I’m not a good pacer. Whereas some runners are able to achieve almost even splits throughout a race, mine tend to be all over the place. Getting injured five weeks before the London marathon meant that even before the race I knew I wasn’t going to run for a PB, so with any chance of running a fast marathon gone, my intention with the London marathon was to use it as a practice race to work on all the stuff that I felt had let me down with previous marathons – top of the list was pacing.
In training I had bene running comfortably at 9.40-9.50 min miles so I was aiming to run at this pace for the marathon. My initial aim was to keep to this pace then seeing how I felt at mile 20, gradually up the speed for the last 10k and really push the last two miles. This was my ideal plan and the one I intended to put in place if my knee drastically improved before the marathon, it didn’t and, no matter how much I rested, I knew it wouldn’t be right for the day.
In the last two weeks before the marathon my race tactics changed and instead of my original plan, I decided to pace as before and to see how long I would last before my knee gave out. After that I was planning on a run/walk strategy to the finish line. My most optimistic hope was to get to mile 18 before I had to run/walk but as my knee had not been letting me run more than eight miles in the final weeks of training without pain I knew this would be unlikely.
As I was an experienced enough runner to know that marathons rarely (if ever) go to plan, I also knew being flexible with my strategy and listening to my body would be key for getting me to that finish line.
The start line
Standing in my starting pen the morning of the London marathon, trying to keep warm against the bitterly cold wind, I knew that the first few miles were downhill and it was vital that I didn’t set off too fast. After a long wait my pen started walking towards the start line, although we didn’t see it until we turned a corner and then it was suddenly in front of us.
Running over the start line I was quickly overtaken. In fact for the majority of the first six miles it felt like everyone was overtaking me. Although it was tempting to speed up to keep with everyone else, I held back to a pace that felt was more than easy and although I wasn’t looking at my watch much, my early splits were what I had intended to run. The first mile was slow at 9.39 I sped up for the next three miles (9:27, 9.04 and 9.21) but I knew these miles were downhill so this was what I expected. From mile five to mile 10 my splits were what I had been running in my training run between 9.30-9.45 min miles.
At mile nine my knee had started to niggle and from mile 11 my pace dropped to just over 10 min miles. I kept at this pace until mile 14 which I ran at 10:27 min miles but during this mile I felt a sudden, sharp pain in my knee and knew that was a sign that I needed to ease off if I wanted to get to the finish line.
I pushed on slightly between miles 15 to 17 which were just under 11.50 min miles, but the last nine miles were done between 12.00 and just over 13.00 min miles as I got into a run/walk pattern.
Crossing the finish line
I crossed the finish line in 4 hours 54 mins.
Although this time was way off my marathon PB of 4:12 and ideally I was hoping to run the London marathon in about 4:20, I’m still really happy with how my marathon went.
I’m happy that I not only got to the end with an injured knee but a week later it doesn’t seem to have made my injury any worse so hopefully I’ll be able to make a quicker recovery than if I’d damaged it further.
I’m also happy that, despite the pain, I managed to finish strong and ran the final mile without stopping and overtaking many other runners as well.
What I’m really happy about, though, was my pacing. I’m happy that I managed to hold back in the first few miles as everyone else was overtaking me and instead of getting caught up in the adrenaline and excitement managed to keep to my original plan. I feel this early pacing helped my knee to last longer than I had anticipated and helped me to finish strongly. I also feel that I’ve finally cracked marathon pacing and will be able to use this experience and knowledge to train and race future marathons better.