Time seems to be moving forward at an incredible pace, with now just 13 days to go until the Barcelona marathon. I had a slight injury scare in the week after the Bramley 20, which forced me into a few days with a lot less running, but thankfully the pain in my upper calf seemed to fade away and hasn’t given me any more problems since (fingers crossed).
If anyone’s interested, for this block of training I’ve been following the P&D 18 week plan in the build up to this marathon. P&D stands for Pfitzinger and Douglas – two chaps that apparently know an awful lot about running – or so they tell me. They recommend a shorter distance ‘tune-up’ race 2 weeks before the marathon, which is why I’d signed up to the Kingston 10km a month or so ago.
Luckily, I have a girlfriend who also enjoys running marathons, so setting an alarm for just before 6am on a Sunday morning isn’t as much of an issue as it might be in some households. In training, I never eat breakfast before I head out in the mornings; I’ll only do so for my long Sunday runs and before races of half-marathon distance or further. So I settled on sipping some Lucozade about an hour before the race, which takes away the risk of having a slightly unsettled stomach before/during the race.
Due to national rail doing their usual ‘we can’t operate trains on a weekend’ party trick, we were forced to grab a taxi over to Kingston for the 8am start – this was quite a luxury, but I’d probably be bankrupt if I did this for every race I entered. We arrived with loads of time to spare and it was freezing, so we took shelter in the warmth of Kingston McDonalds. What we weren’t quite prepared for were the colourful array of characters you find inside Maccy’s early on a Sunday morning (or in some cases late Saturday night).
We headed to the start finish/area which was right in the middle of the town centre to start getting ourselves ready for the race. We bumped into the B list running celebrity that is Xempo Dan of marathon talk fame and his lovely partner. Having paced for Xempo before in the Surrey Half Marathon, I caught up with Dan, who’d actually recommended Barcelona and planted the seed in my mind 12 months ago.
There was a half marathon starting an hour after the 10km which Xempo were providing a full range of pacers for, so we were able to leave our stuff with the team, meaning we could swerve the bag drop facility (which to be fair, looked like it was running extremely smoothly, so we’d of been happy to use if not). If people haven’t heard of Xempo, they do a great range of running clothing as well as the official Marathon Talk (my favourite podcast) kit, so do check them out.
After a quick warm up, it was time to get going. I can’t say I felt that fresh – having already run 56 miles in the week already (albeit most of it easy running), so I wasn’t sure how the legs were going to react when I sent a truck load of pain their way. I lined myself up on about the 3rd row from my front, sporting my new matching luminous yellow kit including ridiculous headband to keep control of the mullet that now sits proudly on top of my head.
The plan was to go out hard, and when it gets tough, just go even harder. And that’s exactly what I did. The starting horn went, and I was off haring around the streets of central Kingston. The first kilometre or so sees you run down the main shopping street and then double back past the finish line where there’s some great support, before heading out on a straight road towards Surbiton before doing a u-turn and heading back the other way towards the town centre again.
The turn is at about 3 kilometres, and from this point you’re running on the opposite side of the road to those behind you on the course, with plenty shouting words of encouragement and support. I saw Katie and gave her a quick wave before settling back into concentrating on trying to shut out the pain I was already in. Once you come back into the town centre, you’ve completed one 5km loop, so you’re sent on your way to do exactly the same again to make up the 10km distance. I went through halfway in 17:50 in about 15th place – only 19 seconds slower than my outright 5km personal best. Oh dear – this second half is going to be hurt.
Some crowds had really built up in the town now, with loads of runners preparing for the start the half marathon, so it was great to get some support at the start of the second lap. I was having some internal arguments with myself, with my legs wanting to slow the pace, but my mind telling them we’d run ourselves into a great position, and I’m not ready to give that up without a fight.
In my opinion 10 kilometres is one of the hardest distances out there, and I was in a dark place at around 7 kilometres, desperately trying to hold onto my pace, occasionally glancing at my watch to make sure I wasn’t slowing down. As I was approaching the turnaround point on the second loop, the leader was coming the other way down the road and I started counting backwards to see how many guys were ahead of me. I reached the turn in 10th place, with about 2 kilometres to go. If I could just hold on for 7 more minutes (easier said than done), I’d have a top 10, in what seemed to be a decent standard field of runners.
By this point I was throwing everything bar the kitchen sink at it, counting down the minutes I had left to suffer (it sounds horrible, but I was secretly loving it – I do this because I enjoy it after all). I was actually slowly reeling in the runners in 8th and 9th, who acted as a carrot dangling in front of me. At about 9km’s I went past one guy and carried on chasing the other back into town.
I could smell the finish now, and I had a good idea that I had a PB in the bag, so just kicked on as hard as I could, trying to eek out as many seconds as possible. The guy ahead eluded me in the end, but I was grinning like a Cheshire cat up the finish straight as I saw the finish clock, which stopped for me at 35.41 – a massive PB of 45 or so seconds, and 9th place overall.
I couldn’t quite believe the time at first. I knew training had been going fairly well, but a 10 kilometre time starting with 35 is something I couldn’t have even comprehended a year and a half ago – I was struggling to go under 40 minutes. It just shows if you’re prepared to put the work in, even muppets without an ounce of talent like me can move at a fairly decent pace.
For those interested in the numbers my mile splits for the race were – 5:36, 5:41, 5:52, 5:59, 5.39 and 5.42. So after things slipping slightly in the middle miles, I managed to dig in and bring it back in the last part of the race. The link to the strava activity is here; https://www.strava.com/activities/504159660
Immediately after finishing I was handed one of the best goody bags I’ve ever received. It was provided by Whole Foods and had loads of different tasty snacks inside which went down really well. The medal was also a decent one – certainly no complaints here.
I headed straight back out onto the course to see if I could catch a glimpse of Katie. She’s also been training incredibly hard recently, and I couldn’t believe it (sorry Katie!) when I saw her come into the finishing straight with less than 48 minutes on the clock. She ended up with a time of 48.46, also a big personal best, and a place inside the top 20 women! What a great day all round.
As the race started so early, we were both finished before the half marathon runners were underway, so we hung out with team Xempo for a bit before giving Dan a shout as he ran in the half marathon. We then treated ourselves to a taxi home (2 taxis in one day – absolutely unheard of in a household whose budget is tighter than George Osborne’s), and got back in time for a late breakfast – what a dream.
I’ve got to say, for a first year event, the race organisation was flawless. I can’t speak about the half marathon, but the 10km had plenty of water stations, loads of friendly volunteers, and a clear accurately marked out course, with kilometre markers along the route. We both agreed that we’d definitely be back next year if it fits in with our schedule.
The following day I got out for a really steady 17 miler, which finishes off the bulk of my training for Barcelona. I can’t believe that in 2 weeks’ time it’ll all be over. Kingston has given me a great confidence boost going into the event, I just hope I can hold it together and do myself justice on the day. Vámos!