Every runner will have asked themselves these questions in the week leading up to a big race: Have I done enough training ? Am I ready ?
This coming weekend I’ll be taking on the Ascona-Locarno marathon. Now, I’ve run (about 15) marathons before, so you’d think by now I’d know how to prepare in order to answer ‘Yes’ to both of these questions. However, for one reason or another, (injury, holidays, the heat, lack of alternative, flat training routes, etc. etc.) the answer to the first is an emphatic NO. Although I believe the groundwork for a good marathon time is done in the 3 to 9 months before the race, it’s the last 10 to 12 weeks where the fine tuning is done. In my case this amounts to a total of 122k (or 76 miles), which simply isn’t enough. The only saving grace is that 3 of my runs have been over 22k and I have done a lot of walking, so I know that I can at least get to half way. Oh yes, and my training has been at altitude. (You can see that I’m grasping at straws here…)
I’ve contemplated ‘downgrading’ to the Half, but this wouldn’t really be a challenge. I know I can do this distance and my time would be slow (compared to previous efforts anyway) so there would be no satisfaction in just ‘getting around’.
Instead, it becomes a question of strategy… Pacing is everything in a marathon. Go off too quickly and you’ll be found out at, or even before, the 18 mile (29k) mark. Three years ago, almost to the day, I did exactly that in the Yorkshire marathon. I’d done a lot more training for that and I had hopes of running 3h 45 mins. But, the marathon distance gets to you. At various points leading up to 20 miles I had pains in my right knee, then left hip, then left knee and finally right hip, which forced me to walk quite a few times in the last 6 miles. I finished in my worst time ever of 4h 23 mins. (I hope not to better, or should I say do worse than, this on Sunday).
I learnt from that mistake though and 6 months later, on my 60th birthday, I took on the Vienna City Marathon. (I always thought running on your birthday, especially when you move into a new category, was a great idea…) Again injuries affected my training in the lead up to the race, so after what was effectively only 6 weeks of good preparation, I had the more realistic (possibly still hopeful) aim of running sub-4. This time I got the pacing absolutely right and finished really well in a time of 3h 54 mins. (You’ll notice that marathon runners always, conveniently, forget to include the seconds !)
So to answer the second question: Am I ready ? The only (positive) answer to that is:
I’m as ready as I’ll ever be ! 🙂
I wanted to include some pictures, so I took a few the other day of my training route (up and down the side of the river Borgne). It’s the only flat training route that I have and even it rises 100 metres in the 4k (2.5 miles) between Evolène and Les Haudères !