Marathons: Victories and Defeats

09.04.2006 – Rotterdam Marathon – 4:25:40

My first marathon. My mother accompanied me to Holland. We stayed in attic accommodation in Amsterdam, travelling to Rotterdam by train the morning of the race. I had a 21 mile training run several weeks before so my training had been good. I knew precious little about race strategy, gear or nutrition though. I wore boxer shorts under shorts that were not great for distance running. It was a flat course, as one might expect in Holland. I remember being passed by a runner in a heavy fancy dress outfit. I remember scoffing down cake toward the end of the race. I remember hitting the wall for the first time in my life. It felt as though my body just started to shut down. I have mentally quit during races and training sessions before – but in this case, my body just stopped working. It surprised me. But I learned first-hand that what happens between the first and eighteenth mile bears little resemblance to what happens in the last quarter of the race. That’s the marathon for you. 

Rotterdam

22.04.2007 – Madrid Marathon – 3:45:08

A day which I remember fondly. I was nine months sober and had started to put my life back on track in the Spanish capital. I remember the sense of excitement as myself and other runners whooped and hollered as we ran through one of the Gran Via car tunnels at the start of the race. I remember a feeling of euphoria as I ran past the plaza de toros de Las Ventas, much later on in the race. I felt grateful for my sobriety, my new life in Madrid – and to be alive, running the race and fighting the good fight. The marathon came to an end in Parque de Retiro and I clearly recall an elderly Señorita yelling ‘Vamos Chico!’ at me as I approached the finish line. 

Madrid

19.10.2008 – Bergamo Marathon – 3:40:53

Personal best. I was living in Bergamo at the time and so knew the city fairly well. Flat four-lap course. 

31.12.2011 – Liverpool Liverbird Marathon – 4:27:20

Signed up for this at extremely short notice. Quirky race. Four times up and down the length of Otterspool Promenade. I remember it being cold and my having to stop and walk towards the end. The silver scimitar of the River Mersey was my constant companion.

10.08.2014 – Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 Marathon – 4:14:40

Although not my quickest time, this is probably my pound for pound best performance, mentally, at least. My first trail marathon, terrible weather, running up and down hills and across meadows. I got lost in the woods at one point. My friend Lee and I spent a week in his motorhome in the South of England, visiting national areas of interest such as Stonehenge, Winchester, Glastonbury and Avebury. We binge ate for nearly all the holiday, running the race on the final day. The night before the race we ordered fish ‘n’ chips from the mobile chippy on the campsite. I remember the guy in the chippy saying: ‘Shouldn’t you be eating pasta?’ when we told him that we were both running the marathon the next day.

I remember saying a prayer in the campsite toilet before the race, asking to retain a positive mental attitude and abandon all negativity. I remember making a decision to not listen to music for the first half of the race – when I finally turned on my MP3 player it gave me a real lift. I had bought a brand new pair of Nike Pegasus, they were soaking wet and caked with mud in after the first mile, which had involved scrambling up a grassy hill. I remember thinking: ‘this is going to be a long morning’.

I think what saved me from hitting the wall in what was the most difficult course I have ever run, was the fact I had been living and training in Mercogliano, a mountainous medieval village in the South of Italy. 

Salisbury Bib

20.05.2018 – Liverpool Rock n Roll Marathon – 5:16:54

Personal worst. Training went well. My weight was good for I was scheduled to marry one month later and had been determined to look as best I could in my wedding photos. I am still not too sure what happened and why the wheels fell off in such spectacular fashion at mile eighteen in Sefton Park. I can speculate though: the slightly later starting time of 10am, the hot and murky conditions, a little bit of complacency too perhaps. I think it was more than anything a mental issue. I had had my heart set on finishing in under four hours and when I realised that was no longer on the cards, my head went down and I was mentally broken. My attitude was wrong. Whilst the goal of a sub-four hour time was commendable, I had not run a marathon for over four years. I was thirty-seven years old. Had I finished in 04:24:59, I would have beaten the time of my first marathon in Rotterdam twelve years prior. That would have been a fantastic achievement – but when I realised that I wasn’t going to break the four hour mark, I felt like a loser – and that feeling sapped my will to continue. 

The three photos below say it all. 

 

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