There are Marathons and then there are Marathons!
by Martin Medforth
To anyone who has ever run a marathon there’s always those questions … “oh how long was it?”, “why did you do it?”, “did they give you one of those chocolate bars?”
Well for me back in late 2019, with five Marathons behind me but still with determination to improve my 4:15 PB to a sub 4, I received an email from Trudy advising I’d been allocated a club ticket for London 2020.
I was happy to accept the challenge and, having made a decision to fully transition to minimal footwear, a journey I’d started in 2017, I presented for the North Lakes Half in early 2020 in racing flats. Plans were laid for a faster pace effort in Cyprus in late March 2020 as well as longer training runs.
But then the pandemic happened and everything went into uncertainty… faced with a massive increase in work combatting opportunistic criminal activity (seriously) my running lost direction but with an updated date of October 2021 I threw myself back into training. However, about 6 weeks before the event I hit a pf injury .. likely overdoing things in flats … and shortly afterwards London came up with additional conditions … had to carry own water …. finish bag to be deposited at Excel … yadda, yadda … offered the chance to defer I took the soft option!
This left everything hanging on October 2022. In honesty it’s been a mixed year and I’d abandoned any aspirations of a fast time … though I was happily knocking off leisurely and repeated 30 minute 3 milers … but then towards the end of July the damn Covid thing got me. Although I was negative within 5 days I succumbed to a secondary infection so even by mid August I was struggling to run 400m …
But things did improve… three weeks before the event I rocked up for 20 mile (4×5 mile circuit) and maintained 5 miles per hour for the first 10 miles… and managed the third lap with a structured run/walk approach in 70 minutes… 15 miles done – and a “use it or lose it!” decision, I resolved to at least start.
Well I did, and with a strategy I never thought I’d use, running two minutes and walking 30 seconds, I maintained 5 mph to close on the half way point … Tower Bridge was a highlight of a lifetime (a real bucket list moment) … but realising I was losing pace at halfway (which I reached at 2:50) and frankly wondering how much longer I could maintain the monotonous 4:1 ratio, I ssuccumbed to my rapidly failing aerobic batteries and decided to change strategy.
Had this been any other Marathon I’d have been seriously tempted to retire at 17 … but London is different… support from folks lining the route makes it probably the longest party in the country … and knowing my daughter and her partner were waiting for me at mile 21, I moved to ticking off miles … run/walk changed to walk/run but when the 6 hour pacers appeared I joined them dragging myself to 20 miles.
Being greeted by Gaby and her partner just after mile 21 was a real lift leaving me with “just” the last 5 miles along a familiar route from the Tower, under the Barbican and onto the Embankment at Blackfriars and the familiarity of what was my walk to work at the Home Office.
It’s odd how a route you know so well could seem so long … but it did … but by the time I reached Birdcage Walk the bounce in the legs had returned sufficient for bursts of running. The emotion of crossing the finish line was something else … difficult to put into words but certainly positive!
Ok … this was definitively my slowest Marathon, and I hope it remains so … but as it was the first one I’d ever started without certainty that I’d complete, I’m proud I got there! After 6 years of rejection slips it was likely my one chance of London, though in honesty at times I thought I was destined to never get there! Despite damn Covid … I did complete it, and it’s cemented my nerdy relationship with racing flats. Happy to report that, aside from some stiffness the following day, I quickly found myself fully recovered – injury free!
Thank you so much for the place … and thank you for your patience allowing me time to get there!
Couldn’t finish without a small shout out to Rupert and the team at Mountain Fuel – I’m sure that without their Morning Fuel and Chia Gels, supplemented by water along the route, things would have been way different!