I regularly look back on everything that led to the Paris Marathon in retrospect. It many ways it was the greatest journey I had ever undertaken and looking back on it now its still hard to argue against.
Every year for the past 3 years I’ve entered the ballot for the London Marathon. Usually I receive my rejection and forget about it, but in the autumn of 2013 I’d been running consistently for 9 months and had my 2nd half marathon in a couple of weeks. After a few moments deliberation, I decided “Sod it, I’ll do another one!”. The halves had been great challenges for me, but I am always looking for the next one. For no other reason than to maintain the focus and determination I had already developed and ensure I had a target to follow up on.
Within an hour I had discussed it with the missus and we’d settled on going on a long weekend in Paris, taking in all the sights and after the marathon spend a couple of days in Disney. Everyone wins! Within a few moments I’d booked the flights, the hotel, and was signing up for the marathon. It asked me for my “Predicted finish time”. I didn’t know what to put. So I went to www.mcmillanrunning.com and entered in my predicted finish time for the upcoming Cardiff Half (An ambitious 1:57:59) and that fell in line with around the 4:15 – 4:30 mark. In the end I only ran 1:59:xx in Cardiff but I figured it was close enough.
I know the date, and I knew the goal. But how was I going to get there? I needed a plan. I spent ages looking for a training plan that was right for me. I know I wanted to run 5 times a week (Compared to the 4 I was running presently – I felt I needed to step up the game!) and I wanted to run 5 x 20 mile long runs. The closest I managed to find was the Bupa Intermediate Marathon Plan, which I modified a bit to do more 20 mile runs.
Some of the terminology was a bit mystifying. I didn’t really know what Intervals were, or what my training paces were meant to be. I found the training paces calculator on McMillan Running and was faced with the realisation that I had no idea how to monitor my paces! I’d been using Endomondo on my iPhone, but looking at that all the time would have been a pain in the backside. So I made the executive decision that I needed a Garmin. Yet more research and money later (So far this marathon had reached the £700 mark…) I had the brilliant Garmin Forerunner 220, which I’ll review some time.
The great thing about the Forerunner 220 was that I could program my “Workouts” into the calendar and sync them to the watch! So I could go for a run and the watch would tell me how fast to run, for how far, or for how long! It would beep at me when I was under or overdoing it, and I could analyse the data in minute detail afterwards. Great for a stat addict like me.
So the building blocks were coming together. I took the Marathon date and worked backwards. My training plan started before Christmas! Well, if I needed to stop being indulgent over Christmas then the prospect of dragging myself 26.2 miles round the streets of Paris was a big enough incentive.
Then I came across a post on the Runners World forum. People were saying how a 1lb weight loss could make you faster by as much as 2 seconds a mile. In my head I figured that meant if I lost a stone or more I would be faster. (Looking back now I can think… well durr! Of course you’ll be faster there will be less of you to carry around). This gave me some added resolve to renew my weight loss efforts.
Training wise, i stuck to the plan meticulously. Despite Somerset having the wettest, most miserable winter on record, I pounded the pavements when the plan told me to religiously. I hit all my target times, paces etc except for a handful of sessions, and only had to drop one run from the whole plan. I experimented successfully with gels so I knew what to take on race day, I ran long and I ran far. I worked harder than I ever have before.
At the same time, I was logging everything that crossed my lips into MyFitnessPal. The combination of the two was working and I was losing weight like never before. I felt good. I researched race day nutrition and bought supplies to take with me to Paris. I tested. I OBSESSED with every detail.
Oh, and I bought an engagement ring. Shhh!
Part of my training plan was to run a half marathon warmup race a few weeks before. I signed up a long way in advance to the Fleet Half Marathon. This event deserves its own review, which I may well do when I run it again this year! What a great event. My target, to be on track with my 4:15:00 marathon plan was to run 1:54:xx. But I felt amazing. I went out at around 8:10 a mile and felt comfortable. After the first smaller lap I was still comfortable. It wasn’t until around mile 11 until I struggled, but by that point I knew I could hold on! Quick mental arithmetic meant I could go under 1:50!! I gave it absolutely everything! There was a horrible hill before the final 300 yards and I reached the summit spent. Just the downhill section to go for less than a regulation track lap. From somewhere I managed a kick and sprinted to the end. I stopped the watch. 1:48:35! I was absolutely ecstatic!
Unfortunately, I had no-one there at the finish line. The missus was unavailable and I’d driven myself. But I’d never felt anything like it.
I only had one week left before the taper.
All the training had been done.
I was fit.
I had just set a massive Half Marathon PB.
Could it be possible to go around Paris in Sub 4?