would say that endurance racing is more of a mental feat than a physical one. There is a whole lot of truth in this certainly. I mean, to put yourself through hours of training when it is freezing cold outside or pouring with rain takes some motivation. That isn’t all…there is also that small aspect of daily work, as well as family commitments. You’ve got to love it to do it right? Well that is certainly true also.

Why then? It’s simple when put like this:

I enjoy it. I love the training. I want to be fit and healthy. I want to be mentally strong. The emotion when you finish something big – especially the first time is overwhelming. This is what doing this gives me. And for those that do not often read the blog, I don’t mean just the marathon training. I’m on about the whole thing, all year, all the time. I simply wouldn’t do any of it if I didn’t love it. Yes I have those mornings when I can’t be bothered to train before work, but I push myself to do it. The feeling after is great. There are certainly parallels to daily life. I’m sure there are things we have all done that we didn’t want to do, but have felt good afterwards for doing them. Training is hard and there are times when you feel knackered or something niggles you. It is how you deal with it that is important. This explains why mental strength is important, but also built up during the process. Physical condition then comes along with it. I certainly believe exercise provides a benefit to mental health.

My training has been really consistent. I’m pleased with it so far and the long runs are slowly building up. I’m up to 16 miles now and should hit the 20 miler in a couple of weeks time. I have a few half marathons in the next few weeks also in which I will use to try and run to some particular paces to see what will be realistic in the marathon. I have an idea, but you need to test these things. Along with running, my proper structured triathlon training is taking place. I have built my runs into this as the TRI season will start for me at the beginning of May. This is always my main performance focus and provides me with the variation in my training.

The fundraising has also been moving along steadily. I didn’t really do anything over the Xmas period and so far all the money has been donated mainly from my workplace. Last week the school council held a Cake Sale for me for three lunch times as well as our parent evenings. They raised a massive £450 which was more than expected. I have a staff quiz night lined up also in March. Curwen Primary School children and staff have been brilliant in supporting the cause. I say no more!

The next blog will probably be just before the marathon now and then again just after. Until then…I leave you with a pic of the last race I did. A 10K sandwiched between a 14 mile run! And if you want to donate…it’s here:

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DanielMansfield1

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