Matt Hudson, Total Motion Events, October 2017
After the highs of the Manchester Marathon earlier this year I couldn’t wait to get signed up to another event with the express intention of trying to improve on my newly recorded PB of 3:36:37. After seeing the Yorkshire Marathon advertised everywhere and being reassured that contrary to my preconceived notions it was actually a flat course, I took the plunge.
I signed up with my marathon co-conspirator Kerry, but sadly due to injury he was unable to make it to the start line, but there was no one I’d rather have had as support crew over the weekend. Not only did we stay with his family on the outskirts of York he also did the ferrying and the planning to get to the start in good time. In addition he also provided a running companion, Laurence, a veteran of a number of endurance events including 2 x Ironman. Overqualified!
The quality of the build up to this marathon had been someway off the preparation for Manchester. I’d only run up to 19 miles for a start; I like to go 20+ to get over the psychological hurdle, and probably on at least 2 or 3 occasions. 1 x 19 was going to have to suffice. Also I elected to run the Reigate Half 3 weeks before – I like to get a good solid HM in pre marathon, and ran a decent 1:40:14 there, but the week afterwards I caught that autumn cold, and although it wasn’t bad it did mean that I couldn’t breathe properly to get those final long runs done.
The sub-optimal training was hampered further when just a few weeks ago it became evident that my trusty trainers that had got me through the majority of 2017 were nearing the end of their useful life. I took the plunge and upgraded to the On Running Cloudflow with the addition of some of the new Enertor insoles. 2 things that where guaranteed to maximise my performance. Despite wearing these constantly as the marathon approached I was never 100% happy that they were going to be comfortable. Not having truly tested them together I felt going in to the race with new footwear was too much of a risk, so I was set to run in old trainers and newish insoles. Not ideal, but a relatively safe bet.
As I headed to York I put all of this to one side. I was feeling better having ran a good pacey 10miler the week before (with the Enertors), so although my training had been far from textbook, I felt I was well enough to give it a good shot, albeit a PB was never going to be on the cards.
The pre race event village was a hive of activity, the starting area was really well organised and the MCs created a great atmosphere. Laurence and I took our places in zone 2, wished each other luck and then didn’t expect to see each other until the end. I always find it hard running with other people; I like to keep my own pace and adjust as I go, speeding up and slowing down to keep inline with my goals. We started together and we ran the first mile or so together before we were split by the crowds. I thought I was on my own from that point, it was difficult to know if I was ahead or behind.
For my marathon PB I average 5:06/km, so the plan was to keep my pace in the 5-5:10 range and get into a comfortable rhythm as soon as possible and then see how I felt as the race progressed. The first 10km was pretty perfect pacing wise, hitting 50:01, so far so good. The pace stayed firm and I got to the halfway point at 1:45 (and a bit), couldn’t ask for more. I saw Laurence again, as he caught me – I was probably never very far in front to be fair. We exchanged a few words, ran together for another mile of so, then he went off ahead. It never pays to try and match somebody else’s pace, he said he was feeling good so I stuck to my strategy and let him go.
I was focused on my time targets. A PB was highly unlikely, 3:45 was more realistic, 4 hours was the bear minimum, above that and I wouldn’t forgive myself.
2 hours for the second half should be doable despite early signs that I was losing my shape and my head was starting to drop. The first 13.1 miles had taken us down gently rolling roads, nothing major at all, very pleasant. Just in to the second half and you hit a long road of 2-3 miles, which seemed to grind upwards forever. At this point the signs of fatigue were evident. I caught up with Laurence who had slowed to a walk. I wanted to stop and walk too, but felt I had to push on. As I got through 17/18 miles (where at least you are counting down in single figures) the pain in my thighs was becoming unbearable. It was a great time to see our chief cheerleader as Kerry jogged alongside me for a short distance. A welcome pick-me-up, but only a short lived one. This is the point that my brain goes in to overdrive as I start to calculate how far I have to go versus how much time is left. As the 3:45 target became unrealistic I was solely focused on calculating average km pace to go sub 4 hours. This gave me enough breathing space to afford a walk through water stations...and one or two in between!
Over this final countdown Laurence and I would run a bit together and walk a bit together. If it wasn’t so painful it would have been comical. I couldn’t run as fast as him when we were running, but nor could I walk as fast. The only way I was going to finish anywhere near him was to run more than he was. With 5km to go we joked that we had 38 minutes to go sub 4hours, but it felt like it would be close! At 24.5 miles we talked strategy to get us to the finish. Should we walk a bit, and then commit to running to the finish, or should we start running knowing that the steep incline at the end would hold us back. We started running. As before Laurence pushed ahead, and was pulling away. As we rounded the final bend Kerry was there for that final motivation. There was the final hill, like a mountain soaring in front. Laurence was up ahead, and he wasn’t slowing down. Time to empty the tanks to catch him. I caught up at the top of the hill, we exchanged a word or two, and then he kicked on..what? argh! I went again and got shoulder to shoulder with him as we crossed the line…although his time was registered 3 seconds quicker! A spirited end to what had been a difficult final 1/3 of a the race.
A time of 3:54:36 was pretty underwhelming, sub 4 though at least, but few other positives. A few lessons learnt en route though. For sure I need to get in some good solid long runs pre event, one is nowhere near enough. In addition lots of leg strength exercises required. Squats, lunges and indeed stairs! All things that I had done a lot of at the start of the year, but neglected over the summer.
Overall the Yorkshire Marathon was a well organised fun event, one to certainly have a look at as you compile your 2018 race calendar. Not as flat and fast as others, but it does take you through some lovely countryside and everybody is super friendly, as you’d expect. A final big thank you to the Maskill family for being amazingly generous hosts and to Laurence for providing inspiration to get up that final hill!
I’m now signed up for Brighton in April, and am looking at Manchester too the week before, as well as eyeing other marathons and halfs including Ealing, Reigate again, poss MK and others. Like 350,000 others I missed out on the ballot for London, and had been toying with the idea of trying to qualify for London 2019 ‘Good For Age’. Hmm, well by the weekend’s result I’m a very long way off 3:15, but everyone needs a goal!!