For 18 months I've carried the same label as a marathon runner. ie What by fastest time is. It's the number 2 question (behind "isn't it bad for your knees?"). I've always had to quote the 3.12 and then append an explanation that I'm not really going for times anymore, which I'm not. The only time I "attempted" a pb was in Prague and that was a bowel related disaster.
But now and quite randomly I can quote a different number. Less than 24 hours after stumbling across the finish line of one of the hardest races I've ever done I managed to churn our 3.07.55. Obviously I am really pleased, however I'm not that shocked.
I felt ok at the start of the race and was joking with Ian that I should go for a pb today. Didn't want to commit to it but I didn't think it was impossible. The problem with doing races after races is that you are never quite sure what you have left in the tank. You can prepare for a marathon and be fairly sure that you can maintain a certain pace and have enough to get round. However as I'd taken quite a bit out the previous day I knew I had less to go on. It was just a question of whether I had 26 miles left or not.
I started at about 6.55 pace and found that fairly comfortable for 5 miles. Dave Ross strolled past me early on in the race to get his weekly sub 3. I also caught up (and passed to my suprise) Harley Inder after about 4 miles. I set my Garmin to measure average pace and throughout the race I looked only at that (distance and time were not important). I knew that so long as it didn't reach 7.21 I would pb, 7.15 would be 3.10 and 7.10 would beat Ben and Simon's PB's.
Shakespeare was a lovely course and really good pb potential. Most of it is on fairly quiet roads and probably about 7 miles in total on a path which is shaded. The sun was out and it was warm, warmer than I'd like. The water and bottle distribution was just as good as London. Water every 3 miles (in bottles) and lucozade around every 6. I took drink from every station, I think my drinking was perfect.
I reached half way in 1.31 with the average pace still saying 7.00. At this point I started doing "what pace can I slow down to and still pb" calculations. Basically 7.40 for the rest would see me pb. Any mile I still ran at 7 would be like buying time.
As I passed half way I was informed that I was 51st. I was just behind a lady at this stage so I overtook. For the next mile all I could year was "YAY - It's the first lady". I didn't tak too much offence. Maybe I should have worn the hideous tights my dad wore.
As the race progressed the average pace crept up slowly. At 20 miles it was on 7.05. My time was 2.22 which was a 20 mile pb. I recall from Ferrari that my time was 2.23 at this stage, however I'd already blown up. The last 6 miles took 50 minutes on that day. I felt so much better now than I did then and the average pace stayed there for 3 miles which meant that I was putting in some fast miles still. All I could now think about was changing "my number". How good it would feel to be able to quote a different personal best every time someone asked me for it. I was not about to let this go. I couldn't even bear to think about how upset I'd be if I'd let this chance go. It came quite accidentally but was long overdue.
I must have overtaken quite a few people on the second lap as I finished 30th in the end. 3.07 and something, the Garmin stops doing seconds after an hour. Ian and Dave were already at the finish stretching, they looked suprised to see me there.
I saw my Dad too which was great. He ran his first half marathon in 2.03 and was really pleased. I so glad he's got into running and that he's enjoying it. I'll make sure he does a marathon before the end of next year. He'll be fine.
So this adds more fuel to the argument that tapering is a waste of time. Not conclusive sure but certainly makes me feel that pb's are more likely when you treat a marathon as a distance you a comforable completing regularly rather than treating it as a one off effort.