Manchester Marathon, Retrospectively

No finisher photos for this post. Sadly, Manchester Marathon 2017 ended in a DNF for me.

In this post I’m going to write about why I entered this particular marathon, how I trained, some of the mistakes I made, and what happened on the day. And of course some take-away messages.

Why I entered:

After an amazing experience at Barcelona Marathon (see last Wednesday’s post) I was determined to recreate that day. I had similar criteria to find a marathon for 2017 – a spring marathon with 15-20k runners on a mainly flat course. I knew I was capable of sub-4 so my emphasis was on finding a PB course. Manchester seemed to tick all these boxes, so I entered.

How I trained:

Choosing a plan was my first big mistake. I reflected on my first marathon experience and remembered how emotionally difficult it was to train for 16 weeks. So after some research, I decided 12 weeks would be enough to get me through race day. Hmm maybe if I was an experienced marathoner this would have been fine, but 12 weeks just wasn’t enough for me.

The build up for the first 7 weeks went really well and I was feeling confident. I ran a 5 and a half minute PB in my training Half Marathon at Thorpe Park, and was getting through my long runs OK. I’d even managed to cope with some solid fuel.

So if you’ve ever read my previous stuff, you’ll know that I can only deal with liquid fuel. However this training cycle I had to really get used to solid fuel as it turned out there wasn’t going to be any kind of energy drink at Manchester. Just solid fuel and gels (which my stomach still counts as solid food unfortunately). That was my second biggest mistake – choosing a race that didn’t provide energy drink. I think I must have just assumed there’d be energy drink available.

Anyway, I was coping we with solid fuel in my long runs, when a few weeks before race day I came down with a bug. I’d run up to 18 miles and had two 20 milers lined up for my last 2 long runs before taper. As a result, I missed one of the 20 milers, and came up short at 19.5 miles in the final one. Not ideal to have only trained up to 19.5 miles in a sub-4 hour attempt, but there was nothing I could do at that point.

On the day:

I arrived at the start line calmly prepared with plenty of time to spare. I used a foil blanket to keep warm before the start and thought positive thoughts. Everything had gone to plan that morning so there were good signs prior to the race.

I do remember a quiet voice in my head going ‘this is much smaller and lower-key than Barcelona was’ but didn’t pay it much attention.

Before long, we were off. I started running at my goal pace of 8:50/mile. Something wasn’t quite right, I felt a bit irritable and not my usual chipper self. I kept checking my watch to make sure I was on pace way too frequently.

At mile 2 stomach cramps kicked in. This is not good.

I pushed through to mile 16 where I had to stop and try for a toilet break. Nothing. Still nothing. Well I needed to stop hogging the toilet at this point and just keep going. Up until that point I’d been on for sub-4.

I started jogging again at a much slower pace. The cramps hadn’t faded one bit.

At mile 19 I found myself sat on the floor doubled over. I don’t really remember stopping running, or even how I got down onto the floor. One minute I was running, the next I was down.

Tears streaming down my face. I was so embarrassed and ashamed. I’d not failed at anything since my injury come back and it really stung.

After that it was all a bit of a blur. A marshal helped me get the shuttle bus back to the start/finish area and I headed back home.

I was completely devastated. Right up until the point I got home and saw my lovely little doggie. He didn’t care I hadn’t finish, he was just pleased to see me. And if that wasn’t a lesson in itself then I don’t know what would have been.

Takeaway Messages:

1) I really should have trained for another 16 weeks, instead of 12. I obviously wasn’t mentally ready to do another marathon if I couldn’t bear the thought of 16 weeks of solid training. I would say the same to anyone else wanting to skimp on training because they’re worried about the commitment. You’re going to run 26.2 miles, this is going to take all the effort and hard work you can muster AND MORE.

2) I should have taken my fueling needs into consideration before choosing a race. This can be difficult to do if the race haven’t got their sponsors in place, but I would recommend holding off entering a marathon before you know what fuel will be available (especially if you have specific fuelling needs like me).

3) I should have made sure the marathon I was entering was as large-scale as I’d wanted it to be. In future I’d recommend checking the social media tags around a race, blog posts and even YouTube to get as much info as possible. If you want it to feel like a party race where you’re a superstar, then you need to make sure that’s what you’ll be getting.

4) It really doesn’t matter if you fail. Honestly this DNF doesn’t bother me. It stopped bothering me as soon as my dog ran up to me and nearly bowled me over because he’d missed me so much. It’s one day, one experience, and sometimes things beyond your control just don’t work out.

5) The marathon distance isn’t for me. Just yet. I learnt I really need some security from my training, but so much can go wrong on marathon day that for me, the distance just isn’t worth it. I’d rather run a distance I know I can finish no matter what, and make sure the training miles aren’t for nothing.

So that’s it from me. No marathons for a good while now – possibly when I’ve done all I can do over 5k, 10k, and 13.1 miles and need a new challenge. But right now I have enough to be getting on with in the shorter distances.

Thanks so much for reading, and sorry I didn’t have more positive things to say about Manchester. From what I’ve seen from people who’ve trained/prepared properly and got to the finish, it’s a great race with massive PB potential, so don’t let my experience put you off. That was my mistakes, not the events!

See you all back here on Sunday for this week’s training update. Don’t forget to subscribe to updates by email x

2 thoughts on “Manchester Marathon, Retrospectively

  1. The Napkin Dad says:

    So sorry to hear about the events of that day. I can understand you feeling like the marathon distance just isn’t for you. Personally I think this day could actually be a really good stepping stone for you in pursuing your marathon goals. You know SO MUCH MORE about racing a marathon today than you did before this race. I hope you don’t give up on the distance, even if you pull back just a bit for a while. You have what it takes to do great things at that distance if and when you return to it, of that I have no doubt!

    Liked by 1 person

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