After running the London marathon in 1982 and the Jogle in 1983, I continued to run and race shorter distances, like 10k, 10 miles and a few Half Marathons. But as I neared my 40th birthday, I decided I should have a crack at doing a sub-3 hour marathon. Based on my best times at the shorter distances, I knew this should be possible, but of course you have to train hard and I’d need to execute the race perfectly.
So, as a relative novice at the distance, I decided to gain some experience by having a ‘test run’ in the Langbaurgh Marathon in the October of 1993, which was 6 months before my birthday. I’d trained for about 3 or 4 months before this race (up to about 18 miles) and my aim was to see how far I could run before stopping and at what point I fell below the sub-3hr pace. To my astonishment I managed 21 miles before I had to walk and 23 miles before I dropped below the required pace and finished in 3 hrs 4 mins. (I’m amazed my brain had the capacity to work this out at the time, as normally that’s the first thing to shut down!)
As you can imagine this gave me a huge confidence boost and I continued to train hard, including some Long Distance Walker Association events, like the Kilburn Kanter and Rudolph’s Romp (which were both around 21 miles). Indeed, I enjoyed doing these events so much I continued to do them for many years afterwards. They are a fabulous way of building stamina, without the pressures of a race and have the added advantage of being off road, usually with lots of hills to build strength.
So, my chosen target event was the South Coast Marathon, which was just 11 days after my birthday in April 1994. I have to say that I don’t remember much about the race itself, except that it was quite a sunny day, though not too warm. After around 21 miles, I felt a little dizzy and decided to walk up a slight incline and was very relieved to see a drinks station only 50 yards ahead. Suitably refreshed and feeling back to normal, I continued running, though I must have missed some of the later mile markers as each mile seemed to take an absolute age. I then recall looking at my watch with about 10 minutes of the 3 hours to go and wondering if I might make it. Then, out of the blue, I saw the 26 mile marker and, boosted by seeing it, I finished strongly in a time of 2 hours 55 minutes and 40 seconds. (This remains my PB/PR to this day).
I mention this story, not to show off in any way, but as a lesson to all you young (well, under 50) runners out there. Make the most of your best running days while you can. You’re a long time retired or losing speed as you get older… (The stats suggest that you lose about 3s per mile, or 2s per km, for each year after the age of about 45).
Yes, it’s an old T shirt, but it was never going to get thrown out after all that effort! 🙂