Being a race week I took it easy this week and only ran twice before the week end.
On Tuesday I did 10k at 4:32.
On Thursday I did only 8k and tried to keep my heart rate very low, 136BMP average. I ran at 4:41 min/km and I thought that was what I was going to aim for during the marathon on Saturday. Obviously things were not as easy as I planned.
Saturday was a wonderful morning. Cold, but sunny. I went to the start of the Thames Meander Marathon by bicycle. Had my usual menu of snacks, water and banana getting ready for the race. I had a chat with a guy that I had also met at the first Rail To Trail marathon I did in January and then it was time to warm up.
The race was taking place all along the Thames, from Kingston to Putney and back. I know the route very well as I’ve done it many times before. It is all flat and mostly off road. There was not going to be any mud this time, but the terrain is not my favourite as in many places there are a lot of solid ground with rocks sticking out. The first time I ran 25k over that way I had a sort of plantar fasciitis and stopped running for 2 weeks. I have done that route many times since then but I am always a bit afraid.
This time there were no excuses, no unknowns regarding hills or mud. It was just a question of running at the correct pace. I did not. I did stick to my plan of running around 4:40 min/km, but that was not a good plan. Everything went well until the 23rd/24th km. It was the bit in Putney where we had to turn around and come back.
Unfortunately there was also a boat race that day and the bank of the river and the road was packed with people, cars and boats. To run you had to squeeze between bystanders and rowing boats being loaded on cars. It was a mess. Plus there were also the 40 or so runners ahead of me coming back too. I think those two messy kms really punished my legs and from then on it was a downhill spiral through pain.
I went slower and slower. Tried to drink and eat gels, but nothing helped. I started being overtaken and demorilised. When I got to Richmond I overtook a couple of people that paced themselves even worse than me, but it was a slog. 5:30 was the maximum I could do. The 40th km I basically ran on the spot as I was starting to feel like cramps were coming. Then I looked at the watch and realised I was not going to make it under 3:30 like I hoped and that gave me a motivation to run a little bit faster, but the damage was done. I got to the finish line really spent. This time I could not even drink or eat anything for the next 30 minutes. My stomach was upside down.
I ended up running the race with an exact average of 5:00 min/km for a final time of just some seconds above 3:30. Very annoying as last December I did 40k of this route a lot faster, around 4:40 min/km, so I was pretty sure I could be well under 3:30.
It was anyway a good experience. As soon as I finished it I was thinking about the next and then realised the next one is 50 miles!
So now I have a bit more than 2 months to prepare for the North Downs Way 50. I will try and learn to run slower but for longer. I will try and do 2 long runs each week end and as @manuontrail keeps telling me, I have to practice patience!